Catholic Pro-Life Warriors Still OK with Women and Girls Dying

How very pro-life of the Catholic Church:

Today marks the opening of a United Nations general assembly “high level meeting” on Aids in New York City that will evaluate the progress of that body’s response to the pandemic over the past five years and set the agenda for the next decade. Serra Sippel, president of the Centre for Health and Gender Equity (Change), declares that “this meeting is where we decide how serious we are about beating HIV, and how serious we are about women’s equality.” If so, the Holy See has left no doubt about their stance on either issue.

For months now, their all-male team has been trying to strip all references to sexual and reproductive health and rights from the meeting’s declaration; gutting all mentions of education and prevention other than marriage and fidelity; and insisting that “families” be replaced with “the family”, as though that monolith even exists or that it provides some kind of magic shield against HIV.

Either the Holy See does not understand, or does not care that their hardline stance is not actually “pro-life” in any sense. They ask that paragraph 60 of the declaration, which addresses research and development for treating and curing HIV, delete all mention of “female-controlled prevention methods”. This despite the fact that female condoms and the very promising looking microbicides now being developed have no relation to abortion and represent the single greatest potential life saver for women worldwide.

Ditto for paragraph 58, which makes the all-important and entirely sensible promise that the UN will “commit to ensuring that national responses to HIV and Aids meet the specific needs of women and girls”. The Holy See, allied with the African Group and Iran, asks for the deletion of the very sentence that spells out what that really means:

“… by ensuring that women and girls can exercise their right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on, matters related to their sexuality in order to increase their ability to protect themselves from HIV infection, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

Heaven forfend.

Control over women’s bodies > women’s actual lives.

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Gender, Health, Politics, Religion, Reproductive Rights and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Catholic Pro-Life Warriors Still OK with Women and Girls Dying

  1. They don’t want to take any chances with their tried-and-true, “Procreate because there will be more Catholics that way!” stance.

  2. BrainHeart says:

    Acknowledge that women and men deserve equal rights? Hell, no.

  3. preying mantis says:

    In their defense, I’m pretty sure the earth will literally open up and start spilling forth zombies, demons, and Nazis riding dinosaurs if any of those sentences make it into print.

  4. bhuesca says:

    Curious if the promising anti-HIV-transmission microbicides are also spermicides – any science-y person know?

    The whole thing’s ridiculous anyway – but if the microbicide isn’t even a spermicide, then their opposition would not even consistent with their anti-any-birth-control-that-is-not-abstaining-during-fertile-times stance anyway…

  5. Zula says:

    preying mantis:
    In their defense, I’m pretty sure the earth will literally open up and start spilling forth zombies, demons, and Nazis riding dinosaurs if any of those sentences make it into print.

    If that’s the case, I will fight tooth and nail to make sure the language is included (yanno, even more so than I would because it’s the right thing to do). Because seriously, that sounds like the awesomest thing ever.

  6. Girl from Ontario says:

    This is probably my least favorite aspect of Catholicism. A very old, celibate, western, white man (and his entourage, who are all very old, celibate, men) who sits on a throne in a veritable palace gets to decide how the rest of the world should live. Christ, it’s like we’re still in the middle ages, the only change being that there aren’t as many monarchies as there used to be. And, as usual, the people who actually have to live in the real world suffer tremendously, because it turns out that biblical interpretations that work for very old, celibate, western, white men who live in palaces don’t work for the rest of the earth’s population. The Papacy makes me absolutely sick and I wish it would just go the way of the dinosaur already.

  7. Macha says:

    It’s all about reiterating their archaic social constructs that have little to do with reality: patriarchal hetero-monogamous “families”, ignorance and fear of sexuality, and an impossible ideal of perfection that they think they can realize if they can conquer humanity with their “faith.”

