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Culture Project

The Culture Project envisions a world where the dignity of the human person is at the forefront of every relationship, law and societal structure.
 
In collaboration with The Culture Project, the respect life and youth and young adult ministry offices of the Diocese of Burlington are offering a series of retreats on the topics of human dignity and chastity at five locations in Vermont during November. 
 
Please contact the individual parish hosts for information about their retreats:
  • St. Jude Parish, Hinesburg, Nov. 4, 2017 (morning), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • High School Youth Retreat, Dumaine House Retreat Center, Jacksonville, Nov. 4 (evening), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Christ the King Parish, Rutland, Nov. 5 (morning), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish, Bennington, Nov. 5, (evening), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Holy Angels Parish, St. Albans, Nov. 11 (afternoon), This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The series is the result of a survey last spring conducted by Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington. She questioned directors of religious education, youth ministers, pastors and confirmation teachers about several areas of pro-life ministry and their needs. “One thing that came up repeatedly was the need for help bringing effective chastity/pro-life speakers to talk to high school aged students,” she said. “Parishes indicated a willingness to collaborate either regionally or by deanery, and this is the project that emerged.”
 
According to its website, The Culture Project International is an initiative of young people set out to restore culture through the experience of virtue. “We proclaim the dignity of the human person and the richness of living sexual integrity, inviting our culture to become fully alive,” it states.
 
Members of the team make a commitment of at least one year of their life to enter into a program in which they themselves live and pray in community, receive formation and are sent out on mission nationally and internationally. They give presentations to youth about the dignity of the human person and about sexual integrity.
 

Virtual prayer groups

By Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington
 
How many times have you told someone, “I will pray for you,” after learning of a troubling diagnosis, a bereavement or a worry on that person’s mind? Prayer is something we Catholics do, for and with one another — from the highest form of prayer, which is the Mass, to private devotionals for particular intentions.
 
When it comes to building a culture of life, prayer may be considered the most powerful tool we have. Especially in a state like Vermont where abortion is widespread and assisted suicide is legal, movements like 40 Days for Life (40daysforlife.com) and Cenacles of Life (cenaclesoflife.org) offer tangible opportunities to pray and fast in solidarity with others who are committed to promoting the sanctity of human life. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for some people to find time to gather physically to pray.
 
Thanks to the tools of our modern age, however, a solution has emerged: virtual prayer groups. These take many forms, but their common feature is that members connect digitally around shared prayer intentions, allowing them to pray “together” wherever they are and whenever they can.
 
Many Vermonters participate in Nine Days for Life, a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops-sponsored novena for pro-life intentions that takes place nationwide during the nine days leading up to the annual March for Life each January in Washington, D.C. Participants register at 9daysforlife.com and are sent daily reminders and prayers via email, text or social media apps.
 
Social media platforms like Facebook also offer myriad public and private prayer groups devoted to specific causes. Informal prayer groups can arise organically and take a variety of forms; not all require members to be tech-savvy.
 
Lori Daudelin, who helps coordinate the diocesan post-abortion healing ministry known as Project Rachel, developed a prayer ministry called “Friends of Project Rachel Prayer Partners,” a community of volunteers who pray for participants in the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat as well as those who call Project Rachel for support.
 
Daudelin sends requests to members using both email and surface mail outlining prayer requests. “Members’ time commitment is whatever they want it to be,” Daudelin explained. “They offer the prayers they feel led to.” She always is looking to add new members to this prayer community.
 
Pam King of Swanton, co-director of religious education at Immaculate Conception Church in St. Albans, leads a virtual prayer group which began spontaneously more than two years ago when a handful of friends agreed to pray a novena for a mutual friend who was experiencing troubled times. King sent daily reminders via text message to connect participants and to formalize their effort. Members texted “Amen” after they finished praying. The group continues with some 30 participants who receive either text or email reminders.
 
With input from the members, King identifies prayer intentions and searches out appropriate prayers to support them. “We have developed a kind of spiritual family where we support each other in times of need,” King explained, adding that it is a format that is easy to adapt to suit the goals of any prayer ministry. She often consults the website praymorenovenas.com to find suitable prayers for the group.
 
“Catholic Apptitude” (catholicapptitude.org/mission) is another online resource offering reviews of many digital apps devoted to prayer and devotions.
 
