The Bishops’ “Dixi”-Land Ban

Lon Newman

Public policy on sex, sexuality and reproduction in a pluralistic society must be based on evidence, science, justice, reason and civil discourse. So when the Catholic Bishops or others throw a political tantrum, we must never reward them.

The belief by some religious traditions that contraception
is intrinsically evil, though sincere, does not make it true. The belief that
it is “written in everyone’s heart as “natural law
is no more persuasive. If true, it seems there would be no disagreement.

Catholic leaders know they
not persuaded one another, the public, or
their own
laity, to agree
that contraception is evil. So when it comes to public policy, rather than
engage in dialogue and debate, they seem to make a statement and end it with a
“Dixi” (Latin for “I have spoken”) as though that is
that should be necessary

For those who accept the
authority of the Catholic hierarchy, that is enough.  But in the democratic process of establishing public policies
that are respectful of Catholics and non-Catholics, it is unresponsive
and insufficient.

Nonetheless, reproductive
rights advocates have recently witnessed ultimatum upon ultimatum.

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Contraceptive benefits?               This
College will close!

Gay discrimination prohibited?    No more poverty programs!

Emergency contraception required?  Emergency rooms to close!

Pharmacists required to fill prescriptions? They’ll be forced to quit!

Health insurance reform with
abortion coverage?  
No health care reform!

This kind of tactic is often inaccurately
called “blackmail,” but a better description would be “tantrum.”  Infants and
toddlers who, frustrated in their efforts to control the environment or their
parents, sometimes act out emotionally, physically, and inappropriately.  Adults try to ignore this behavior and
toddlers outgrow it. advises us:do not reward your child
after a tantrum by giving in. This will only prove to your little one that the
tantrum was effective.” 

The message that we must ensure our elected officials
and policy makers learn is that good policy-making must be based on
evidence, science, justice and reason and that means a civil discussion with an
informed and engaged audience is key. We may not always be able to ignore
childish political tantrums, but we must never accommodate and encourage

For this reason, Young
Catholics for Choice (
yCFC) and
Family Planning Health Services (
FPHS) will collaborate
on and launch a Wisconsin-based advertising and media campaign to promote
information about
emergency contraception (EC). 

Misinformation and distortion about emergency contraception has confused the
public, policy makers, and especially
Catholic parishioners.  Most people have an incomplete and inaccurate
understanding of EC.  Until that changes, for women who need EC, neither the
health care principle of ‘
informed consent‘ nor the religious principle of ‘informed conscience’ will have real meaning. 

The purpose of the campaign is to replace misunderstanding with evidence
and knowledge so individuals, including people of every faith, can make
decisions about emergency contraception with a more fully informed conscience.

Each of the four cities where
the informational ads will run has a distinct example of the need for a more
informed public.

  • In Eau Claire, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
    reported to us that an area Catholic hospital is violating the intent of
    state law because it refuses
    to offer EC to rape victims unless the victim submits to time-consuming, expensive,
    and unnecessary testing.

  • In Milwaukee, the new archbishop has declared his opposition
    to Wisconsin’s “Compassionate Care for Rape Victims” law based on a medically-unsupported
    belief that the most common form of EC (Plan B ™) “causes abortions

  • In Green Bay, two television stations refused to run
    the ads we produced with Young Catholics for Choice earlier than 9:00 p.m.
    because they were “too controversial.”


  • In Wausau, local priests routinely pray the rosary in front of our family
    planning clinic (which does not provide abortions or medical referrals
    for abortion) with signs that say “Stop Chemical Abortion” and “Family Planners
    Promote Child Promiscuity.”


Our collaborative informational
advertising campaign about emergency contraception will begin this week and bring
together secular and sectarian voices to inform our citizens. There will
be radio and television ads throughout Wisconsin (and on the web) to encourage
women of reproductive age to go to
to learn more about EC and to have Plan B™ on hand before they need it.

Speaking about political
engagement and the Catholic Church, the new Archbishop of Milwaukee
stated: “If
we don’t challenge one another’s statements, then we’re relinquishing our
responsibility to the common good.” 
Our emergency contraception information campaign will meet that responsibility
with sectarian and secular voices.

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