Protecting Femininity and Human Dignity in Women’s
Empowerment and Gender Equality Policies
On March 19, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN held an entitled “Protecting Femininity and Human Dignity in Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Policies Today,” during the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), together with the Center for Family and Human Rights.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said in remarks delivered by First Counselor Msgr. Tomasz Grysa, that practical considerations concerning access for women and girls to social protections, public services and sustainable infrastructure all rest on a proper and holistic anthropology of women, not understanding her solely as an economic actor. He questioned whether the documents and discussions for the 63rd session of CSW have focused too exclusively on the economic dimension of woman's life.
“We must ask whether these ideas are truly respectful of women as women, whether they truly encompass what women most deeply desire, or whether they are trying to make women more competitive according to masculine ways of ordering life, society and economic realities,” he said.
True respect for women, he said, starts with reverencing her according to all aspects of her humanity, including her capacity for marriage, motherhood and family life.
“We need more than words condemning all forms of unjust discrimination against women,” he said. “We need more than social protections, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure that allow women to take up work outside the home or even to enable them to meet their families’ needs without needing to sever their maternity from their femininity.” We need a real campaign to promote her according to all aspects of her feminine genius, including the maternal meaning of her femininity, he said.
Sue Ellen Browder, author of Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women's Movement, worked for Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1971, and said that in the early 60s the feminist movement and sexual revolution were completely different movements.
Even Betty Friedan, the "mother of the modern women's movement” who launched second-wave feminism in 1963, didn’t even mention abortion or contraception in the first edition of her book The Feminine Mystique and called Cosmopolitan "quite obscene and quite horrible," for pushing the sexual revolution.
“What Betty and other feminists were fighting for had nothing to do with whom you sleep or how you have sex. They were fighting for equal opportunity for women in academia and the workforce,” Browder stated, revealing that once she was fired for being pregnant.
Cosmopolitan propagated the sexual revolution, even if it were not a true reflection of the lives of women at the time, Browder said. She revealed that writers would make up stories and sources about the sexual revolution to promote the idea that it was “good to sleep with your married boss, good to take the Pill, good—or at least necessary—to have an abortion to get ahead.”
“You couldn't find these women,” she said. “And that's why, when I was working at Cosmo, we made most of those stories up about the sexual revolution. There was even a list of ‘rules' on how to make up stories and how to make up experts.”
“We all agree women should be treated with equal dignity and respect,” she said. “We all agree women should have the right to vote. The real war on women going on in the world is the false joining of feminism with the sexual revolution,” which Browder said happened at a National Organization for Women conference on November 18, 1967, in which Betty Friedan finally capitulated to the fathers of the pro-choice movement: Larry Lader and Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the two founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League, now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Adding abortion and access to contraception to the organization’s platform was the divisive issue among the women voting at the women’s conference; 57 of the 103 women present voted to include abortion and contraception to the agenda.
Many of the women in the close minority walked out of the room and later resigned from the organization over the abortion issue, Browder states.
Dr. Susan Yoshihara, a former U.S. Navy Commander and combat logistics helicopter pilot, gave firsthand insight into challenges she faced being accepted by her mostly male counterparts. The sexual revolution did not make her experience easier, and subjected her to sometimes demeaning experiences.
“Integration was made harder by the sexual revolution. The assumption is sometimes made that we enter non-traditional jobs to be a man or to sleep with them,” she said, recounting a condescending experience in which a captain would not believe she could remain true to her views on chastity in sexual morality. “On the contrary, we bring something to the table that men cannot.”
“Women are told they must strive to break glass ceiling,” she said, but said the gifts she brought as a woman made her better at her job and revealed the fulfillment women can find through “small acts of kindness we can find under that ceiling on our way up to it.”
Lila Rose, President of Live Action, a nonprofit dedicated to ending abortion and inspiring a culture that respects all human life, also highlighted the harm the sexual revolution has had on women’s advancement in society, particularly the promotion of abortion.
“Unfortunately, while the Western World secured the same legal rights for women as men, it also invented false rights, namely abortion, and expectations for women that have harmed our well-being and future. Women are expected to behave like men in the workplace, despite the reality of their biological differences and the special sacrifices that being a mother entails.” Rose said. “Our differences to men should be celebrated and championed and not seen as a barrier to advancement,” she added, noting that promoting abortion for women’s advancement disempowers women and pressures women to view their fertility as a threat to their advancement.
She also noted that sex selective abortions are common throughout the world, and that 27 million girls have been killed globally through abortion.
“We need to stop viewing fertility as a sickness to be treated,” she said. “Children are our future and we need to develop polices that support children and our future.”
Anne Kioko, founder and director of the African Organization for the Family, spent most of her life in a village in the Nyandarua aberdares in Kenya. She argued that western cultures have been pushing the ideology of the sexual revolution in less developed nations, to the detriment of African women. Kioko said that pushing an agenda of access to abortion and contraception onto women and girls in developing countries has been prioritized by Western countries and organizations, while the local women need, rather, policies and programs that include access to high-quality education, clean water, and healthcare that can heal malaria.
