FRC Blog

Michelle Williams Chose a Career Over a Child. But What If She Never Had to Choose?

by Laura Grossberndt

January 8, 2020

Michelle Williams made headlines with her acceptance speech at this year’s Golden Globe Awards. After accepting her prize for best performance by an actress in a limited series or motion picture made for television, Williams said she is “grateful to have lived at a moment in our society where choice exists.” She went on to declare that the award—and her career—would not have been possible “without employing a woman’s right to choose.”

When you put this [award] in someone’s hands, you’re acknowledging the choices that they make as an actor, moment by moment, scene by scene, day by day, but you’re also acknowledging the choices they make as a person, the education they pursued, the training they sought, the hours they put in.

I’m grateful for the acknowledgment of the choices I’ve made, and I’m also grateful to have lived at a moment in our society where choice exists because as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice. I’ve tried my very best to live a life of my own making and not just a series of events that happened to me, but one that I can stand back and look at and recognize my handwriting all over—sometimes messy and scrawling, sometimes careful and precise, but one that I carved with my own hand. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without employing a woman’s right to choose. To choose when to have my children and with whom. When I felt supported and able to balance our lives knowing as all mothers know that the scales must and will tip towards our children.

Williams may feel gratitude for the choices afforded to her, but she shouldn’t have even had to choose between career and children if she didn’t want to.

For many women, pregnancy can feel like a career death sentence, with the potential to jeopardize their self-identity, education, training, and hard work. Meanwhile, their male peers rarely must choose between having children and a career. Working women everywhere are justified to feel dismayed at this imbalance. But the alleged solution, that of “a woman’s right to choose,” is not as egalitarian and empowering as its proponents claim.

When we talk about a woman’s “right to choose,” rarely do we discuss what exactly is she choosing between—and why she can’t have both.

Consider the story of Susan Struck. She wanted to keep both her pregnancy and her job in the Air Force. But military regulations at the time said she couldn’t have both. Struck wanted to choose childbirth and place her child for adoption, but her superiors would not allow Struck to keep her job unless she got an abortion. This shouldn’t have been a choice Struck had to make. But in 1970, it was. Ruth Bader Ginsburg recognized the injustice of this choice and took up the case on Struck’s behalf. Ginsburg noted years later:

It was, I thought, the perfect first reproductive-choice case to come before the Court. The government was telling Captain Struck, ‘You cannot exercise your choice for childbirth unless you give up your chosen career.’ She had the choice of leaving the service or having an abortion, available to her on the military base pre-Roe v. Wade. She became pregnant in 1970, if I recall correctly. Susan Struck’s position was, […] ‘[The Air Force] cannot force me to give up my career if I make the choice for childbirth.’

She further commented:

Susan Struck was told by her commanding officer you have a choice: you can get an abortion or you can leave the service, because pregnancy was an automatic ground for discharge. Susan Struck said, I am Catholic. I will not have an abortion. But I will use only my accumulated leave time, I have made arrangements for adoption of the child. Nonetheless, her choice was, you get an abortion or you get out. That’s the reproductive choice case I wish had come to the Supreme Court first.

After becoming a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg reflected on her legal career and credited motherhood as a reason for her own success, rather than a hindrance:

When I started law school my daughter Jane was 14 months … I attributed my success in law school largely to Jane … I went to class at 8:30 AM … so I came home at 4:00 PM; that was children’s hour. It was a total break in my day … and children’s hours continued until Jane went to sleep. Then I was happy to go back to the books, so I felt each part of my life gave me respite from the other.

If Michelle Williams and other actresses like her think they need to have abortions to keep the careers they’ve worked so hard for, then it’s a somber indication of the cost of doing business in Hollywood. However, it shouldn’t be surprising. You don’t have to look any further than the #MeToo Movement to know that Hollywood has a long, ugly history of mistreating and exploiting women.

The lesson of #MeToo has been lost on Hollywood. Instead of making the entertainment industry more accommodating and respectful of women, it still demands its actresses submit and conform to a status quo shaped by and better suited to men. If Hollywood truly respected women, it wouldn’t exploit them as often as it stands accused of doing. If Hollywood truly respected women, it would value the children and families of its women. Instead, Hollywood insists that female bodies must perform like male bodies, leading its women to believe that they must choose between giving life to their children and having a career with which to support themselves. And after the women choose the career, Hollywood stands and applauds when these same women confess on awards stages to aborting their unborn children.

In her speech, Williams said she sought to carve out a life for herself with her own hand. But is that really what happened? Or is Hollywood’s handwriting all over her story? The scales may have tipped towards Williams’ children now, but not before Hollywood insisted that they tip towards her career first.

