For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 6:20-23
To lean wholly onto and into the truth, as much as it can hurt, is the definition of freedom. It often means the removal of oneself from the equation. Finding the truth in oneself today is the newest fad, yet as old as time. From a young age, children are asked to examine and follow their feelings; college students are educated to tell “their” truth; adults are encouraged to contemplate, seek, and proclaim their lessons of life, rooted firmly in personal experience.
Contemplation and reflection on one’s actions can lead to penance and reconciliation, but more often the path leads to finding any reason at all to justify something sinful. To wit:
Recently, Civil Liberties and Public Policy held its annual conference in Amherst, Massachusetts. The group defines itself as “a national reproductive rights and justice organization dedicated to educating, mentoring, and inspiring new generations of advocates, leaders, and supporters.” The event hosts several speakers and workshops, one of which is titled “Linking White Supremacy and Anti-Abortion Movements.” (It is no surprise that Willie J. Parker, who describes his religious conversion as a reason to provide abortion, attended the 2016 conference.)
Is being pro-life racist and anti-Semitic?
Teddy Wilson, a research analyst for reproductive justice at Political Research Associates (PRA), announced on Twitter that he was looking forward to it:
I’m attending the panel on Linking White Supremacy and Anti-Abortion Movements, and looking forward to hearing about the overlap of the anti-abortion movement and the white supremacist movement. #CLPP2019
— Teddy Wilson (@reportbywilson) April 14, 2019
A brief description of the panel on the CLPP website is unsurprising:
Do you know how white supremacists on the right are strategizing to advance their movements? How are white nationalist movements linked to gender-based violence and anti-abortion politics? How much of our higher education has been infiltrated by far right funders and how can we reclaim the state of our knowledge production? Panelists in this session will discuss their research into the Right and the ways in which white supremacist movements are linked to movements against reproductive justice. Join us for a deep dive into the connections between racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and reproductive politics.Speakers (click to view): Carol Mason, Jalessah Jackson, Dania Rajendra
The irony of linking gender-based violence through white supremacy directly to the pro-life movement is pretty rich, considering that only abortion physically hurts women and her children.
Yet another PRA senior research analyst, Heron Greenesmith, documented part of the discussion by panel member Daria Rajendra (two parts of the Twitter thread follows):
— Heron Greenesmith, Esq. (@herong) April 14, 2019
.@DaniaRajendra: anti-abortion laws that give legal status to embryos and fetuses are therefore ALSO anti-semitic. “It’s Jewish teaching that told me I mattered in a culture that told me that the only thing that mattered was whether I could have a baby.” #CLPP2019
— Heron Greenesmith, Esq. (@herong) April 14, 2019
Both arguments, that being pro-life is somehow racist and anti-Semitic, are not remotely factual. All evidence points to the pro-life movement helping life flourish, even in the face of soaring abortion rates of black babies. These opinionated arguments are merely a tool to silence and shame, and the CLPP is teaching its members and attendees how to do it. Check out the conference poster. Youth activism and red state organizing are two of their top goals.
It’s important to point out that CLPP is a microcosm of a larger movement, the smoke to the proverbial fire. These kinds of movements, groups, and conferences are everywhere; checking the sponsor list for the CLPP confirms this. If red state organizing is one goal of theirs, then blue state organizing will be just as important. New York still holds a huge opportunity for activism and, if I may permit myself to insert myself into this equation briefly, it is the reason I am at my keyboard writing this post. Vermont is also key as the state Senate considers a bill passed by their House, making abortion a right in the state.
It is time to activate.
Shame is not a weapon
Shame is useful when examining and contemplating sin as a reminder that our longings and selfish actions will always fall short. Perhaps it is one reason why religious women seek abortions more often than their secular counterparts. In its organic form, shame serves its important purpose in steering away from sin. It’s dangerous when suppressed or wielded as a weapon.
An example of shame suppression is yet another event at the CLPP conference, the “Abortion Speak-Out” event, where women can talk about their abortions. Attendees can listen to, affirm, and comfort women who embrace this procedure. This has been documented all the way back to 1969, when the radical feminist group Redstockings held a speak-out – in a Methodist church, no less – in New York City (bold emphasis my own):
At the time, women didn’t talk about their abortions, certainly not in public. But a wave of consciousness-raising groups in the years preceding had allowed women to share details of their sexual and reproductive lives, which they had deemed central to their oppression. The speak-out seemed a logical next step: a way to recognize that the pain and humiliation of trying to get an abortion was a social problem, not a personal one.
Abortion activists now combine shame suppression, extract it from the self, and turn it against anyone except themselves. Do not be misled when others argue the problem lies with vague definitions of society, the religious, men, or racist, anti-Semitic pro-life advocates. They will shame others into silent approval or tacit understanding, lest they be labeled with a maroon R on their chests to be branded as intolerant, zealous, religious bigots.
Activism moving forward
For those activating in society and politics in favor of pro-life policies, it is imperative to stick to facts and wisdom before emotion. We can be led astray by our emotions, leading to defensive behavior if we are engaging with others who are angry, hurting, or ashamed. Shaming others is not a tool for humans to wield. How should this be done practically?
- Pray before engaging/activating
- Use research direct from the source – those actually gathering data – whenever possible
- Engage and activate in person when possible
- Use peaceful resistance even in the face of others’ anger or shaming tactics
- Find one other to pray, energize, and strengthen – but do not dawdle. Engage others who do not share your views.
- Gently support and guide each other away from shaming tactics when needed
- Pray after engaging/activating
I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9