Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Answering Sophie: Mother Teresa vs. Margaret Sanger

I want to address Sophie Fletcher's comments from yesterday's post comparing Mother Teresa and Margaret Sanger.

Sophie's comments are in red italics.

Wow. I don't mean to butt in here, but I am sensing a bit of bias against Sanger. 

Actually, you should be sensing a huge bias against Sanger here.  :)

I do have a few questions as to some of your points, Leila. I'm sorry if I word my questions bluntly--I don't mean to offend, but I haven't got much time right now and I am simply curious.

Totally fine. I love straight talk!

You say "Mother Teresa was truly humble and radiated joy" etc while Sanger was "proud, troubled selfish and never at peace." I thought both Mother Teresa and Sanger did much for others, especially the poor--Mother Teresa through her physical care, and Sanger through her distribution of contraception. 

Oh, yes, they both did a lot for others. In a way that was diametrically opposed.

Mother Teresa loved and cared for the untouchables of society, taking them out of the streets, picking maggots out of their rotted, dying flesh and giving them a clean place to lay, food to eat and water to drink, loving them till their last breath. Many of those she cared for reported that this was the first time in their lives that they had been loved, listened to, touched and cherished.

Margaret Sanger did a lot for others, too. She called for poor people, black people, immigrants and disabled to to stop reproducing themselves since they were "unfit" and "human weeds." She worked her whole life to achieve her goal of culling the herd of undesirables, all while neglecting her children and carrying on multiple adulterous affairs.

Nowadays, because so many people believe in sex before marriage, it is wiser to be prepared for it than to expect it never to happen. 

Actually, it's wiser to educate our children about self-control and human dignity. Wouldn't that serve them well? I am actually planning to do a whole post on this...

But you are right that we expect most people to have sex before marriage now, because Sanger's push for widespread contraception was successful. Contraception makes engaging in promiscuous sex much easier. Now women can take pills to make themselves sterile, giving them the freedom to be used and discarded by dozens of men over their lifetime. 

Why would Sanger have been considered selfish if she did this?

Well, when one's motive is to eliminate poor people, black people, disabled people or anyone else deemed "unfit," we may rightly call that selfish. Seeing dirty, impoverished, imperfect brown people made Maggie feel icky. Sorta like people who walk halfway around the block to avoid the homeless man lying in the street. Sharing the earth (and a common humanity) with the riff-raff makes us uncomfortable. And, yes, that is selfish.

You also say that Sanger worked for herself alone. I think we can both see that isn't true. If you think it is, please explain to me how so. 

But it is true, by her own admission. The slogan on her newsletter was "no gods, no masters" -- she said it, I didn't. Everything Maggie did was for Maggie because Maggie wanted to. She was no Mother Teresa. ;)

And although I do agree with you on the "don't-kill-unborn-children" idea, by law, a child is merely a fetus until out of the womb, at which time it becomes a baby. 

And once upon a time, a black person was not considered fully human under the law. In Nazi Germany, Jews were not protected under the law, either. Don't confuse what is legal with what is moral. Sometimes they coincide, sometimes not. My humanity doesn't depend on whether or not some lawmaker says I am human, you see?

Not sure how a fetus (which means offspring or little one) "becomes" a baby at birth. Seems like simply a location change to me. I'm willing to hear how that happens, but in the meantime you may want to check out my response to Christa regarding the science of human life and the concept of "personhood."

However, studies show that in countries where abortion was illegal and considered bad, both the amount of crime and the infant mortality rate went up exponentially. 

First, I'd have to see the studies. That is pretty vague. Second, even if crime went through the roof because babies were allowed to live, it still wouldn't justify killing the unborn. 

Abortion can only happen before a certain point in pregnancy. 

Untrue, but a common misconception (no pun intended). 

Roe v. Wade legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. It allows individual states to put restrictions on late-term abortions if they so desire, but any American woman who wants an abortion at full-term can legally attain one. She might have to travel to another state to find an abortionist willing to do it, but it's legal. Your statement is incorrect.

