If You’re Pro-Life In Illinois, Leaving Isn’t An Option

Last week, Turning Point USA founder and executive director Charlie Kirk penned a column for the Daily Herald titled “A fond farewell to state I love that doesn’t seem to love me.” In his article, he laments the financial and moral crises plaguing Illinois and announces a predictable exit to Florida, which lacks an income tax for state residents and boasts an excess of Republican money – attractive qualities for Kirk as an up-and-coming conservative mogul.

Of course, he’s not the first quasi-famous Illinois resident to announce such an exit, nor will he be the last – but his editorial makes some critical points, particularly in reference to Illinois’ millennial demographic that, for someone like me – a millennial, a conservative, and a pro-life activist – demand a pause. Why, given the odds and the reasons to leave, would I choose to stay?

In his column, Kirk points out that Illinois “is in the top five states from which wealthy millennials are departing,” per data from the IRS itself, defining “wealthy millennials” as six-figure earners under the age of 35. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that when unestablished young adults start making real money, they realize they’d rather put down roots anywhere but here. And if a bad pension algorithm in decades past meant big problems for our state at present, imagine what this exodus might mean for the future. Hint: it’s likely bleak.

It’s true Illinois lacks a great deal – prosperity, for starters. J.B. Pritzker’s latest onslaught of tax increases will surely be felt for miles, and the legalization of marijuana combined with the state’s long-standing immigrant sanctuary policies will soon mean a list of troubles as long as my left arm. These policies are disastrous and the outcomes, predictable: poverty, crime, and widespread suffering must follow (although, many would argue poverty, crime, and suffering made a home here long ago). And that’s all without mentioning the General Assembly’s very-public efforts to turn our state into the abortion capital of the nation, going to great lengths to attract abortion providers and pave the way for abortion-seeking travelers from across the U.S.

The abortion issue in Illinois is one worth honing in on. Yesterday, The New Yorker printed an article titled “How Illinois Became An Abortion-Rights Haven.” We’ve been forced to watch these past six months as a frantic national abortion industry has projected the state of Illinois from “abortion-friendly” to its new role as nationwide oasis. It’s rumored that Hope Clinic – which made headlines for this billboard on I-55 – has a parking lot full of cars from states across the country every day. Hotels throughout Chicago provide discounted rooms to women who have an appointment for an abortion procedure nearby. The goal of the Reproductive Healthcare Act – which forces private insurance to cover abortions and removes the need for a doctor to be present, amongst other things – is clearly to achieve more abortions. And if the Repeal of Parental Notification passes in the fall, it’s a matter of time before the decreased rate of abortions performed on minors sees a drastic uptick. Illinois has been hand-picked to single-handedly carry the country’s abortion rate – regardless of the outcomes.

Why does this matter? Because the outcomes will be devastating. Those of us who work in pro-life – at a pregnancy resource center, or in post-abortive counseling, or at an education organization like IRL – know that more abortions means more broken women. It means more Illinois women who will travel through life as merely a shell of themselves. In 2006, a New Zealand study concluded that there is a strong correlation between induced abortion and subsequent mental health issues – such as depression, anxiety, addiction, or suicidal thoughts – when compared with women who had never been pregnant or had carried pregnancies to term. A Canadian study found that women three months post-abortive were five times as likely to experience psychiatric hospitalization, and another study suggests that within one year of their abortions, post-abortive women experience a suicide rate six times higher than women who’d never had an abortion. And these studies are supported by countless more performed across the world that conclude, time and again: abortion is bad for women.

The stats are overwhelming. And what’s more, the CDC reports that black and Hispanic women are significantly more likely to have an abortion in their lifetime. That means these disturbing mental health stats disproportionately affect minority communities – the same communities disproportionately affected by poverty and crime in Illinois, and the same communities that will feel the greatest hurt when bad policies like legalized marijuana set in.

Impoverished Chicago neighborhoods are already experiencing a crisis of the family. Homes on the south and west sides are ravaged by drug abuse and gang violence, and are significantly lacking in father figures. The State of Illinois reports that more than half of incarcerated men are black. Safe to say, fathers have been adequately removed from the picture – and now, by working overtime to increase the rate of abortion in our state, we’re doing irreversible damage to women’s mental health and taking black mothers out right along with them.

These changes to Illinois abortion policy will be lethal. So, when Republicans tout an exodus, I have to ask: why? Why are we leaving? Because the way I see it, we have a moral duty to stay.

Yesterday, I visited a pregnancy resource center that serves a large Hispanic community in Illinois, and is mere blocks from a Planned Parenthood. My welcome was warm and inviting. The waiting room was cozy, bright, and adorned with pamphlets that described adoption as “a profoundly loving and selfless choice.” The clinic’s “boutique” – where new moms are able to shop using credits they accrue through clinic programs – was overflowing with clothes, toys, and diapers. And the clinic’s director – herself, post-abortive – shared a thought with me: in Illinois, our politics are bad – but this means women need us even more.

