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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXVII, No. 2
Pentecost 2012

The War on Conceiving and Bearing a Child
Or, "Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?"

by Margaret M. Whitehead

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31)

For the past few months, we have been inundated with complaints about a serious new “war on women.” Under this “war” heading, the main dangers and threats to women have been identified by the Obama administration and the major media (sometimes known as the mainstream media, or MSM) as anything that might interfere with providing women with abortions and/or contraceptives. Another correlative aspect of this “war on women” has been identified as daring to express disapproval of abortion and contraceptive providers such as Planned Parenthood — or even going so far as to think that the US taxpayers should not give the more than $400 million per year currently being given to support Planned Parenthood.

Another battlefront in this anti-women war was discovered when private charities such as the Susan G. Komen foundation, which supports efforts to prevent and treat breast cancer, decided not to give Planned Parenthood grants any longer. When this happened, Planned Parenthood, with the help of the MSM, launched an all-out attack on the Komen Foundation, thereby undermining an organization that actually helps women; but, at the same time, PP made sure that everyone remembered that contraceptive availability and abortion were still the most important pro-women defenses against the alleged anti-women forces.

Then, just when it seemed that the “anti-women” forces were losing ground, an unexpected new battle erupted. President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, announced a new mandatory HHS rule under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), which required that the preventive medications claimed to be essential to the happiness and well-being of all women — and which theoretically would provide a cost benefit to the federal government — must be provided gratis to all women of all ages in all health insurance policies. These all-important “pro-woman” medications included, of course, all FDA-approved methods of contraception as well as abortifacients dishonestly called contraception. The fact that the contraceptives in question have many known negative physical side effects was not mentioned, nor was it even a consideration.1

It was considered unimportant that abortifacient contraceptives are, in fact, designed to produce a dead baby, just as abortion does — also ignored was the emotional, physical, and social problems that abortion causes the mother. What was considered all-important, though, was the “woman’s choice” — but only if it is for contraception and abortion — as well as the government’s support for these particular “choices.”2

Everything does not go according to the MSM script, however.

To the horror of all liberals, when Secretary Sebelius announced on January 20, 2012, that as part of the plan, everyone — including Catholics, Catholic doctors, and Catholic institutions — would be required to pay for birth control “preventive services,” including contraceptives, abortifacients such as ELLA, and sterilizations, the Catholic bishops flatly refused to go along. Many other Christians and conservatives joined the bishops in opposing this attack on the religious freedom of Catholics.

Republicans in Congress attempted to pass several bills that would have limited the extent of the HHS birth control mandate by proposing to reinstate a long-standing conscience clause that President Obama had dropped, as well as to defund Planned Parenthood. These actions were widely denounced as part of the aforementioned “war on women,” and the MSM, as well as many Democrats, decided that not just conservative Republicans, but also the Catholic Church, were dangerous enemies of women.

A New Teaching Opportunity

In the midst of this attack on the Church, a surprising new opportunity to evangelize the culture appeared. Besides standing up for religious freedom and limits to the claims that the government can make on the consciences of its citizens, the Church has been given a fresh opening to defend and promote publicly the true good of women, as well as that of men and children, and to point out that the real war on women is the one that not only harms the spiritual, physical, and psychological well-being of women but also fundamentally denies their very nature as women. This is done systematically by attacking a woman’s feminine ability to conceive and bear children. Those engaged in this true war on women denigrate a woman’s gift of fertility instead of valuing it and working with it.3

In Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the Church has been given a gift and a tool to teach anew the Church’s support for the dignity of the human person, male and female, in a way that breaks through some of the lies and distortions that are so prevalent in our society today. The pope wrote:

Unlike the animals, man’s sexuality is not ruled by instinct but is raised to the level of the person. The body not only has the procreative dimension common to all creatures but also has the “nuptial” attribute or the capacity for expressing love. The man and the woman are a gift to each other as persons and through the gift fulfill each other.4

Challenging the False Claims of the “War on Women”

In spite of all the hype and the claims that contraception and abortion are pro-woman and essential to feminine happiness, the truth is quite the opposite. Ironically, these over-hyped procedures, far from supporting a woman, actually deny her the right to be a woman. The message given is that the only good woman is a neutered woman — one whose reproductive system has been totally disrupted.

The underlying reality of these fertility wars taking place in our society is the attempt to replace God’s respect for the nature of the human person, male and female, and His plan for love and life with technology, government control, and the promotion of autonomous, disconnected humans. God has always worked through love and the gift of conceiving and bearing children. His Enemy works through sex, sterility, isolation, and outside control.

We need to ask of our society not, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” — but rather, “Why can’t a woman be more like a woman?” John Paul II gives us the answer here: “In seeking to overcome discrimination, the woman must not adopt the masculine role and give up the riches of her femininity.”5

A real response to the “war on women” demands that women appreciate who they really are and expect and require others to respect their special gifts. This requires men to use their masculine gifts to protect and defend the woman’s ability to conceive and bear a loved child.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death! Amen


1 Marie Anderson, an ob-gyn doctor at the Tepeyec Clinic in Northern Virginia, in a panel discussion of the HHS Mandate at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, DC, on February 27, 2012, noted that to take a women’s reproductive system, which is working fine, and “break it” is just wrong, especially when using a hormonal medication that has significant health risks. Some risks that she mentioned were: deep-vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms, bloating, weight gain, headaches, and bleeding.

2 Chris Saxman, on his Cold Fusion Blog, March 12, 2012, regarding the Sandra Fluke case: “Enter the dilemma faced by a Georgetown Law School student who apparently doesn’t have the means of acquiring contraception. One would think a Cornell grad who got into Georgetown Law could find a 7-11 in the District of Columbia, but she must not have that app on her iPhone. The 30-year-old law student has been called inappropriate things since then and that is unfortunate as they have no basis in fact. What is without dispute is her liberal economic and political theory. Who else but a Liberal would petition the government for $3000 annually for contraception when the free market can provide it at a much lower cost while employing minimum wage workers.”

3 John Paul II, in Blessed are the Pure of Heart: “Unless the body is respected in its integrity with the two meanings of unity and fertility, there can be no true communion of persons.” Quoted and discussed in Mary Shivanadan’s book Crossing the Threshold of Love: A New Vision of Marriage, Catholic University of America Press, 1999.

4 In Crossing the Threshold of Love, p. 122. Summarized from Original Unity of Man and Woman by JPII.

5 Ibid., p. 158, quoting John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem, 9-10.

Margaret M. Whitehead has been a teacher and director of religious education for many years and continues in retirement to teach religion as a volunteer. She is a member of the editorial board of Voices, the advisory board of Imago Dei, and the board of Educational Guidance Institute. Married for fifty-three years to Kenneth D. Whitehead, she is the mother of four grown sons.

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