There are no limits to when individuals can pray, and now, with the availability of digital media, there are fewer limits to how and when we can pray together. 

Originally printed in the summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 

Praying in secret

By Carrie Handy
Respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington

 
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus exhorts His listeners: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them,” and, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites who love to stand and pray … so that others may see them.” Commenting on this, a priest I know said in a recent homily, “Most of us are pretty good at obeying this part of the Sermon on the Mount; it comes pretty easily for most of us.”
 
Pondering his statement, I wondered why that would be. Is it because in our modern culture, we are perhaps a bit too happy to have an excuse to hide our faith from the world? Here in Vermont, ostensibly the least religious state in the nation, being a Christian is often conflated with being a bigot and a hater. No one relishes that kind of calumny, but shrinking from our responsibility to be Christian witnesses to our faith may be helping to dilute its power in the wider culture and allow such error to flourish. Jesus didn’t intend for us to use His words as an excuse to let our faith disappear from the landscape.
 
Sadly, Catholic principles rapidly are disappearing from the landscape. Where they do exist, they are often the subject of criticism and ridicule. Opposition to abortion is translated into oppression of women; opposition to assisted suicide is framed as indifference to suffering. Believing in the complementarity of the sexes and that our sexuality and our physical bodies have a God-given purpose which must be respected, and which obviates abortion, sterilization, contraception, homosexual acts and same-sex marriage, to name a few examples, makes us judgmental haters.
 
Catholics today are called as never before to become informed about the truths of our faith in order to be able to explain the “why” behind the teachings that seem increasingly at odds with modern society. Unless we can articulate these truths within the wider culture, we run the risk of being swept up into a secular mindset that runs counter to basic Christian principles. As I’ve heard Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne say on more than one occasion, “The number-one purpose of the Church is to save souls.” Saving souls in today’s world means standing for truth, in charity, even when it’s hard.
 
We are called to be salt and light and leaven in the world. Standing for pro-life truths in particular can be extremely challenging in a state where abortion on demand and assisted suicide are legal. It is incumbent upon us to spread the pro-life leaven amid a culture of death and to help reignite our determination to protect the most vulnerable lives among us.
 
How to do that? Here are a few ideas:
 
* Educate yourself. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website has a wealth of material covering a range of topics related to human life and dignity.
 
* Educate others. Bring pro-life speakers to your parish and community. The Respect Life Speakers Bureau can help.
 
* Speak up. If putting yourself out there is uncomfortable, start small: Something as simple as occasionally sharing a pro-life article or quote on social media can signal to others that you are pro-life.
 
When someone in your midst displays ignorance about, or disdain for, your faith or pro-life views, “out” yourself as a believer. Don’t be afraid to let them know you disagree.
 
* Pray. Join or begin a digital pro-life prayer chain such as 9 Days for Life; volunteer for 40 Days for Life or Cenacles of Life.
 
* Participate. The Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., in January and the Vermont Rally for Life in Montpelier offer opportunities to show the strength and breadth of the pro-life movement.
 
* Help. Donate to Birthright, Carenet or another pro-life pregnancy care center; reach out to an unwed mother in need; become a hospice volunteer.
 
In short, put your toe in the waters: Identify yourself as “pro-life” and follow the Spirit where it leads. Above all, while you pray to your Father in secret, do not be afraid to be a witness for life in the world.
 

Religious Liberty

By Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington
 
“Religious freedom is not only that of private thought or worship. It is the liberty to live, both privately and publicly, according to the ethical principles resulting from found truth.”
     --Pope Francis, Conference on International Religious Freedom and the Global Clash of Values, June 2014
 

Imagine being a high-ranking public official with the respect of your peers, renown throughout the nation; your esteemed career has made you a trusted adviser to your country’s leaders.
 
And then, imagine having these very people force you to choose between your principles and your alliances, at the cost of your life.
 
Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII, faced just such a choice and was beheaded for holding to his principles.
 
Fortunately, no one in this country today is at risk of execution for refusing to obey laws they consider immoral. Our Founding Fathers saw fit to protect religious freedom as a fundamental right—not only the right to practice religion according to one’s conscience but also to be protected from coercion into acting against conscience.
 
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean conscience protections are without threats. Beliefs about the sanctity of life and the meaning of human sexuality are particularly vulnerable, as Catholic principles about these topics, once considered mainstream in American society, gradually are being marginalized.
 