I believe that abortion is the right choice in some situations, such as certain cases of teen pregnancy. 

I don't doubt that you believe that. However, I imagine that if you were that child about to be dismembered and sucked out of your mother's womb, you might have a different belief. Unfortunately, the unborn don't have a voice, and they don't vote. I'm sure glad my husband's mother didn't abort him (she was a teen mom).

Don't you agree it is better for both mother and embryo to lose the fetus and continue living as a teenager than it is to be possibly disowned, homeless, and susceptible to disease? 

No, I don't agree (see my previous answer, re: my dear husband). And it doesn't make sense... how could it be "better" for the embryo to be dead rather than alive? Unless death is better than life? I've never understood the mindset that says the potential for suffering is enough to warrant an abortion. If that's the case, then we all should have been aborted, because we all suffer. Every single one of us could "possibly be disowned, homeless and susceptible to disease." No one can predict what will become of a human life. The human spirit is an amazing thing.

Please help me to understand your point of view. 

It's incredibly simple: Every human life, from the moment of conception, is intrinsically valuable and inviolable. Either we are all human, or none of us is.

(Unborn children at about eight or  nine weeks)


  1. All I can say is wow! to that post. What amazingly wise answers!

    I just discovered your blog recently and I am so happy I did. I am so happy you are writing this blog. I hope more 'Sophies' read and try to grasp the truth in what you have posted here.

    God bless.

  2. I'd just like to reply to one point- the supposed inverse relationship between abortion and crime.

    This myth is attributed to a chapter in the book Freakonomics, a best-selling pop statistics book. Unfortunately, just because it's published, doesn't make it true. Levitt's "theory" linking abortion to reduced crime rate has been flat out proven wrong, and this is an easily googleable fact.

    But as usual, scandalous stories make the front page, and embarassed retractions are found somewhere in small print on the back page.

    And even if his conclusions were true, they are only true if we don't count murder of unborn babies as a crime when calculating the statistic.

  3. Leila, this is an amazing post! Thank you so much for this. I can only hope that more people stumble onto your blog!

  4. As always, awesome, awesome, awesome. :)

  5. "And although I do agree with you on the 'don't-kill-unborn-children' idea, by law, a child is merely a fetus until out of the womb, at which time it becomes a baby."

    One danger in believing or supporting the idea that a human fetus is not equivalent to a human baby is that, in the event of a crime against the mother or mother and fetus or just fetus, then there could be no legal ramifications for the child's death/harm.

    Ex: A pregnant woman is stabbed in the stomach, and her child dies. If it's "just a fetus" and NOT a baby, then we have a problem. This is where much of the liberal logic falls apart. If a pro-choice woman WANTS to be pregnant and she is attacked (let's say at 10 weeks) and the baby dies, was her baby KILLED? And if so, what is abortion? Killing a baby or not? I never can get an answer to this from pro-choice people.

  6. Great response. Even medical doctors do not agree that a baby is only a baby (or a human) after he or she is born.

    And why is "being a teenager" more valuable than a baby's life? It bothers me that sex "educators" encourage teens to engage in adult activities (sex) that carry adult consequences but insist they are only children at the same time and "deserve" a carefree lifestyle.

  7. Great point, Sarah-- hey, teens, have some free condoms! And by the way, have sex! Just don't get pregnant because that will destroy your life.

    Talk about mixed messages for kids.

  8. I would like to recommend a CD for anyone interested called "Contraception: Why Not?" by Dr. Janet Smith. It includes both moral and non moral arguments. There is also information about how contraception is correlated with all sorts of nasty outcome. I thought of this with Gwen's comment about how when abortion is illegal, certain things become more common. I'd like everyone to see the flip side of this, not just for abortion, but for contraception. Janet Smith says it a thousand times better than I ever could. Thanks, Leila, for yet another very thorough post.