  8. Arkady says:

    @ Bhuesca,

    The most promising one I’d heard of contained Telaprivir, one of the anti-retroviral drugs. No specific spermicidal activity that I know of, but could have it incidentally (I work in molecular bio, and if you chuck a drug onto cells at high concentration you can generally kill cells at some point. It’s the ones that kill cells at low concentration that are interesting). No idea what the other ingredients in that microbicide are however. Previous efforts at directly killing the virus with microbicides didn’t work and increased the risk of transmission, probably as a result of the stuff attempting to kill the virus making the vaginal wall more susceptible to viral entry at the same time (only takes one virion to get through), so on that basis it is possibly unlikely that the current versons include spermicide.

    Other reasons to dislike the Catholic Church: article in the Guardian today by Mary Raftery on the Magdalene Laundries: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/08/irealnd-magdalene-laundries-scandal-un

  9. bhuesca says:

    Thanks, Arkady! I’ve been searching and searching and haven’t found that the antimicrobials are also spermicidal – which makes the Church’s opposition to them even more wtf…

  10. Rare Vos says:

    Nothing kills an organization faster than getting rid of the women that do all the heavy lifting within it. Keep up the good work, all you misogynistic, racist, lethal-disease-spreading douchedrips!

  11. Emolee says:

    “insisting that “families” be replaced with “the family””- this makes me furious. So unless it is a patriarchial, heterosexual, married, nuclear family, it is not a “real” family. Doesn’t suprise me that the Church has this stand, but what right do they have to impose this religious belief on the entire world?
    Why does the UN even involve the Catholic Church in its decisions? Are other religions involved? Sorry for my ignorance, but this seems wrong in and of itself.

  12. Jim says:

    bhuesca: The whole thing’s ridiculous anyway – but if the microbicide isn’t even a spermicide, then their opposition would not even consistent with their anti-any-birth-control-that-is-not-abstaining-during-fertile-times stance anyway…

    I get the sense that anything HIV-related just makes them shut down. That’s the most charitable excuse I can think of. The uncharitable interpretation is that they consider HIV to be a deterrent to promiscuity.

  13. RareVos says:

    Why does the UN even involve the Catholic Church in its decisions?

    I was wondering this as well. Apparently, theres still a belief that the church is a moral institution.

  14. Rach says:

    preying mantis:
    In their defense, I’m pretty sure the earth will literally open up and start spilling forth zombies, demons, and Nazis riding dinosaurs if any of those sentences make it into print.

    You just made my day. Love it.

  15. Shaun says:

    Jim: I get the sense that anything HIV-related just makes them shut down. That’s the most charitable excuse I can think of. The uncharitable interpretation is that they consider HIV to be a deterrent to promiscuity.

    I was thinking this as well. I think they think that if a woman is worried about HIV transmission she MUST be having sex outside of marriage, so something that keeps her safe would only “encourage her to sin.”

  16. tinfoil hattie says:

    Recently the church grudgingly said it was sort of not actually a really horrible awful sin if gay male prostitutes used condoms.

    So it’s only women they want to kill.

    The church’s one foundation is rampant misogyny.

  17. Jim says:

    tinfoil hattie: The church’s one foundation is rampant misogyny.

    When your model of womanhood is an eternally virgin madonna figure, that’s about all you are left with.

  18. Emolee: Why does the UN even involve the Catholic Church in its decisions?

    Not necessarily the Church per se, but the Holy See, which is for all practical purposes the diplomatic wing of Vatican City, an independent theocratic state with Emperor Palpatine^W^Wthe Pope as head of that state.

    But, yeah, it’s still ridiculous. The memes upon which Catholicism is based are obsolete and dangerous – reproduce at any cost, with only sheer force of will and strict adherence to the program allowed as forms of control over behaviour and consequences, no picking and choosing allowed regardless of how pointless, irrational, or just plain wrong a given rule is.

  19. tinfoil hattie says:

    Creating the eternally virgin figure IS the start of the misogyny, Jim.

  20. William says:

    I get the sense that anything HIV-related just makes them shut down. That’s the most charitable excuse I can think of. The uncharitable interpretation is that they consider HIV to be a deterrent to promiscuity.

