Catholics for Choice Report on Day Two: NO ONE knows the way to San José

Saturday, May 26, 2012

“There is a lattice of newly claimed [cultural] norms that are being forced upon governments and upon people. These norms—they have never been voted upon—are reached through lies, treachery, deceit and raw power. Those doing this do not believe in the democratic process; they believe in their own superiority. They think they know better than the democratically elected officials—and they certainly know better than mothers and fathers and other citizens around the world.”


Though presented as a description of the prochoice community, this comment by Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute’s Austin Ruse during the day’s opening plenary session (“Threats to Life and Family in International Law”) established the feats of psychological transference that would characterize the sessions, workshops and casual conversations for Day Two of the World Congress of Families. The second day was faithful to the spirit of the first. We were presented with false anthropological notions of human history and behavior.Citations of the UN Declaration of Human Rights were almost immediately followed by vitriolic condemnations of the UN. And, as a matter of course, so-called divinely preordained laws governing human sexual norms were presented as incontestable.

Few things characterized this strengthening feedback loop of outrage, disgust and cultural disconnection more than Ruse’s opening address. After bemoaning the United States Supreme Court having made “homosexual sodomy a constitutional right,” Ruse sat down to somewhat muted applause. As the applause faded, Ruse proceeded to cajole the crowd into a new round of applause as he began to clap his own presentation wildly—presumably at the glory of his own remarks—which invoked the still modestly-sized crowd into a fit of cheering.

Following close behind Ruse in this opening session, former United States Ambassador to East Timor under the second Bush administration Grover Joseph Rees spoke on the San José Articles which were drafted in San José, Puerto Rico, in March of 2011. The nine articles express vehement opposition to abortion and make numerous dubious scientific, medical and moral claims.

During the opening day of the Congress, this document was repeatedly touted by panelists and organizers as the most crucial weapon in fighting back against international organizations attempting to force reproductive health upon an unwilling world. Conference attendees were instructed to arm themselves with this document as it included the names of 40 well-respected signatories including world renowned academics and numerous physicians. Strangely, despite the periodic championing of this document, no copies were handed out, even as Rees discussed the majesty and invincibility of this document. Instead, we were only given a Website to access on our own time. A moment online quickly revealed why this paradigm-shifting document was not disseminated. Despite the document’s stone-faced assertions concerning scientific facts, only one obstetrician/gynecologist is listed among the 40 signatories. Examining further, one begins to notice familiar names—names of the same people who helped organize the conference, as well as speakers including Austin Ruse, his co-worker Douglas Sylva and, of course, Grover Joseph Rees. Despite his pride in the document, Rees did not mention that he was a signatory, nor did he explain why—at a conference swarming with flyers and handouts—this very important document was not printed up.

At the conclusion of his presentation, attendees cheered Rees’ assertion that they could band together and put the world right through legal action on a worldwide scale. All they needed to achieve this, it appeared, was “raw power” and the San José Articles.

The first speaker at a plenary session entitled “Culture of Life vs. Culture of Death” was Dr. Alveda C. King from Priests for Life. King gave her usual stump speech, mentioning her uncle Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on several occasions, comparing the antichoice movement to the Civil Rights struggle in the 1960s and asserting that Planned Parenthood was part of an ongoing global conspiracy bent on eugenic population control. While she is related to Dr. King, most of his family has repudiated her antiabortion position. Her assertions about the antiabortion movement and Planned Parenthood have been rightfully and comprehensively repudiated.

Following behind King in the same session was Dr. Nicolás Jouve the president of both CiViCa: Asosciación de Investigadores and Profesionals por la Vida. He indirectly, perhaps unintentionally, encouraged an internationally managed redistribution of wealth when he pointed out that world crop yields and available agricultural land could more than support all the people of the earth if only the UN would focus its attentions on making this happen. Nonetheless, the local speaker was met with wild applause.

During the day, several workshops ran concurrently with larger sessions in the main auditorium. For reasons never explained, some of these workshops—scheduled to run six hours with periodic breaks—were removed from where they began with no indication as to where they were relocated to. Almost every section ran well over time and announcements were repeatedly made to let people know that events were not cancelled but simply pushed back on the timetable.

The most popular session of the afternoon was entitled “The Painful Reality of Abortion.” The panel consisted of a chairwoman, three speakers and a fourth who was miraculously added, unintroduced, at the last minute. It ran 40 minutes over time. Those who did not leave before the end, and those who did were many, were subjected to a avalanche of unsubstantiated claims about “postabortion syndrome” by Dr. Carmen Goméz-Lavín of the Federación Española de Asociaciones Provida. She reeled off a litany of symptoms tied to this “syndrome” that included but were not limited to feelings of guilt, depression, eating disorders and alcoholism.

Vicky Thorn from Project Rachel closed the session. Taking a lead from many of the speakers at the conference, Thorn went on to give a lengthy speech that contained numerous scientific claims but virtually no citations. Claims involving pheromones, biological memory on a cellular level, male bonding hormones generated in the husband during pregnancy and mothers experiencing poor bonding with children after an abortion were made but neither verbally nor visually cited (the latter being due to the absence of visual aids of any sort). Thorn did, however, manage to cite one fact, an article from Scientific American involving fetal micro-chimerism. She did not, however, have a copy of the article on her person—instructing attendees to approach her after the session and she would provide them with the year, issue and title. Few bothered.

On this note, the second day wound down for those who remained. Which is to say, the very few who weren’t too angry at having been kept an hour over the scheduled time and hadn’t either gone home or headed out for dinner.

While several events are scheduled for tomorrow, it is doubtful if any of them aside from the scheduled morning Mass will take place in the specified location and at the specified time, though no doubt it too will run over and delay everything in its wake. I trust they won’t interrupt the consecration to make the now commonplace announcement that all following sessions will be postponed until the final blessing is complete.

An introductory report to the WCF is available here.

A report on day one is available here.
Biographies for selected speakers are available here.

For more on Catholics for Choice’s opposition work, please read Twenty Years of Taking Down the Opposition.

For more information about Opposition Watch, please contact Catholics for Choice at +1 (202) 986-6093 or

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