Beware, the anti-abortion crowd is coming – right here, to Vienna. An article in my favorite online newspaper drew my attention to the fact that a month from now, the so-called “World Prayer Congress for Life” will take place, hosted by Human Life International. I decided to follow up on that with a little research. Are you ready?
Their English Wikipedia entry (as always my first go-to place) doesn’t offer a whole lot of information, basically just saying the organization is “American-based”, Roman Catholic, and was founded in 1981 by a certain Father Paul Marx. Wiki then describes HLI as describing itself as “the largest international pro-life organization in the world”, noting that it has affiliates and associates in over 100 nations worldwide. HLI’s own website is cited as a source.
I switched to the entry in German, where HLI is described as originating in the USA and having 59 action centers in 51 countries, no source given. Also, Father Paul Marx is somehow turned into a monk instead of a priest. Their mission goals are quoted in this lovely sentence: “We exist not only to fight the evils of abortion, contraception, sex education and family breakdown, but also to bring the good news of the Gospel of Life to the nations.”
Oh, so they’re not only fighting sex education and contraception, they’re also bringing us the Gospel of Life. Rejoice, future AIDS victims!
The entry then elaborates on HLI’s activities, using the term “unconventional methods” for redirecting an abortion clinic’s incoming phone calls to an HLI counselor. Simultaneously, activists protested in front of the clinic and harassed patients. The clinic sued, and although they won, they went bankrupt soon afterwards. HLI bought the building and turned it into a “baby holocaust museum” (quote from Wiki).
I checked: they actually did, though they alternate between calling it “baby holocaust memorial” and “life protection museum”. (Here’s their page – it’s in German, and also the layout and coloring will burn your eyes.)
According to Wiki, HLI was criticized for preaching against contraception in AIDS-riddled African countries as well as their methods regarding women planning to abort. A critic once used the words “psychological terror” to describe HLI’s methods. HLI sued and lost, so it’s official now.
Among Wiki’s sources, an online newspaper article from 2004 (in German) is listed. Because I follow breadcrumb trails with as much enthusiasm as anybody, I click. Paul Marx is a priest again in this article, HLI has 84 centers in 56 countries and over 25.000 members. “The fundamentalist group believes contraception to be the world’s most dangerous ‘weapon of mass destruction’ and opposes sex education in schools” – not much new stuff there.
The next paragraph is more interesting, however. Apparently the abortion clinic later turned into the “museum” wasn’t just harassed – HLI actually bought the building while the clinic was still running, and while they couldn’t just throw them out, they held prayer and singing sessions 24 hours a day right above the operating room, made bomb threats and even attacked with poisonous gas. And some of the redirected callers could schedule appointments – but for days when the clinic was closed, and when the patients turned up, they were lead into an HLI center nearby by an activist and held there for hours.
Quick preliminary verdict: anti-abortionist activists aren’t the kind of people I’d like to be friends with anywhere in the world.
HLI’s international website claims they are active in 105 countries throughout the world. It has a nice little graphic of Europe showing the countries providing “Abortion on Demand” in bright, dangerous red, the ones with “Exceptions” in yellow, and the ones with “Pro-Life Laws” in soothing, healthy green. I’m not an expert, but this looks like a lot of simplification: “Abortion on Demand” apparently includes Austria, where abortion is only legal within the first twelve weeks (and later for medical reasons or when the pregnant woman was underage at the time of conception), available in only a few clinics, and not covered by standard health insurance.
In the “About” section, I find their mission statement (nothing new) and this disturbing list of achievements:
- In El Salvador, HLI’s affiliate persuaded lawmakers to amend the constitution so as to secure and protect “the life of the unborn from conception.”
- In Tanzania, HLI’s teen chastity outreach programs brought to national attention the United Nation’s designs to force young people to use defective condoms; HLI’s detective work resulted in the destruction of over 10 million condoms.
- HLI’s office in Ireland prevented Dutch abortion ship Aurora from circumventing Ireland’s pro-life laws.
We’ve also helped many of our satellite offices:
- Found crisis pregnancy centers
- Teach young couples Natural Family Planning
They also have a section titled “Research”, with entries as helpful as this one on “The Case Against Condoms”: In The Case Against Condoms, you will learn the full truth about condoms and the beauty of the Catholic Church’s unchanging response to an escalating culture of death. Inside you will read about:
- the scientific case proving the ineffectiveness of condoms or so-called “safe sex” to fight the AIDS pandemic;
- the lies of the condom-mania propaganda;
- the unchanging Catholic teaching on the immorality of condoms and “safe sex”; and
- the marvelous plan of God for human sexuality, as the answer to the AIDS/STD pandemic.