  9. I have to make another comment about the whole teen pregnancy thing. My mother conceived me when she was a teenager. She did not even tell my father about me until she was 8 months pregnant (I've seen pictures, she never looked pregnant). I imagine she was terrified!

    When the families found out about the pregnancy they were forced to marry and I was born a month later. They went on to have two more children before they divorced when I was 6 years old. After that I did not see my mother until I was about 19 (I no longer see her but that's a while other story).

    Needless to say I had a difficult childhood. My mother abandoned me, we were dirt poor, and a whole slew of other things I won't go into.

    However, at no point in my life have I wished I had not been born. At no point have I thought things would have been better if my mom had just had an abortion. I am very thankful that she chose life, my life, even though I'm sure it must have been hard for them.

    I am thankful for the "mistakes" of my parents because without those "mistakes" I would not be here nor would my sisters. And I would not be carrying this little life inside me.

  10. Excellent post, excellent defense.

  11. Lisa - yeah, the mixed messages sure confused me when I was a teen so I can't imagine teens are faring much better now! And really, if a teen does get pregnant... there is no turning back to carefree childhood even with an abortion. Just talk to those who deeply mourn and regret that decision later on.

  12. Wheelbarrow Rider mentioned the CD Contraception: Why not?- the transcript for Contraception: Why Not? is available here- http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0002.html
    It's a great read, though I'm guessing the speech is even better.

  13. Legalized crime went up exponentially when abortion was legalized. Just sayin'.....

    Isn't it funny how semantics can work on a person's views on human dignity? Kind of like "showers" being "gas chambers"?

    Yeah, kind of like that.

    Thanks, my sister! Hey, how about responding to Danielle Bean's piece on graphic abortion signs? I did here.

  14. Whenever someone says that a baby is "just a fetus" until it's born and then it's a baby (what?!) I immediately think of premature babies... what about the babies that are 27 weeks along and deliver prematurely? Those babies still need to be kept in incubators -aka they aren't okay out on their own, "outside" of a special environment-So are they not babies, either? Doctors try so hard to save them-why? Because they're alive. Life. Living human beings. Is there a certain time frame for you, so if that baby is only 27 weeks it's not a "baby"... or is it that all of a sudden when they aren't in the womb anymore, they're "babies," but when they're inside the womb, they're not? I am confused about that point. It will never make sense to me. If a kangaroo carries it's baby in it's pouch, is it not a baby kangaroo in there, just because it's staying warm and alive by hiding within it's mothers skin? Just because a baby is growing beneath his mothers skin doesn't mean he's any less a human being.

    I always have a hard time when my "pro choice" friends get really upset over miscarriage. "All of a sudden" (like I said above) the baby is a baby to them, because they 'wanted' it.

    I also have a hard time with the fact that when someone here in town shot a pregnant woman in the stomach (which killed the baby), he was charged with murder (Which I totally agree with!) but abortions are legal here and that baby could have been aborted and no one would have been charged with anything. It makes NO sense to me. It's murder either way, whether the mom willingly allows it to happen or not.
    Sorry for such a long post, I'm just so passionate about the topic. I just posted on my blog about the "contraception comment" too.

    Thanks to Leila once again for a beautiful post. Those pictures brought tears to my eyes.

  15. Just adding my comments to the thank you box -- what a brave, insightful, and well written post.

    For Monica - I read Freakonomics, and that chapter REALLY bothered me. However, what I took away from it was related to the theory of black genocide via abortion. In other words, the crime rate went down, because so many blacks were aborted. Maybe I misunderstood it, but that's how I interpreted it.

  16. Smiling over here because so many people "get" it :) Praise God!

  17. Lisa,
    I wanted to comment about graphic abortion posters. I am pro-life. I am also totally against graphic images of mutilated babies being waved around on street corners.

