Faith, Politics, and Abortion: Is Joe Biden a Real Catholic?

If the USCCB had their way, no Catholic would be qualified for political office.

In 1960, as John F. Kennedy was running for president of the United States, a question of his faith became a major issue in the campaign.

Only one previous Catholic candidate had ever been nominated by a major party — Al Smith, a Democrat who lost badly to Herbert Hoover in 1928. Many protestant voters believed that Kennedy would be subject to the will of the Vatican and would serve the pope before he served the American people.

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Culture Feature

Busy Philipps and 9 Other Celebrities Who Are Open About Their Abortions

Nicki Minaj and Chelsea Handler are just a few of the others who have spoken out.

Last year, actress Busy Phillipps revealed that she had an abortion at the age of 15.

"The statistic is one in four women will have an abortion before the age of 45," she said on her E! late night talk show. "That statistic sometimes surprises people, and maybe you're sitting there thinking, 'I don't know a woman who would have an abortion.' Well, you know me."


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Rapper and Hustle + Flow judge T.I. has gotten some attention in recent days for his truly upsetting comments regarding his daughter's anatomy on the Ladies Like Us podcast.

Specifically, T.I. expressed a special interest he's taken in the condition of the mucosal tissue known as her hymen. Historically speaking, an intact hymen has been interpreted as proof of virginity when determining if a girl or woman was marriageable, while a torn hymen was taken as an indication that she had been "ruined" and should therefore be shunned or even killed. T.I. seemed to take pride in announcing that his 18-year-old daughter's hymen is intact.

T.I.'s Gynecologist Visits With His Daughter Deyjah To "Check Her Hymen" For Virginity Gets Backlash www.youtube.com

If we can take T.I. at his word, he insists on yearly trips to his daughter Deyjah's gynecologist, where he receives confirmation from her doctor that her genitals haven't been the site of any p-in-v sex. In the interview, T.I. even recounts the doctor's attempt to protect Deyjah's right to medical privacy, as well as his own deft (and illegal) work in undermining those rights: "The doctor's maintaining a high level of professionalism. He's like, 'You know, sir, I have to, in order to share information.' I'm like, 'Deyjah, they want you to sign this so we can share information. Is there anything you would not want me to know? See doc? No problem,'"

T.I. in sunglasses

It's not clear what T.I. was planning to do if the word came back that his daughter was an "impure woman," but the reality is that the condition of a hymen has a very limited relationship to sexual activity. It may be torn during a myriad of other activities, can actually remain intact during penetrative sex, and is sometimes simply absent after the onset of puberty. Treating such an arbitrary piece of anatomy as a record of "virtue" may seem barbaric, inhumane, cruel, and patriarchal in the worst sense of the word…because it is. But that doesn't mean it's out of character for American society—particularly when religion gets involved.

We often think of these customs as relics of other times and other cultures, but so many sects of American Christianity interpret the bible as the inerrant word of God, particularly when it comes to questions of sex and gender and the control of women's bodies. And some continue to fight international efforts to treat women as equal to men. T.I., who calls himself "The King of the South," is a devout Southern Baptist. He has rapped about his faith and done some truly great things in the name of Christianity. Unfortunately, that faith also entails a literal interpretation of the bible, and while the World Health Organization has declared these virginity tests a form of violence, the bible still endorses them.

T.I. religious

Deuteronomy 22: 21 states that if a newly married woman cannot prove she is a virgin, "she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father's house." It's hard to imagine where else T.I. could have gotten the idea.

Umbrella of protection A popular christian depiction of the familial hierarchy

While T.I.'s particular method for dehumanizing his daughter is vivid and disturbing, the issue goes far beyond one misogynist rapper. It belongs in a context of prevalent sects of American Christianity habitually reducing women to commodities, with a value attached to their anatomy, to be guarded against the ruins of their own sexuality.

Let's consider the fact that 25 states have no minimum age for marriage in cases where certain exceptions are met and that evangelical groups have pushed to keep it that way. Often, one of those exceptions is pregnancy, and a teenage girl is pushed into marrying her rapist—because abortion is out of the question, and marriage is the only way to cleanse her "sin." And what about the prevalence of "purity balls," whereby teenagers make a purity commitment to their fathers, in an homage to a marriage ceremony; the daughter's virginity is asserted to be under her father's protection until marriage.

Getty Images

This misogyny is built into literalist ideology. It's in that excerpt of Deuteronomy and in dozens of other verses calling on women to serve their husbands—with nothing mutual about it. This is why so many Christians hate Planned Parenthood, why they insist on invasive transvaginal ultrasounds, and don't want insurance to cover birth control pills.

