A few weeks ago I was asked to do an interview for a local women’s magazine that is published quarterly here in MN. Since the summer edition is already out, the story being written is for the fall/election-time issue and the topic is the controversial HHS contraception mandate. My initial excitement about doing the interview quickly morphed into the realization that my view is not a very popular one in some circles and that I could possibly receive some backlash for sharing my opinions. Knowing how personal the topic is and how politically charged the environment will be at the time this story is published, I did not accept this interview request lightly. Representing all those who oppose this mandate, for a wide variety of reasons is a big responsibility, but I swallowed my fears and accepted the interview knowing that this is a wonderful opportunity for my message and voice to be heard.
I met with the writer at a cute little coffee shop and had just a great “girlfriends” type conversation about the issues surrounding birth control; the negative side effects on our bodies, the view of our fertility as a burden, the idea that we as women are somehow incapable of understanding how our bodies should naturally work, the money involved in Big Pharmacy promotion of these drugs. We talked about all the reasons smart, educated women should be questioning the government support and sponsorship of these carcinogenic drugs. We briefly touched on the fact that many different religions oppose the mandate based on infringement of their religious liberties, but mostly we stuck to secular and holistically aimed arguments. Near the end of the interview she asked me if she could share what religion, if any, that I practice. I said, “Sure, I’m Catholic but that is not the only reason to oppose this HHS mandate. The Church is simply right about this issue. It is just acknowledging the Truth. Anyone can agree with Truth. The Church has a beautiful opinion of women and their abilities and they should not be forced to pay for or distribute any other ideology about the worth of women and their bodies.” And that was that. A very nice interview with a very nice woman came to a close.
As we walked out I asked the writer about the story and she shared that she was writing about women of two differing opinions, one supporting and one opposing the HHS mandate and their reasons for holding their opinions. She said she had no trouble finding a woman to represent the “pro-free-birth-control-for-all” position (that only took her one phone call to the local DFL office), but had struggled to find a woman to share openly why she might oppose the mandate. I was contacted when my name was finally given to her after she had searched for weeks to find someone willing to talk publicly about why they oppose this mandate. I said I was a little surprised by that, but then I remembered my own moment of hesitation when asked to do the interview, and that got me wondering about why women in opposition of this mandate are not speaking up more loudly?
I called two of the women who I knew had been asked to share about why they opposed the mandate but had declined to do the interview. I asked them why they chose not to talk publicly about their opinions and their answers reflected my own initial hesitations.
One of these women is a beautiful mother of 10 children and said that she didn’t feel like anyone would take her seriously when she talked about opposing birth control. She said people would just laugh at her and write her off as soon as they saw that she has 10 children. The other woman said she felt like people would disregard her opinion because her main reason for opposing the mandate is simply because she is Catholic. She said she felt like people would assume she doesn’t think for herself and that she just does whatever the Pope and bishops tell her to do (not a bad quality in my opinion). Both of these women are very smart, happy, accomplished people who have lived their lives with great intention and love; yet they somehow felt that their voices didn’t matter to the secular world and that other women would not listen to them because they have chosen to embrace family and faith as their guiding principles for decision making. They have not bought into many of the ways of our secular world, and for that they feel as if their opinions have been ostracized and discounted.
These two reasons were honestly what went through my own head as I briefly wavered about doing the interview myself. I am married and have five children in less than eight years. I am a Catholic homeschooling mother who loves her Church and strives to follow all Her teachings. How relevant am I to the average woman in today’s world??? Why would my opinion cause any other women to reexamine her thinking about this issue??? What in my experience has taught me that I know better than anyone else about this topic??? That was the internal dialogue playing in my head, challenging me to justify why my voice matters to a secular world. I think this was also part of the reason that I did not focus on the fact that I am Catholic in the interview and why I felt like I needed to say that I planned to have my children (like that is anyone else’s business!). I was afraid others would disregard me.
About a week ago the author of that story sent me an advanced copy to review and make sure she accurately depicted my position. As I had feared, she introduced me as “Leah Jacobson, a Catholic and mother of five….”. I winced because I felt like I had done such a good job in that interview making my position appealing to non-Catholics and non-mothers…but I chose not correct her characterization. She accurately described me by the things that certainly do define me in this world, and even though I wanted every single woman who read that article to identify with me, I recognize that people who want to disregard me based on family and faith would not have to look far to find those elements of me. They are simply part of what makes me Me.
I’ve realized in these past few weeks that I do not have to apologize in any way for my family or my faith. They give me clarity and purpose in this world. They are essential parts of my very being. They define me. By dancing around the facts of my family and faith in that interview, I had been momentarily buying into the lies of the opposition that say women who embrace faith and family are somehow less qualified to speak out about issues that affect the lives of women. I was allowing insecurities hoisted upon me by people who disagree with me to silence my own voice. I am not less qualified that any other woman. We are women and these issues affect us each acutely. We cannot let others tell us we are not qualified to speak about this. If we do not speak up, then there is no one proclaiming Truth and the Enemy wins.
I am here to tell other women that your voices DO matter too! Do not be afraid to stand up and share your opinion, especially when your opinions are regarding injustices that affect our children and the future of our nation.
So, because I believe this so strongly and in response to the invitation by Women Speak for Themselves for more women to share their voices about the HHS mandate, I am swallowing my pride and recording my first web video. I have dreaded doing this for over two years now as I hate seeing myself on video and feel incredibly awkward talking to my computer, but I realize my voice needs to be heard. I need to be fearless in speaking out about this injustice to my Church and my femininity. I pray many of you will follow my lead and begin sharing your voice in this conversation about women and what we really need from our government and society. To check out my very first YouTube upload, follow the link below.
Until next time, I am Leah Jacobson. I have 5 children, I am Catholic, and my opinion on the HHS mandate matters.
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Leah-Jacobson-e1318950563716.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Leah Jacobson is passionate about John Paul II’s “New Feminism” and teaching women about the amazing dignity and worth of their bodies. She founded the Guiding Star Women’s Center in 2009, a non-profit focused on uniting the pro-life movement in Duluth, MN, and coordinates a national effort called The Guiding Star Project whose vision is to create a Culture of Life by creating greater unity and collaboration of pro-life groups. As a homeschooling mother of five young children, and a lactation consulting graduate student, she feels she understands better than most the pressures and stresses facing women and families in our current culture.[/author_info] [/author]