Her point is gravely critical. Pro-life does not end with politics. I think of Mother Teresa – who scolded the Americans who showed up on her doorstep in Calcutta, looking for someone to serve. “Go home,” she told them. “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us.” As Illinois residents, we find ourselves in one of the most corrupt states in the nation. Our legislators are firmly under the thumb of an abortion PAC that’s wreaked havoc for more than 30 years. We can be frustrated. We can be angry. But we cannot quit, and we cannot leave. We cannot let politics – we cannot let taxes – distract us from the mission, which is to serve women and protect the unborn. How could we leave? We have to stay and fight.

Illinois Democrats Are Preparing To Force Another Major Abortion Bill

Last week, Capitol News Illinois confirmed that democrats in the General Assembly intend to pursue the repeal of Parental Notification during the veto session in the fall.

Rep. Chris Welch (D-Hillside), who’s the primary sponsor of HB 2467 (the Parental Notice Abortion Repeal), confirmed that he’s going to push the bill during the veto session (the last week of October and the second week of November) and, if it fails, he’s “going to go back at it again in January.”

Per CNI:

“Men can make health care decisions on their own without having to give notice to a parent. Why can’t a woman,” Welch said. “At the end of the day, I don’t want my wife and my daughter to be equal only in the confines of our home — I want them to be equal in the confines of the law. That’s what this fight is all about.”

So, first and foremost, let’s get something straight: men under the age of 18 are decidedly *not* allowed to receive invasive surgical procedures without the consent of their parents. And actually, since the General Assembly passed HB 0345, men under the age of 21 are not even allowed to buy cigarettes (Rep. Welch sponsored that bill too, by the way).

There is absolutely *no* consistency of thought here. And that’s without mentioning the risks that young girls face without this law serving as a checkpoint in the industry.

Take note of Welch’s word choice in his above quote. “Men can make health care decisions on their own without having to give notice to a parent. Why can’t a woman?” Words mean something. We’re not talking about women. We’re talking about *girls* – underage girls, who are at far greater risk of being sexually exploited than almost any other demographic block. In 2017, the youngest girl to receive an abortion that was paid for with taxpayer dollars was a 12-year-old. Any responsible adult can look at this situation and see that something isn’t right.

This isn’t a red herring. Chicago is a national hub for human trafficking. Repealing this law would actually protect traffickers by providing them the opportunity to conceal the consequences of trafficking and continue the cycle of abuse.

One might wonder why the public isn’t outraged at the suggestion of repealing such a common sense law. Funny thing: it is.

Back in March, 12,625 people filed formal witness slips in opposition to the repeal of parental notification (compared to 490 in support of the repeal). You can view those here.

Later in the month, when the bill was scheduled to be heard in committee a second time, 6,980 people filed formal witness slips in opposition to the repeal of parental notification (compared to 190 filed in support of the repeal). You can view those here.

Also in March, more than 4,000 people showed up at a rally held by a group of pro-life organizations to protest HB 2467 at the Illinois State Capitol. The crowds brought the building to max capacity and security had to close the doors. 

Just as the case with the Reproductive Healthcare Act, the public has spoken loudly and clearly on this issue. The question isn’t whether the people of Illinois support this bill – it’s whether or not Illinois democrats care.

 

25 & Catholic In The Age Of Pornography

I posted a video on my Facebook page earlier this week in which I argued that pornography contributes to the sexual violence that’s so rampant in our culture today, and was met with significant resistance from a handful of the men who follow me.

Their reaction reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend just over a year ago. He’d told me, laughing, that Barstool Sports had announced they’d hired a former porn star for a spot on their most popular podcast. When I didn’t laugh in response, he became defensive. “Porn isn’t really something that falls within my sense of humor,” I told him.

“Yeah, you and every other girl on the planet.”

Well, yeah, no kidding. Porn just isn’t something that appeals to the average woman, necessarily. Not to say that there aren’t women who watch porn, and definitely not to say there aren’t women who suffer from porn addictions—nevertheless, it tends to be a man’s interest (as men are visually stimulated and have a higher sex drive). And in today’s world, where it’s so easily accessed and considered such a commonplace consumption, men have very few reasons not to watch it.

I can recall another time that I was out with friends on a Friday night, when we wandered into a local tavern in a quiet neighborhood in Chicago. We approached the bar, looked up at the numerous televisions hung across the wall, and were shocked by what we saw: hardcore porn. It was apparently “chicken & porn” night at our nearby watering hole.

Porn isn’t something people sneak a peek at in the dark quiet of their own homes anymore. It’s out in the open, in the public square, free to be consumed by anyone who stumbles upon it. I can think of many more instances—a party in college where it played in the background, sitting next to a man at Starbucks who was watching it on his phone—in which I was confronted with porn without ever seeking it out. Truly, it’s everywhere; we can’t get away from it.

This is one of those 25 & Catholic posts that, inevitably, I can only write from a woman’s perspective. As a single, 25-year-old Catholic woman, it’s so difficult to date and uphold high standards for men when porn is so common and accepted. The mere mention of porn in a passing conversation strikes fear into the heart of every woman—what if he watches it? What if he watches it a lot? How will he react if I ask that he stop? If given the choice, which would he choose—me or the pornography?

It might sound dramatic, but it’s not. It’s such a real fear for women, which begs the question—why? Why, if society says it’s okay, do so many women feel so deeply that it’s not?
Pope John Paul II, then still Karol Wojtyla, said in his book, Love & Responsibility:

“The human person is ‘a good’ towards which the only proper attitude is love.”