“When abortion is prioritized for women like those in my country, it is not the woman we are protecting, it is the bloodthirsty abortion industry,” she said. “In 2014, a survey showed that 82 percent of Kenyans are opposed to abortion, yet abortionists have created sensationalistic statistics to try to brainwash international bodies that we need to legalize abortion.”
“As I sit in many events here [during the Commission on the Status of Women], the same organizations that do such damage in my country are present here, pretending to represent women at the grassroots,” Kioko said. “It is time we brought more women from the villages to the table to inform you about what they want and what they need. It is not abortion, contraception or the sexualization of children. None of these leads to woman’s true empowerment. The women carrying the water cans, the women carrying their daughters on their backs to distant, insufficiently equipped medical centers, the women struggling to receive a solid education for themselves and their families, will tell you they need true empowerment, and that it is time the social protection agenda of the UN reflected this.”
Gender Equality and Gender Ideology:
Protecting Women and Girls
The recent birth of gender ideology advances stereotypes about women more than they advance women, according to experts at a Holy See event.
On March 20, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See hosted a side event entitled “Gender Equality and Gender Ideology: Protecting Women and Girls,” together with the Heritage Foundation, to explore unintended negative effects of modern gender ideology.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said in remarks delivered by First Counselor Msgr. Tomasz Grysa, that when the CSW first began meeting in 1947, there was no need to discuss the basic question of who woman is, because the answer was obvious to everyone. The recent phenomenon of “gender identity” and gender ideology, however, has made it necessary to ask that question, because proponents of gender ideology assert that bodily nature has nothing intrinsically to do with womanhood beyond how sex is “assigned” at birth.
But the answer to the question “What is woman?,” he declared, has impact in many areas such as law, education, economy, health, safety, sports, language, culture, basic anthropology, human dignity, human rights, marriage and family.
“To substitute gender identity or expression for biological sex has enormous ramifications in all of these areas and for that reason we must, with courtesy and compassion, ask the perhaps uncomfortable questions because the answers matter,” he said, noting the words of Pope Francis who emphatically encouraging Catholics and all people of good will to support, welcome, accompany and love all those whose gender identity does not match their biological sex but at the same time has been very clear about the dangers to individuals and society flowing from gender ideology.
Mary Rice Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., said that physical differences between men and women are not subjective, but are based on genetic make-up that can even be observed in brain scans. She noted that even the rare intersex condition, in which sex is physically ambiguous, is not a third sex but a chromosomal abnormality — and is not scientific evidence of a gender spectrum.
“The result [of gender ideology] is the meaning of woman is disappearing. It is being redefined by men, and as a woman I find this deeply troubling,” she said. “How can a man who claims to feel like a woman possibly know If he’s never been one?”
Emilie Kao, lawyer and Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, said changing the understanding of gender hinders much of the progress that has been made for women.
“Gender ideology perpetuates the harmful gender stereotypes women have long fought against such as what jobs women should have or what women should wear," she said. “A woman should not be identified solely and simply through such means, but that is what men identifying as women often do culturally.”
Kao said that gender ideology poses a particular threat in the realm of sports, where biological men have physical advantages against woman, and biological women competing against men are often taking testosterone, which is considered cheating in most sports.
“In cycling, golf, volleyball, wrestling, and weightlifting, women and girls around the world are losing competitions to biological males who identify and compete as females,” she said. “As a female high school runner in America recently said, ‘We all know the outcome of the race before it even begins and it’s demoralizing.’”
“Sex is a biological fact, not a feeling or a self-understanding,” she said.
Dr. Ryan Anderson, author of the 2018 work “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” said that the consequences of gender ideology have already harmed the safety of women.
While separate-gender safe spaces such as private locker rooms, dorms and rest rooms, were once deemed necessary for women’s empowerment, recent laws allowing individuals to use the rest room of the sex with which they identify has already caused harm to women by men who exploit the laws.
“This is not just a privacy concern but also a safety concern,” he said, sharing examples of men who have taken advantage of the bathroom laws to sexually harass women in bathroom and locker rooms.
He also noted the potential legal threats to those who do not adhere to gender ideology. For example New Yorkers can face a hefty fine for using the wrong pronoun with transgender individual, and Catholic hospitals are currently being sued for abiding by Church teaching.
“If a hospital provides a hysterectomy for cancer, but not in the cases of sex re-assignment, they would be liable for human rights violation,” he said.
Dr. Monique Robles, a board-certified pediatric critical care physician who studies the growing trend of gender dysphoria in children and adolescents, said that the puberty blocker medications and cross sex hormonal treatments that are increasingly being prescribed to transgender children and teens have health risks and lack the scientific evidence for safety and effectiveness typically necessary for the medical community.
“The treatments are not FDA-approved in the US,” she said, noting that drugs and hormones are prescribed at increasingly younger ages and are not fully reversible if a young person were to change their mind.
“I am here today as an advocate for those who struggle with gender dysphoria,” Dr. Robles said. “Hormones and sex reassignment surgery do not transform anyone to the opposite sex. Individuals are being told that they are not ok as they are.”