The Case Against Condoms: Death By Latex:
The response of most `developed’ world governments at every level, and the reaction of various social service agencies to this explosion of STDs, was as predictable as it was pitiful: They took the inherently Humanistic position that Americans (not just teenagers) are mere animals. Since they can’t be trusted to control their sexual urges, we might as well make it as safe for them as possible to have sex with whomever they please.
Oh no, they took the inherently Humanistic position! And they think homo sapiens belong to the animal kingdom when everybody knows they’re plants! And they dared acknowledge the fact that “monogamy and chastity” (from the next paragraph) don’t fucking work in reality.
I skim the rest of the article. They elaborate on what can go wrong when using a condom and how condoms can break (“they’re unreliable because if you take them out of the package and leave them unused for a long period of time, they can be damaged by ozone!”), and though there’s a lot of manipulative exaggeration and half-truths (“condoms work in 85% of real-world cases, so a woman has a 15% chance of getting pregnant if she uses condoms every time over a year and an 80% chance of getting pregnant if she uses them every time for ten years!”), I find no outright lies.
I’m distracted by the list of “Research Topics” to the left and check out their section on homosexuality.
Abstract: Due to clergy sex abuse scandals centered primarily in the Northern hemisphere, the moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church has been subjected to an opportunistic siege by prominent individuals and organizations who see the chance to advance their goals, including the ordination of women and the suspension of the requirement for priestly celibacy. [...] Opponents of the Church know that there is a well-documented and strong correlation between male homosexuality and child sexual abuse, but claim that there is no evidence supporting this connection. And, of course, those who are currently attacking the Church hope that they can undermine its moral authority to preach on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior and its opposition to ersatz homosexual “marriage.” This paper demonstrates that there is indeed a very strong link between male homosexuality and child sexual abuse. It also shows that there is a similar rate of child sexual abuse among other very large groups of adult males (e.g., Protestant clergy, who are usually married), thus proving that celibacy is not the root of the problem — homosexuality is.
HLI on sex education:
These programs would have as their objective furnishing enough biological information for children to avoid the heavy consequences of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. This kind of sexual education is necessarily incomplete because it leaves to one side the relational, affective and spiritual aspects of human love.
You can’t teach my kids about sex, because you won’t teach them everything! (I wonder why there’s no section on mathematics, then. Shouldn’t they oppose math class as well?)
It further runs the risk, depending on the program and the philosophy of the teacher, of being excessively explicit and constituting merely an introduction to the practice of contraception and “safe sex”.
Well, duh. Sex education is supposed to introduce children to contraception and safe sex, isn’t it? Why would anybody start teaching kids about sex if not to teach them useful stuff they’re probably going to need? What else would they teach them?
Finally, the programs of sex education proposed in the schools do not always take into account the immaturity of the students receiving it and can cause harm and upset them.
Why would a lesson about how to properly use condoms upset a student? Seriously – I don’t even see what could be upsetting about that. Except if the student got fed enough stuff like this from parents or others to believe that teaching children about safe sex means that you’re from the devil and want them to have lots of abortions and then die of AIDS (yes, I’m aware that AIDS itself isn’t actually fatal, but they might not be).
There is also another aspect of sex education that is not often looked at and which is of capital importance, as Dr. Polaino-Lorente explains: sex education in the family. [...] The parents are the first persons responsible for the sexual education of their children. They can help them to better acquire the virtue of self-discipline and the importance of the other, which are essential for the human exercise of sexuality.
So they’ll get a serving of sex ed from their parents and another one from school. Where’s the harm in that?
In all honesty, I don’t really get why people are against sex education. My parents weren’t – I remember my mother supplementing the sex education at school with “God wants sex to happen between a married man and a woman” or something along these lines, and that was that. And the statistics of condom failure were part of the lessons, along with the most common errors and how to avoid them.
The Austrian HLI page (in German) seems to be about abortion only, with a side of contraception. The column to the left offers me the usual “Home”, “News” and “About” sections, then “Help for pregnant women”, a FAQ, “The miracle of life”, “Abortion”, “Healing the abortion wounds”, “Contraception”, “What the church says”, “Spiritual”, and the usual tail of publications, events, links, and contact options.
