Commentary Religion

Mega-Mom Michelle Duggar’s “Reproductive Choice?”

Vyckie Garrison

 In the same way that the fundamentalist Christian God allows people to exercise their free will by choosing between worshipping and serving Him or else burning in Hell forever - the Quiverfull woman must make the decision to trust God and perhaps die physically, or trust in the Pill and her own common sense and die spiritually for all eternity.  That's not a choice - it's an ultimatum.

 

In an article titled “Stop Judging the Duggars” at Salon.com, writer, Mary Elizabeth Williams argues: 

“So what if they’re expecting again? A family of 20 is just another side of reproductive choice.”

I give credit to Williams for the best wisecrack ever regarding Michelle’s decision to add to her already outrageously large brood of children. Before appearing on the “Today” show Tuesday, [Michelle] said, “I was not thinking that God would give us another one, and we are just so grateful.” Williams quips:

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God, unfortunately, could not be reached for comment.”

Ha! Good one.

Not especially funny though, to women like me who have, in the past, made life-altering reproductive choices based on what we sincerely believed to be God’s perfect will for women.  

The idea that God created women for the specific purpose of being fruitful and multiplying is heavily promoted as part of the “Pro-Life” teachings among Evangelical Christian believers.

As a teenager, I was introduced to the Pro-Life movement via Randall Terry’s “Operation Rescue.” Led by charismatic Mr. Terry, our church staged a “rescue” at the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City. I was horrified by the ministry’s literature which showed graphic pictures of butchered babies.  How could anyone make a “choice” to murder their own tiny, precious pre-born baby?

I was moved to become a Pro-Life activist – passing out literature during parades, donating items and voluteering time at Crisis Pregnancy Centers, picketing a meeting of the Omaha chapter of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice when the group sponsored a talk by Leroy Carhart in our small Nebraska town, passing out National Right to Life’s voter guides outside our local school where our neighbors came to vote …

The more deeply emerged I became in the Pro-Life movement, the stronger was my conviction that Life begins – not just at conception – but as both sperm and egg are living organisms – fertilization is merely the continuation of Life created by God back in the Garden of Eden.

After a while of this sort of “reasoning” – it became obvious to me, as it is to Michelle Duggar, that it is God Who gives Life – He opens and closes the womb and it is His perogative alone to determine whether or not a new, living, eternal being will come into existence.

I will admit that as a young, idealistic, mostly uneducated and inexperienced “bible believer,” – I was a shoo-in for the next level of “Pro-Life” advocacy: the Quiverfull movement.

Based on Psalm 127, which says, Lo, Children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward … blessed is the man that hath his quiver full of them” –

Quiverfull” is standard Pro-Life rhetoric on steroids.

Quiverfull is mainly a women’s movement – as Titus 2:3 teaches: ” That [the aged women] may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” – it is older women teaching younger women that God’s best plan for their lives includes bearing a “quiver full” of children – training their sons to be “mighty warriors” in the battle for God’s Kingdom and their daughters to be “suitable help meets” for their future husbands.

The Quiverfull ideal, once spread mainly via Christian homeschool venues, has gone mainstream among Pro-Life Evangelicals – largely due to the popularity of Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar’s TV reality show, “19 & Counting.” On camera, the Duggar family exudes a “Walton’s Mountain” feeling of a tight-knit, down-to-earth, big happy family.

Quiverfull leaders such as Nancy Campbell, who publishes an international magazine, Above Rubies, to encourage Christian women in their roles as submissive wives and prolific mothers, teaches that godly women are to be fruitful and multiply …

…in obedience to the first commandment (Gen. 1: 27,28)

…abundantly (Gen: 9: 1,7)

…exceedingly, mightily, and multitudinously! ((Gen. 16:10, Dt. 6:3, Gen. 32:12)

…like a flock (Psalm 107:38, 41)

…In difficult times too ((Ex. 1:11, 12; Jeremiah 29:5,6)

…because barrenness is a curse (Lev. 26:22, Dt. 28:18, Hosea 4:10)

…because children are a blessing and God’s gift to His faithful people (verses too numerous to list)

…because it is a woman’s “natural function” (based mainly on Rom. 1:26,27 – but also supported by various biblical principles of obedience, self-denial, submisison, etc.)

