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Book reviews

Deborah Garratt’s Alarmist Gatekeeping: Abortion (2021)

A feminist take on abortion: deceptive communication, censorship, and ways to empower women.

Abortion activists would appreciate this feminist perspective on the topic, which focuses on deceptive communication strategies, efforts to censor diversity of thought, and ways to empower women considering the abortion choice.

Garratt’s research reveals many uncomfortable truths about abortion that do not appear in major media or in various professions, such as the medical community, the legislature, or academia.  She accomplishes the task of uncovering these truths using Grounded Theory, which demands that researchers formulate their ideas based on data obtained in the research instead of fitting the data according to someone’s ideology or political perspective.

Thus, while doctors and legislators may not appreciate the results of her research, ordinary women and men will.

Garratt’s book develops the idea of “Alarmist Gatekeeping” to account for how abortion supporters use specific linguistic and communication strategies to maintain their influence on the public.  Garratt doesn’t use the standard labels usually associated with the factions on the issue.  Instead, she uses “Adherents, Incognisants, and Dissidents” to refer to those who, respectively, believe in, accede to, or oppose the “Dominant Messaging” of keeping abortion legal throughout the nine months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever.  (Note: since Garratt is an Australian researcher, I retain her British spelling in all cases.)

What Garratt’s research has to say about abortion Adherents is revealing.  Alarmist Gatekeepers on abortion use “two distinct strategies—Alarmist Recruitment and Perspective Gatekeeping—which work together to reinforce each other and perpetuate a cycle of disinformation and censorship” (7).  Abortion Adherents use “strategic ambiguity” to persuade ordinary people to adopt statements which are either false or deceptive, such as “women have the right to control their own bodies” (9).  Abortion Adherents rely on “experts” not so much for impartial data on the controversial issue, but to bolster their public relations image: “Expert status is determined primarily by the person’s strict adherence to upholding abortion rights and by their ability to hold some influence whether in the media or by virtue of their professional position or qualification” (12).

These strategies account for abortion Adherents’ heavy use of negative and alarmist terms (17); manipulation, analyzed into its “deception, intentionality, and advantage” aspects (23); and equivocation (24).  Garratt summarizes abortion Adherents’ linguistic deceptions succinctly when she writes, “Controlling language is a strategic aspect of Alarmist Gatekeeping designed to confuse thinking, override one’s defences, depersonalise, and dehumanise” (27).

Garratt is the first researcher whom I have read to explain in some detail why abortion Adherents oppose efforts by Dissidents (pro-lifers) to assist mothers with untimely pregnancies.  Apparently, in the abortion world, only the mother must “win” (31).  Therefore, abortion Adherents perceive pro-life help for mothers with untimely pregnancies as a threat to abortion itself.  Garratt demonstrates how abortion Adherents are anti-science when she documents how abortionists and clinic staff do not discuss fetal development because it is “pro-lifey” (90).  Abortion Adherents view pregnancy support groups as a threat because such pro-life services are a threat to their Alarmist view of abortion as the only choice which they think women should have (135ff).

A twenty-first century reader leaves Garratt’s research deeply saddened that abortion Adherents are essentially anti-woman for three reasons.

First, abortion Adherents must use language to remove emotion from every abortion, a task which mothers who experience post-abortion syndrome (PAS) cannot escape (32).

Second, when abortion Adherents use dehumanizing language about the unborn child, they themselves adopt patriarchal attitudes against women who regret their abortions.  Garratt rightly points out that such linguistic evasion distances women from their true selves: “Language is used to disconnect women from what is going on inside their bodies, to ignore relationship, as though the entity within is an uninvited stranger, rather than a human being created within them” (34)—a matter which she elaborates later in the book when she further discusses how abortion Adherents are “disconnected” from reality (45).

Garratt suggests a final reason why abortion Adherents oppose accurate information for women on abortion when she counters a key idea from anti-life feminist philosophy, women as “victims”: “Women are not victims of biology, and to teach women such lessons is designed to make them feel inferior instead of feeling in awe of what their bodies can do” (162).

Fortunately, Garratt offers two means that both Incognisants and Dissenters can use to overcome Alarmist Gatekeeping on abortion.  She encourages people, first, to stop censoring themselves by not saying what should be said about abortion and, second, to ask questions of the Dominant Messaging that abortion “needs” to be legal.

Since she is an Australian author, some terms in the book need clarification for US readers.  When she writes about “medical abortion”, Garratt means chemical abortion, as in the RU-486 abortifacient.  Also, the undefined word “furphy”, Australian slang for an erroneous or improbable story claimed to be factual (143), will interrupt the easy reading, but only momentarily.

