Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation to U.S. Supreme Court: Overturn Roe v. Wade



HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation has sent a direct message to the U.S. Supreme Court: Overturn Roe v. Wade.

            The Federation has filed an amicus brief in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case involves Mississippi’s protective law banning abortion at 15 weeks.

            In this well-reasoned brief, the Federation “seeks an overturn of Roe v. Wade, so that States may once again provide protection for vulnerable unborn human life.”

            The brief further states, “Roe was a radical decision that overrode the legislative judgments of all 50 states. It was based on a flawed understanding of the humanity of the unborn child and views of obstetrical practice that are outdated because they fail to treat unborn children as second patients in pregnancy.”

            Roe v. Wade is the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion throughout the country. It is estimated that more than 62 million Americans have died from legal abortion since the decision went into effect. Countless numbers of women have also been forced to grieve children lost to abortion.  

            You can read the Federation’s ground-breaking brief here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/docketpdf/19/19-1392/185227/20210729111948208_19-1392%20amicus%20brief%20of%20the%20pennsylvania%20pro-life%20federation.pdf .

Love, Suffering, and Human Flourishing

by Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director

While pro-lifers may be adept at debating the abortion issue, some may feel less confident arguing against another threat to life: assisted suicide. That is why Stephanie Gray Connors’ latest offering is a treasure that all of us should delve into.

Start with What: 10 Principles for Thinking About Assisted Suicide is relatively short but highly engaging. Those who know the author from her previous book, Love Unleashes Life, or her many debates with pro-abortion advocates, or her famous talk at Google, will rediscover in this book her gifts of clear thinking and illuminating storytelling. Those reading her for the first time will find a fresh yet experienced pro-life voice. Although dealing with the heavy topics of suffering and death, Gray Connors adroitly leaves the reader feeling uplifted by showcasing the strength of the human spirit.

The title of the book comes from the very first principle offered: when bad things happen, such as illness, an accident, or any event that causes suffering, we should not ask “Why?” but rather “What?”  What can I do in light of this situation? What good can be brought out of it?  When we change the question, we change our perspective, and discover possibilities to grow and to love in ways previously unknown.

Gray Connors says that if a loved one desires assisted suicide, those around him should not act on that disordered wish, but instead help the person discover their “What?”

          “Perhaps their what is to empathize with another suffering soul, to   become a writer, to be a listener, to teach people to how to slow down and enter into the present moment, to become an advocate for finding a cure   for a disease…their what could simply be to   teach others, by their need and total dependence, the life-changing power of vulnerability and love.”

Another principle Gray Connors offers is that we should strive to alleviate suffering without eliminating the sufferer.  While putting down a sick pet can be regarded as a merciful act, “putting down” a human is not the same. We possess an inherent dignity that animals do not, and ending human life prematurely as a response to suffering is not only wrong, it puts us on a very slippery slope as to whose life is worth living.

The truly merciful choice is to seek palliative care, assessing and treating the pain that a person faces when encountering a life-threatening illness. Such pain management allows people to live fully and comfortably until the natural end of their lives. Gray Connors reminds us that those last weeks, days, and hours leading up to death provide conversations and opportunities between loved ones that are priceless.  Assisted suicide stunts all of that.

A third principle to consider is that suffering unleashes love. Suffering elicits a response in others and within ourselves, changing the way we relate, altering the way we live. Through several heartening real-life stories, the author highlights the human flourishing that arises from difficult, often tragic, circumstances. While none of us desire suffering, she acknowledges the transformative power it can have. 

           “Suffering is part of the human experience. It cannot be avoided. But it can be shared. And it is when we share it, when we enter into it, when we wrestle and do battle with it, when we respond to it with creativity, it is then we begin to discover the power of suffering not just in the crushing but also in the re-building, the drawing-in, and the uniting.”