    There is a far uglier third option that the Church doesn’t often address in public: preventing HIV and preventing births are both interruptions of the will of God. That which is consistent with the Church’s interpretation of the will of God is good, that which is not is a blasphemy. Consequences, outcomes, and quality of life are irrelevant because life isn’t for enjoyment and we are all but toys for the amusement and edification of their deity.

    The church plays a long game. Pushing this language disproportionately impacts the developing world where the church still has influence. It creates a world in which the Church’s message becomes more consistent with observed reality. That increases the church’s power in the developing world which, because of the way the UN works, increases their influence in general. Its systemic and incremental, designed to work over generations.

    You can tell a lot about someone by what they disavow about themselves. Funny how much the RCC looks almost exactly like their great deceiver from some angles…

  21. JustDucky says:

    Girl from Ontario:
    A very old, celibate, western, white man (and his entourage, who are all very old, celibate, men)

    The women (and men! and girls!) in the redlight district in Rome just down the street from the Vatican would beg to differ with you.

  22. Yonmei says:

    In a world where the Pope is actively working to prevent women being able and enabled to protect themselves against HIV infection, this seems unlikely to get much attention. But it appears that the Sisters of Charity, when running an orphanage in Guatamela City in the 1940s, delivered at least a dozen orphan girls to be infected with syphilis by US physicians working from a local military base who would then attempt to cure them using penicilin.

    It is unclear what, if anything, was promised to the Sisters of Charity in return for supplying orphans to the tall men in white coats who visited each week from 1946-48.

    “They didn’t tell me why they singled me out,” said Orellana, who was four when sent to the institution after her parents died. After the initial gynaecological probing, when she assumes she was infected, she was given penicillin weekly. “My body hurt and I was sleepy, I didn’t want to play.” At least 10 other girls were also picked for the study, she added.

    The treatment failed – but even as an adult, when she worked as a maid and in factories, doctors would say only that she had “bad blood”, leaving her ailments a mystery. A “loving and patient” husband helped her overcome intimacy issues. She has five children, 20 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

    The American physicians infected about 1,500 helpless people – prisoners, conscript soldiers, prostitutes, orphans – with syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid and then “lost track” of about 200 of them (13%). Of those who were treated, about 130 (1 in 10) suffered recurrences: chronic syphilis can be passed on to children. The “devil’s experiment”, as the son of another the survivors called it, became publicly known when the US admitted to it and apologised last year: the Guatamelan government will publish a report on it this month.

    But it’s an enlightening commentary on the moral standards expected of the Catholic hierarchy that neither the nuns nor their Order have come forward and confessed to the crimes committed against children in their care, at what price.

  23. jessiepiexo says:

    The Catholic church is included because they are the number giver of aide IN THE WORLD. Catholic Organizations provide more altruism than any other organization. If you people actually did some research instead of just blindly attacking the Catholic Church, you would see that the indroduction of condoms as a means to control AIDS/HIV has done nothing in Africa to lower rates yet in countries where they are taking an abstinance approach rates are rapidly dropping. Face it, at the end of the day the easiest way to not get AIDs is to not have multiple sexual partners. Too easy.

  24. groggette says:

    Want to provide some stats & links for that shit you just spewed, jessiepiexo?

  25. PrettyAmiable says:

    jessiepiexo: If you people actually did some research instead of just blindly attacking the Catholic Church, you would see that the indroduction of condoms as a means to control AIDS/HIV has done nothing in Africa to lower rates yet in countries where they are taking an abstinance approach rates are rapidly dropping.

    Catholic Church spreads propaganda in Africa in 2003 that condoms are riddled with holes and thus useless against HIV. Maybe the “introduction of condoms” would have worked if your organization wasn’t a bunch of lying assholes. What do you think?

  26. Jim says:

    tinfoil hattie: Creating the eternally virgin figure IS the start of the misogyny, Jim.

    Indeed it is.

  27. William says:

    The Catholic church is included because they are the number giver of aide IN THE WORLD.

    Even if that were true that doesn’t mean they should get a seat at the table. Given their fetish for shame we can just call it penance and move on.

