Dignity Lost

This past weekend, some Salvo staff attended a conference hosted by
the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity International
University titled “Reclaiming Human Dignity.” I’ve included some of my
thoughts below. But Salvo readers, you really should check out the
speakers from the past weekend ( see links at the bottom of this post) ; they all were powerful speakers with interesting things to say. Who knows ? Maybe if we’re lucky CBHD may even post some videos from this weekend’s conference online.

Freedom, equality, progress, choice, Women’s Health

Open any newspaper or online journal that has even the slightest of
political inclinations and you are guaranteed a conversation involving
some of the above buzz words. “Women’s Health” has been a hot topic in
our country since before President Obama’s HHS mandate; in fact the
articulation of policy specifically relevant to women is something
almost synonymous with the American story – think back to the women’s
suffrage movement and the Civil Rights movement. Thanks to public
discourse in pursuit of equality, women have the vote, access to fair
employment opportunities, compensation for maternity leave – the list
goes on and on.

Some current discussions of Women’s Health (the topic that dominates
campaign slogans and public policy alike) also claim equality as their
ultimate goal; unfortunately as Charmaine Yoest, President of
Americans United For Life, noted in her talk “ Women Alone: Feminism’s
False Promise and the Decline of Dignity,” from this weekend’s
Reclaiming Dignity conference at the Center for Bioethics and Human
Dignity, many 21st century Americans assume that true equality for
women (whether it be in political, marital, or occupational spheres)
can only be upheld through the defense of one freedom : the freedom to
choose – the freedom to have an abortion.

Ms. Yoest wanted to open her talk with a question Dorothy Sayers posed
when asked to speak on the validity of the women’s suffrage movement:
“Are women human?” Sayers meant her question (and book title) as a
witty response to a culture bent on denying women the vote; I suggest
broadening Sayer’s question and using it as a tool for a little
self-examination: Are women and men human? Can we claim humanity when
we are intent upon basing a woman’s value and public usefulness on our
ability to end another human life? Can we claim humanity when we
reduce women to a discussion of their biological functions?

When we continue to insist on the political necessity of a woman’s
right to choose, we not only fail to defend the lives of the unborn,
we deny the dignity of all human life. Insistence on the “freedom” of
choice only continues the commodification of both women and men. By
treating fertility, a natural process involving both men and women, as
a problem to be solved, what else do we do but continue the modern
trend of atomizing the individual?

Both private and public conversations about “Women’s Health,” cannot
be limited to discussions on abortion. Honest discourse about Women’s
Health should include that which is relevant to both sexes – life
itself. One cannot speak of Women’s Health and not speak of education,
unemployment rates, public safety, family structures, faith
communities, and the cost of living. One cannot speak of a real woman
without affirming her position in a local community, in which her
choices and relationships result in very real consequences for her and
for that community. Are our mothers, sisters, and neighbors faceless
abstractions whose sexuality can be separated from their souls and their bodies? Public discourse on “Women’s Health” that focuses only on abortion aims to give women equality; instead it has contributed to a loss of all human

Conference Speakers:

Read Paige Cunningham, Executive Director for the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity here on Salvo and here in the CBHDs archives.

Check out Charmaine Yoest’s article on Planned Parenthood from the National Review here.

Read this interview with Pia de Selenni on Christian Feminism from the Catholic Education Resource Center

Check out this article from the CBHD archives on infertility from C. Ben Mitchell.


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