Matt Fradd—Catholic founder of The Port Effect, says of this quote:

“That’s either true or false. I do think that most people think it’s true. When we do think that it’s true, we don’t think we’re committing the error of speciesism, right? An unjustified bias in favor of one’s own species? We just think that it’s a fact. So then the next question we need to ask is, what is love? Well, in his book Love & Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla would argue, as St. Thomas Aquinas once did before him, that to love is to will the good of the other. So, in other words, if I want the other as a good, which is a fine thing, but if I want the other as a good without willing the good of the other, then this isn’t love. And, in the words of Karol Wojtyla we should agree that it ought to be avoided. I think when we look at pornography—I know when we look at pornography—what we find is not this.”

JPII also said that “the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is use.”

And this, I think we can all agree, is what we’re doing when we’re looking at pornography.

But let’s not make the mistake of assuming that it’s only the men and women participating in the production of pornography who are the suffering souls, here. Exposing ourselves to pornography does major damage to our ability to emotionally connect with other people—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Fight The New Drug is an incredible resource for information on the data behind the effects of pornography. The site emphasizes that our brains are “wired for companionship, with neurochemicals released in response to intimacy—even if you’re alone, staring at pornographic images on a screen.”

“In that moment, the brain’s powerful machinery kicks into gear, bonding us in different ways to images on the screen. Studies show that over time, many can develop a compulsion to pornography, causing them to need more of it, more often, and more hardcore versions just to feel normal—just like with mood-altering drugs. The amazing brain, in other words, can be hijacked.”

I remember in one of my communications classes in college, we studied the psychology behind parasocial relationships. The term “parasocial relationship” refers to the one-sided relationships that we often have with celebrities, characters on our favorite TV shows, what have you.

Consider what level of parasocial relations we might experience in watching porn. We’re engaging in an incredibly intimate act—arguably the most intimate act a person can ever experience in his/her lifetime—with people on a screen whom we’ve never met. It’s simply impossible that we won’t be affected, or that our other relationships won’t suffer as a result.

This can be a remarkably painful experience for a woman who’s witnessing her boyfriend or husband’s affinity for pornography. Oftentimes, she can feel like a third-party outsider in her own relationship. Because the Lord made us for monogamy and real, true, reciprocal love, a man who’s in a relationship and also consistently watches porn could find himself feeling torn between the two—even if he doesn’t recognize it.

So now we come to my two cents.

Here’s the thing about millennial Catholics: we are too insightful, too innovative, and too well-informed to deny that pornography is a problem. In fact, it’s a BIG problem. And it’s something the whole of us cannot deny any longer.

We need to be bolder about starting these conversations.

25, Catholic, & Also A Woman

Hugh Hefner died last week.

As a Catholic, it’s tough to know the right way to respond to his death. A lot of Catholic figures suggested we should pray that he repented and recognized Christ before he died. This is probably the right idea.

After drinking a pot of coffee around 7PM last night for no good reason in particular, I found myself still awake and staring wide-eyed at my computer at 3AM—which is when I came across a 2015 Cosmopolitan article from an interview with Holly Madison, one of Hefner’s (more recent) Playboy girlfriends.

Madison described how depressed she became after Hefner forcibly cut her off from the outside world, required she engage in sex with him and other women in the house, and inflicted emotional abuse that manipulated her into consenting to all of the above. Sadly, one could’ve guessed that this was what’s going on behind the doors of Playboy mansion. It’s a phenomenon that’s contributed to the twisted way we look at sex—and also at women in general.

I often think of something Jason Evert says about the beauty of the female gender:

“The woman is the most beautiful thing on Earth. I’m not pandering to you—this is obvious. What do guys get addicted to looking at on the internet? Like, flamingos or something? Waterfalls? It’s the beauty of the woman! If creation was a symphony, she is the crescendo, and this is how it’s presented in the book of Genesis—God creates the stars and the moons and the bugs and the birds and the mammals and then man, and then woman. And when Adam sees her, he is beside himself. “Alas! This one is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone.” He is captivated by her. He is in awe.”

What could possibly be more special than this? Not to say men aren’t special—like, you guys are fine—but this is super special. It’s so inherently good to be a woman. I look so warmly on all that comes with it—the upsides and the downsides, monthly gifts notwithstanding. Truly, womanhood is such a blessing. It’s so, so good to be woman.

John Paul II’s Theology of the Body further emphasizes this point. Women have an incredible capacity for vulnerability, adversity, pain—and also for love. Our bodies were perfectly made for bearing and rearing children, even down to the tiniest details, like the bend of our arms and the curve of our hips. We’re an incredibly strong, resilient gender from the moment we’re conceived in the womb. Women are amazing.

