Women’s March, October 2022, Long Beach, CA by Marie Cartier

All photos by the author

Marie Cartier

Continue reading “Women’s March, October 2022, Long Beach, CA by Marie Cartier”

From the Archives: Abortion–the topic that won’t go away–or even morph

This was originally posted on March 12, 2014. It was Esther’s first FAR post.

Recently, I got involved in a conversation about abortion.  It happened on Facebook when a relative posted that her heart hurts when she considers her “sweet baby girl” and how the law (Roe v. Wade, 1973) in the United States gave her the choice as to “whether [or not] I would have her killed.”  She’s sincere.  Many of her friends “liked” her post and, with few exceptions, commented in agreement.  I was one of the exceptions.

March celebrates Women’s History Month–a month to remember the accomplishments of our foremothers, noting their work helping to secure for us (their progeny) certain rights, most notably the right to vote (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815-1902) and reproductive rights (Margaret Sanger, 1879-1966).  Support for abortion nowadays almost always falls under the rubric of “women’s reproductive rights.”  So when we hear, “It’s my body and I’ll decide what I’ll do with my own body,” the speaker is giving voice to what many consider to be a fundamental right–the right to be autonomous and exercise free agency over one’s own person.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Abortion–the topic that won’t go away–or even morph”

Why Pro-Life Stops at Birth: Who Really Supports Life and Why by Winifred Nathan

The patriarchal Catholic Church claims to be pro-Life.  But is it pro-Life?  Or is it pro-Birth?  A Catholic Benedictine sister outed the pro-Life movement. Her position: the pro-life crowd shows little if any ongoing interest in life after birth.  They’re pro-birth, but not pro-life.  Legislators who enact laws to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion, but then stand firm against funding  programs that assist the mother and her baby once the child is born are not pro-life.   Too often the goal of anti-abortion advocates is for the fetus to make it to birth. Birth is the important value, life not so much.

I propose the starting point for deciphering this puzzle is to look at our desire as human beings for immortality.  We want to defy death believing that there is a spiritual continuation of who we are after our bodies shut down.  We want death to be a new beginning.

A great deal of effort goes into seeking  an answer to the question what comes next.  A question we presently lack the capacity to answer. We honestly do not know what if anything happens following death.

Continue reading “Why Pro-Life Stops at Birth: Who Really Supports Life and Why by Winifred Nathan”

It’s All About Control by Vibha Shetiya

VibhaWhen I first moved to America, I was shocked to learn of the high rate of domestic violence here. Surely, American men weren’t like that. Besides, American women were strong – they would never take BS from their husbands, fathers or brothers. How could this be even remotely possible? Of course, I was younger then, and not quite aware of the insidious workings of patriarchy. But then America is supposedly one of the most liberal and progressive countries in the world. Being of Indian heritage, it was “natural” that I had heard of and witnessed male domination and control. After all, we Indians were “backward.” But America? Really?

I have, for a while now, been utterly confused by the inherent paradoxes within both countries, but it was Justice Kennedy’s retirement and the possibility of the overturning of Roe v. Wade that helped clarify my thoughts. Continue reading “It’s All About Control by Vibha Shetiya”

Restricting Access to Birth Control is Immoral by Katey Zeh

On a hot August day in 2012, I was taking my usual monthly trip to Walgreens to pick up my birth control prescription. As I pulled out my wallet to cover the co-pay, I was pleasantly surprised when the pharmacist informed me that I didn’t owe anything. It was the first month that the contraceptive mandate included in the Affordable Care Act required health insurance companies to provide contraceptives without a copay.


Over the years my birth control pills had cost me between $30-50 a month. It might not sound like much, but as a young professional working in the nonprofit sector, it was something I had to budget for carefully. I was also paying my own insurance premiums at the time. Throughout most of my twenties I worked as a contractor, which meant I didn’t qualify for employer-provided insurance, and with my limited budget, I had to settle for less-than-ideal coverage.