Through several additional principles, Gray Connors conveys even more wisdom. In many ways, Start with What is as much about intentional, purposeful living as much as anything else. Anyone who is alive, anyone who suffers, or anyone who will someday die should read it and ponder the truths within. If they do, they will be much more equipped to not just effectively make the case for life, but to find their own “what?” when faced with hardship.

Cats, Cradles, and Natural Instinct

by Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director

Babies attract people.

Even if they’re fetal models.

Whenever we offer preborn babies (of the silicone kind) on our Education Table, people naturally gravitate toward them more than any other part of our display. They pick them up, turn them around, marvel at the fully formed, anatomically correct features, and seem to discover anew the miracle and sanctity of human life.  We encourage them to take one with them and use it to share the pro-life message.

At a recent event, a woman explained that she needed another 12-week baby, not because she gave hers away or because she misplaced it, but because her cat had actually “stolen” it.

At first, she worried her pet would use it as toy, perhaps chewing on it or scratching it.  But that’s not what happened at all.

Rather, she saw the feline gently carrying the baby around the house, positioning it gingerly in her jaws, just as mama cat carries kittens. She snuggled with the baby when she slept, cradling it, and remained ever so protective of the baby when awake.

A common house cat recognized the inherent worth of a preborn baby, while so many humans fail to do so.

The natural instinct, whether animal or human, is to protect life, born or unborn.

It is an instinct with which we are born.  Ask a toddler what’s in mommy’s belly and she will tell you “a baby.”   No equivocation on the humanity or level of development or wantedness.  She will tell you the unfiltered truth.

So at what point do people who support abortion forget this self-evident truth? What impels them to violate the innate tendency to protect, defend, nurture?

In a world that seems to protect puppies more than babies, that seems to elevate animals over humans, perhaps we should look to the animal kingdom to remind us of a fundamental fact:  we mammals are wired to protect and defend life, not reject and destroy. We are made to love.

Even a cat knows that.

PA House Bill 1500: One Small Step Towards Victory

By Jessie Morgan, Intern

Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, advocates for Down syndrome protection in the womb.

On June 9, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban abortions solely because of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. This pro-life victory served as a small but significant step to promote the dignity of all human life.

The bill, known as House Bill 1500, was introduced by Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York, in December 2020.

“Most of us know of a family touched by a Down syndrome child, and know these children grow to lead joyful and fulfilling lives,” Klunk said when introducing the bill.

In current Pennsylvania law, it is legal for a woman to receive an abortion prior to 24 weeks gestation for any reason deemed necessary by a physician, with the exception of selecting the sex of the child. This bill will broaden that restriction through the same means in the case of a positive Down syndrome diagnosis.

“People with Down syndrome are living longer than ever and they’re happier than most of us,” said Rep. Kathy Rapp. “So why are many of them being aborted, why? It’s a curious and heart-wrenching question, because there never has been a better time in all of history for people with Down syndrome.”

“We need to stand up for those who do not have a voice here in Pennsylvania,” added Klunk. “And that’s what this bill does. We have the responsibility to stand up for those children who receive that Down Syndrome diagnosis in the womb, and we shouldn’t allow them to be discriminated against because they have one extra chromosome.”

Rep. Paul Schemel acknowledged unborn babies with Down Syndrome as falling under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which protects the disabled from discrimination in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and public/private affairs. “The principle underlying the legally protected classes is that we don’t treat certain people differently because of their condition, be it race, sex, disability, etc. We don’t treat the disabled differently just because they are disabled. That would be wrong.”

The bill came through the House with a passing vote of 120-83, a major victory for the pro-life movement.  But why is it so significant?

The reason is not only because unborn babies with Down syndrome are receiving justice and protection, but the bill itself is one of the first steps to shift the focus of the abortion movement from the woman alone to the unborn child in her womb. Once we can shine a small light on the humanity and life of the unborn, we can open a door to complete, undeniable justice for them all.