Social Protections for Women, Girls
and All Those with Down Syndrome
On March 21, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN held an event entitled “Social Protections for Women, Girls and All Those with Down Syndrome,” which the Holy See sponsored at the UN together with the Center for Family and Human Rights, in commemoration of World Down Syndrome Day, which the UN General Assembly in 2011 resolved to be celebrated March 21, or 3-21 in numerals, for its scientific name Trisomy-21.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said in remarks delivered by First Counselor Msgr. Tomasz Grysa, that while the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities explicitly protects all human rights and fundamental freedoms of those with long-term intellectual impairments, and the General Assembly in 2011 made a commitment to ensuring that those with Down Syndrome receive the full and effective enjoyment of all those rights and freedoms, many of their rights are denied, including the right to life.
“It's a struggle to build that inclusive society,” he said, noting that some countries are trying to eliminate Down Syndrome by eliminating those with Down Syndrome in utero, through disability-selected abortion, attacking the patient instead of the disease.
Systematically ending the lives of those with Down Syndrome in utero deprives those with Down Syndrome from life, and the world from experiencing their rich contributions to society, he suggested.
Karen Gaffney, President of the Karen Gaffney Foundation, has delivered a TED talk on her experience living with Down Syndrome. Gaffney received an honorary doctorate from the University of Portland for her work in raising awareness regarding the abilities of people who have Down syndrome
“50 years ago, people like me didn’t even have a place in the classroom!” she said.
“I know I am different than you. I look differently, I talk differently, I walk differently, and sometimes it takes me longer to learn things,” she said. “But you should also know I can probably swim much longer and much farther than anyone in this room!” Gaffney is a long distance swimmer and has swum the English Channel and the Escape from Alcatraz.
“It is important that you know that I am not the exception for people living with Down Syndrome,” she said. “If you put your head up and look around, you will see and hear and read about phenomenal accomplishments of those of us living with Down syndrome all around the world.”
Michelle Sie Whitten, mother to a daughter with Down Syndrome and President of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, said that she was still pregnant when she received news that her daughter, Sophia, would be born with Down Syndrome.
She found herself contemplating abortion, but decided to keep and love her child however she came.
“I had never met a person with Down Syndrome before my baby was diagnosed,” which she said made her fearful, but she ultimately stood by her decision, even though she was constantly challenged by doctors.
“Every week there was some doctor asking if I want to terminate, even past the legal date,” she said. “They would say, ‘It has Down Syndrome, it’s fine [to abort].’”
She was appalled by the lack of understanding and discrimination children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities faced both inside and outside the womb, especially by countries that boast near 100 percent eradication of persons with Down Syndrome due to abortion resulting from pre-natal testing.
“50 percent of our supporters are pro-choice and 50 percent are prolife, but everyone should be anti-eugenics,” she said. “They deserve the best medical care not the worst.”
Deanna Smith, author of Motherhood Unexpected and mother of five, including to her daughter Addison, who was born with Down Syndrome, said that the key to ending the eugenic framework held by many countries is acceptance of persons with Down Syndrome. It’s necessary to change perceptions through exposure and integration, a goal that will not be met if persons with the disease are eradicated before they are born.
As a 24 year old, pregnant with Addison, she had a 1 in 1400 chance of having a child with Down Syndrome.
“I had a plan for my family and Down Syndrome didn’t have any place in it,” she said. “I was full of information of what I thought Down Syndrome was but had zero information on what that extra chromosome meant for an individual.”
Smith said that she is disheartened when she hears people justifying aborting children with Down Syndrome as “kindness toward the child” because they don’t want their child to “suffer or have a hard life.”
“Nothing about eliminating Down Syndrome is kind,” she said. “My daughter is not suffering. Not even a little bit. She is a little girl living life to its fullest.”
Rick Smith, Founder of Hope Story, a resource that links doctors to families raising children with Down Syndrome, so that when a couple receives a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, they also receive resources and stories of hope instead of a mere recommendation for an abortion appointment.
He was inspired to involve doctors in this process because of the reaction he received when his son, Noah, was unexpectedly born with Down Syndrome.
“We were surprised that three hours after he was born, we were told he had Down Syndrome,” he said. “Our OB-GYN left without telling us and then called our pediatrician who informed us. We never received congratulations.”
He shared the same sentiments as Deanna Smith (with whom he shares no relation) that a lack of exposure to people living with Down Syndrome often drives parents into fear.
“Many don’t have first-hand knowledge for what it’s like,” he said. “It’s a unique journey, but it’s certainly not a sad one.”
Too often, when doctors call to give the news that an unborn child has Down Syndrome, they also suggest scheduling an appointment for an abortion, Mr. Smith said.
“I’m all for eradicating caner or the flu or headaches,” he said. “But when we talk about eradicating Down Syndrome, we aren’t talking about eradicating a disease. We are talking about eradicating a group of people.”
To watch the event in its entirety on UN Web TV, click here.
To read Archbishop Auza's remarks in full, click here.