Our Mother was the ultimate woman. Her example set the standard for femininity in a graceful, beautiful way. Blogger Matt Foley expressed this remarkably:

“We don’t hear much from Our Lady in the Scriptures, but we do hear in Luke’s Gospel that she “kept all of these things in her heart.” Mary had a lot to deal with. The Lord of the Universe came to her and promised her the life she was born to live, and then she knew He would have to take it away. And she had to just wait for that. There was so much back and forth, up and down, waiting and going. And she knew deep in her heart, that on this side of Heaven, for three long and terrible days, it would all end in heartbreak. But every sorrow, every joy, every love, everything, she kept in the depths of her heart and shared it with her first and deepest Love. It was there she found the meaning of her womanhood. It was there she was affirmed in the fullness of her identity as a woman. So when God came and asked her, “Mary, my daughter, I love you. Are you ready?” Her answer was yes. She already knew her worth and her purpose was rooted in Goodness. She knew she was loved and lovable. Her answer was openness to receive the gift of God. And because of that, the world was never the same.”

But if women are profoundly capable of all of these things—vulnerability, resilience, receptivity to love, etc. etc.—we’re all the more profoundly capable in our ability to draw greatness out of man. This is what we were created for—to compliment and accentuate the parts of man that perfectly reflect his creation in the image and likeness of God.

Peter Kreeft said it best:

”The heart is like a woman, and the head is like a man, and although man is the head of woman, woman is the heart of man and she turns man’s head because she turns his heart.”

My sister delves deeper into this point in a beautiful critique of the Women’s March (which you can read here):

“Women, we are the heart! We are the heart of this world, with the ability to turn its head. Women, we were not created to be trampled on or used. We are not secondary or lesser to our male counterparts. We were created with feminine qualities including gentleness, warmth, sensitivity, compassion, and receptivity. Yes, we’re intelligent, capable, and driven. We are strong and brave (shout out to Leah Darrow). We are not a slave to our fellow man, but rather a fundamental, necessary, and worthy companion. The gifts and talents that we have to offer are good, holy and beautiful. We are nurturing, loving, protective, loyal, self-giving, and communicative by nature. These qualities are of great service to our world. They are valuable in the workplace, just as they are essential to the family. It is by harnessing these very qualities that we will be be most impactful in the world, whether as business women, entrepreneurs, politicians, journalists, doctors and/or nurses, but of utmost importance as mothers.”

We were not created to be trampled on or used. We are not secondary or lesser. We are not a slave to our fellow man. In this thought, we’re brought back to “fellow man”, Hugh Hefner.
His contributions to the twisted way the world now sees women are neither here nor there, in my opinion. It would’ve happened one way or the other, as it has countless times over in other civilizations and will continue to until the end of time. One of the devil’s greatest weapons is the perversion of the beauty of womanhood and the relationship between the sexes, because the toxicity of its outcome seeps into every other area of life. In modern times, we see this everywhere.

The perversion of woman—who she is, what she does, how she’s meant to relate to man—has brought forth social repercussions we could list for days. And it hardly leans in one direction. The woman who demonizes the male gender and aims to squeeze women into the role that’s meant for men does as much damage to herself as the one who exploits her sexuality in an attempt to harness power and control. I hurt for these women. I hurt for the Holly Madisons of the world, who suffer from a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are and what they’re capable of.
But within this context, it must be said: the Hugh Hefners suffer too.

Men need good women, just as women need good men. You can’t have one without the other. So as Holly Madison likely suffers from her disconnection with her purpose, Hugh Hefner likely suffered also. A man who uses and abuses women the way he did strikingly misses out on his own potential for greatness. This is a travesty too.

To be 25, Catholic, and a woman is a profound gift, but it’s also an incredible challenge. Women bear a responsibility to the men in their lives to hold a certain standard, but it’s a responsibility that does not come without its share of risk. 20-something single, Catholic women today enter into a remarkable vulnerability in choosing to maintain that standard. In a world where most women consent to their own mistreatment and the perversion of their beauty, man’s obligation to the standard isn’t an obligation at all—it’s a choice. As a result, the women who expect more often find themselves at the receiving end of profound rejection. It’s that pain and adversity I mentioned before—it’s real and it’s common.

But there’s good news: it’s worth the graces of calling men to their higher purpose. The cross of rejection is worthy of the great fruits that stem from fulfilling our call as females to draw the greatness out of men. But just as we have the call, we also have the tools. Our remarkable resilience gives us the ability to endure it.

The Quiet Confidence Of Ivanka Trump

I’m continuously impressed with Ivanka Trump and how well she carries herself, even when met with the most humiliating and hostile sentiments of those around her.

This photo was taken today at a women’s summit in Germany, where she was booed and “hissed” at (do women seriously hiss at other women? that’s grotesque) for referring to her father as a “champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive.”

The moderator of the panel acknowledged the hostility of the crowd and confronted Ivanka, saying, “You hear the reaction from the audience. I need to address one more point—some attitudes toward women your father has displayed might leave one questioning whether he’s such an empower-er for women.”

And once more, we witness her incredibly poised demeanor in the well-spoken and gracious response she gave (per POLITICO):

“As a daughter, I can speak on a very personal level,” Ivanka Trump said. “I grew up in a house where there was no barrier to what I could accomplish beyond my own perseverance and tenacity. That’s not an easy thing to do; he provided that for us.” She said that her father treated her exactly the same way he treated her two brothers, who now run the family business. “There was no difference,” she said.

Her tone was not defensive, nor did she so much as grimace at the question she received. There’s a level of self-awareness and restraint here that we fail to give her credit for.

It’s very easy for us, as both consumers of the mainstream media and American voters, to forget that these people are just that—they’re people.