Nancy Campbell concludes her admonition to prolific motherhood with biblical assurances that God promises to provide for the faithful and their children – then throws in several Old Testament verses which prove that “sperm is sacred to God.” Citing a spurious history of birth control, Campbell explains the “abortifacient” nature of chemical birth control – concluding that even natural family planning may be a selfish attempt to thwart the sovereignty of God: “If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.”

“What is most important?” the Quiverfull leader asks Christian women.  When we refuse to have children, we deprive God, Eternity, our husbands, ourselves, grandparents, our children, the Church, and the World – no woman can legitimately claim to love the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind and strength, if she withholds her womb from His service. (God’s Visions for Families: What the Bible Says About Having Children by Nancy Campbell, Above Rubies, 1995 – the updated version of this book is “Be Fruitful & Multiply)

For the Quiverfull believer, it’s a matter of trust.

Yes – of course, Michelle Duggar has a right to utilize her own womb however she likes. But, I don’t agree with Williams’ premise that Michelle Duggar’s choice to have 20 babies is “just another side of reproductive choice.” Anyone who is familiar with the Quiverfull philosophy which compels Michelle to keep pumping out babies knows that hers is a bounded choice. To a firmly convinced “Pro-Life” woman such as Michelle, the “choice” is to be open to the possibility of yet another pregnancy, or else tell God, “No thanks – You’ve blessed me enough already” and in so doing, set herself up in the place of God to make decisions about whether or not to bring another eternal soul into existence.

I can’t speak for Michelle, but when I believed what she believes – there was no choice of all. Of course, I would welcome all the babies the Lord placed in my womb. Of course, I would risk my life. No way would I refuse the will of God for my life. Why would I choose barrenness – the curse of God? Why would I deny LIFE itself to another person – merely because of the “inconvenience” to me? How could I consider my own health – when we’re talking about a BABY – a tiny human with potential for eternal life in Heaven?

A woman’s “choice” was anathema to me because I believed that I was not my own; I had been bought with a price (the blood of Christ ~ 1 Cor. 6:20) and therefore, I sought to “honor God with my body” which essentially meant dutifully birthing seven “foot soldiers for Jesus,” nearly losing my life on more than one occasion.

In the same way that the fundamentalist Christian God allows people to exercise their free will by choosing between worshipping and serving Him or else burning in Hell forever – the Quiverfull woman must make the decision to trust God and perhaps die physically, or trust in the Pill and her own common sense – and die spiritually for all eternity.  That’s not a choice – it’s an ultimatum.

Quiverfull leaders such as Nancy Campbell are masters at SPIN. Playing on a woman’s sincere desire to serve the Lord wholeheartedly … they use the scriptures to convince a woman that she WANTS nothing more than to stay home, have lots of babies and serve her husband – even if these choices might cost her everything. In today’s world of seemingly unlimited choices for women, making the best choice can be an overwhelming responsibility and it’s very tempting for Evangelical women like Michelle Duggar to choose to have no choice.

News Law and Policy

Pastors Fight Illinois’ Ban on ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

Imani Gandy

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban so-called gay conversion therapy. Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans.

A group of pastors filed a lawsuit last week arguing an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy unconstitutionally infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The Illinois legislature passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1. The measure bans mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts or so-called conversion therapy with a minor.

The pastors in their lawsuit argue the enactment of the law means they are “deprived of the right to further minister to those who seek their help.”

While the pastors do not qualify as mental health providers since they are neither licensed counselors nor social workers, the pastors allege that they may be liable for consumer fraud under Section 25 of the law, which states that “no person or entity” may advertise or otherwise offer “conversion therapy” services “in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness.”