In addition, Williams said she felt ready to have a child when she “felt supported and able to balance our lives.” But what if Williams—and women everywhere—never had to worry about feeling supported? What if she knew her employer, family, friends, and community would be on her side and wouldn’t force her to choose? What if she knew there were health clinics and adoption agencies ready to help her should she need them (and there are)? Would she still think her abortion was necessary for her success?

Scientific advancements make an increasingly overwhelming case for life in the womb. The pro-abortion lobby is losing on that front, so they have fallen back on the argument for women’s autonomy. No woman should be robbed of her life choices and career opportunities, they say. But this is simultaneously a false and an unjust choice.

Why pit a woman against her children? Instead of expecting a woman to end her unborn child’s life for the sake of a career, we should make it easier for a woman to have both the child and the career (with which to support herself and her child). The most empowering thing for a woman is not “choice,” but instead not needing to choose at all—because she can have both.

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FRC’s Top 5 Blogs of the Year

by Family Research Council

December 31, 2019

In the Year of Our Lord 2019, FRC’s blog covered a wide range of topics that have impacted the sanctity of life, the family, religious freedom, and the culture here in America and across the globe. Listed below are the five blogs that received the biggest response from you, our readers, as well as some other honorable mentions. Thank you for reading our blog! We greatly appreciate your interest in and passion for these vital issues that are shaping the moral character of our nation. We hope that these articles inspire you to stand for biblical truth, whatever your walk of life may be.

1. 75 Years Ago Today: A D-Day Prayer by Chris Gacek

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.”

2. Should Christians Recognize “LGBT Pride?” by Peter Sprigg

The tendency of many straight ‘allies’ of ‘LGBT Pride’ is to avert their eyes from these actual behaviors. Instead, they define such individuals by their feelings, and then accept the argument that because these feelings are not a ‘choice,’ they must define the person’s innate identity. This is a mistake. Just because feelings are not chosen does not mean they are inborn—they may result from developmental forces in childhood and adolescence. And while feelings are not chosen, both behaviors and a self-identification are chosen.”

3. Basic Human Decency Starts with Protecting Babies on Their Birthday by Caleb Seals

When it comes to abortion, the political Left always trots out the same line: ‘It’s the woman’s right to choose whatever she wants with her own body.’ Pro-lifers respond to this by speaking up for the rights of the unborn baby’s body. But after the recent passage of New York’s extreme abortion law and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s pro-infanticide comments, we are no longer talking about defending the unborn, we are talking about defending the born. Let that sink in.”

4. How Game of Thrones Mainstreamed Sexual Exploitation by Laura Grossberndt

Movies and television shows such as Game of Thrones enjoy a patina of respectability due to their complex plots, extensive viewership, and numerous awards—making them more palatable to a wide audience than a pornographic film would be. However, by treating human sexuality as a commodity, Game of Thrones and its ilk are just another incarnation of the commercial sex trade.”

5. Boys Competing Against Girls Steal Another Win by Cathy Ruse

When men who identify as women compete against women, they’re not achieving a sports victory. They’re just lying, cheating, and stealing.”

 

Honorable Mentions

Last year, my brother Josh, a 37-year-old married father with five kids under the age of 9, announced he was becoming a woman …

Thus, my tall, handsome, muscular brother began taking strong female hormones that transformed him into a different person. His facial hair stopped growing. He grew breasts instead. As part of his ‘social transition’ he began wearing dresses, wigs, heels, and makeup in public. He will have to stay on female hormones until the day he dies. He refuses to answer to the name Josh now—the only name anyone’s known him as for almost four decades. He says Josh is dead. There was even some type of symbolic ‘burial ceremony’ to say goodbye to Josh once and for all. Unfortunately, I didn’t get invited to that. Nor did my parents. No one sent us flowers. No one dropped off a casserole.”

It’s common wisdom to teach kids to respond to a fire or active shooter. They need the same ‘fire drill’ for pornography. Thankfully, most children won’t deal with a fire or a shooter, but all of them will need to escape from pornography.

The ‘escape’ plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. is simply ‘Turn, Run and Tell!’ Turn away from the bad picture, hurry and get away, and go tell a trusted adult what you saw. The CAN DO Plan from Good Pictures Bad Pictures helps kids not only turn away from it, but to label it by saying ‘That’s pornography!’ This allows kids to have more control over their thoughts by engaging their thinking brain.”

As trade talks between the U.S. and China continue, China’s human rights violations need to be at the forefront of the discussions. China’s organ trade isn’t a minor violation—it’s indicative of systematic harassment, abuse, and even murder of its religious minorities.”

What America needs today is citizens who strive for personal responsibility and service to others and leaders who are looking first to serve, to imbibe the spirit expressed in the faded, worn out words of the Washington Monument—Laus Deo. We need leaders who serve God (Joshua 22:5; 1 Samuel 12:24; Hebrews 9:14) and their fellow citizens (Luke 6:38; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10). Jesus himself said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). We as citizens need to renew our commitment to being responsible for ourselves but also to serve those in need, and our government officials need to rediscover their true vocation: to be public servants.”

