The Arrogance of Mitch McConnell and Friends– Or, Flaws in Assuming You Know God’s Will

Maybe it’s all part of a great big ineffable plan. All of it. You, me, him, everything. Some great big test to see if what you’ve built all works properly, eh? You start thinking: it can’t be a great cosmic game of chess, it has to be just very complicated Solitaire. And don’t bother to answer. If we could understand, we wouldn’t be us. Because it’s all — all — ”
INEFFABLE, said the figure feeding the ducks.

-Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens


As you probably know, I’m religious–Tibetan Buddhist, to be precise–so I do understand the idea of following religious moral rules even if that puts you sort of outside lockstep with modern society. I tend to view religion as a separate (complimentary) sphere to say, science. And while we do things differently across the international religious dateline, I know that a lot of Christian-variations feel the same way.

Part of the reason I know this is because I was raised Catholic.

And that’s why the arrogance of modern Christians is often breathtaking and baffling to me, that they think they know God’s will to the point they’re willing to legislate it. I mean, the last I looked, there were at least six different variations on what you could argue was God’s effort at the clearest commands, the 10 Commandments, which between Exodus and Deuteronomy actually come out to more like 17 Commandments.

But somehow they absolutely 100% know God’s word on fetal tissue used in research.


When I was a kid, and Mom was still trying her best to raise me as a Good Catholic, I had a book called something like Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen. It was not, as I recall, Catholic-specific, but non-denominationally broad and probably bought as a form of self-defense.1

BankRobberThe book was full of examples of bad things God allowed to happen, and asked questions like “if God doesn’t want you to rob a bank, why doesn’t he just put a giant bag over the bank every night to keep everyone out?” and it was illustrated with something like a Ziploc dropped over a cartoon bank, and a cartoon robber trying to figure out how to get past it.

The answer was always a variation on a two themes: free will and the ineffable nature of God. In short, God wants us to have choices and for those choices to be made with the guidance of his wisdom for the circumstances of our lives, and we can’t actually know what God wants from us, or anyone else, because that Plan is ineffable–literally unable to be known by mortal minds–so we just do the best with the circumstances in front of us and trust that God will trust us, too.


It seems to me the height of conceit and arrogance to assume a mortal human could understand the will of God, let alone be able to perfectly apply that will to modern life. If you believe, after all, that God can speak to you, where the N of you is Very Quite Large, then why couldn’t God simply reach into the mind of everyone and speak to all at once? Why are some people the special folks God speaks to–not really a question in Catholicism, which has its hierarchy of chatting, but a big, big issue in Protestantism, which holds that everyone has equal access to God.

The minute you start hearing God tell you things, you’re removing yourself from that equal access situation and insisting God has spoken to you and only you in mysterious ways.

What especially boggles me is this: say Marco Rubio continues his NO ABORTION EVER rhetoric, and continues to insist that this is because he knows God’s will. What’s to stop someone else from coming up and saying “sorry, but God spoke to me and said that abortion is okay, because it’s one of his tools for teaching–people learn different lessons from abortion, and hey, it’s also how he gets necessary donated tissues to researchers who will cure all kinds of diseases in His name!”

Now you have belief in God’s word being spoken to you in two separate people, with two separate belief systems, and…there’s no way to balance out who is right or not, short of God actually speaking to the entire world at once.


Of course, none of this is really about religion. If it were, Mitch McConnell and his Republican cronies wouldn’t have voted to lift a moratorium on the use of donated fetal tissue from voluntary abortions in 1993. Yet many of the GOP members who voted for that medical research are now speaking out against Planned Parenthood, and it’s not because they’ve gotten more religious in the last 23 years. It’s because we’re gearing up to what is going to be a very contentious election cycle for the GOP, and as usual, politicians are pandering to the extreme members of their base–the ones who vote in primary elections–in an effort to secure money and, ultimately, nominations.


DrinkThisMuchIn his sign-off from The Daily Show last night, Jon Stewart said “the best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.” You have to decide what your own olfactory tolerance is, but at least for me, when people begin talking about the voice telling them to control the actions of everyone around them, I think a lot less God, a lot more charm and kool-aid.2

If nothing else, ask yourself this: when the federal funds Planned Parenthood receives do not go towards abortion, what do Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and the rest of the GOP politicians gain from defunding Planned Parenthood?

Rape Kit vs Abortion – Educating Jodie Laubenberg

One of the first things I saw when I got off the plane in Philadelphia Sunday night, after a trans-Pacific flight, was this statement from Rep. Jodie Laubenberg:

In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out. The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.

This is Laubenberg’s justification for why Texas SB5, which seeks to limit abortion services even further in Texas, including banning abortion after 20 weeks (and currently being filibustered by the amazing Wendy Davis), does not have an exception for rape or incest victims.

I’ve seen a lot of statements that Laubenberg is clearly confused, and a lot of very pointed comments about her lack of knowledge on a subject she seeks to legislate – all of which are true. But what I haven’t seen is the very simple differentiation between a rape kit and an abortion. So here, let me make a tiny contribution to the growing body of evidence that Rep. Laubenberg is in no way qualified to sponsor bills on or otherwise discuss rape kits, abortions, or women’s health issues.