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The pastors’ lawsuit seeks an order from a federal court in Illinois exempting pastoral counseling from the law. The pastors believe that “the law should not apply to pastoral counseling which informs counselees that homosexuality conduct is a sin and disorder from God’s plan for humanity,” according to a press release issued by the pastors’ attorneys.

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban gay “conversion therapy.” Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans. None have been struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up a case challenging New Jersey’s “gay conversion therapy” ban on First Amendment grounds.

The pastors say the Illinois law is different. The complaint alleges that the Illinois statute is broader than those like it in other states because the prohibitions in the law is not limited to licensed counselors, but also apply to “any person or entity in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” which they claim affects clergy.

The pastors allege that the law is not limited to counseling minors but “prohibits offering such counseling services to any person, regardless of age.”

Aside from demanding protection for their own rights, the group of pastors asked the court for an order “protecting the rights of counselees in their congregations and others to receive pastoral counseling and teaching on the matters of homosexuality.”

“We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity,” the pastors’ attorney, John W. Mauck, said in a statement.

“This is an essential human right. However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” he continued.

“Gay conversion therapy” bans have gained traction after Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, committed suicide following her experience with so-called conversion therapy.

Before taking her own life, Alcorn posted on Reddit that her parents had refused her request to transition to a woman.

“The[y] would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl,” she wrote of her experience with conversion therapy.

The American Psychological Association, along with a coalition of health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, have condemned “gay conversion therapy” as potentially harmful to young people “because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

The White House in 2015 took a stance against so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

Attorneys for the State of Illinois have not yet responded to the pastors’ lawsuit.

News Law and Policy

Anti-Choice Group: End Clinic ‘Bubble Zones’ for Chicago Abortion Patients

Michelle D. Anderson

Chicago officials in October 2009 passed the "bubble zone" ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support.

An anti-choice group has announced plans to file a lawsuit and launch a public protest over Chicago’s nearly seven-year-old “bubble zone” ordinance for patients seeking care at local abortion clinics.

The Pro-Life Action League, an anti-choice group based in Chicago, announced on its website that its lawyers at the Thomas More Society would file the lawsuit this week.

City officials in October 2009 passed the ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the city aldermen in support. The law makes it illegal to come within eight feet of someone walking toward an abortion clinic once that person is within 50 feet of the entrance, if the person did not give their consent.

Those found violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500.

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Harassment of people seeking abortion care has been well documented. A 2013 survey from the National Abortion Federation found that 92 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express personal safety concerns.

The ordinance targets people seeking to pass a leaflet or handbill or engaging in “oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way.” The regulation bans the use of force, threat of force and physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere any person entering or leaving any hospital, medical clinic or health-care facility.

The Pro-Life Action League lamented on its website that the law makes it difficult for anti-choice sidewalk counselors “to reach abortion-bound mothers.” The group suggested that lawmakers created the ordinance to create confusion and that police have repeatedly violated counselors’ First Amendment rights.

“Chicago police have been misapplying it from Day One, and it’s caused endless problems for our faithful sidewalk counselors,” the group said.

The League said it would protest and hold a press conference outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city’s Old Town neighborhood.

Julie Lynn, a Planned Parenthood of Illinois spokesperson, told Rewire in an email that the health-care provider is preparing for the protest.

“We plan to have volunteer escorts at the health center to make sure all patients have safe access to the entrance,” Lynn said.

The anti-choice group has suggested that its lawsuit would be successful because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar law in Massachusetts unconstitutional.

Pam Sutherland, vice president of public policy and education for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, told the Chicago Tribune back then that the health-care provider expected the city’s bubble zone to be challenged following the 2014 decision.

But in an effort to avoid legal challenges, Chicago city officials had based its bubble zone law on a Colorado law that created an eight-foot no-approach zone within 100 feet of all health-care facilities, according to the Tribune. Sidewalk counselor Leila Hill and others challenged that Colorado law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.

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