May we continue to pray for our state senators, as they prepare to vote on the Down syndrome bill in the weeks to come. May we pray that Governor Wolf may also begin to see this bill in a different light. And may we continue, one small step at a time, to proclaim the humanity in all unborn life.

A Tough Marine Gone Tender: A Pro-Life Legacy

By Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of LifeLines and is re-published in honor of Father’s Day.

My dad was a Marine.

That alone tells you something about my childhood.  We woke on first call, ate what we put on our plate, and attempted perfect corners when making beds.

Although my father spent just three years in the Marines, his service would have a lifelong impact on him and the family he would make.  The military gave my dad, whose own father died when he was just eight, structure, discipline, and pride in a job well done. These qualities would influence how he and we would live.

My dad also played ball with us, made our tea every morning, and without so many words, showed us he loved us. He endured the loss of his 16 year-old daughter as well as his oldest grandchild, and due to an injury sustained during his military service, retired on disability earlier than he would have liked. Life’s trials toughened but never defeated him. At times, he seemed indomitable.

When I was 19, I saw a different side to my dad, one that surprisingly emerged after having my first child.

Suddenly the man I was afraid to ask for the car, the dad who stayed awake until everyone was home in bed, the meticulous Marine who trained us to put everything where it belonged, was magically transformed into a big, soft teddy bear of a Papa.  All because of a little baby girl who came into our lives at a most unexpected time.  

I won’t lie. He was not happy when my now-husband and I told him we were pregnant. But it didn’t take long for him to model the resilience he’d demonstrated his whole life. He and my mom would support us under one condition: I went back to school to finish my degree. 

Growing up poor and without a dad, he’d never had a chance at an education.  And he wasn’t going to let mine slip by.

He would care for our baby when I was in class.  As the youngest of five, I had a hard time picturing this because I had never seen my father even hold a baby, much less care for one. 

Then she arrived. Suddenly, the strong disciplinarian who raised me was now held captive by a newborn weighing not even seven pounds.

With her, he was gentle, attentive, nurturing, and even silly. My invincible and sometimes rigid father transformed into a doting and whimsical grandfather, and for the first time revealed a vulnerability I had never before seen.

The miracle and power of new life!

When we had our son three years later, my father helped watch both kids while I completed my Master’s Degree. He thrived on being a caretaker to them, and they thrived under his care.  A special bond was formed with them, and subsequently, with all 16 of his grandchildren. “Papa” was his new vocation and he embraced it with the same enthusiasm he had embraced military life.

So it was especially hard for all of us to watch our family patriarch, the soldier-caretaker, enter into his final battle combatting Stage 4 Mesothelioma. Given just a few months to live, he defied the prognosis by actively living for a full year.

Eventually, though, hospice care did become necessary. Remaining true to self, he offered gentle instruction to the home health aide on how to properly make a bed. Once a Marine…

He ultimately lost the battle. He entered into eternal rest on May 1 after bidding us all good night and gently dismissing us from his room…Always a Marine.

A man of deep faith, he leaves a rich prolife legacy that the gift of self, whether to country or to family or even to the stranger we encounter, is the noblest of callings. A lesson deeply ingrained in us by his example.

Semper Fi, dad. Good night!

Viable: A Life-Changing Story of Post-Abortive Redemption

By Jessie Morgan, Intern

Playwright John Hoover remembers a moment long ago, when a spark was ignited inside him. Little did he know that years later, that spark would blossom into the life-altering reality known as Viable the play.

In 1984, when attending a pro-life symposium in California, Hoover listened to a woman speak out about her experiences as a former abortionist. This woman was from the Middle East and had been performing abortions for years before her eyes were opened to the painstaking reality of abortion.

“God took the scales off her eyes,” said Hoover. “She realized what she was doing and quickly became a pro-life advocate”.

The woman described that in early days, abortion failures were common, which resulted in physically impaired and developmentally-challenged children being born alive. To prevent potential lawsuits, procedures were developed to ensure that the baby in the womb would be undoubtedly dead.