Abortion on demand, same sex marriage and legal assisted suicide are the most prominent examples of this here in Vermont. But it’s no longer just about moral objections to these practices; in some instances, individuals and organizations face the possibility of having to choose between obeying the law or their consciences.
 
For example:
 
 Doctors in Vermont are legally required to supply patients with information on assisted suicide when asked or refer them to those who will. There is no clean “opt out” for health care providers who morally object to this practice, although a recent court decision clarified that doctors do not have to volunteer this information unless asked. Unfortunately, even referring to another provider can be construed as legitimizing a practice deemed morally wrong.
 
 Last year the Vermont legislature refused to allow a conscience exemption clause in a law mandating employers to fund insurance coverage of contraception (some forms of which may act as abortifacients) and sterilization. As the law stands, Catholic churches and schools in Vermont must fund these practices in their health care plans.
 
 In the neighboring State of New York, a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City was forced to take part in the abortion of a 22-week- old unborn child in 2009, and saw no resolution of her complaint to the HHS Office of Civil Rights until 2013, despite the existence of a law intended to protect against this type of coercion. Hers is not an isolated case.
 
Nurses have been told by Vanderbilt University and by a state-run medical center in New York that they must assist in abortions against their consciences. The Conscience Protection Act of 2017 was introduced in Congress in January in response to these and similar violations.
 
While we can expect the freedom to act according to conscience in 2017 without facing martyrdom as St. Thomas More did, it will likely take a sustained and united effort to ensure universal protections of conscience and religious liberty. In order to shine a light on the many issues related to religious liberty and conscience protections both here and abroad, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops again this year will sponsor Fortnight for Freedom, a prayer and public education initiative which takes place beginning on June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More— and ending on July 4, Independence Day.
 
Learn more.
 
To receive daily updates during the Fortnight for Freedom, follow us on Facebook.
 

Rally for Life

More than 350 people marched from Montpelier City Hall to the Statehouse Jan. 21 for the annual Rally for Life, meeting other pro-life advocates there to continue their call for respect for all human life.
 
The event came the day after Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as 45th president of the United States, hours before the massive Women's March on Montpelier drew an estimated 15,000 participants and the day before the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
 
The day’s events began with a pro-life Mass at St. Augustine Church in Montpelier celebrated by Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne; following the march, life advocates gathered in the House chambers to listen to speeches against abortion and in favor of measures to respect the life of all humans from conception until natural death.
 
Jewels Green, a pro-life advocate and writer from Philadelphia and one of the featured speakers, said before the Mass that every state is important in the “fight for life.”
 
She said the “time is right in Vermont” to begin to make changes for life – not just the unborn but also for “Vermont elderly, infirmed and those vulnerable to pressure to assisted suicide.”
 
She told her Statehouse audience that she had an abortion at age 17, subsequently attempted suicide and spent more than five years working in an abortion clinic. But in 2010 she learned of a surrogate mother who was carrying a baby with Down syndrome, and the parents paid her contract and directed her to have an abortion.
 
“I knew fundamentally that was wrong,” she said. “If I could say that abortion was wrong, it finally clicked all abortion is wrong.”
 
Bishop Coyne – who opened the Statehouse gathering with a prayer – gave the homily at the Mass and walked in the march. At the church he prayed for the protection of all human life especially those most vulnerable.
 
“Sometimes in our society children are seen as something less than a gift, even as a burden,” he said. But “children and life are a gift, a gift of creation….All life is sacred. All life is from God, and we must protect it.”
 
Dr. Felix Callan of St. Andrew Church in Waterbury, who has been active in the pro-life movement since 1972, said he is more optimistic than in the past for an increase in respect for life. The election of Trump, who has said he is pro-life “could be an opportunity” for the pro-life cause to make strides nationally, he said.
 
Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington, said she was encouraged by the number of young people involved in the pro-life movement “who have not bought the idea that women’s rights include depriving life to the unborn.”
 
Regarding Trump, she said, “I have every reason to believe he will be true to his pro-life promises” which include appointing pro-life justices to the Supreme Court and defunding Planned Parenthood, a provider of abortions.
 
Sharon Iszak, who attends St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington, said she attended the prolife Mass because Mass “is the best way to begin every day.”
 