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Entering the New Year, Religious Minorities Across the Globe Face an Uncertain Future

by Arielle Del Turco

December 30, 2019

A recent Washington Post article highlighted some of the concerning trends in international religious freedom in 2019.

Most prominent is the attack on religious freedom in China, which is especially apparent in the Uyghur crisis. Uyghurs are facing an extremely advanced and well-planned scheme of cultural genocide by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At least 1-2 million Uyghurs are detained in “re-education” camps intended to strip them of their unique religious and cultural identity. Over the last year, China has only dug their heels in to defend their actions in the Uyghur region.

But it’s not just Uyghurs. Those of all faiths are targeted by the Chinese regime. For CCP leaders, any claim to a higher authority—including God—is a threat to the rule of the Party, and one that must be eliminated or subdued.

The Post piece also featured anti-Christian violence in Sri Lanka. On Easter in 2019, almost 300 Christians were killed at church services in bombings across several cities. This tragedy was a result of a growing militant Buddhist nationalist movement. Christians in Sri Lanka are increasingly at risk of attack, and the world needs to become more aware of their plight.

A third religious freedom concern is the treatment of Muslims in India. The Hindu nationalist-led government has found numerous ways to antagonize this religious minority over the past year. The political party currently in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party, seeks to solidify India as a country for Hindus only—and this is a problem for all of India’s religious minorities, including Christians.

The Post article also points out the uncertain future of Turkish Christians. In a story that’s becoming disturbingly common in the Middle East, the percentage of the population that identifies as Christian in Turkey has dropped from almost 25 percent in 1914 to less than 0.5 percent today. This reflects similar trends across the Middle East as Christians flee persecution. The Middle East was the birthplace of Christianity, and the ancient Christian communities who have maintained a presence there for thousands of years are increasingly at risk.

If you’re wondering why it’s such a big deal to protect Christian communities in Northeast Syria and other parts of the Middle East—it’s because they’re disappearing from this region altogether.

Lastly, the article recognizes Burma—an area that also should not be forgotten. Burma is a Buddhist-majority country, and religious tensions spilled over when the Burmese military massacred thousands of Rohingya Muslims in 2017. Many Rohingya still live in refugee camps in Bangladesh and are vulnerable to human trafficking. The consequences of this event are still dire, and the victims are still hurting.

Going into 2020, all of these religious minority groups don’t know what the future holds. As Christians, we can pray for these people who have inherent worth and are made in the image of God. As people who care about the fundamental right to religious freedom for everyone, we can spend the next year advocating on behalf of these oppressed people.

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For Some Christians Around the World, Celebrating Christmas is Dangerous

by Arielle Del Turco

December 24, 2019

As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Christmas, many are forced to do so in secret. Arrest and punishment at the hands of the government or violence at the hands of extremist groups plague many around the world who simply try to celebrate the birth of their Savior.

In Iran, the government takes advantage of Christmas celebrations in their effort to crackdown on the spread of Christianity. Dabrina Tamraz has been a victim of religious persecution herself in Iran. She is reporting that authorities began to arrest Christians in the last few weeks. She says, “Christmas celebrations make it easier for Iranian authorities to arrest a group of Christians at one time.”

The Iranian government’s main targets are converts to Christianity from a Muslim background and evangelicals. The regime feels threated by Christians who would evangelize and share their faith. Christians who stay home might avoid being targeted by authorities, but any expressions of faith—including Christmas celebrations—can be dangerous.

Christians in India are also bracing themselves amid a new wave of persecution this December. According to International Christian Concern, at least 10 Christians were arrested on trumped-up criminal charges, clean drinking water was cut off for 25 Christian families, and several churches have been shut down just this month.

We have cancelled all our Christmas events in Banni Mardatti village, including carols, cottage meetings, and pre-Christmas events,” said Pastor Raja Bhovi from in India’s Karnataka State, “There is a fear of being attacked by Hindu radicals.” 

If last year is any indicator, these fears may be justified. Just before Christmas in 2018, a mob attacked a small church in India’s Maharashtra state, leaving many injured.            

Some countries go so far as to openly ban the celebration of Christmas. In Brunei, a small country on the island of Borneo, Christians found celebrating Christmas illegally could face a 5-year prison sentence, a $20,000 fine, or both.

Brunei instituted this policy in 2015, while its Ministry of Religious Affairs released a statement expressing concern that any public Christmas celebrations might “damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community.” 

In North Korea, those who celebrate Christmas can be imprisoned, tortured or put to death. North Korea is a communist country where the only gods allowed are the Kim family dictators. Christmas is not widely known, and certainly not celebrated publicly. Yet, the North Korean regime has seemingly tried to replace Christmas altogether. 