    Or…hey…maybe we should investigate the Chruch’s claims. I’m sure they won’t have a problem opening their books and making their people available. While we’re at it we could even try to help some more people by investigating the facilitation and obfuscation of systematic child rape. I mean, if the Church is in the business of helping people these days, and if they’re Christian enough to restrain their pride, I’m sure they won’t object to a little oversight, right?

    Right?

    If you people actually did some research instead of just blindly attacking the Catholic Church,

    Says the Church holding the hot poker.

    you would see that the indroduction of condoms as a means to control AIDS/HIV has done nothing in Africa to lower rates

    Since Pretty Amiable gutted you here @ #25 we can just call this the Snark Super Fun Round and people can write in their own retort.

    yet in countries where they are taking an abstinance approach rates are rapidly dropping.

    Like the US! Fuck, you’ve convinced me! Lets all hold hands in a rousing chorus of Onward Christian Soldier!

    Face it,

    Oh shit! Thats like the QED of internet arguing, I’m in for it now…

    at the end of the day the easiest way to not get AIDs is to not have multiple sexual partners.

    Because only whores get raped, and women who keep their legs closed till marriage will find Godly men who have never sinned and will never stray, amirite?

    Also, AIDs (like AIDS) can only be transmitted through sinful endeavor. No one has ever been born with it, no one has ever contracted it from a lying partner, and only between 1-3% of cases can be traced back to someone touching the same door handle once touched by a woman who wore pants.

    Too easy.

    I concur.

  28. Lis says:

    In Africa, “having sex with multiple partners” can be synonymous with “living in a warzone full of men who want to rape you”. In those circumstances, what moral person wants to prevent the distribution of female-use condoms?

    I’m Catholic, I know the aid the Church gives, and this STILL makes me sick.

  29. jessiepiexo says:

    “I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness — even through personal sacrifice — to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.” – Pope Benedict XVI

    This quote here explains the church’s view on how to approach AIDS in Africa. There would be no sexual violence as a means of war/genocide if sex was humanized and viewed as God intended it. I’d would suggest all of you read Theology of the Body to get a true understanding of the church’s view of human sexuality.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/AR2009032702825_pf.html < this article here has the stats and facts, may I add it is from a completely secular source.
    Quote sfrom article: In 2003, Norman Hearst and Sanny Chen of the University of California conducted a condom effectiveness study for the United Nations' AIDS program and found no evidence of condoms working as a primary HIV-prevention measure in Africa. UNAIDS quietly disowned the study. (The authors eventually managed to publish their findings in the quarterly Studies in Family Planning.) Since then, major articles in other peer-reviewed journals such as the Lancet, Science and BMJ have confirmed that condoms have not worked as a primary intervention in the population-wide epidemics of Africa. In a 2008 article in Science called "Reassessing HIV Prevention" 10 AIDS experts concluded that "consistent condom use has not reached a sufficiently high level, even after many years of widespread and often aggressive promotion, to produce a measurable slowing of new infections in the generalized epidemics of Sub-Saharan Africa."
    "In Uganda's early, largely home-grown AIDS program, which began in 1986, the focus was on "Sticking to One Partner" or "Zero Grazing" (which meant remaining faithful within a polygamous marriage) and "Loving Faithfully." These simple messages worked. More recently, the two countries with the highest HIV infection rates, Swaziland and Botswana, have both launched campaigns that discourage people from having multiple and concurrent sexual partners."
    Its common sense. We have condoms being given out for free here in America but people still don't use them, or use them incorrectly. The most for sure way to not contract AIDS is to not have multiple sex partners by depending on only condoms we are doing an injustice to the African people.

  30. William says:

    I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans.

    I would say that shockingly wealthy autocrats with Hitler Youth on their CVs don’t have a place in the modern world.

    If the soul is lacking,

    This is not a valid part of a discussion on public health or policy. It is not relevant to discussions of medicine or epidemiology.

    if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem.