I check out the contraception section first. The Austrian page is very different from the international one, obviously not just a translation, but a page of its own. The tone is light, familiar, and friendly instead of pseudo-professional. Instead of condoms, the favorite issue here is the pill. A (sloppily translated) excerpt: “In the first ten years since introduction of the pill, 45 millions of packages went over the counter. The pharma industry could rejoice. And the women? The pill consumers? [...] Women’s health was sacrificed on the altar of population control.”
They then go on to explain that a lot of contraceptives are in fact abortifacients and contraception often means abortion. I only skim the rest of the entry and go on to the FAQ instead (or “The most frequently asked questions… and the best answers!”, as it is called).
24 questions are listed, most of them not as questions, but as half-sentences, giving the asker an uncertain, helpless voice. The answers are quite lengthy and held in an encouraging, friendly, familiar and sympathetic voice. There’s a lot of manipulative half- or misinformation (“hey, young girls who aborted are more often in psychiatric hospitals, suffer more often from panic attacks, drug abuse, depression, insomnia, suicidal tendencies, uncontrolles crying fits, lack of motivation etc., and also carrying the child to term will lower your breast cancer and ovarian cancer risk!”) and emotional manipulation (“yeah, I know telling your parents will suck, but think about how much it will suck if you abort and in ten years your sister has a kid and they shower it with gifts and affection and you killed yours! Trust me, I’m a grandparent myself!”).
Surprisingly, the possibility of giving the child up for adoption is hardly mentioned at all – once for “But I’m not ready to be a mother yet…” and once for “What are my options?”, but not at all for “Am I not too young for a baby?”. While it’s only mentioned in passing for the former and keeping the child is elaborated upon and filled with all kinds of good feelings, it’s mentioned in a little more detail for the latter question (“You’re not a bad mother for giving your child away… your child will be grateful because it can live! Abortion, however, will leave you desperate and unhappy and full of guilt and regret” – and no, I’m not exaggerating with the last sentence).
I skip a few questions, but click on the slightly creepy number 19: “What can I do to prevent her from having an abortion?” The answer is no less creepy. I tried to translate as accurately as possible:
“Women who consider an abortion are in an emergency situation. They think the child within them threatens their life. [...] Usually they don’t even want the abortion, but out of sheer desperation they believe they have to abort. [...] When she hears from your lips that the baby in her belly isn’t just an insignificant something but a child in an earlier stage, it will be difficult for her to deny that. Essentially she struggles so much because she herself already knows that what you’re saying is true. [...] Then ask her for permission to tell her what really happens during an abortion. Tell her you don’t want to hurt her with this information. In contrast: you want to protect her from the terrible harm she’d do to herself with an abortion. [...] Your girlfriend will (that’s our experience), if she’s really ready to listen to you too, choose life for your child.”
They do emphasize that the asker needs to listen to the woman (and even use the phrase “help does not mean pressure or manipulation”), but honestly, what good is listening when whatever the woman says is just going to be dismissed as “struggling against the truth” and what she wants is explained away as “she just believes she has to and she doesn’t know better”? What good is listening when there is only one accepted outcome of the “talk”, and that is to “choose life for your child”?
I can’t help but imagine what it must be like for a woman who has made her decision, sits down to talk to her boyfriend about it and is met with this terrible reduction of herself to a helpless, ignorant little girl who doesn’t really want what she wants, whose attempts to make herself heard and understood are met with the condescending pseudo-understanding fit for someone who just “struggles against the truth”.
If you happen to be a considerate boyfriend who actually respects his girlfriend’s wishes and decisions, however, you won’t fare well with the anti-abortionists. “Question” 22: “He says it’s my decision…”
Answer (shortened and paraphrased): “On the first glance, this answer seems to be fine. He acknowledges you can choose and cannot be forced to do something you don’t want to. [Hah hah.] But then why don’t you feel good? Why do you feel let down, left alone, miserable? You rightly wanted something else: for him to hug you and tell you he’ll be there for you and the baby, or to promise you he’ll be at your side and make sure you two get everything you need. But instead he doesn’t do anything to protect you from the abortion surgery with all its risks and terrors and emotional cruelties. He doesn’t lift a finger to save his own child from a painful and horrible death. [...] Leave him out of it for now. Concentrate on the question of how an abortion will destroy your life and the life of your child.”
That’s it, I’m out of here. Skimmed the last few questions (the ones regarding rape – want to take a guess what they say?) and decided I had enough crap for today.
That has become quite a long post. Writing about a real topic is a lot easier than writing about myself! If anyone knows how to use the “quote” function in WordPress, I’d appreciate help – whenever I try to quote, it interprets my whole post as a quote and not just the paragraph with the actual quote.