When we think of Donald Trump and his relationship with women at this point in history, our minds jump immediately to the recording released prior to the election of his conversation with Billy Bush. The things that were said were shameful, wrong, and have no place in American society, let alone American politics. It is appropriate to acknowledge that and to hold him accountable for what he said.

Nevertheless, as a daughter myself, I observe Ivanka’s willingness to stand by her father with admiration. She has not defended his behavior, which would be wrong—rather, she’s chosen to remain loyal despite his character, however deeply flawed it might prove to be.

I fight the urge to compare her to Chelsea Clinton as a public figure because I think my bias in comparing them would be obvious. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the media approaches the two women from very different angles. While some outlets continue to, for all intents and purposes, plead Chelsea Clinton into a campaign announcement, Ivanka’s media coverage from those same outlets is critical, negative, and maintains, however subtlety, that she should be personally held responsible for her father’s splintered relationship with the female gender because she, herself, is female.

This is a difficult position to place a man’s daughter in. I struggle to recall a time that Chelsea Clinton has ever been asked to defend her own father’s promiscuity, and the one time I can recall was met with such aggressive criticism by the mainstream media that no one ever dared ask such a question again. And while she is placed on a pedestal, Ivanka is “hissed” at by her fellow woman, even as she speaks of promoting women and families at a public forum.

I was especially impressed with Ivanka in her interview with Gayle King earlier this month. King asked Ivanka if she had a response to critics who accused her of being “complicit.” Her response was commendable (via CBS):

“I would say not to conflate lack of public denouncement with silence. I think there are multiple ways to have your voice heard. In some case it’s through protest and it’s through going on the nightly news and talking about or denouncing every issue in which you disagree with. Other times it is quietly, and directly, and candidly. So where I disagree with my father, he knows it, and I express myself with total candor. Where I agree, I fully lean in and support the agenda and, and hope, uh, that I can be an asset to him and make a positive impact. But I respect the fact that he always listens. It’s how he was in business. It’s how he is as president.”

And in this one statement alone, we witness the quiet confidence of Ivanka Trump. She feels no need to justify herself to the public, and there’s something to be said for that level of self-assurance. It is clear she does not receive validation from the American people, which is important: it means her commitment to her values is not contingent on the approval of others. This is remarkable.

I fear that women are missing out on an incredible role model by so quickly jumping to criticize Ivanka. Many could say—and probably do say—that her loyalty to the President is self-serving, or necessary for her own professional success. I see it differently.

Ivanka has earned what she’s built. While I recognize the opportunities that inevitably come hand-in-hand with having the name ‘Trump’ on your birth certificate, she’s not been given all that she has. She is educated, professional, and successful by her own right. And yet, she has chosen to leave her empire behind (in some sense) to serve her father and the public in the White House.

How many celebrities are estranged from their famous family members? How many women wrestle with their self-worth (or lack thereof)? And how many experience behavioral crises at the hand of their damaging fathers?

It is clear Ivanka Trump is not one of those women. So why are we so quick to condemn her?

GUEST POST: A NICU Nurse’s Take On The Women’s March On Washington

Like many others, I have been closely following the news surrounding the Women’s March occurring in DC today. The conversation surrounding it has been interesting, yet largely unsurprising, and, for me, very frustrating.

I’ve found it frustrating because the March’s purpose and surrounding controversy not only touches on, but stems from two of my greatest passions – (1) infants, both inside and outside of the womb, and (2) womenhood/women’s health.

And to my disappointment, in the present conversation, I find both are being largely misunderstood.

I am a twenty-three year old woman who has led a blessed life in many ways. I have always had a deep love for babies, which led to my dream of working as a nurse in a neonatal ICU (intensive care for babies). By God’s grace, that dream became a reality and I now spend 40+ hours a week caring for the sickest babies in one of Illinois’ largest NICUs.

I always thought babies would be my sole passion, but in recent years I’ve encountered various health concerns and questions which have led me to personally understand that wholesome and comprehensive women’s healthcare is sorely lacking in today’s health industry. From these personal experiences, a passion for women’s health was born.

So now, I have two passions. And I’ve learned that the more I’ve gotten to know one, the more I’ve discovered and grown in zeal for the other.

I say this because I believe it is important to recognize first and foremost that one can love both. I can wholly advocate for women—their inherent beauty, purpose, equality, and health—and all the while, wholly advocate for babies—their beauty, purpose, equality, and health.

Let me share with you both passions. First, womanhood and women’s health.

I am a young woman. And women of the March, you are right… we are powerful. We have a God-given power that could change the world. A favorite quote of mine by Peter Kreeft perfectly sums up the beauty and power of woman…

”The heart is like a woman, and the head is like a man, and although man is the head of woman, woman is the heart of man and she turns man’s head because she turns his heart.”

