Fighting the Same Battles

Well, I had an interesting week.

Background:  My kids attend Catholic school. I struggled with the decision a decade ago – incensed by the abuse scandal and knowing full well that I am out of step with the Catholic orthodoxy.  I knew I’d have to bite my tongue, but for me it was the right decision.  Really right, in fact.  Probably one of my better ones.  In case you didn’t know this, Catholic schools teach evolution, a heliocentric universe, compassion, environmentalism, and critical thinking skills. Conversely, they don’t teach that non-Catholics are hell-bound, nor that kids are evil little creatures who must be beaten into submission.

Like all schools, around 5th grade they start talking about reproduction. Between then and 8th grade, the talks become less about mechanics and more about chastity. It’s fine with me, I think chastity is the only appropriate choice for that age. Once a year, an organization comes in to teach class for a few hours.  Other than these classes, they are an organization that tries to talk pregnant women out of having abortions, so when they have their parent meetings, I just roll my eyes and ignore.

See, I think me and the church have agreed to disagree on this point.  My kids hear the standard church lines, and they hear my opinions; someday they will make up their own minds.

But this week I was pushed over my thin line. The organization told the kids they were filming their presentations to be used for training kids outside of the geographical area and that the parents needed to sign a permission slip. I asked the kids how they felt about it, being a sensitive topic and they were fine with it, so I prepared to sign.

Then I read the form, which was their boiler plate media release form, I suppose.  It gave the organization the freedom to use my kids’ images, words, or paraphrases of their words in any way they wanted.  I suppose this would include fund raisers, billboards, television commercials, or anything else they might dream up. I had two options — sign it to give consent or check the box that says, “no and I’d like to talk more about it.” 

I went from quietly offended to full on rampage when I looked at their website.  On their website, they cite “evidence” of a link between abortion and breast cancer.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this.  Unfortunately some groups that want to ban abortion spread this complete lie.  This page was particularly egregious in that in cited cancer organizations that, in fact, clearly state that there is no link between the two.

This goes beyond offending my sense of lie vs. truth.  It’s harmful for two major reasons.

  1. It distracts us from searching for actual cures and prevention for this deadly set of diseases.  Why would you demand a cure to the disease if you believe that ending abortions will cure or significantly reduce the 500,000 deaths every year?
  2.  It blames women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.  Why would you want to help women whose loose morality brought upon God’s righteous judgement?

To me the greatest and sickest irony is that these lies, and their continued spread, hurts families this organization pretends to protect. How exactly is subverting progress toward ending breast cancer pro-life?

No need to respond – I already know the answer.

I gulped hard, acknowledging the real potential for blow back against me and my kids.  I got the word out on facebook and contacted the school with this information. I’ve been shouted down by my local pro-life mafia in similar situations, leaving me with the understanding that removing access to abortion is not just the most important goal, but that it supersedes other priorities, like curing breast cancer.

However, I am so thrilled to report that my message was received with love and respect from almost everyone, certainly from the school.

I’m not going to betray any confidence here, but I think I cracked open a window on this one. There were multiple families who said no and I think changes may come, even if I don’t see them. It was a pebble in the still pond.

I don’t think I’ve ever met with such success in my advocacy.

Why did this one work?

I think it’s because I stuck to the facts, came at it with love, and have restrained myself from being a loose cannon (mostly) over the last eight years that my kids have attended the school. I’ve built up capital over the past few years and have worked to find common ground.

I asked everyone involved, no matter what the point of view on abortion is, whether we can agree that it’s not ok to lie to further your own agenda.

And holy wow, people agreed with me.

I know I might have put too much credence into this one tiny victory, but it made me believe change is possible.I felt like It’s a Wonderful Life’s George Bailey, running through the streets after he’s realized he matters.  You can be Potter saying “and a Happy New to you, in jail.”

Or not.



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