    In your defense of these posters, you used Dancing with the Stars as an example of how sex and scantily clad women are shown on TV. True. However, my kids don't watch TV. I can control their exposure to this media. I can't control what's being shown on a poster on the street corner. Now, admittedly, there are just as many sex-laden posters on the street corner as there are images on TV... however, that doesn't make them right. It is not a good argument to say that since society has sunk so low as to flaunt women as objects and worship the god of consumerism that pro-lifers should also expose children to graphic portraits of death, thus robbing them of the same innocence we berate modern culture for stealing.

    No, whether or not children see dead babies on a poster is not as important of an issue as whether or not babies continue to be killed in utero. However, this is, again, not a good reason to ignore the first transgression in an effort to prevent the second.

    What do people do when they see these graphic images? They turn their heads. They make an even harder attempt to totally ignore the entire question, burying their heads in the sand. I'm pro-life, and when I see these images, I turn my head as well.

    An appropriate place for these images would be to counsel women who are considering abortion- these women are seeking the information and should be given full disclosure of what they are considering. My children, at 4 and 2 years old, should NOT be exposed to all of the cruelty of the world so early. In fact, studies with television show that exposing children to violent images simply conditions them to accept and ignore them- the shock wears off the more we are exposed. If a child regularly sees images of dead babies, by the time he or she is old enough to make reproductive decisions for himself or herself, they will be numb to the horror of abortion.

    I'd love to hear other opinions on this.

  18. WR, I love the audio of "Contraception Why Not?"! I have it, and for a good couple of weeks, I listed to it whenever I was in my car. She is so good at making her case, and I find myself using her words when I argue against contraception. She is awesome!!

  19. Monica, First of all-Yay for becoming Catholic! Praise God!

    And I agree completely with your reasonings for avoiding graphic pictures in public places. I always thought they were just fine since they showed the truth and reality of abortion, until I actually went and prayed at an abortion clinic.

    I've only done that once in my life, as all three towns I've lived in do not have a "clinic" (Praise God!). The one time I did it was with a group called Crossroads, a Catholic group that walks across the country to promote the culture of life. They really distance themselves from people holding graphic signs. I also learned that the majority of the Catholic protesters came out very early to pray the rosary and get out of there before people with graphic signs (and even graphic baby dolls...) got there.

    When I asked the group members why they were so against the graphic posters, they responded so simply "You don't fight death with death. You fight death with life."

    It clicked. A picture of the face a beautiful little baby is what we need to display on the street corners. Try to convince these women they really have a beautiful little baby inside of them. And yes, there is a place for graphic images because they speak the truth. I agree with you that they should be inside of pamphlets and shown to mothers during sidewalk counseling-but not out there as a first impression.

  20. Kaitlin, I couldn't agree with you more. There is a time and place for graphic images. Truth is truth. But we must be prudent, especially at the abortion mills, and especially when little children are around. So, I'm okay with the images on college campuses (Justice For All does that) and I'm okay with showing people graphic photos when needed. They have their place.

    I myself saw a graphic photo of an aborted baby in a book my parents had on the shelf. I took it down one bored day and looked at the color photos. I've been pro-life ever since.

  21. Great post-- though I'm not sure Sanger was selfish... after all, she was doing what she did for the "good of society". She was very passionate about "Society"

    The problem is that God doesn't look at us and see "Society." He sees individuals, each treasured, beloved, and desperately wanted.

    When we act out of love for an individual, we areacting in accord with God's will.

    When we act out of love for some group, be it "Society" or "My Sorority" or whatever, and put the group ahead of individuals, we've created a false God.

    Margaret Sanger may NOT have been acting from purely selfish motives, but her 'unselfishness' was in the service of something that was not God.

    Once again, contrasted with Mother Theresa, who, for instance, did not serve 'the poor,' but the sick and dying man who showed up on her doorstep at 2:35 pm desperately in need of food and a bath.

    Our God is a God of Concrete things, not vague feel-good-abstractions. That's why he became man and suffered for us.

  22. Great post, as I have come to expect. I am so glad I have your blog to read!


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