She believes the new president “will encourage a sincere respect for life.”
 
During the march after the Mass, people of all ages made their way up State Street. The messages on their signs included “Abortion stops a beating heart,” “Life,” “Face It. Abortion Kills,” “Abortion hurts women” and “Pray to end abortion.”
 
Several members of the clergy of the Diocese of Burlington participated in the march with people of various faith backgrounds.
  • Published in Diocesan

The Gift of Siblings

According to recent headlines, the population explosion so alarmingly projected 50 years ago has not materialized, and we may well consider whether it’s time to rethink attitudes toward children.
 
Notwithstanding those who long for children but because of life circumstances or infertility find themselves unable to have them, there is a view of children in modern culture as burdensome.
 
A 2014 Pew study reported that nearly half of Americans (48 percent) say two is the ideal number of children, and fewer than 14 percent of women today have four or more children, compared to 40 percent in 1976. Sixty-five percent of Americans surveyed cited the costs associated with raising children for the preference for smaller families and the difficulties associated with finding childcare. Some argue that it is in the best interests of children for parents to limit family size in order to concentrate emotional and economic resources on existing children.
 
But are they right? Loving parents work hard and sacrifice much for their offspring. What if it turns out that the best insurance of future happiness parents could give their children, beyond any material benefit, is that of siblings?
 
In fact, evidence is mounting that larger families may be essential for the survival of society itself. Ten years ago, theologian George Weigel warned that Europe was destroying itself, and America would soon follow. He wrote, “By the middle of this century, if present fertility patterns continue, 60 percent of the Italian people will have no personal experience of a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle, or a cousin.”
 
Today, America indeed appears to be headed in the same direction. For the first time in history, the United States population is below replacement rate. In an interview on PBS News Hour, Economist Todd Buchholz, author of Siblings “The Price of Prosperity,” stated bluntly why wealthy nations like the U.S. endanger their future by having too few children: “You need somebody to support the retirees. You need to pay into the pension plans. You need people to work at the hospitals, at the nursing homes.”
 
At the local level, a family of many siblings may provide an optimal training ground
for life. The Catholic Church teaches that children are a gift.
 
On their wedding day, Catholic couples are asked: “Will you accept children lovingly
from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?”
 
This precept is, of course, subject to interpretation. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states, “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood.”
 
Pope Francis himself has counseled prudence in discerning family size, and the Church has become a champion of Natural Family Planning as a way to morally space pregnancies.
 
But, not infrequently, adopting an attitude of “generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood” often leads voluntarily to larger-than-average family size, as parents discover that negative stereotypes about large families are untrue and fears about depriving children of material goods are exaggerated.
 
Patrick and Stacey Guinee, parishioners of Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction, are one such family, with nine children, ages 1-14. Both come from large families, something they say has influenced their desire to have many children. As adults, their siblings “...bless us as we grow as a couple. (They) continue to challenge us as adults and remind us of our roots, of our faithful parents and of our mission to raise strong, faith-filled children in our holy little church,” Stacey said. “As I reflect on my own relationships with (our siblings), I see the future laid out before me, and I desperately want my children to develop lifelong friendships with their siblings like ours.  The support and love that come from shared history and faith make life more enjoyable.”
 
Jenn Smith of St. Mark Parish in Burlington, who with her husband, Bill, has five children ages 2-11, and is expecting her sixth, agreed. “Having a big family made me realize how much I missed growing up as an only child.” She said her children, “...experience childhood with the all the joys of having babies and younger siblings growing with them.  It gives them a bigger picture with different ways of looking at things instead of just their own outlook.”
 
Mary and Paul Niekrewicz of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Williston, parents of six children ages 5-18, said they view their home as a earning ground to prepare children, “…for the spectrum of life through the immediate needs of how to resolve a conflict over who gets to take a turn riding in the middle row seats of the family minivan, to growing fruitfully into faithful, independent adults. Above all, they learn how to love one another unconditionally just like Jesus loves them. Family life gives them a daily opportunity to meet Jesus in each other.”
 
The Catholic attitude of “welcome” to the gift of new life may be key to why families have found joy in choosing the countercultural and sometimes challenging path of parenting many children.
 