North Koreans are encouraged to celebrate the birthday of Kim Jong-Suk, the deceased grandmother of Kim Jong Un. Her birthday, which falls on Christmas Eve, is even marked by pilgrimages to the town of her birth. The empty substitute religion centered on the Kim family ultimately won’t satisfy the human soul. Open Doors USA estimates that there are approximately 300,000 Christians in North Korea—quite an accomplishment for the most closed country in the world. 

In countries across the world, any expression of the Christian faith leaves Christians vulnerable to arrest from the government or even attacks from their neighbors. Christians are often forced to either cancel their celebrations or gather in secret. Yet, the price for getting caught at such clandestine events can be costly.

As Christians in the West openly celebrate the Christmas season with friends and family, we should pause and pray for the Christians who will celebrate in secret. We can be thankful that Christ was born over 2,000 years ago to bring us the Gospel. And that hope is a light that no force of darkness can extinguish.

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Trump Administration Closes Out 2019 by Protecting Life and Religious Freedom

by Connor Semelsberger

December 20, 2019

Since taking office, President Trump has become known for his determination to protect life and religious freedom. Now, he has further strengthened his record with new regulatory actions. Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a finalized regulation that protects taxpayers from paying for abortion, and yesterday, the comment period closed on HHSproposed rule revising its grants process. Family Research Council has voiced support for this proposed rule because it would protect the religious freedom of adoption and foster care providers.

Towards the end of his administration, President Obama mandated that adoption providers and other organizations working with HHS must accept same-sex marriage and an individual’s professed gender identity. This mandate’s infringement on religious freedom was so severe that South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster had to ask HHS for a special waiver from this regulation so that Miracle Hill, the state’s largest provider of foster homes, could remain open.

South Carolina was far from being the only state or locality in which adoption providers encountered religious freedom hardships on account of the Obama-era regulation. Now, President Trump is seeking to remedy the existing regulation’s problems with this newly-proposed rule. Now that the comment period on the rule has closed (FRC’s comment is available here), we hope to see protections for adoption and foster care providers finalized soon.

When Obamacare was passed in 2010, it circumvented the longstanding Hyde Amendment’s ban on federal funds paying for abortion. Obamacare allowed plans to cover elective abortions so long as payments for abortion coverage were collected “separately” from those paid for with federal subsidies. Not only was this policy an inadequate means of protecting taxpayers from funding abortion, but the Obama administration also issued a regulation skewing the word “separate.” As a result, many of the payments meant to be collected separately are instead collected together. Under the current regulations, a single notice about the abortion surcharge or an itemized surcharge on the bill would satisfy Obamacare’s requirement for separate abortion payments.

Because this implementation is so obscure, many Americans are unaware that they are paying for abortion coverage in their health plans. This is one reason why FRC has partnered with the Charlotte Lozier Institute to create Obamcareabortion.com, which provides much-needed transparency concerning which Obamacare plans cover elective abortion.

As 2019 comes to a close, we can be thankful we have an administration that seeks to enforce the law as written—not skew it. The newly-finalized regulation will force insurers to collect two distinct payments, one for elective abortion coverage and one for all other covered health services. This separate collection of payments will serve to alert consumers when their plan covers elective abortion, thereby allowing them to make an informed decision on whether to select a plan that covers abortion or not. The setup of Obamacare still subverts longstanding protections against taxpayer funding for abortion; therefore, it is essential that the administration enforce the separate payments provision the way Congress intended.

Whether on religious freedom or life, President Trump continues to deliver on the promises which got him elected.

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The Link Between Abortion and Eugenics Makes Its Way to the Federal Appeals Courts

by Katherine Beck Johnson

December 19, 2019

Among a number of recent developments in the federal appeals courts regarding abortion jurisprudence, one of the most notable is their discussion of eugenics. Though the history of infamous characters like Margaret Sanger and the link between eugenics and abortion has been known for some time, it didn’t make its way into court opinions until Justice Thomas wrote a lengthy concurrence in Box v. Planned Parenthood explaining the history of abortion being used as a tool to achieve eugenic objectives.

In an attempt to curtail eugenics, Ohio passed a law, H.B. 214, which prohibits any person from purposefully inducing an abortion if the person has knowledge that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion in whole, or in part, because the unborn child has Down syndrome. A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction which stopped the law from going into effect, and a divided panel of the Sixth Circuit affirmed that ruling. On December 13, the en banc Sixth Circuit vacated the panel’s ruling and agreed to hear the case before the entire court.

Dissenting from the earlier Sixth Circuit panel’s opinion, Judge Batchelder noted how Ohio’s law promotes a compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a modern day eugenics tool. She said, “Ohio concluded that permitting physicians to become witting accomplices to the deliberate targeting of Down [s]yndrome babies would undermine the principle that the Down [s]yndrome population is equal in value and dignity to the rest of Ohio’s population, and would do deep damage to the integrity of the medical profession.”

