Just 2 weeks ago, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, but just as important was what happened next: the Women’s March on Washington. Millions of women (men and children) from all seven continents around the world marched in protest of inequality and misogyny, including attacks on women’s right to affordable reproductive healthcare.
Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive and sexual healthcare for lower income women and men, had a large presence at the marches. The pro-birth Christian Right has waged a relentless war on Planned Parenthood because they offer women the option of safe, affordable abortion services. Last week, surrounded by white men, President Trump reinstated the “Global gag rule” banning foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive certain kinds of American aid from counseling health clients about abortion or advocating for abortion law liberalization.”
Attacks on women’s rights will continue as the government and church patriarchy settle into their seats of power. Trump’s election emboldens white men who gain support for their cause by sexually shaming women.
The sexual shaming of women is a recurrent theme in Christian history. Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus of Nazareth’s biggest supporters and most devoted followers, yet she’s remembered as a prostitute. In the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great rewrote history, labeling Mary Magdalene a whore and ushering sexual shaming into the Middle Ages.
Rev. Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, discusses the shaming of Mary Magdalene in her book #OccupyTheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power. Thistlethwaite writes, “Jesus trained Mary Magdalene for a job, and she did it. She did it so well the patriarchy of the early church felt threatened by her, and in retaliation they sexually shamed her.”
Sexually shaming women to eliminate abortions has far-reaching consequences, particularly for lower income women and women of color. Thistlethwaite notes, “the main driver of the so-called war on women is economic, and that economic exploitation has specific race and class dimensions.”
Despite its vital service to communities in need, Planned Parenthood struggles to keep its doors open. It receives 40% from federal, state, and local sources, without which, it could not continue. Closing Planned Parenthood will not end abortions and it will not put money back into the pockets of taxpayers. Without Planned Parenthood’s reproductive health services, unwanted pregnancies will increase, putting a greater burden (650 million dollars over 10 years) on Medicaid spending.
The economic pain doesn’t end there. The National Women’s Law Center reports that “the ability for women to space their pregnancies through access to birth control is linked to their greater educational and professional opportunities and their increased lifetime earnings.”
As a seminary student from a single-earner family, I am disheartened when white men claim to love as Jesus loved, yet exert greater control over those in need.
Jesus did not teach us to exert power over others.
It was not part of his ministry.
Why is it part of ours?
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