After listening, Hoover couldn’t help but wonder: “what would the world be like if women were told the truth of abortion?”

He remembered reading a survey which first informed women about the procedures done to abort an unborn child. Afterwards, they asked if the women would still obtain an abortion. 90 percent of women responded “no.”

This alarming response gave Hoover an idea, one that he carried with him for 25 years. In 2019, he finally put it on paper.

According to the play’s website, “The Viable storyline captures an unforgettable confrontation as an aborted child visits her mother nearly 30 years later. The mother has carried guilt and grief for all that time, trying all the while to protect her emotional stability by professing the mantras that abortion providers originally used to comfort her”.

With nothing but three actors and two chairs, Viable invites viewers on a journey of continued healing as Judy, the mother, searches for a ray of hope after walking for decades in post-abortive shame and regret.

When asked about the primary audience, Hoover said that when writing the play, he assumed that it would be targeted at women who had lost children to abortion. However, everything changed on the very first night of the production, during a scene when Judy rushes through the audience in a dramatic exit.

Gisele Gathings, who plays Judy in the production, remembers seeing a man walking out of the audience in tears. By the time she rushed out of the theater, the man was standing in the lobby, sobbing.

“I wanted to comfort him!” Gathings recalled. “But I had to get to my next scene.”

Gathings has observed that an abortion does not just affect women. Rather, all family members—fathers, grandparents, children, husbands, are part of the story, too.

“Delving into the emotions, the negative emotions of how abortion doesn’t just affect the woman that is post abortive, but also the family members that are involved. The cycle that passes down when abortion is in a family, not just one person having more than one abortion, but also family members following in the footsteps.”

To Gathings, the theme of Viable is not abortion, but redemption through Christ.

“It is bigger than abortion. This (abortion) can lead to various different issues and pain where people need healing. Jesus is about life more abundantly, but also about us choosing him and the choices we have to make. For me, Viable touches on dealing with and bringing up the pain that needs to be healed and addressed.”

Both Gathings and Hoover hope that this play may be what inspires families to begin conversations about their own abortion experiences, so that feelings of hatred, betrayal and regret might be replaced with forgiveness, grace and love.

Hoover is also excited to announce that the Viable tour is back in action. After months of show dates being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Viable plans to resume its tour across the United States, with new dates and locations being added every day. The play will also be performed at this year’s National Right to Life Convention in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 24th. For more information, visit http://www.viableplay.org/.

Roe’s Feeble Foundation Threatened by the Tide of Truth

By Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director

With the President, mainstream media, and Hollywood elites all in their corner, it would seem that the abortion lobby is living their misguided dream.

But recent news that the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban has sent them into a tailspin. They’re panicked that not only will the ban be upheld by a more conservative Court, but that Roe itself may be reversed. If there is strong legal precedent and overwhelming public support for abortion, as activists often claim, what are they afraid of?

The truth. Many in the abortion industry know what many pro-lifers know: Roe v. Wade was a decision built on proverbial sand, a feeble foundation that has been steadily eroded by science, experience, and reason over the last 50 years.  

Legal scholars on both sides of the issue acknowledge the shaky ground on which Justice Harry Blackmun’s majority opinion was based. His own pro-abortion clerk, Edward Lazarus, admitted years later, “As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible…And in the years since Roe’s announcement, no one has produced a convincing defense of Roe on its own terms.”

While abortion supporters often refer to the Constitutional right to abortion, the truth is there is no such thing, and there never was. Simply stated, there is no explicit right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution. So on what basis did the Court legalize abortion in 1973?

Roe said that a woman’s “right” to abortion was implicit in the right to privacy protected by the 14th Amendment. Yet, the amendment itself makes no mention of right to privacy.

“Nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Roe Court referred to a right to privacy that was invented in a 1965 case about contraception, Griswold vs. Connecticut. In that majority opinion, Justice William O. Douglas wrote of penumbras (shadows) formed by emanations (rays) of the Bill of Rights, and surmised that from these shadows and rays arose a “zone of privacy,” later referred by the court as the “right of privacy.”