Without diving too deeply into the rich doctrine that is the Theology of the Body, it is necessary to start with an understanding of who woman is. Women, we are the heart! We are the heart of this world, with the ability to turn its head. Women, we were not created to be trampled on or used. We are not secondary or lesser to our male counterparts. We were created with feminine qualities including gentleness, warmth, sensitivity, compassion, and receptivity. Yes, we’re intelligent, capable, and driven. We are strong and brave (shout out to Leah Darrow). We are not a slave to our fellow man, but rather a fundamental, necessary, and worthy companion. The gifts and talents that we have to offer are good, holy and beautiful. We are nurturing, loving, protective, loyal, self-giving, and communicative by nature. These qualities are of great service to our world. They are valuable in the workplace, just as they are essential to the family. It is by harnessing these very qualities that we will be be most impactful in the world whether as business women, entrepreneurs, politicians, journalists, doctors and/or nurses, but of utmost importance as mothers.

All of these qualities reflect an inherent call to motherhood. This is true even of single women, women unable to conceive, and religious women. Our feminine qualities—or “feminine genius” as St. John Paul II called it—inherently call us to some form of motherhood whether physical or spiritual.

Unfortunately, I have discovered that this motherhood thing really seems to trip women up.

The founders of the two largest abortion providers, Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood and Dr. Marie Stopes of Marie Stopes International believed motherhood to be the ultimate evil. They saw motherhood as an interference, an obstacle to women’s fulfillment, achievement, and success. Sanger and Stopes have successfully spread this lie through the work of their clinics and masterfully intertwined it into the hearts of women.

It has been the very source of our demise.

Sanger and Stopes were wrong. Motherhood, or more specifically, the qualities closely linked to it when built upon and used effectively, will not be a distraction but rather lead to our (woman’s) greatest fulfillment. Women are by no means weak. Women are fiercely loyal, passionate and committed. We are strong communicators, intuitive, sensitive and receptive to the needs of others. These qualities are not a matter of opinion but of science.

According to “The Female Brain”, our brains are scientifically proven to be built differently than men’s to allow for these strengths. We, as women, need to reign in these qualities—these blessings. We need to embrace them and master them.

It’s only then that we will recognize and reach true equality with men.

Women today feel like men are ‘beating’ them in the game of life. Why are we so keen on ‘beating them (men) at their own game’? It was never intended to be a competition in the first place. Women, we are not going to ‘win’ anything with the strategy currently in play. Instead, we are killing the heart of the world. We are the very heart, which has the power to turn the head. We are strangling the heart, and thereby killing ourselves and the rest of the world by fighting to ‘be’ someone else.

It is unfortunate that this lie about womanhood, femininity, and motherhood has pervaded our culture so deeply. As I mentioned above, the lie was and continues to be spread largely by ‘women’s health clinics’ founded on the principles of Sanger and Stopes. Their lies which include the supposed good of contraception and abortion have and continue to hurt us women. In fact, in and of themselves they have limited our access to comprehensive health, instead of offering it (the commonly held belief which is a whole other spiel for another time).

Both lies—contraception and abortion—are the greatest threat to life that our world has ever seen.

So, as I am sure you have already gathered, I am a woman against abortion. That does not make me a woman against women. Women, I am not saying that you do not matter. I am not saying that your future does not matter. I am not saying that the situation that you find yourself in is not unexpected, scary, stressful, painful, difficult, or a million other possibilities.

But the simple, undeniable, scientific fact that must first be recognized is that the fetus that grows inside of you is a baby—a living human being.

At eight weeks old, your baby’s heart started beating. Someone has to fight for that beating human heart. You are a woman. You are strong, fierce, loving, and brave. You are a mom.

FOR YOUR BABY—be stronger, fiercer, braver, and more loving than you’ve ever been.

Your heart beats for your baby, your lungs breath for her, but she moves inside of you on her own. She hiccups, sleeps, flips, drinks, pees and poops. She is her own body, her own person. She is a soul. True, you bear a great responsibility now. If you can choose for your body, who is going to ‘choose’ for her body, your precious baby’s body?

It’s an honor, women, to be a mother. Yes, maybe a difficult and scary one, but carrying this child is one of the only things that you can do which men cannot. Let us celebrate this, not stifle it!

I spend 40 blessed, albeit difficult hours a week caring for sick, suffering, and sometimes dying babies. Some of these babies were born as early as 22 weeks gestation—meaning mom was only 5.5 months pregnant when she delivered this tiny, precious child. This baby’s heart beats, and lungs’ breathe. Her brain continues to grow and develop at a rapid pace and is very easily impacted by all we do to her and inflict upon her. She moves, reacts to touch, and experiences pain. She recognizes mom’s voice and smell. She does best skin to skin on mom’s chest. There, her temperature and vitals stabilize. This baby does not simply live, but—let me tell you—she fights. She fights hard for her life…and I fight for it too.

I take abortion seriously, but I also take it personally. Not only because it takes an innocent life, and as humans we should all defend life, but also because frankly, I find it to be an insult to my life’s work and the tireless dedication shown by my fellow nurses and neonatologists. Doctors spend countless hours and an outpouring of knowledge specializing in this field. News flash: the patients of fetal specialists are fetuses. How have we let these lies about women and babies lead to a complete denial of an entire realm of medicine which is still at it’s height, the forefront of its knowledge, development, and progress?

I do not make a habit of swearing, as I think it’s unbecoming of women, but I’ll be damned if you tell me that the small, sick, and suffering babies that I care for on a daily basis are not worth saving, loving, fighting, and suffering for. I’ll be damned if you tell me that before exiting the miraculous home that is her mother’s womb, that she is not a living, breathing, human being.