When I discovered that the cost of my birth control would be covered completely under my premiums, I wanted to show my appreciation to the Obama Administration. I quickly snapped a picture of my pharmacy receipt that showed my total as “$0.00” and posted in on Facebook with the simple phrase, “Birth control with no copay. Thanks Obamacare!”


The next morning I woke up to find my image had gone somewhat viral after the Planned Parenthood and Barack Obama social media teams had shared it on their platforms. I had a lot of support, but as you might imagine, the backlash was hellacious. I was incredibly grateful that I’d been wise enough not to capture any of my personal information in the picture I’d taken. Here are a few examples of the messages I got.

“I don’t want to pay for you to have the power to sleep around.”

“It really disgusts me that MY tax dollars are paying for other people to have protected sex and abortions. That money could go into my college fund or help pay for a car or help pay for medication that I actually NEED, but nope. The government decided that my money is better used to pay for someone else to have protected sex. I really hope you all enjoy spending MY hard earned money.”

There’s absolutely nothing factually accurate about these two comments from trolls–I was in a committed relationship and paying for my birth control prescription through paying my insurance premiums–but they do capture some of the most common arguments made against women having the ability to make decisions about our bodies and lives.

  • Women who have sex and want to avoid pregnancy should be shamed.
  • We should not do anything to support a woman making a decision about her life and body.
  • Any social program that supports women’s reproductive decision is a burden on taxpayers.

The pervasiveness of these beliefs and the disdain for women’s autonomy among white conservative men is why the Trump administration has no qualms about its plans to rescind this policy that has helped over 55 million women over the last five years. What is the premise of this decision? Religious freedom.

There is nothing moral about restricting a person’s access to the tools and resources they need to plan their lives, care for their bodies, and dream about their futures.

In March of 2014 I stood outside the Supreme Court building to speak my truth in protest of the argument of “religious freedom” used (successfully, I hate to say) in the Hobby Lobby case. I spoke these words:

As a young woman, a family planning advocate, and a Christian, I stand in solidarity with millions of women in this country whose access to contraception is at stake today.  I do this not in spite of my faith, but because of my faith.

I stand upon the firm foundation of my Methodist faith that has declared health care as a right, and access to contraception a moral good that enables women and couples to make responsible, ethical decisions about the timing and spacing of their families. To permit an employer to restrict that access through financial hardship or other means would impose upon my religious freedom—and the religious freedom of millions of other like-minded people of faith.

scotuszeh11.jpgWhat few people knew at the time was that when I gave that speech,  I was 10 weeks pregnant with my daughter who will turn three later this month. It was a planned pregnancy and a cause for joy in my life, even though physically I felt terrible. Looking back now I see how critical access to birth control was in creating the family I wanted. It allowed me to become a parent at the time that was right for me.

Isn’t that what all of us ought to be striving for?


RA82Katey Zeh, M.Div is a strategist, writer,  and speaker who inspires communities to create a more just, compassionate world.  She has written for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazinethe Good Mother Project, and the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion. She is the co-host of Kindreds, a podcast for soul sisters. Her book Women Rise Up will be published by the FAR Press in March of 2018.  Find her on Twitter at @kateyzeh or on her website kateyzeh.com

Make Humanity Great Again by Gina Messina

Gina-MD-5-UrsulineThe Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu has become my latest guilty pleasure.  I rarely watch television and when I do my channel is set to MSNBC. But the news has been almost too much to handle.  I still find myself living in disbelief that we are a nation under the Trump Administration.  And it seems that if you miss one day of the news cycle, you’ve missed a year with all the Trumptastic failures that continue to arise.

I decided one night to switch over to this series I had heard so much about. I was instantly gripped by the plot and the eerie reminder of what our nation could become with a growing alt right population. And with social policy continually being utilized as a weapon against women’s rights, there are many parallels to draw with The Handmaid’s Tale and our supposed “Christian” Nation. Even escapism landed me back in the frightening reality of our world.