In essence, Justice Douglas proposed that the Bill of Rights emanates other rights, and in the shadows of those other rights are additional rights, none of which are specifically declared in the Constitution.  It was on this precarious, ever-shifting bed of sand (and shadows) that the right to abortion as part of a right to privacy was founded. A fabricated, weak argument.

What is undeniably explicit in the 14th amendment are guaranteed fundamental rights: no State shall make a law depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny equal protection of law. The 14th amendment, first and foremost, upholds the right to life.  And yet this amendment is used to imply a right to privacy that is prioritized over an explicit right to life.

But what about the word person, another frequent protest of abortion supporters? Are fetuses persons?  Even Justice Blackmun himself conceded in his opinion that the right to abortion would not exist if the humanity of the fetus could be proved.  “If this suggestion of personhood is established, [Roe’s] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment,” he wrote.

What would a 2021 Blackmun say about this? Hidden in the womb, invisible to the human eye, the fetus was somewhat easier to de-humanize in 1973. But with the revelations of ultrasound, the evolving sciences of embryology and genetics, and the advancements of in-utero fetal surgery, it’s disingenuous to do so today.  Fetuses are as human as infants, toddlers, and senior citizens. Clearly, both science and technology have shown us the irrefutable proof that Blackmun sought. Those unwilling to admit to this obvious truth deliberately turn a blind eye to the evidence and begin playing language games in an effort to justify abortion.

The decision to legalize abortion was rooted in not just poor legal interpretation, but also deception. Roe was based on the lie that Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey) was raped.  Roe was supported by then-abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s grossly inflated, yet unquestioned numbers that thousands of women died in back alley abortions each year.  Roe’s majority opinion cited Larry Lader’s non-scientific book Abortion seven times, essentially using a piece of propaganda to justify a legal decision.

Roe is not immune to being overturned. As Justice Amy Coney Barret explained in her nomination hearings, Roe is not a super-precedent like the de-segregation case Brown vs. the Board of Education because it still faces many legal challenges in courts around the country. This vulnerability is what has the abortion lobby so worried. A tide of truth is creeping ever closer to washing Roe away.  

Overturning Roe will not suddenly make abortion illegal across this county. The abortion decision would go back to each state, and we all must be ready for such a pivotal moment in history, to rebuild a culture of life that is on solid legal ground.

The Pill that Kills, Delivered by Mail

by Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director

If a vaccine were to kill 24 people and injure 3,000 more, would that vaccine remain available?

What about an abortion drug?

Despite the recognized danger of the drug Mifeprex (mifepristone), the Biden Administration has lifted safety restrictions on the abortion pill, erasing medically-necessary precautions that have been in place since FDA approval in 2000.

By tossing out these needed safeguards, the administration and the abortion industry are playing Russian roulette with women’s lives, handing them “a loaded gun” in the form of chemical abortion.

According to a statement released by the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), which represents approximately 7,000 women’s healthcare practitioners, the abortion pill has led to at least 24 deaths and 3,000 injuries, with 500 more women at risk of dying had they not reached emergency medical care in time.

Since the FDA stopped collecting data on the adverse effects of the drug in 2016, the complication rate could be much higher.  Death due to abortion often goes unreported, so it is difficult to determine the true fatality rate of the drug.

Earlier this month, a 23-year-old Argentinian woman died from a chemical abortion after it was made legal in her country.

Now, in our country, the most pro-abortion President in history jeopardizes the lives of unsuspecting young women as they are misled into believing they can safely abort at home.

No longer will an in-person exam be required to confirm the gestational age of the child or to rule out an ectopic pregnancy or multiple babies or other complicating conditions or to determine if a woman is RH negative and in need of a Rhogam injection.