Judge Batchelder is not the only judge to follow Justice Thomas’s lead and talk about the link between abortion and eugenics. Recently, the Fifth Circuit struck down Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. While he stated he was bound by Supreme Court precedent to reach this result, Judge Ho, a President Trump appointee, wrote a concurrence in which he noted that abortion is found nowhere in the Constitution, and that “the district court’s claim that it is racist to believe in the sanctity of life is particularly noxious, considering the racial history of abortion advocacy as a tool of the eugenics movement.”

It is encouraging to see appellate judges proclaim the history between abortion and eugenics. This could lead to a more clearly recognized state interest in stopping eugenics in this context, one which could eventually become compelling enough to outweigh a woman’s “right” to privacy. In the interim, we appreciate these judges exposing the history and modern-day link between eugenics and abortion.

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Netflix’s Mocking of Christians Is Not Sitting Well With Brazilians

by David Closson

December 18, 2019

Netflix is facing considerable pushback following its release of a film that contains profane, anti-Christian content. The film, titled The First Temptation of Christ, was produced by a Brazilian YouTube comedy group called Porta dos Fundos, which is known for producing irreverent content. The film depicts God and Mary as illicit lovers and Jesus as a closeted homosexual, among other things.

Outraged Netflix subscribers in Brazil and around the world are calling for the film’s immediate removal. One petition protesting the film has already collected over two million signatures since the film debuted on December 3.  

Described by the filmmakers as a “Christmas Special Show,” the plot follows Jesus as he returns to Nazareth for his 30th birthday party. Accompanying Jesus to the party is an effeminate and flirtatious character named Orlando. Conversations with Jesus’ family strongly imply that Orlando is romantically involved with Jesus.

Explicit and sexually suggestive language is used throughout the film, and many scenes are scandalous and outright blasphemous from the perspective of biblical Christianity. For example, Mary smokes marijuana, one of the wise men hires a female escort, and Jesus gets high off a “special tea.” God is depicted as a good-looking, talented, and likable character, while Joseph is portrayed as an incompetent carpenter. Furthermore, the film portrays Joseph as being jealous of God for the relationship he has with Mary. In one shocking scene, God reveals to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus that he had intercourse with Mary, which resulted in her pregnancy. In a subsequent scene, God and Mary appear ready to kiss before Joseph interrupts.

Toward the end of the film, it is revealed that Orlando is Lucifer—evidently, he successfully seduced Jesus in the desert. While Jesus is summoning up the courage to fight him, Orlando/Lucifer forcibly kisses Mary. The movie concludes with Jesus killing Lucifer and accepting the call to spread God’s message.

From the perspective of a biblical worldview, there are a few points to be made. First, the film intentionally seeks to provoke and offend Christian sensibilities. The notion that Jesus is gay and has a homosexual lover contradicts the evidence of Scripture and its clear teaching on the immorality of homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10).

Second, the portrayal of God as a sex-obsessed deity is reminiscent of the sordid escapades of Greek gods and goddesses and in no way resembles the God of biblical Christianity. The depiction of God in this film is utterly blasphemous. In Christianity, blasphemy is the act of showing contempt or lack of reverence for God. The third of the Ten Commandments prohibits such irreverence: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Christians believe the name of God is holy and how we use God’s name ought to express the reverence that is due to him. The commandment forbids more than just the verbal misuse of God’s name (e.g., as an expletive): it also condemns any abuse of God’s name in “ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious, or wicked” ways. Without a doubt, the film misuses God’s name by portraying Him in a manner that is diametrically opposed to how He is presented in the Bible.  

While Porta dos Fundos insists The First Temptation of Christ is merely satirical, the film has proven divisive in Brazil, a nation that is home to 120 million Catholics—more than anywhere in the world. The controversy is not surprising, then, as the film depicts Jesus in ways that are alien to Scripture.

It is worth noting that caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that are much less profane than how God and Jesus are portrayed in The First Temptation of Christ have provoked massive protests in Islamic countries. Most famously, Muslim terrorists attacked the office of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015 after the magazine depicted Muhammad in an unflatteringly light. Twelve people were killed and 11 wounded in the attack.

When films with sacrilegious content offend the sensibilities of believers, the question of free speech and censorship often arises. The First Amendment protects offensive speech, certainly. However, important questions ought to be asked. Such as, why do companies like Netflix think it is acceptable to violate basic standards of decency when it comes to religion? Why do many producers and directors think it is acceptable to attack the beliefs of millions of devout Christians in the name of “art”?