81% of Evangelicals and 65% of Catholics voted Trump into the White House. While some argue faith has no place in politics, the real issue is that most do not vote with their faith in mind. Or perhaps they do, but the foundation of the Christian tradition is lost on them. Like the characters in The Handmaid’s Tale, many God-fearing Christians live “under His eye” and see progressive attitudes as a threat to natural order. The response is to overlook hatred in favor of calming fears. We fear what we do not know, we fear those who think differently than we do, and that fear has taken a hold of our nation with encouragement from our POTUS 45. Continue reading “Make Humanity Great Again by Gina Messina”

Nobody’s Disciple by Maeve Rhuad aka the Celtic Magdalen via Elizabeth Cunningham

Elizabeth Cunningham headshot jpegSince beginning her posts for FAR four years ago, Elizabeth has featured an excerpt from my chronicles each July in honor of my feast day on the 22nd.  At least I thought it was my Feast day. It has been brought to our attention that Pope Francis only recently elevated the 22nd to the status of a Feast. Before that, it was merely a Memorial of me as a saint, whether optional or obligatory I am not sure.  The only thing more elevated than a Feast day is a Solemnity.  (Needless to say my mother-in-law, aka the Blessed Virgin Mary, has one of those.)

You may not know me as Maeve, the Celtic Magdalen. Mary Magdalen, who she was (or is) should or could have been is a highly charged subject. Not very much is known about me, really, which is why  legends, novels, and films abound. I’m a storied woman, to borrow Natalie Weaver’s term. There are fourteen references to me in the Gospels. I am associated with the non-canonical Gospel of Mary (I believe the credit for that should go to Mary of Bethany whom many people conflate with me). Pope Gregory is largely responsible for my lugubrious image as a penitent prostitute. Continue reading “Nobody’s Disciple by Maeve Rhuad aka the Celtic Magdalen via Elizabeth Cunningham”

Ignoring Isn’t The Same As Ignorance by Darla Graves Palmer

DarlaProfileMy book club recently read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, a futuristic novel wherein women’s reproductive rights, as well as the women themselves, are controlled entirely by those in power. I’ve wanted to read it for a long time and appreciated this opportunity, though I ended up quite disturbed—not just by the tale, but by our obliviousness at times to the possibilities of what could potentially become us. During our club discussion, one of the women commented that she couldn’t understand the point or purpose of writing such a book as she felt it was too far-fetched. I was startled by her remark because I easily viewed it as a cautionary story, one that had presented what could happen if we ignore history and current events.

One pivotal passage for me in the novel was this:

“Is that how we lived, then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.

We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.

Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it. There were stories in the newspapers, of course, corpses in ditches or the woods, bludgeoned to death or mutilated, interfered with, as they used to say, but they were about other women, and the men who did such things were other men. None of them were the men we knew. The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives.

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.

We lived in the gaps between the stories.” (56-57)

Continue reading “Ignoring Isn’t The Same As Ignorance by Darla Graves Palmer”

Blessed Are The Organized, by Amy Levin

It was a humid yet windy day in Broward County, South Florida. My long pants and sleeves were becoming hostile towards me as I proceeded to slip off my shoes, don my borrowed headscarf, and set up shop just outside the modest mosque in Pembroke Pines.  I waited patiently for prayers to end, hoping that my “Register to Vote” sign was placed in optimal eyesight of the female worshippers as they exited the prayer hall. All of my hope to expand the Florida electorate to help re-elect President Barack Obama was bundled in my mix of clipboards, voter registration forms, pens, and volunteer sign-up sheets.  Just moments after the Imam wrapped up the Friday afternoon prayers, two young women wearing full hijab sauntered out. “Oh, I’ve been meaning to register to vote,” one of them said. “Perfect.” Continue reading “Blessed Are The Organized, by Amy Levin”

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