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The Outrageous Level of Intolerance is Happening Everywhere!

The fundamentalist religious cult of the so-called “unborn child”—as opposed to a fetus—an attack on women’s reproductive rights, knows no limits. Now Pope Francis has compared the choice of women to terminate an unwanted pregnancy in these terms: “We do the same as the Nazis to maintain the purity of the race, but with white gloves on” (“Pope: Abortion is ‘white glove’ equivalent to Nazi crimes,” USA Today, June 16, 2018).

The pope was using the misleading words of the eugenics movement to endorse a poorly veiled attempt to continue the decades-long assault on women’s rights around the world and the recent victories in Ireland and Argentina for the right of women to control their bodies and their futures and that of their families.

Francis has long railed against what he called the “throw-away culture” in terms of the way the elderly and unborn children are sometimes seen as less worthy of protection, as well as in terms of material things used briefly and then discarded (USA Today, June 16).

The pope misses the point, however, since the actual “throw away” is the right of women to control their lives. The placement of women on the pedestal as earth mother, worthy of adoration and protection within the context of religious orthodoxy, has long been one of the tenets of religious fundamentalists. At the other extreme, as can now easily be seen in the policies of the Trump administration, income inequality hits women the hardest and brings the issue of reproductive rights into even sharper focus.

The anti-abortion crusade of the past forty-five years seems to have shifted its emphasis from murderous assaults of women’s health facilities and the staff of those facilities to a more legalized approach, using both state and federal governments to pass legislation that puts all sorts of onerous conditions on those clinics, from requiring hospital-level certified facilities to requiring that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Some states have so few clinics that women are required to travel great distances to have abortions, a right that was granted by Roe v. Wade. Other stratagems include abortion “information” centers located near clinics that provide anti-abortion counseling and other kinds of propaganda. All of this has taken place while the rate of abortion has been declining across the U.S., in part because of the success of educational campaigns by organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

The forces of intolerance and hate are not limited to the hostility against the rights of women. In Massachusetts, retrievable copies of a high-school yearbook were gathered after a quote from the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels was discovered: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it” (“Massachusetts high school pulls yearbooks that included Nazi quote,” The Hill, June 14, 2018). While the high-school principal unequivocally condemned the quote, a local rabbi said: “I don’t think it was anti-Semitic… I think it was totally innocent on the part of the high school student who chose this quote.”

Innocent? Perhaps, but three other anti-Semitic incidents have taken place at the school, including swastikas carved on the desks in a classroom of a Jewish teacher. That three other incidents have taken place at the school leaves the reader with more questions than answers.

Bringing the issues of reproductive rights and anti-Semitism together, here I note one of the catcalls directed at me while serving as an escort at a women’s health center: “You’re not Jewish, are you?” Of course, the implications of this insanity are quite clear.

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Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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