Rather, the potent drugs can be delivered to a mailbox or pharmacy simply through a tele-health visit with an abortion provider. Planned Parenthood Keystone is already enthusiastically promoting this “service” on their website.

The two-pill abortion procedure is only approved up through 10 weeks, but many young women are frequently uncertain as to how far along they are. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimates that about 50% of women are wrong about their gestational age when relying on recall of their last cycle, which is why determining the baby’s age by ultrasound had been standard practice in the past. Taking the drugs past 10 weeks significantly increases the chance of complications.

But the abortion drug is dangerous earlier in pregnancy too. AAPLOG notes, “A Finnish study involving nearly 50,000 women who had abortions at 9 weeks or less showed that immediate adverse events were four times more likely with chemical abortion than surgical.” 

That is why the safety regulations, known as REMs (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation), were enacted in the first place.  There is significant risk of hemorrhaging, infection, incomplete abortion, and more that can threaten a young woman’s life.  

“This requirement is not restrictive-it is protective,” states AAPLOG.

And while there is a definite physical risk to women, there is also a tremendous emotional and psychological impact.  Young women are left alone to endure hours of severe cramping and bleeding to deliver and dispose of a dead child.

It’s hard to understand that anyone could possibly think such trauma is part of empowering women. Rather than given authentic support at a difficult moment, women are given a pill to kill, one that might kill them as well as their baby.

But under the misleading title of “reproductive justice,” that’s a risk the Biden Administration is willing to take.

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Her Restless Heart Finds Healing At Last

by Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director



Growing up in a small town, Sue Ellen Browder longed to one day find success in a big bustling city. So landing in Hollywood as an already accomplished writer may have seemed like a dream come true.

As she details in the final chapters of her memoir Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement, Hollywood, however, was just another alluring mirage that would give way to stark reality.

Despite Browder’s prolific and principled husband pouring his heart into one screenplay after another, he faced a steady stream of rejection.

When Browder, renowned for her articles in Cosmopolitan and other publications, appeared on the highly-rated Oprah show, she is left deflated by the experience.  “Fame, like glamour, had become for me just another sick illusion.”

The hardships piled up. Unexpected health issues, never-ending financial worries, and rising marital tension. Depressed and at times, even suicidal, Browder felt like there was nothing that could ease her angst.

Her newly emptied nest magnified her despair. When her daughter returned to college one semester, she had a breakdown. Unloading the dishwasher she deliberately smashed every plate on the tile floor.  Later, she realized this outburst was fueled “at least in part from my unresolved grief over the abortion” decades before.

Miraculously, in the midst of this dark emotional chaos, a light appeared.

Her husband began to read again and was captivated by St. Augustine’s Confessions. Browder saw a newfound sense hope growing in him that she envied.

In an effort to find greater peace and beauty in life, the couple resettled in a home nestled in the magnificent Redwood forest. Here they would find what they were looking for and more. Their desire to know “God’s reality,” an unchanging truth, led them to the Catholic faith.

Just moments into their first meeting with a priest, Browder’s husband blurted out that they had an abortion. The priest simply nodded, but Browder herself was shocked.

“I had no idea Walter considered the abortion ‘ours.’ It had never occurred to me that all these years he had been silently grieving right along with me.” Theirs, like that of many couples, had been a hushed mourning, with a profound grief simmering under the surface.

As part of her journey into the Catholic Church, Browder received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in which sins are forgiven. She thought she would finally find healing. But even after her first confession she suffered in silence, unable to let go of self-blame.  “I feared if I ever started talking about the abortion, I would never stop crying.”

Her post-abortion trauma led her back to the confessional. She began to trust in God’s endless mercy. “After a quarter century of unspoken grief over the abortion, I at last begin to be healed. The Church, in her all-forgiving love, is so beautiful that I feel as if I’m living inside a two-thousand-year-old poem.” 

It is from this long-sought place of serenity that Browder can look back at her life’s journey and at the women’s movement she once revered to see where she and we have gone wrong.