My own experience as one of eight siblings and the mother of five children bears this out. Today, more than ever, I appreciate the gift my parents gave me by “accepting children lovingly from God.” I’m sure it wasn’t always easy for them, and I won’t pretend that life in a large family wasn’t often messy and loud and complicated.
 
When my mother was widowed at age 46, with five young children to raise, it was her Catholic faith that sustained her. Despite the hardships of those years, my mother always had an optimistic view, and before she died at age 90, she remarked many times how grateful she was that God had blessed her with children and grandchildren.
 
As I have grown older, I have discovered the joy of having a group of people who share my history, mourn my losses and have my back like no one else ever could. I hope my own children will come to experience this gift in the same way. Comparing the considerable effort of raising a large family to the lifelong treasure of having siblings, I can only say to my parents, from the bottom of my heart, “thank you.”
 
 By Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
  • Published in Diocesan

The eugenic mindset today

Seldom discussed in Vermont’s history is the Eugenics Project of the early 20th century. While only formally in practice during the 1920s and 1930s, there is clear evidence that the eugenic mindset survives today. In fact, eugenic thinking has expanded beyond the dictionary definition of controlling who is born to also include the act of controlling who dies.

The Eugenics Project was actively promoted by University of Vermont Professor of Zoology Henry Perkins, who undertook to cleanse the Vermont gene pool of people he called “feebleminded, stupid and shiftless,” characteristics he attributed to their “defective genes.” His work led to a program of surveys to identify families that met Perkins’ criteria; they tended to be poor and belong to ethnicities he considered undesirable, with a focus on people of Abenaki and French-Canadian descent. The project began under private funding but expanded with the direct participation of state government to remove those persons from the reproductive population by forced sterilization. 

Perkins, who later served as president of the American Eugenics Society, used his survey data to persuade the Vermont Legislature to expand the Vermont State School for the care and training of feebleminded children (5-21 years old). It soon assumed the eugenic function of segregating from society “feebleminded women” of childbearing age and coercing their consent for sterilization in exchange for their release from the school.  

The project earned national and international attention from early eugenics advocates, including Margaret Sanger, founder of what is now Planned Parenthood.  Sanger went on to publish and edit a volume of articles on the eugenic aspects of birth control, including, “Sterilization: A Modern Medical Program for Human Health and Welfare,” (June 5, 1951), which advocated for a program of sterilization of the vulnerable and disabled.     

The Catholic Church and Catholic Daughters were vocal opponents of this movement, yet, in 1931, the Vermont legislature passed “A Law for Human Betterment by Voluntary Sterilization.” Section 1 read:

“Henceforth it shall be the policy of the state to prevent procreation of idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded or insane persons, when the public welfare, and the welfare of idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded or insane persons likely to procreate, can be improved by voluntary sterilization as herein provided.”

What does “eugenic thinking” look like in our culture today? Consider Vermont’s recently-passed Act 120 (formerly House Bill H.620), the contraceptive mandate law of 2016 which expands Vermont’s existing contraceptive mandate to include sterilization.  Under this law, women will be offered sterilization during the highly vulnerable time immediately after giving birth, a strategy designed to encourage Medicaid subscribers to stop having children, and a goal lauded by Gov. Peter Shumlin in his January Budget Message. The term “Medicaid subscriber” in this context appears to be a code phrase for “poor woman.”  To achieve control of Medicaid expenditures by demeaning the rights, the dignity and the status of a relatively powerless group, is simply wrong. 

Another example of eugenic thinking can be found in Act 39, the Vermont Legislature’s Physician Assisted Suicide law, passed in 2013, which mandates that physicians raise the option of assisted suicide with their terminally ill patients. Vulnerable people, contending with the financial and emotional burdens their illnesses may have on their families and others, must be “educated” about the option to end their lives. Intended or not, this “education” comes with the implicit suggestion that perhaps their lives are no longer worth living – that their humanity no longer matters. How is that a dignified way to die?  

The abuses of assisted suicide and euthanasia laws in other countries are enormous and include involuntary euthanasia of mentally challenged and disabled persons. In April 2002, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. Although the law’s intent was to end the suffering of terminally ill patients, a growing number of physically healthy people with psychological illnesses have been granted “the right to die.” According to the Royal Dutch Medical Association, 13 patients suffering from mental illness were euthanized in 2011; by 2013 this number had risen to 42 patients. Even more disturbing, in 2013, as many as 650 babies were killed by doctors because they were deemed to be in pain or facing a life of suffering. Even in the United States, 90 percent of all babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are killed by doctors through abortion procedures.