    Infallibility aside, Ratzi’s rhetoric is next to useless to those of us who do not bow to Rome’s altar. This isn’t a discussion of dogma or theology, this is a discussion of public health. I know the Church is traditional and all but I would hope we wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the Black Plague.

    The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another;

    In other words: follow our sexual rules or risk AIDS. Because God sent it to punish all you filthy sinners. Like childbirth!

    and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness — even through personal sacrifice — to be present with those who suffer.

    Well, at least he’s committed to sitting and watching you pay for your heathenism.

    And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.

    Human life is worthless, progress is measured by adherence to doctrine, your life is not yours, you are the property of Jesus, if only the Church still had the Pure Force of Will it did in the middle ages…

    And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.

    We’re aware of that, we just find it repellent. There is a difference.

    There would be no sexual violence as a means of war/genocide if sex was humanized and viewed as God intended it.

    If only we’d learned our lesson from Sodom and Gomorrah! But no, these filthy Africans have to keep on going on and Gomorizing one another willy nilly. They need Jesus! Good to see you’re keeping the level of discourse nice and high.

    I’d would suggest all of you read Theology of the Body to get a true understanding of the church’s view of human sexuality.

    I’d suggest you read Foucault’s History of Sexuality and Freud’s Civilization and It’s Discontents but I suspect neither suggestion is going to be given much consideration.

    this article here has the stats and facts, may I add it is from a completely secular source.

    Well, yes, condoms tend not to work well when you do not use them. Reading past the headline occasionally has it’s benefits…

    Its common sense. We have condoms being given out for free here in America but people still don’t use them, or use them incorrectly. The most for sure way to not contract AIDS is to not have multiple sex partners by depending on only condoms we are doing an injustice to the African people.

    Yes, but you’re shifting targets. No one here is saying condoms only, thats not even the thrust of OP. The discussion is about the church actively attempting to delete language regarding women’s bodily autonomy and access to barrier methods that they control. The church is the group seeking a single-method solution to the problem of AIDS.

    What I’d like to see is a compelling argument, free of “God Wills It,” for the Church’s opposition to this:

    “… by ensuring that women and girls can exercise their right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on, matters related to their sexuality in order to increase their ability to protect themselves from HIV infection, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

  31. I’ve been grooming my fur and sharpening my fangs for this…

    The pope states this…

    “I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans.”

    …and yet the solution you propose is this…

    “In Uganda’s early, largely home-grown AIDS program, which began in 1986, the focus was on “Sticking to One Partner” or “Zero Grazing” (which meant remaining faithful within a polygamous marriage) and “Loving Faithfully.””

    … in other words, advertising slogans.

    You are creating a false choice between control of sexual drive and technological efforts to prevent the transmission of potentially disease-carrying fluids. Both are useful when done properly and consistently. The odds of either approach being effective increases when both are promoted and carried out, particularly since the odds of one or the other approach failing in an individual case is non-trivial. You somehow criticize condom promotion because they are not always properly or consistently used, yet you then propose that people merely refrain from engaging in sexual behaviour, which you must know will not always be consistently done since we’re dealing with humans, who do not always act in a consistent fashion or correctly carry out procedures — particularly when it comes to the reproductive urge, which is one of the most basic and powerful motivating factors in our very existence, along with seeking out food and water. Merely encouraging people to refrain from sex and hoping they will is not “too easy”, as you earlier assert; it is a dangerous reliance upon pure meme propagation to combat a virus with a very effective transmission method, instead of combining general meme propagation with an accessible technological backup, because just as often as people fail to adhere to messages to use condoms, or fail to use them correctly, people will fail to adhere to the message taught to just not have sex.

    As for this…

    ” There would be no sexual violence as a means of war/genocide if sex was humanized and viewed as God intended it.”

