A unique conference will begin tonight in Chicago, and I have a feeling that very few of our readers have heard of it. CINTA, which stands for "Contraception Is Not The Answer," will be convened by the Pro-Life Action League (PLAL) and its infamous leader, Joseph Scheidler. While the media has been catching up with the trend against contraception from the far-right and its increasing influence on politics, we thought it might be helpful to provide some background on the conference presenters.
- First, Joe and Eric Scheidler will open the event. Eric is Joe's son. He's a blogger, and he's PLAL's communications director. Joe was made famous to a wider sphere of people by the Supreme Court case that bore his name: NOW v. Scheidler. Joe has been involved in anti-abortion activism for decades, and has been accused of using brute force at clinics in attempts to shut them down. He has written a book for "sidewalk counselors" to train them in anti-abortion activism at clinic entrances.
- Next is Allan Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. Few people know the name of that organization, but you may know them by their work: the Howard Center is a principal organizer of the World Congress of Families. These events, which organizers claim are comparable to United Nations conferences, are international advocacy meetings with a decidedly far-right bent – anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-UN, anti-secular. While they have a notably extremist cast involved, they have gathered some more prominent names as supporters: Amb. Ellen Sauerbrey spoke at the most recent event.
- Next up is Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International. HLI is cataloged in the "About the Right" section of this website – its founder, Fr. Paul Marx, is famous for his anti-semitism and for naming contraception as the causal factor that began the "decay" of Western society into "godless liberalism."
- Libby Gray Macke is a promoter of abstinence-only education programs. Her organization, Project Reality, promotes one curriculum called "A.C. Green's Game Plan," which the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) says is, "fear and shame based, presents inaccurate information about sexually transmitted diseases and condoms, and assumes that all students in the class are heterosexual."
- Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty – another too often unknown organization. The Acton Institute was started by Fr. Robert Sirico, who "after embracing libertarianism, turned to the Catholic Church," and eventually founded this think tank that has enjoyed the warm support of Dr. James Dobson and Campus Crusade for Christ's Bill Bright. It is striking that libertarianism came before religion in the quoted sentence: this organization, following a trend in social conservative activism, uses the language of religion to foster its conservative ideals, in this case on economic issues. Dr. Morse's most recent book takes on "the sexual revolution's fraudulent promise of freedom."
- Damon Clarke Owens is giving a talk entitled "'The Perfect Family': How Contraception Affects Marriage and the Home." He is billed as a teacher of Natural Family Planning through the Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, NJ, and is a spokesman for L.E.A.R.N., an African-American "pro-life" network that suggests that family planning advocates are actually pursuing eugenics – rather than enabling people to make choices and decisions about their lives.
- Andrew Pollard is a "competitive intelligence" consultant who works in mainstream industry, doing demographic and market research for corporations through his U.K.-based firm. Do you wonder how many of his clients know he is giving a talk called "Societal Suicide: The Profound Demographic Impact of Contraception" as an argument against contraception?
- Dr. Janet Smith, who will be speaking at the event as well, is a "consultor" to Cardinal Alphonso Lopez Trujillo's Pontifical Council on the Family. This Roman Catholic Church committee and its leader are famous for advocating that condoms have holes in them that make them permeable to HIV. Nevermind that NIAID, NIH, and the Department of Health and Human Services say this is false. Trujillo also wants to excommunicate stem cell researchers from the Church.
- And finally, Dr. Lionel Tiger, the Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University, will be presenting to the group. Aside from noting that he supposedly coined the phrase "male bonding," we can't help noting the irony of a man in this group occupying an endowed chair named after Charles Darwin. (We wonder who is less pleased, Dr. Tiger, or the endower?) Dr. Tiger's recent book "The Decline of Males" is likely what landed him the spot. Also of interest is that one website cites his research interests as including "the pill," and notes that he consults with the Department of Defense on biotechnology. Is it kind of scary to think that someone who researches "the pill" from this angle has worked with DoD on biotechnology?
While this group certainly represents a fringe, we have seen in recent years that a far-right fringe can have a surprising impact on public policy and global health. Their targeting of contraception needs some attention paid to it, not so much for what is likely to come out of this conference as for the harbinger that it is of some future activism. We'll look forward to keeping you informed about what happens at the conference as part of our regular blogging next week.