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The Pope, Pregnant Children, and Violence Against Girls and Women

11:48 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Pope Benedict Pope Benedict XVII find it strange that Pope Benedict XVI chose a week that will culminate in a global strike to protest violence against women to retire. And for health reasons no less. Orange smoke and irony and all that. On Thursday of this week, all over the globe, people will gather and dance for One Billion Rising, a day dedicated to striking against violence against women. As Eve Ensler, the founder of  V-Day which has organized the strike knows better than most, “violence against women is a global, patriarchal epidemic.

Part of that epidemic is compulsory pregnancy. The Pope’s rationale is that his “age means he lacks strength to do job.” You could use the exact words to describe the nine-year old girl the Pope excommunicated for having a life-saving abortion after being raped and impregnated, with twins. It seems to me that her age meant she lacked strength to do the job, too. Actually, the job would have killed her.  These things happen. She and 16 million other pregnant adolescent girls a year, two million of whom are under age 15, strike me as 16 million good #reasonstorise.

As does this girl: last Thursday a friend posted a story on Facebook, ”Dafne, 9-Year-Old Girl, Gives Birth To Baby Girl In Mexico.” Millions read and shared it over the weekend.  The link appeared with this caption: “The girl reportedly delivered a 5.7 pound baby by Caesarian section on January 27. She was 8-years old when she became pregnant.” Picky, picky feminist wordsmithy me thinks the caption should read, “The girl underwent a dangerous Caesarian surgery to delivery a 5.7 pound baby on January 27. She was 8-years old when a 17-year old boy forcibly inseminated her.”  Eight-year olds cannot consent to sex. They also cannot consent to having contraceptives implanted in their arms, but that’s now happened too. Just in case she gets ideas. On the same day, by coincidence, a 12-year old in Argentina gave birth to twins after she “fell pregnant.” Like she tripped by accident.

While nine is very young, girls this age having babies is not as rare as we’d like to think. The United States has more “teen” births than any industrialized nation, including girls as young as 10,  and our rates have been climbing.  However, 95 percent of teen births take place in poorer countries. According to W.H.O., “Half of all adolescent births occur in just seven countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the United States.” Many girls die because they do not have control over their bodies and their own reproduction.

Last year, after a 10-year old in Columbia gave birth, experts blithely explained that “a C-section delivery for such a young mother is not unusual.” Given global trends (researchers, armed with competing theories, have noted that the average age of the onset of menstruation for girls has been steadily declining for decades) we can reasonably expect to see instances involving younger and younger girls. Little girls, and women who find themselves raped and pregnant often “want to die.” It’s only one reason why raped people shouldn’t be forced to carry pregnancies to term. Guess what else, besides the Papacy, of course, is a “job or life with no retirement age?” Whereas the Pope is retiring to “go back to his priesthood,” girls who are raped, pregnant and give birth or die cannot go back to their childhoods.

This was the conclusion reached by a doctor last year in the case a mentally-disabled girl, 10-years old, in Kansas, who had to have an abortion after becoming pregnant as a result of rape.  Many people, like these at the Landover Baptist Church think, “Ten-year old sluts getting pregnant is no reason for abortion!” That’s pretty much what the Kansas medical review board that revoked the girl’s doctor’s license seemed to believe. Which was a relief for people who want girls to get this message: “Ten year old sluts in Kansas are being given a simple message: GET PREGNANT IN KANSAS AND YOU WILL HAVE A BABY!” I realize that these quotes seem to be from a lunatic fringe, or just any number of misguided priests, but these words are bluntly stated distillations of common victim-blaming ideas and believed by many people.  In Mexico, authorities “don’t know if [the girl] is being entirely truthful.” Mainly because of her age, but interesting choice of words. Is she saying she was raped? Or is she saying she wasn’t? The article linked to doesn’t say which. Turns out she’s saying that the boy was her “boyfriend.” As one commenter speculated, the child “may have even had feelings for” her rapist.  Authorities, in a perverse game of “he said/she said,” acknowledge that they are looking for the missing father, a 17-year old boy, “to acquire his own account of what occurred between the two.” In case he reveals that she was wrong in her assessment and wants to make it clear that he raped her?

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The Pope, Condoms, and Contraception: Let’s Get This Conversation Started

7:20 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Francis Kissling for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Last week’s published comments by Pope Benedict regarding the case by case permissibility of condom use to prevent the transmission of the AIDS virus was a welcome, if modest, shift in position.  After some back and forth, the Vatican clarified that–contrary to the hope of conservative supporters of the condom ban–it is applicable not just to “male prostitutes” but also to “a woman, a man or a transsexual.”   

While there is great respect in the AIDS community for the commitment of Catholic health care providers in the developing world to treating people with AIDS and for some aspects of their work on behavior change, as well as among advocates for the just provision of anti-retroviral drugs, questions remain about the extent to which religious beliefs about sexual morality should influence global AIDS policy. Catholic positions against contraception and limiting sexual intimacy to lifelong monogamous heterosexual marriage have been seen as the major reason the Vatican, bishops in various regions of the world, and Catholic AIDS providers have refused to provide condoms as part of the three-tiered AIDS prevention strategy known as “ABC” (abstain, be faithful, use condoms).

There is no doubt that the Pope’s nod to the use of condoms by an HIV-infected person under certain circumstances will lead to significant loosening of the strictures on condom provision, although the rapidity with which the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services issued a statement saying that their “current policy holds: we do not purchase, distribute or promote the use of condoms” was disappointing.  CRS receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. government. Nonetheless, some Catholic workers are already ignoring the ban and doing just that.

Conservative supporters of the ban on artificial contraception immediately responded to the Pope’s comments in an attempt to play them down. George Weigel, who normally is telling Catholics that any statement by the Pope should be taken seriously, painfully explained that an interview does not constitute a really serious statement of church position, it is merely personal opinion by the Pope.

The Vatican seemed to take the Pope’s remarks more seriously. Read more