A woman's virginity, from this perspective, is more precious than her rights. It's a far more pervasive problem than we might like to think, and it is truly toxic.

Music Reviews

Amanda Palmer Faces The End of the World

Her new album There Will Be No Intermission wrenchingly explores womanhood, fear, and loss

Kahn & Selesnick

There Will Be No Intermission is Amanda Palmer's odyssey.

The album is a melancholic jigsaw, moving through the political and the revelatory with an intimate, theatrical power. Palmer centers the record on the trauma of living in a female body, writing about the stigma around abortion, the emptiness of loss, the guilt of bringing a son into a world that won't ever love him like as she does.

But it's proof of her strength as a narrator that none of this ever feels truly hopeless. The interlude-song structure challenges the listener to imagine the album as a series of movements, with her scintillating voice, dense lyricism, and her magnificent piano work acting as guides through the album's stark orchestral production. Her writing is poetic, but never subtle, and it doesn't—shouldn't—have to be. Palmer sees the world ending in slow motion, a perspective she skillfully reflects and pushes back throughout the album's expanse.

There Will Be No Intermission is a plea for empathy as much as it is a fierce demand for recognition. Palmer writes the personal into the communal and back into herself: "Everything is gonna be just fine," she sighs on "The Ride," but you wouldn't dare mistake that for optimism. It's a decision to live and to keep living. There Will Be No Intermission becomes a celebration of life's heaviness, of the chances she's gotten to make herself new in the face of fear. She, and the rest of us are just here for the ride.

Matthew Apadula is a writer and music critic from New York. His work has previously appeared on GIGsoup Music and in Drunk in a Midnight Choir.

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Other Ways to Piss Off Pence By Making the World a Better Place

'Tis the season to do good deeds while sticking it to the man.

As of now, over 50,000 donations in support of women's health and reproductive freedom have been made to Planned Parenthood in "honor" of VP-elect Mike Pence, in response to Pence's history of legislatively attacking women's rights and health. With PP under threat from the incoming administration, it's fantastic that activists are working to counteract Pence's total ignorance by financially supporting the organization. If you haven't made a donation to PP yet and are able to, do it! Make your donation "in honor of" Mike Pence and you can have a certificate sent to his office. If you've already donated to PP and you're looking for other ways you can stand up to Pence's bigoted threats, here are some other worthy organizations who can really use your support right now.

The Trevor Project

Pence has advocated for conversion therapy for LGBTQ teens, the method of which is generally to make already vulnerable youth hate themselves for their gender identity or sexuality. As a result, the rates of depression and suicidal ideation are 5.9 and 8.9 times higher, respectively, among people who have gone through conversion programs than the general population. The Trevor Project is a 24-hour hotline for LGBTQ youth in crisis, particularly with the goal of reducing suicide among queer youth who have internalized hateful cultural messaging either from conversion therapy or the world at large. Put your money towards helping an organization that wants to help those whom Pence is putting at risk.

ACT UP and other HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment organizations

Through policy choices as governor of Indiana, Pence caused the greatest HIV outbreak in the state's history by defunding clinics (including Planned Parenthood outlets) that made it difficult if not impossible for people to get tested, and then by waiting months into the outbreak to allow needle exchange programs. Donate to Act Up, which has a long history of offering clean syringes to IV drug users even when it was illegal to do so in New York. Better yet, if you live in a more rural area, seek out local programs organizing needle exchanges and donate your time or money.


In the name of "religious freedom," Pence signed legislation in Indiana that made it legal to discriminate against LGBTQ employees in the workplace. The American Civil Liberties Union has committed themselves to fighting this kind of discrimination, and has actively sworn to challenge any action from the executive office that defies constitutional values of equality. Supporting the ACLU means supporting future cases they may need to raise in the face of GOP challenges to LGBTQ, immigrant, Muslim, and women's rights to safety in the US.

These are only a few—in essence, supporting any charity or activist group that defends women, people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and other vulnerable groups is a definitive and effective way of working against the bigotry and retrogression that the Trump/Pence administration has sworn to introduce. The Transgender Law Center, for example, is going to be another instrumental force in affecting policy, and here are some more LGBTQ-focused nonprofits.

For everyone, but especially for those living outside of NYC or any metropolitan area, look for local organizations you can support, or start your own initiatives. Does your community have a large population of IV drug users but nowhere for drug users to get clean needles? Work with a community health group to start one. Ask your local public schools, if they don't already, to improve sex ed curriculums and make condoms available at school health centers. Look for areas that need attention in your community or nationally and send your time and dollars there. Then, if you have another moment, write Mike Pence a nice note letting him know that his actions inspired yours. His address, until January 20th, is: 4600 N Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46208.