Overall, Garratt’s research offers an interesting way for feminists to reevaluate their support of a procedure which—based as it is on deception and efforts to stifle dissenting opinions—is more anti- than pro-woman.  Every woman will appreciate knowing how to respond to the abortion movement, which would rather have women subject to their ideology than liberated intellectually.

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Book reviews

Jessica Shaver’s Gianna: Aborted . . . and Lived to Tell About It (Tyndale, 1995)

A detailed biography of an abortion survivor; an account that anti-life feminists cannot refute.

Imagine going to an abortion clinic to have your baby killed by salt poisoning, only to see her emerge from the birth canal, alive and screaming like a regular newborn.

The account of the attempt to kill Gianna Jessen by a saline (salt poisoning) abortion is riveting without being gory.  Chapter one, which narrates the circumstances of her attempted killing in April 1977, is eight pages of right-to-life literature which every abortion activist, both pro- and anti-life, should read.

The rest of the biography of Gianna’s life (up to the book’s publication in 1995) is, as they say, history.  She was adopted into a loving Christian family, pursued her career as a musician, and began travelling extensively to promote the pro-life movement.

It is especially interesting for a reader in 2021 to know that tactics of activists in the anti-life movement have not changed since the 1990s.  The abortionist who tried to kill her was impersonal (6).  Anti-life hostility to people with disabilities is manifest when an anti-lifer screams, “Children with disabilities are a burden to society!” (91).  Anti-lifers heckled pro-lifers with vulgar and profane language in 1991 as Antifa domestic terrorists and pro-abortion Democrats do today (102ff).  Escorts at clinics run by abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood were described as “demonic” then as they can still be described now (119).

Other things about abortion since the 1990s have not changed.  One is the reaction of other aborted mothers to Gianna’s birth: “It’s a baby!” (9).  Another is the effect of post-abortion trauma, this time evidenced in Gianna’s violent reaction to something as normal as a blazing fireplace: “She is subconsciously reliving the abortion.  The roaring and crackling sounds recapitulate the effect of the saline solution as it burned her in the womb” (44-5).  An aborted mother confesses an abortion she had kept secret for years (72-3).  Fortunately, more abortion survivors are bold enough to share their accounts of how they were almost killed (207ff).  It’s difficult being for the “choice” of abortion when a fellow human being states that he or she was almost killed.

Feminists will recoil at the idea, repeated throughout the biography, that mothers who abort are ignorant of their choice: “You didn’t know what you were doing” (72), Gianna tells mothers who disclose their abortions to her.  Pro-abortion feminists want mothers to affirm that their desire to have an abortion is intentional, so this part of the biography would not only offend anti-life feminists, but also intensify the post-abortion syndrome (PAS) that aborted mothers experience.  Fortunately, pro-life psychological services can help mothers overcome the deep regret they have.

The biography has definite flaws.  Beyond the chapter one account, most of this biography is repetitious.  Also, the author refers to herself as “this [or “the”] reporter” when first person would have been smoother.  Despite these flaws, the biography can be read in half a day and qualifies as an important contribution to the literature of pro-life feminism.

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Book reviews

Gretchen Wollert’s Born to Fight: Lincoln & Trump (Cedar Fort, 2021)

Eminently readable study comparing Presidents Lincoln and Trump.

Wollert has written a compelling book, developing the premise that there are numerous parallels between two significant American presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump.  Reading the volume will progress quickly because of the author’s clear writing style.

Students will appreciate that the author meets the essentials of scholarly research by citing her sources in endnotes and providing an extensive bibliography.

The implications of the numerous comparisons between Presidents Lincoln and Trump are profound.  The United States is in a cultural civil war which is still “cold.”  Just like President Lincoln during the Civil War, one fears when hostilities would become “hot” between those who support President Trump’s efforts to restore essential American values (free speech and the first civil right to life) vs. those who oppose those values (cancel culture activists and abortionists).

Maybe Antifa domestic terrorists fired the first salvo in a new American civil war when they tried to destroy various communities in 2020.  Cancel culture activists are continuing the assault by trying to censor everything from full-length books (Justice Clarence Thomas’ Created Equal) to films (Gone with the Wind) to children’s cartoons (Pepé Le Pew).  Moreover, everybody knows that Biden wants to force Americans to pay for abortion with their tax dollars both here in the US and abroad.

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture activists to ban conservative and pro-life books, I recommend not buying this book on Amazon.  (Why give your hard-earned dollars to a company that censors books?)  Instead, buy this book directly from the publisher: Cedarfort.com.

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Book reviews

Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment (Encounter Books, 2018).

Want to understand gender ideology?  Read this book before the aggressive LGBTQ lobby bans it.

Being transgender is a serious matter, and Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment demonstrates how ridiculous the aggressive transgender lobby has become in its efforts to force its ideology on the nation.

