December 1990

Offensive & Completely False

The Rev. Juergen Liias must have offended a good many people of conscience, people who are concerned with living ethical lives and who, after thoughtful consider­ation, support abortion rights. Liias’s article (“The Internal Threat to Feminism,” Oct.) not only oversimplifies, it also gives a completely false idea of the kind of people who make up the abortion rights move­ment. According to Liias, abor­tion-rights people are power hungry, selfish, inconsiderate in the extreme, and in the final analysis evil incarnate, since they manifest “that most demonic of philosophies, al­ready revealed to grotesque proportions in our century, that justifies human extermina­tion for the good of society and even for the ‘good’ of the exterminated.” This blatant attempt to ascribe Nazi princi­ples to philosophical oppo­nents would be almost laugha­ble were Liias not in a position to cloak his views in Christian piety and offer them in the guise of well-thought-out mor­al principle.

Anyone who has taken the trouble of talking with thought­ful women who have struggled with the agonizing choice of aborting a pregnancy, or who has bothered to give even cur­sory attention to the comments of the thoughtful women who head the abortion-rights movement could not in good conscience depict them as shal­low, insensitive creatures at war with themselves, the nat­ural world, and all humanity.

Most women who support abortion rights would never have acted, as Liias would have us believe, in the abhor­rent manner of the feminist Liias describes near the end of his article. Certainly most would not fail to consider the wishes of her male partner. Above all, it is hard to ima­gine even one who would look upon the fetus within her as the “enemy,” though lack of social and economic supports for pregnant women generally tends to force some into such emotionally aberrant stances. One must be sensitive to grasp it, but most women who sup­port and choose the right to abortion do so only after care­ful consideration of the ethical and practical implications of their choices.

I respect Liias’s right to hold a position different from mine on this complex moral is­sue. But he has argued unfair­ly and unconscionably.

W.L. Johnston
Rockaway Beach, Oregon




Feminist Bluejays

The Rev. Juergen W. Liias’s praise of the distinctly feminine virtues (“The Internal Threat to Feminism,” Oct.) is admirable, and I join him in admiring them. But his ac­count of feminism to a large extent misses the point, which is that what is called feminism would better be called masculinism: The more radical feminists want a world in which women act like and are treated like men.

The late Walker Percy said in one of his novels, “Most women and some men are bluebirds, who go through dreaming of happiness; most men and some women are bluejays, who go through life making a lot of noise and interfering in other people’s business.” Feminist leaders, so far as I have observed them, are female bluejays. That is why they want abortion. It is not an aberration from their conception of feminism, but part of its essence.

Rev. Prof. Francis Canavan, S.J.
Fordham University
Bronx, New York




Contraception & “Sexual Strip-Mining”

I very much enjoyed Juergen Liias’s article “The Internal Threat to Feminism” (Oct.). Liias made many astute observations about the radical individualism and other internal contradictions of feminists who worship the golden calf of abortion rights.

Interestingly, his evocative notion of “sexual strip-mining” could well be applied to contraception, which separates men and women from “a deep reverence for our interconnectedness and interdependence.” To use Liias’s words again, contraception is a masculine “lordship of exploitation a domination” of the delicate ecology of woman’s fertility.

To paraphrase his quotation of Daphne De Jong, I believe it is contraception (before abortion) which treats woman’s fertility as a handicap, a danger, or a nuisance to be rejected, even though a vital part her personhood. Women compromise their gift of personhood when they resort to contraception, not just abortion. They rescue men from shared responsibility for fertility, mar­riage, and parenthood. The immature, predatory socializa­tion males receive, which views women as beings to be conquered, is reinforced through contraception. To keep a woman as a “sterile play­mate” compromises the full gift of women to marriage, family, and society.

If women wish to trans­form the ecology of male-female relationships, they can start with fertility-acceptance methods of family planning. These teach a couple to utilize what Liias terms “the natural and wondrous mystery of the graceful rhythms and processes of our own bodies.” Natural Family Planning, as it is call­ed, is not as easy as contracep­tion. But, as one recent study of 3,000-plus users has found, it is highly effective when learned and applied properly. Also, it enhances intimacy, and it is only in intimacy that mutual respect, equality, and integrity are possible.

Charles Balsam
Office of Family Life Ministry, Diocese of Beaumont
Beaumont, Texas




Focus on Walker Percy

The New Oxford Review Forum of Los Angeles is planning a day-long seminar on Walker Percy, to be held sometime in late spring 1991. We are interested in hearing from readers with a special interest in and knowledge of Walker Percy, including pro­fessors of literature, scholars, friends, and family — or from readers who might help us locate such people.

Our seminars to date have featured three experts who serve as panelists presenting different viewpoints on a se­lected topic. Given the abun­dance of literary criticism on Walker Percy, it is expedient to limit the subject matter to Percy’s theological and philo­sophical beliefs, and the ways in which his search informed the artistic vision of his fiction.

Leah Buturain
Los Angeles, California



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