While it is no longer socially acceptable to malign people for their sex, race, or nationality, it is unfortunately still acceptable to bully and make fun of Christians and their beliefs. That is why Netflix and other media companies do not hesitate when providing a platform for a film as profane as The First Temptation of Christ. These companies think Christians are easy targets who will not fight back. Therefore, they believe they can continue to belittle and mock Christians through their films, art, and music with few repercussions.

However, it appears that Christians in Brazil have had enough and are pushing back. They should be applauded for voicing their objection to this offensive material. By uniting their voices, they are sending a clear message to Netflix that sacrilegious content like The First Temptation of Christ has no audience in Brazil and that movie makers should respect religious belief if they want an audience.

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The Birth Rate is Falling. But Why?

by Daniel Hart

December 16, 2019

Here in the United States, we are not having enough babies to replenish our population.

In the latest numbers from the CDC, there were just under 3.8 million births in 2018, down 2 percent from the previous year. This marks the fourth year in a row that births have declined in the U.S. The current rate of 1.7 births per 1,000 women is well below the 2.1 births needed to maintain a steady replacement level.

The decline in U.S. births mirrors a global decline since the 1950’s, which has seen the birth rate plummet from 4.7 to 2.4 over the last 70 years. Many secular commentators point to a handful of factors to explain why this remarkable decline is happening in America, including a lack of “suitable partners” for women and “economic instability.”

A Society’s Survival Depends on Its Values

But some secular writers are beginning to grow skeptical of these mainstream explanations that barely skim the surface of what’s really going on. In a fascinating recent piece in The New York Times titled “The End of Babies,” Anna Louie Sussman asks, “Something is stopping us from creating the families we claim to desire. But what?” She points to an intriguing study showing that in almost every European country as well as the U.S., the number of children that women want is well above the number of children they actually have. While Sussman does explore a bit of the standard excuses that many secular liberals give for not having kids, including climate change and economic inequality, she eventually hits on the root of what fertility hinges upon: the values that a society has.

For communities that do not hold to secular values, Sussman notes that low fertility is not a problem:

Where alternative value systems exist, however, babies can be plentiful. In the United States, for example, communities of Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, Mormons and Mennonites have birthrates higher than the national average.

Why is this? Sussman’s next paragraph is key:

Lyman Stone, an economist who studies population, points to two features of modern life that correlate with low fertility: rising “workism” — a term popularized by the Atlantic writer Derek Thompson — and declining religiosity. “There is a desire for meaning-making in humans,” Mr. Stone told me. Without religion, one way people seek external validation is through work, which, when it becomes a dominant cultural value, is “inherently fertility reducing.”

Perhaps unwittingly, Sussman has hit upon a transcendent truth: When we lose sight of God, we begin to lose our bearing on what it means to be human. When this happens, it becomes easier to overlook the essential building blocks that provide meaning, purpose, and continuity to our humanness: the institution of marriage (which is in steep decline) and the children that naturally result from this union.

Faith Casts Out Fear

After reading Sussman’s article, one can’t help but come away with a strong sense of the anxiety that so many in our culture carry with them when it comes to marriage and family. Her piece is peppered throughout with the worries and fears of those she interviews: “Young people say, ‘Having children is the end of my life’”; “If I become 50 or 60 and I don’t have kids, I know I’m going to hate myself the rest of my life”; “Everything is super expensive.” Sussman herself is not immune to this anxiety. She has convinced herself, rather sheepishly, that she must save $200,000 before she has a child. Why? Because she is single and plans to have a child via in vitro fertilization (IVF), and this figure is “an acknowledgment of the financial realities of single parenthood, but also the arithmetic crystallization of my anxieties around parenthood in our precarious era.”

Without getting into the troubling aspects of IVF, I’d love to be able to reassure Sussman and her fellow worriers, “It’ll be okay! God will provide!” One of the greatest benefits of faith is that it casts out fear of the unknown. For what does Christ himself tell his followers in the gospel? “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:26-27)

Even still, I must admit that I often forget Christ’s words. I struggle with many of the same fears that Sussman describes. As a husband and father myself, I often worry about finances and my ability to support and provide for my wife and our two young boys as they grow up, as well as any future children that God might bless us with. But guess what? God has provided for us. He always does. He is always faithful. I have found that the more I trust in God’s providence, the more my worries and fears fade away. For God, who is “Perfect love,” “casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

The Birth of a Child is the Rebirth of Hope

It is clear that the declining birth rate is intimately connected with anxieties about having kids that permeate our culture. When a society largely rejects religious values, it loses its ability to have hope in the future, most profoundly illustrated by the birth of new life. When God is forgotten, the world becomes a complicated, intimidating, and “precarious” place, as Sussman says, one which can seem inhospitable to rearing children.