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Yet Another Rape Apologist in a Position of Power

It’s been a banner year for rape in the media, and apparently December just felt left out. Joining the likes of:

is Orange County Superior Court judge Derek Johnson, who said that the following litany of amazing things when refusing a heavier sentence for a man convicted of rape by a jury of his peers:

I spent my last year and a half in the D.A.’s office in the sexual assault unit. I know something about sexual assault. I’ve seen women who have been ravaged and savaged whose vagina was shredded by the rape. I’m not a gynecologist, but I can tell you something: If someone doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse, the body shuts down. The body will not permit that to happen unless a lot of damage is inflicted, and we heard nothing about that in this case. That tells me that the victim in this case, although she wasn’t necessarily willing, she didn’t put up a fight. And to treat this case like the rape cases that we all hear about is an insult to victims of rape. I think it’s an insult. I think it trivializes rape.State of California, Commission on Judicial Performance

Of course, in some ways it’s unfair to lump Johnson in with the above quotes, because his ruling actually happened in 2008. That’s okay, though – there’s an awful lot of horrible that’s been spouted off in the past, too, and he’s just clearly gravitating towards his own:

  • Stephen “rape causes women to ‘secrete a certain secretion’” Freind (1988 Rep, R-PA);Freind’s Rape-pregnancy Theory Refuted
  • Henry “the facts show that people who are raped–who are truly raped–the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree this is a rarity, if ever” Aldridge (1995 Rep, R-NC);Lawmaker Says Rape Can’t Cause Pregnancy
  • Clayton “if ‘[rape] is inevitable, just relax and enjoy it” Williams (1990 Texas Republican gubernatorial nominee);Texas Candidate’s Comment About Rape Causes a Furor
  • James Leon “concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami” Holms (Federal Judge, 1997);In Judicial Twist, Republicans Seen Stalling Bush Pick
  • John C. Willke, a physician who was once president of the National Right to Life Committee, whose statement is astonishing and bears repeating in full:

    Finally, factor in what is is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that’s physical trauma. Every woman is aware that stress and emotional factors can alter her menstrual cycle. To get and stay pregnant a woman’s body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There’s no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy. So what further percentage reduction in pregnancy will this cause? No one knows, but this factor certainly cuts this last figure by at least 50 percent and probably more.Rape Pregnancies Are Rare

People being horrible about rape, since forever.

With thanks to Katie J.M. Baker for her Jezebel post Fuck You, Rape Culture, which served as a comprehensive list of spoken justifications for rape that made the news this year.

When We Know “It’s a Catholic Country” Isn’t An Excuse

A severely ill woman is admitted to the hospital. Doctors assess that without an abortion, she will die.

Oh, you think this is about Savita Halappanavar, don’t you?

Well, it is and it isn’t. Savita Halappanavar is a horrific story making the rounds now; a young woman admitted to an Irish hospital was suffering a miscarriage but told that doctors couldn’t perform an abortion until after the foetal heartbeat ceased, even though the pregnancy was clearly ending (as Ms. Halappanavar was fully dilated and her water had broken; at 17 weeks there is no way the foetus could have been delivered and survived). Why couldn’t the doctors perform this medically necessary procedure – one that is actually allowed, in the Republic of Ireland, if there is a real and substantive risk to the life of the mother?Other sources via Wikipedia, sorry: Charleton, Peter; McDermott, Paul Anthony; Bolger, Marguerite (1999). Criminal law. Dublin: Butterworths. p. 518 and Herring, Jonathan (2012). Medical law and ethics (4th ed. ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 308. Well, according to staff at University Hospital Galway, because Ireland “is a Catholic country.” So instead of performing a medically necessary procedure, doctors, nurses and medical staff at Galway Hospital watched as Savita Halappanavar suffered for over two days before the foetus died. At this point, they evacuated her uterus – and it was too late. Septicaemia had set in; three days later, Ms. Halappanavar suffered multiple organ failure and died.

That takes us back to the severely ill woman who was admitted to the hospital in December of 2009. A Catholic hospital in Arizona, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. This young woman was 11 weeks pregnant and suffering from pulmonary hypertension. Sister Margaret McBride was the on-call member of the hospital ethics committee, and part of the care team that approved the abortion necessary to save this young woman’s life, even though abortions are not typically performed at Catholic hospitals.And, in fact, the hospital eventually lost their Catholic affiliation over this choice, because they refused to agree to never perform abortions again, placing the health and well-being of the pregnant woman over obsolete and medically inaccurate Catholic doctrine.

A Catholic nun at a Catholic hospital was able to make the decision that the living, breathing, suffering woman in front of her should not die because of a fatal complication of pregnancy. She did this even though the hospital guidelines specifically forbid abortion even to save the life of the motherAs noted here. Guidelines that are more strict than those in the Republic of Ireland. And while Sister McBride was automatically excommunicated under the Catholic concept of latae sententiae, she was also returned to a member in good standing of both the Catholic Church and her religious order.

So then, this isn’t about Savita Halappanavar or that unnamed Arizona woman; this is about that medical team. This is wondering: what is the excuse of every single member of the medical team at University Hospital Galway? I think at this point, we’re all waiting.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Mehdi Hasan on Abortion

I got really annoyed this morning. I woke up, and basically the first thing I saw on Twitter was numerous retweets and comments about a HuffPo UK article on abortion and social progressives attempting to argue that one could be socially progressive and still advocate for an anti-choice position.

I disagree, rather vehemently. To the tune of almost 3000 words, give or take, as I basically deconstructed the author’s entire argument in an attempt to show not only why it was wrong, but obnoxiously so. With thanks to Nicholas G. Evans, Catherine Flick, and Laura Northrup, all of whom provided feedback and helped to focus my irritation into coherence.

Without furtherOkay, with slightly further ado: yes, this piece was picked up and published, in edited form, on Comment is Free in The Guardian.

Now, really, without further ado,…

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