Anderson’s book could be extremely controversial because it offers facts, not irrational opinions by aggressive transgender activists.  He offers common sense and scholarly thought, not unscientific claims by the same aggressive transgender movement.  He often provides interesting tidbits of information which carry significant social implications.

Peppered throughout the work is Anderson’s profound respect for transgendered persons who either are anguished over their sexual confusion or those who have suffered at the hands of doctors, activists, and other gender ideologues who compelled them to undergo sex change surgery.

Anderson does not hesitate to state facts which may make aggressive transgender activists not merely uncomfortable, but belligerent—facts which are obvious to the rest of us who know biology and live in reality.  Perhaps the most controversial (for some) fact is Anderson’s statement of what everybody knows, or at least thought they knew before transgender ideologues hijacked higher education, the media, and the federal government under Obama: the definition of “sex” and “gender.”  “The best biology, psychology, and philosophy”, Anderson writes, “all support an understanding of sex as a bodily reality, and of gender as a social manifestation of bodily sex” (2).

An obvious linguistic fact should be remembered by everybody opposed to the aggressive transgender ideology.  Sex is not “assigned”, as though the designation of “boy” or “girl” is forced on someone at his or her birth, but “recognized” for obvious reasons (77).  Anderson discusses genuine cases of sexual ambiguity at birth thoroughly with scientific language, not in the mere opinions of transgender activists.

Another significantly controversial matter, for the aggressive transgender movement at least, is the claim based in scientific research that sex change surgery is “fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness” (17).  Anderson highlights the ridiculousness of the claim that “we should be alarmed (say the [transgender] activists) if a professional tries to help a boy who thinks he’s a girl come to understand that he is actually a boy, seeking to understand the reasons for his false belief and to help him identify with his body” (37).

Anderson admits that discussing transgender ideas may be perplexing to ordinary folk.  “If the claims presented in this chapter strike you as confusing,” he writes, “you’re not alone.  The claims of transgender activists are inherently confused and filled with internal contradictions.  Activists never acknowledge those contractions but opportunistically rely on whichever claim is useful at any given moment” (45).  Similarly, the idea of a man being trapped in a woman’s body and vice versa, Anderson says, “corresponds with the beliefs of many transsexual individuals, who consider it helpful in ‘gaining cultural legitimacy’ for their identity” (109).

Talk about not mincing words!

Anderson’s common sense and scholarly thought is evident throughout the work.  He identifies five areas of concern regarding public policy (6-7) and specifically comments on the effect of the “postmodern worldview” on medical care for transgender persons (18).  He argues cogently “that medical practice is seriously compromised by an ideological agenda” (24) and that this ideology leads to the coercion of those who disagree with transgender activists’ opinions (29). 

Anderson’s discussion of how transgender activists have made their ideology a religion is compelling.  For example, regarding the Gender Unicorn given to school children to indoctrinate them into gender ideology, he offers a concise sentence about the effect this character has on children: “these are the dogmas they are likely to be catechized to profess” (32).

What tidbits of information which carry significant social implications?  I thought it was fascinating that research in newborn boys and girls proves sexual differences, where “boys tend to gravitate toward balls or toy cars [how our grandsons testify to this fact!], whereas girls more typically reach for a doll” [how our granddaughters testify to this fact!].  These sex differences are evident even in monkeys (84-5).

So much for gender being a social construct.

While one tidbit could be a joke on the order of “Smell this!”, it was interesting to read that a father’s pheromones affects a daughter’s puberty: “a father’s presence affects his daughter, as the pheromones released from his body slow down her sexual development.  That makes her less likely to experience early puberty and less likely to be sexually active before marriage.  The rate of teenage pregnancy is far lower among girls who have had a father at home throughout their childhood and adolescence than among those whose father has left the home sometime before they turn eighteen, and this effect is greater the longer a father sticks around” (167).

Conclusion: dads, smell away!  We are helping our daughters to respect their sexuality by just being our hairy, smelly selves.

Joking aside, though, Anderson’s work is well-researched and would thus complement every student’s research paper on transgender issues and politics.  Even the most severe leftist professor would have a difficult time challenging Anderson’s ideas (unless, of course, that leftist professor was tenured and thought he or she could punish a student with impunity for valid research which contradicts his or her idea of gender ideology).

For the rest of us who simply want to know more about the distortion of gender ideology forced on us by the transgender lobby, Anderson’s book is eminently helpful.  The endnotes are filled with bibliographic information, and the index is comprehensive.  Best of all, Anderson’s writing style is professional but not erudite.  For example, the paragraph on the contradictions of transgender thought should be used as an example of exemplary point-by-point contrast writing in every English class (46).  Even if one finds him- or herself making marginal notes on almost every page, the entire work can be read in two days’ time—time well worth the investment.