But despite all this uncertainty and anxiousness, the desire for rebirth still lingers within us. In the candid and heartfelt conclusion to her article, Sussman can’t help but admit her own yearning to pass on the legacy of her father, with an implicit longing for motherhood:

But as I reflected on the immaterial gifts I like to think I inherited from him, it became clear I craved genetic continuity, however fictitious and tenuous it might be. I recognized then something precious and inexplicable in this yearning, and glimpsed how devastating it might be to be unable to realize it. For the first time, I felt justified in my impulse to preserve some little piece of me that, in some way, contained a little piece of him, which one day might live again.

Not even liberal New York Times columnists, it seems, can escape the primordial urge to pass on our humanity, to indeed “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

An important lesson can be drawn from all of this for believers. When we work to spread the gospel, we are working to dispel worldly fear and break open hearts toward openness to new life. For the birth of every child is the rebirth of hope, the hope bestowed by a Creator who gives us the gift of life, smiles upon us, and calls us “good.”

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FRC Opposes Guidance Attacking Sexual Orientation Change Efforts in Virginia

by Peter Sprigg

December 12, 2019

Editor’s Note: The following is a comment submitted on December 11, 2019 by Peter Sprigg on behalf of Family Research Council in opposition to a proposed regulation against so-called “conversion therapy” by the Virginia Board of Medicine.

I write in opposition to the proposed “Guidance Document on the Practice of Conversion Therapy,” and urge the Board not to adopt this policy.

Policy Statements Are Not Science

The guidance document is correct in stating, “Leading professional medical and mental health associations have issued position and policy statements regarding conversion therapy/sexual orientation change efforts …” However, “position and policy statements” are not the same as actual scientific findings. Unfortunately, “position and policy statements” are often the product of a highly-politicized process that is not representative of the professional population for whom they claim to speak.

Consider the first organization cited in the guidance document, the American Medical Association (AMA). According to a 2012 media report, there are 1.2 million physicians and medical students in the United States. Only 17 percent (217,490) are members of the AMA. (The AMA claims “approximately 250 thousand members” as of December 31, 2018.) Furthermore, AMA “position and policy statements” are not voted on by their entire membership, but rather adopted by a “House of Delegates” which consists of only 640 members as of June 2019. That means only one-quarter of one percent of all AMA members—and only a little more than one in every two thousand U.S. doctors—approve AMA position and policy statements.

The AMA press release announcing the new House of Delegates policy stated, “The AMA heard testimony, including first-hand accounts, regarding the significant harms triggered by conversion therapy …” Unfortunately, it has been documented that such “first-hand accounts” by LGBT activists are often implausible and sometimes demonstrably fabricated. What was not included in the AMA press release was any indication that the organization had undertaken a systematic review of the scientific evidence regarding either the effectiveness of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) or their alleged harms.

Concessions by the American Psychological Association

By contrast, the American Psychological Association (APA) did undertake a systematic review ten years ago. Although the resulting task force report was critical of SOCE, it did not call for legislative or regulatory restrictions on the practice. In fact, the APA made concessions that undermine the case for government intervention. For example:

1) Opposition to SOCE is based on the belief that people are born gay as a result of a “gay gene” or some other biological factor present at birth.

However, the APA admits that “there is no consensus among scientists” about what causes homosexuality, and that “nurture” may play a role.

2) Opposition to SOCE is based on the belief that sexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable.

However, the APA has acknowledged that “for some, sexual orientation identity … is fluid or has an indefinite outcome” (see page 2).

3) Opposition to SOCE, especially for children and adolescents, is based on the belief that individuals, especially children or adolescents, are often coerced into undergoing therapy (e.g., by parents).

However, the APA acknowledges that some people, including children and adolescents, may experience “distress” about having same-sex attractions and consider such feelings to be unwanted (see page 9).

The APA has also acknowledged that concerns about potential coercion could be mitigated by implementing a system of “developmentally appropriate informed consent to treatment” (see pages 74, 79, and 87).

4) Most of the therapy bans that have been enacted or proposed are specifically targeted at minor clients.

However, the APA acknowledges that there has been virtually no actual research done on SOCE with children or adolescents (see pages 33, 72-73, and 76).

5) Opposition to SOCE is premised on the belief that it has no benefits for the clients who undertake it.

However, the APA acknowledged, “Some individuals perceived that they had benefited from SOCE …” (see page 3).

6) Opposition to SOCE is based on the claim that it is always (or at least usually) harmful to clients.

However, the APA admits that there is no “valid causal evidence” that SOCE is harmful (see page 42).

7) The APA acknowledges that licensed mental health providers (LMHP) should “respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination,” allow the client to choose her or his own goals, and “be sensitive to the client’s … religion.”

However, legislative or regulatory restrictions on SOCE directly violate this core ethical principle of client self-determination.