“Love for God and others, including love for the little person in the womb, is what gives meaning to life, even in the midst of pain and suffering.  This is the unseen dimension of women’s lives that the Mere Fifty-Seven overlooked…when they created a pro-abortion political agenda….”

Brower’s memoir is a lesson to us all, generously offered by way of her own pain and redemption, skillfully crafted by her talent as a writer.  We would be wise to keep it within reach and explore its pages from time to time. 

Quotable Quotes

“As strong, independent women, we need to be speaking out loudly and clearly about the truth that ‘success’ in life isn’t just about careers, sex, power, and money.  All these trappings are nothing without love.” (p.148)

“If every Christian in America had stood firmly with the smallest, weakest, and poorest in our society-that is, if each and every Christian had stood firmly with the innocent preborn child nailed to the cross-we would have far fewer abortions than we do in the United States and the world today.” (p. 180)

A Book Worthy of a Second Look: Subverted, Chapters 1 & 2

By Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director

With so many books, so little time, few books tempt me into a second reading. However, our Winter Lit for Life book recommendation is one of them. The first time I read it, I eagerly gulped down page after page, trying to digest all the revelations.  But Sue Ellen Browder’s Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement merits a slow, deliberate re-read, one that allows us to ponder the true story of the feminist movement and the forces within and around it. One that challenges the prevailing cultural narrative.

For that reason, we are reading two chapters a week and posting a blog that will include intriguing quotations. We invite you to read along with us and to share your reactions on social media.

In the opening chapter to the book entitled The Inside Witness, Browder introduces herself as the small-town girl looking for big city action after graduating with a journalism degree. She “succeeds” when she lands a job at Cosmopolitan in 1970 as a freelance writer, securing a front row seat to New York City’s cultural revolution for 24 years.

That transformation included two movements that Browder says were not originally united. “In the beginning, the women’s movement and the sexual revolution were distinctly separate cultural phenomena.”

Browder confesses that much of what she and others at Cosmopolitan wrote was fabricated, calling herself “one of the propagandists who helped sell single women on the notion that sex outside of marriage would set them free.”

And she reveals that the 1960’s women’s movement was hijacked largely due to the efforts of one man devoted to making abortion legal.  Larry Lader, considered a “hidden persuader,” will figure prominently in future chapters.

The title of the second chapter The Problem that Had No Name comes from the “mother of the women’s movement,” Betty Friedan. In her revolutionary 1963 publication The Feminine Mystique, Friedan speculated on the deep dissatisfaction of the American housewife who had been limited by “the deeply engrained cultural belief that the only path to feminine fulfillment was to be a wife and mother.”

While Friedan is considered a trailblazer for women’s rights, Browder points out what has been lost in the feminist narrative—that Friedan was not anti-marriage or anti-family. She disliked the phrase “women’s liberation,” preferring to characterize the women’s movement as a fight for equality.  

Browder and Betty Friedan had a shared experience–both were fired for being pregnant, a not uncommon practice back then, unfortunately. Even so, Browder points out that the first edition of The Feminine Mystique never mentioned abortion or the Pill.

Rather than change women and their child-bearing ability, Friedan aimed to change society, “to take the actions needed to bring women into the mainstream of American society, now, fully equality for women, in fully equal partnership with men.”  That, says Browder, was the “original rallying cry” of the modern women’s movement.

So how did the women’s movement, an admittedly noble cause for social justice aimed at equal education and employment opportunities, become so enmeshed with abortion?

Stay tuned as we read Chapters 3 and 4 for this Friday.

Quotable quotes:

Chapter 1: “Propaganda-withheld truths-cuts off democratic discourse, blocks genuine dialogue, and keeps the public from participating in reality.”

Chapter 2: “Women are the people who give birth to children, and that is a necessary value in society…Feminism was not opposed to marriage and motherhood…You want a feminism that includes women who have children and want children because that’s the majority of women.” -Betty Friedan