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(Re)production is not ‘success’

| Thursday, April 24, 2014

I am writing in response to the article on the HHS mandate panel, published online on April 15 and in the paper on April 16.

Erin Stoyell-Mulholland, president of the Right to Life group on campus, was paraphrased as saying a woman’s true success is not achieved until her fertility is embraced.  I wish to contest this claim as wrong on several levels, when assessed from the moral standpoint of Catholic theology.

First, Catholicism cares not about the mere “success” of humans, but rather the human striving for virtue (including the virtue of justice, the first virtue of communities and political institutions).

Second, Catholicism does not define human beings, female or male, in terms of their (re)productive capabilities, but rather in terms of their fundamental and equal dignity as creatures made in the image of God.  Christians should respect a homeless woman in the street as much as a wealthy Wall Street trader with a large home and family; it is their humanity, not their (re)productivity, that defines their common dignity qua humans.

Third, while Catholicism does not preach a view of women as defined by their (re)productive “success,” American society in all its capitalistic crudeness certainly does so.  To say that women only achieve “true success” by embracing their fertility is to contradict basic moral principles of Christianity, as well as to reinforce the insidious norms of capitalism that lead many people to see and treat humans and other sentient beings as mere means to their economic and political ends, such as a more “productive” society.

Finally, I ask Stoyell-Mulholland and her group whether women, qua humans, have a right to life?  Many women need contraception, prescription drugs, medical procedures, and/or surgeries that treat or affect the reproductive system and its potential for fertility in order to maintain their health and therefore their lives. To borrow a metaphor from Pope Francis, the Affordable Care Act and the HHS mandate are a “big tent” under which all people in our country can find coverage for their basic human right to health care, and the fundamental human right to life itself.


Eileen Hunt Botting
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science


The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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