A Literature Review of Studies Alleged to Show Harm from SOCE

When a recently-published book included an appendix titled, “Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles and Academic Books on ‘Conversion Therapy’ Outcomes that Include Measures of Harm,”[i] I set out to do a literature review (soon to be published) of this list of 79 sources. I discovered that a number of them make no reference to SOCE being harmful at all—it is inexplicable how they ended up on such a list. Of the remainder, approximately half are literature reviews or opinion pieces—not studies of actual SOCE participants.

All the entries that did study SOCE participants had significant methodological weaknesses, such as a lack of random sampling. Almost all of these studies represent anecdotal evidence only (via retrospective self-reports). Only one of the 79 sources used the gold-standard social science technique of a prospective and longitudinal design (that is, enrolling subjects at the beginning of or early in their therapy experience and interviewing the same individuals at different points in time to identify changes). That study found,

The attempt to change sexual orientation did not appear to be harmful on average for these participants. The only statistically significant trends that emerged … indicated improving psychological symptoms …” (emphasis added)

The most frequently cited article purporting to find harm from SOCE is a 2002 article by Shidlo and Schroeder. They asked respondents if they felt that “this counseling harmed you or had a negative effect,” and then followed up with a checklist of symptom areas. Oddly, the authors said in their article, “We do not report here on the frequency of responses to these items.” Because of this “qualitative” approach, the authors explicitly acknowledge,

The data presented in this article do not provide information on the incidence and the prevalence of failure, success, harm, help, or ethical violations in conversion therapy.”

Ironically, the one number that was reported—suicide attempts—showed that 25 participants had attempted suicide before “conversion therapy,” but only 11 had done so after such therapy. This would seem to suggest that SOCE is effective at reducing the risk of suicide, rather than increasing it as is sometimes alleged.

Conclusion

The evidence compiled so far regarding SOCE is either scientifically inconclusive or suggests that SOCE benefits those who seek treatment. It indicates a need for better and more extensive research on SOCE outcomes and techniques. The current state of research provides no valid scientific support for a draconian legislative or regulatory policy that would infringe upon the freedom of both clients and therapists to pursue the voluntary goal of sexual orientation change.

Unelected government officials should not insert themselves into the doctor/patient relationship, especially when relying on the politicized “policy statements” issued by a tiny minority of health professionals—statements that are unsupported by research and that are heavily qualified or even contradicted by the APA. I urge you not to adopt the proposed “Guidance Document on the Practice of Conversion Therapy.”



[i] “Appendix C: Measures of Harm: Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles and Academic Books on ‘Conversion Therapy’ Outcomes that Include Measures of Harm;” in Christopher Doyle, The War on Psychotherapy: When Sexual Politics, Gender Ideology, and Mental Health Collide (Manassas, VA: Institute for Healthy Families, 2019), pp. 365-74. The book’s author says that he received this list from A. Lee Beckstead (p. 107); but it is unclear whether Beckstead himself compiled the list.

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Good News for Women and Life: Kentucky’s Ultrasound Law is Here to Stay

by Katherine Beck Johnson

December 11, 2019

On Monday, the Supreme Court denied cert in EMW Women’s Surgical Center v. Meier. By denying cert, the Supreme Court allowed Kentucky’s ultrasound law to stand, as the Sixth Circuit held the law was constitutional this spring.

Referred to as H.B. 2, the law requires an abortion provider, prior to performing an abortion, to perform an ultrasound; display the ultrasound images for the patient; and medically explain the development of the unborn child. In April, the Sixth Circuit upheld Kentucky’s law, holding that because the law “requires the disclosure of truthful, nonmisleading, and relevant information about an abortion, we hold that it does not violate a doctor’s right to free speech under the First Amendment.”

Kentucky is far from alone in regulating ultrasounds prior to an abortion. Twenty-six states have an ultrasound requirement. Fourteen states require abortionists to display and describe an ultrasound image before an abortion. Nine states require that the abortion provider offer the woman an opportunity to view the image. These ultrasound laws allow women to be more informed about the life growing within them, rather than keeping women in the dark. Ultrasound images are powerful tools that illustrate and humanize the life within the woman. Pro-choice advocates claim they are for women’s choice, yet they fight laws that would properly inform women about the very choice they are making.

The appellate courts are still divided on these laws. In January 2012, the Fifth Circuit upheld Texas’s ultrasound law. In Texas, abortion providers are required to show the women an ultrasound and provide a medical explanation of the size of the unborn child along with the development of the child. After April’s ruling in favor of Kentucky’s ultrasound law, the Sixth Circuit now joins the Fifth Circuit. In 2014, the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina’s ultrasound law, holding that it violates the free speech of abortion providers. The Supreme Court did not grant cert in that case.

It is a triumph for life that the Sixth Circuit’s opinion was allowed to stand. This is a welcome victory that allows the women in Kentucky to see their children in the womb and understand the medical aspects of the life within her. Women will now be better informed, and there is no doubt that life will be chosen more often thanks to H.B. 2. 

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