Regardless of the frugal or humanitarian intent, the underlying eugenic thinking is unmistakable.

When government disregards the rights and the dignity of any marginalized community, we all become vulnerable to arbitrary decisions of the powerful. We all become complicit in the evil that is done in our name. The Church must continue to be vigilant in speaking for the marginalized, including the terminally ill, the unborn and the poor. We must advocate on behalf of the voiceless for the inherent dignity and worth of every single human life.

Article written by Deacon Pete Gummere and Carrie Handy.

Holistic family planning alternative

Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, responds to a letter from Rep. Johanna Donovan printed in the Burlington Free Press. 

As the representative of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington who testified about H.620, let me clarify some erroneous information in the June 12 letter from Rep. Johanna Donovan.

The Diocese did not oppose H.620. Rather, we asked for a conscience exemption to allow qualifying religious institutions to opt out of paying for items that violate their religious beliefs. This exception would not have blocked access to contraception for anyone, but would have shown that Vermont does not discriminate when deciding whose rights to protect. Having religious beliefs that many do not agree with should not strip us of our First Amendment rights.

But even more, as a woman I challenge Rep. Donovan’s assertion that, “contraceptives are essential for women’s health and happiness, family happiness and the good of society.”

When first introduced more than a half century ago, the “pill” was heralded as an empowerment tool for women, a means to end poverty and an antidote for unhappy marriages.

Fifty years later, the poor are still with us, divorce rates have climbed, the number of single mothers living in poverty has soared, and despite powerful state support for contraception, nearly half of all pregnancies in Vermont are unplanned.

Focusing on ways to lift up and support families by creating jobs with livable wages, increasing affordable housing and improving access to higher education are a few strategies to empower women, end poverty and strengthen families.

Instead, H.620 focuses on methods of preventing or aborting children born to poor women. In his annual budget speech in January, Gov. Shumlin pledged to make free sterilization available for low-income women during the highly vulnerable time immediately after giving birth, citing the costs of births to poor women. In their testimony promoting H.620’s mandate for no-cost permanent and reversible sterilization, Planned Parenthood representatives echoed that sentiment, bringing to mind the eugenics project of the 1930s that targeted the poor of Vermont for forced sterilization. Eliminating poor people is a questionable strategy for helping them.

Planned Parenthood says fully-funded sterilization is needed because of the failure rate of contraception. In their H.620 testimony, they admitted that more than half of women with unintended pregnancies were using contraception at the time they became pregnant and the pill, reportedly the most effective form of contraception available short of sterilization, has a failure rate of 9 percent. That means that nine out of every 100 sexually active women using the contraceptive pill will become pregnant in a year, including the young teenagers who are regularly given prescriptions for the pill at Planned Parenthood clinics and walk out believing they can engage in casual sexual behavior without risking pregnancy. Is it any wonder that one in three women will have had an abortion by age 45, and that STD rates have exploded?
 
                                      

The environmental risks of hormonal contraception should concern us all.

​                                      


The environmental risks of hormonal contraception should concern us all. They are a source of endocrine disruptors (EDs) which have been shown to be connected to adverse reproductive outcomes (infertility, cancers, malformations) as well as a rise in the rates of thyroid disorders, diabetes and obesity. EDs come from many sources, including birth control pills, pesticides, plastics, hair dyes, cosmetics, cleaning products and a host of other hormone-containing compounds, and can enter the water supply and the food stream and be ingested by humans unknowingly.

Rep. Donovan should know that the Catholic Church encourages family planning done in a holistic way that respects natural fertility and promotes communication in marriages. Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a safe, environmentally friendly, and cost-free way to help couples achieve or avoid pregnancy by observing natural signs. Although it is practiced by many for religious reasons, it has become increasingly popular among secular health-minded and environmentally-conscious couples. NFP is easy to learn and highly effective when used carefully.

It’s true that to be effective, NFP requires a mutually-respectful relationship in which men and women respect their natural fertility and honor the power of their sexuality to make human beings. It seems to me that these are the attitudes that should be promoted in order to truly foster “women’s health and happiness, family happiness and the good of society.”

Carrie Handy is the respect life coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington.
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