Babies are strong, so I implore you to be strong for them!

The contradiction and lies have to stop. Babies are babies are babies. Life is life is life. And yes, women of the March… women are women, but please, I beg of you, your right to ‘be a woman’, ‘to have a body’, cannot trump the rights of defenseless babies from being recognized as human beings. Otherwise, you’re a walking contradiction and you’ll only continue to strangle yourself and your greatest potential by buying into these unfortunate lies. Until we get rid of that which is hurting us, we will continue to make no progress.

Embrace that which makes you, you, you woman of God!

– Written by Emily Knorr, a NICU nurse in Chicago, Illinois.

Love & Lemonade

My very serious Beyonce fandom has been an internal struggle for me for a few years now.

As a college junior, “Love on Top” was my anthem. I owe my spring 2013 date party “Best Dancer” title to Beyonce’s 2011 MTV Music Video Awards performance, when she did a kick-ass dance number seconds before busting open her blazer and revealing her Blue Ivy baby bump. She’s got the best hair, the best voice, and quite frankly, I wish I woke up like that.

All the same, I struggled when she released her “Drunk in Love” duet with Jay Z. The explicit, graphic content bothered me. For someone with so much talent and so much beauty — and, in my opinion, so much class leading up to that point — I felt she was lowering herself by trying to take on her husband’s rapper-esque coarseness. I thought it beneath her. Nevertheless, I’ve stayed a fan.

Lemonade is art unlike any music video I’ve ever seen. It is a visual masterpiece by way of color, light, texture — a sensory marvel, I assure you. I could not believe the depth of symbolism and thought that went into every scene, every frame. It is beautiful, thought-provoking, and emotionally jarring all at once. It’s 55 minutes worth of video that seems to pass in seconds. I loved it. Truly, I loved it.

And yet, here we are again. The music is remarkable and the imagery is compelling, but the message, for lack of a better way to say it, hurts my heart. And not because I hurt for Beyonce regarding the implications she makes of Jay Z’s affair (although I deeply feel for her in that regard as well, if those implications are true), but because she took such a coarse, explicit, offensive approach to delivering it. The language she uses in more than half of the songs was, quite frankly, unnecessary. It did its job by shocking me each time the words came from her mouth, but otherwise, it wholly took away from what I believe she was trying to convey.

I’m not sure whether we should believe that Jay Z’s affair was real, and that the emotions behind Lemonade were actually Beyonce’s, or simply the masterful work of a remarkably skillful writer. It would be naive to forget that Beyonce and Jay Z have the financial means to pay for work like this — just as they undoubtedly paid for the incredible cinematography that makes this music video what it is. But regardless of whether these deeply felt emotions convey the internal dialogue of Beyonce or of someone else, Lemonade has made a comment about marriage that I am inclined to appreciate.

If you’ve not watched Lemonade, the gist is this: I am your wife, and you cheated on me. I am angry, but I love you. You have hurt me, but I love you. I feel worthless, but I love you. I want to leave you, but I love you. My family warned me, but I love you. I don’t need you, but I love you.

I forgive you, because I love you. I will stay with you, because I love you.

And as Beyonce soulfully sings about the promise of marriage, home videos of her, Jay Z, and Blue Ivy play behind it.

Do you see why it hurts my heart?

I’m both obsessed with this video and also so disappointed by it. Total emotional schizophrenia, I know.

I’m obsessed with it because I think it ultimately communicates a message that society so desperately needs to hear, and one that is so true about love, marriage, and family. But I’m also disappointed because the message was communicated by way of offensive language, explicit & graphic detail, and a mention of religion which, while wholly acknowledging God, left a bitter taste in my mouth.

There were a few acknowledgements of God in Lemonade. The only one worth mentioning was when bold, white lettering flashed across a black screen: GOD IS GOD AND I AM NOT.

Whoa. This, from a woman we’ve deemed “Queen” and elevated to an almost immortal capacity, in a video about feeling worthless and used in a broken marriage. If this doesn’t say something about the flawed way our society perceives celebrities, I’m not sure what would. In addition to the messaging about marriage, this message was consistent throughout: this “do you realize who you’re married to? I’m not your average woman” attitude, and yet: “I feel worthless; God is God and I am not.”

To tie this back to everything I’ve been saying in recent posts, we all have our stuff. Do we not all have our stuff? If this narrative is true — if Beyonce, who we’ve placed on such an unreachable pedestal, suspected that Jay Z was cheating on her and was begging God to shine a light in the shadows of their marriage (as she says in Lemonade), what more do we need to know? We all have our stuff.

I hate the abrasiveness of Lemonade. I hate the explicit, graphic language. I hate it. But I really, really think the deeper message is worth a second look — because the circumstances are real, the emotions are real, and the truth is real: that love defeats it. I’m a firm believer that as human beings, there’s good and bad in all of us. There’s definitely some bad stuff going on in Lemonade. But the resounding message is love, and there’s something to be said for that.

Why My Confidence Won’t Come From Having Lips Like Kylie’s (And Where It Will)

‘Confidence’ is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days.

In a world where women are encouraged to have a butt like J.Lo’s, a torso like Kate Upton’s, and lips like Kylie Jenner’s, we’re likely to find ourselves looking in the mirror and feeling subpar (or worse.)