    …this is sheer garbage. Sex is used as a weapon by people waging war in the name of nationalism, power, ideology, and religion. It is used as a form of power and domination, and it is used as such by aggressors everywhere, even those claiming to spread messages of prophets and deities, when they encounter resistance. Relying upon appeals to supernatural entities and dogma to reduce or end the use of sexual violence is doomed to failure; the only effective way to do this, in the long run, is to break down the social barriers and hierarchies we, on our own, have created to give ourselves permission to mistreat other people — in other words, as long as there is war and genocide, rape will be used as a form of force by people who think they are allowed to by their superiors (physical and imagined) and all the appeals to entities will do nothing to stop individuals who will simply find a way to justify their own behaviour based upon the same, nonrealistic basis. “God’s love” is a nebulous, ambiguous concept that has no application to real interactions between individuals, and as far as I can tell it has no basis in reality. It is a moving target based upon the particular beliefs of a given individual, and not something to design a nation- or species-wide program upon.

    If you want to effectively reduce the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, among other things, you must deal in reality. The reality is that people will have sex, because it’s a basic drive and it’s fun. We can absolutely exert greater control over that drive, just as we exert control over many other basic drives and impulses that can lead to negative outcomes if not restrained, but to assert that mere control based on belief in noninvolved, (possibly) nonexistent entities is a superior solution to a combined, realistic approach rooted in what really happens is, frankly, wrong, because we do not exert perfect control, and it is unsafe to design a program based upon that assumption.

  32. groggette says:

    jessiepiexo: The most for sure way to not contract AIDS is to not be gang raped, because that’s totes within the victim’s ability.

    Fixed that for you.

    Are you the same asshole I over heard saying this about the women in Haiti being raped after the earthquake?

    Everyone’s saying how we don’t talk about Haiti anymore… Fuck them. They’re over there raping and pillaging. Raping all the girls… Let them do their thing. I have no sympathy for them.

    Why don’t you just come out and say you don’t think black women deserve lives free from violence and disease.

  33. Paraxeni says:

    @jessiepiexo – so these priests* around the world that are raping nuns, impregnating them, and giving them HIV/AIDS – is that the fault of those sexy, provocatively-clothed, promiscuous women? Or, think about it, was it the legacy of centuries of doctrine that says women are objects, chattel, and filth, subject entirely to the whims and wants of men?

    Those nuns are shunned by their community and families, and often forced to become sex-workers because of what CATHOLIC PRIESTS do to them. Money in the form of aid cannot buy forgiveness, it cannot wipe clean a shit-covered slate, it cannot wash away the blood that the Vatican has on it’s hands.

    It’s not your fault you’ve been brainwashed. I understand, I do, I was raised by Christians. You’ve internalised hatred of women, as a survival strategy, but the problem is that you’re saying “Duhhh, don’t be a whore and you won’t get AIDS! Abstinence abstinence abstinence!” but a) abstinence just doesn’t work on it’s own, people need to know that if they do succumb to temptation, they can use condoms and b) when men are raping babies in the belief that it cures AIDS, if those babies make it to womanhood are they supposed to spend their lives alone?

    Your Church told sub-saharan Africans “Condoms cause AIDS”. They undermined the efforts of local agencies who taught about safer sex and HIV/AIDS using traditional theatre and dance. Instead, they sent in white, English-speakers, mistrusted, misunderstood, who did not understand the culture, the demographics, the mind-set of the people they were trying to reach. Infection rates shot up.

    Donations, charitable aid? Sorry, but that’s not important when your church has, by way of lies and indoctrination, wiped out millions of people, sickened millions more, and designated half of the world’s population as chattel.

    *http://www.oocities.org/asia_correspondent/vatican0104rapect.html, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/marchweb-only/3-19-32.0.html, http://www.ciberiglesia.net/discipulos/04/ncr.rtf, http://www.msmagazine.com/news/uswirestory.asp?id=5369, http://www.cta-usa.org/watch04-01/abuseofnuns.html,

  34. honeyandlocusts says:

    @jessiepiexo, others are doing an effective job pointing out the multiple places of wrongness in your argument. I’ll just add that I’m a *priest* and I think your argument is specious.

    Also, my major feeling when I start reading these weird things about fulfillment and complementarity and the right use of sex that come out of the church is “ewwwwwwww.” Like, worst pillow talk EVER.

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