But in the same breath, we’re told by various self-image campaigns that we should simply be happy with who we are, be content with our bodies (regardless of what we look like), and keep the standard that people (particularly men) judge us based on our personalities.

And as if it’s not hard enough to keep up with all of that, we’re also reminded that confidence is key.

Confidence. K.

It’s not exactly a breeze to muster any confidence under the pressure to look the right way, let alone like yourself despite the fact that you don’t [look like you just sucked on a shot glass for 10 minutes.]

So what’s a girl to do?

Insecurity comes in all shapes and sizes – both literally and figuratively. My own insecurities span a wide range of topics – from body image to work performance to my sometimes in-your-face personality (was I talking too much in that work meeting today? Probably).

For other women, insecurity might mean something entirely different. Regardless of the source, how does one combat insecurity and replace it with confidence?

Fr. Mike Schmitz (aka the man) touched on this briefly in his podcast a few weeks back. First and foremost, I was surprised to learn that the origins of the word ‘confidence’ actually mean, “with faith,” in Latin. So when we encourage women to “be confident,” what we’re essentially encouraging them to do is “have faith”… but have faith in what, exactly?

Fr. Mike went on to say that faith in oneself is utterly useless because there is a limit to our ability to maintain confidence in ourselves – mostly because there is a limit to our ability to do things right.

Faith in God, however, is entirely boundless.

Placing our confidence in God, then, is the ultimate solution.

I might not have the power to control my circumstances; I might encounter challenges at work, in my relationships, or in my personal life. Or I might simply screw up – I might skip a few work outs or spend too much money on Starbucks, or I might mishandle a confrontation and wind up regretting it later. But confidence in God that it will, in the end, be okay, can get me through that.

And additionally, the practice of forgiving myself and moving on from the past when those things happen is not only healthy, but is the right thing to do. God is merciful and He forgives, so why can’t I?

I am not entirely confident in myself. I fall constantly and often make the same mistakes over that leave me banging my head against a wall (figuratively, of course). I do, however, have the UTMOST faith that God is working in my life to make those mistakes worthwhile and guide me along the right path in the meantime.

Confidence in Him and His will for me is more than enough, and is much more likely to bring me a happy life than having lips like Kylie Jenner’s ever could.

Women: Wise Up To ’50 Shades Of Grey’

Bill Cosby has recently been accused of sexual assault and rape by nearly three dozen women. In most cases, it has taken multiple decades for his victims to come forward and speak out against him.

Years later, we’re constantly reminded of Chris Brown’s beating Rihanna back in 2009. Rihanna’s pain has been exploited by countless media outlets looking to profit from their very-public breakup.

Eminem is another name that’s been tied to domestic abuse. He not only has a history of violence – year after year, he makes his living from rapping about said violence.

Sean Connery, Mike Tyson, Tommy Lee, Sean Penn – the list goes on of male celebrities that have in some shape or form, physically abused or harassed a woman at some point in time.

Meanwhile, women in Hollywood are being exploited as their phones are hacked and nude photos leaked online for the entire world to see (ie: Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Vanessa Hudgens).

This is the real world of use, abuse, and exploitation.

It is a world of pain, shame, and real damage to real lives.

So why – why – are we praising this clearly obscene, clearly offensive, clearly awful movie, Fifty Shades of Grey?

I’ll openly admit that I have not read the book. Initially I wanted to – first out of curiosity, then because I wanted to rip it to shreds with criticism (a hobby of mine). Even today, before I sat down to write this post, I considered plowing through a few chapters to earn a little bit of credibility in speaking out against it. I ultimately decided not to.

Instead, I read a synopsis – which made me sick enough to feel that I don’t particularly care how credible I am in speaking out against this book. I’m going to do it anyway.

How have we fallen so far from emulating the relationship of smart, creative Allie and romantic, loving Noah as to emulate the “relationship” of a sadly naive 22-year-old and her manipulative, sadomasochistic abuser?

For the sake of a fair argument, I admit – I get it. This article said it perfectly:

Here’s what I would like to believe: that buried beneath all the smut, poor writing and abuse, on some level this book appeals to that nurturing part of every woman that makes her feminine and beautiful. That part that wipes the tears of a child who skinned her knee, makes her volunteer at nursing homes and adopt stray cats and unwanted dogs at the pound.

This is true. Women are likely reading this book and seeing a heroine who saves a damaged, distant, incapable-of-real-love, underwear model (half-kidding) – but those women are forgetting something.

This book is a work of fiction. That is (very unfortunately) not how these stories end.

These stories end the way they’ve ended for all women who’ve experienced an abusive relationship – they come out just as damaged as the man doing the abusing.

And even more importantly, women need to know that they do not have to submit themselves to this kind of torment and abuse in order to be loved – nor does loving their abuser mean submitting to his abuse.

As women, we are not doing any men any favors by accepting it. We owe it to ourselves and to the men in our lives to demand more from them than this.

Christian Grey doesn’t need a woman to submit to him, nor does he need a woman to deny him (which appears to be why he falls in “love” with Ana).

What Christian Grey needs, in real life, is intense therapy.

And what Ana needs is to back away, preferably as fast as she can.