Welcome to Countercultured
A newsletter for readers interested in politics, culture, ethics, and everything in between
I’ve been a writer for most of my life, and a professional writer for the past six. In that time I’ve covered all sorts of topics: American politics, two presidential races, about a dozen Senate and House elections, higher education (especially of the Catholic variety), the debate over health-care policy, food and culture, literature, book reviews, the pro-life movement, religion and religious freedom, the Catholic Church, feminism, and much more.
It was the gift of a lifetime to start my career at National Review, where I had the chance to cover these and many other topics. It was a steep learning curve, and it shaped the way I write and the way I think. Going forward, I’ll have a weekly column at NR as a contributing writer while working as a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where I’ll work on freelance writing, book writing, and policy projects, mostly focused on life and family issues, including the pro-life movement.
This newsletter will be the new home for much of my writing. I’ll use this space to share links to my recent columns and freelance work. It’ll also be a space for thinking out loud, where I can write about things that don’t fit neatly into the mold of any particular publication. I plan to explore topics that interest me, write about what I’ve been reading and watching and cooking, share insights from talks I’m preparing and giving for audiences across the country, and update readers on interviews I’ve done.
In short, it’ll be a little bit of everything. I’ve always cared about political debates, and I still do, but it can be frustrating as a writer to feel like all you have to offer is noise that keeps eyeballs glued to the screen. We need a lot more than noise these days. In fact, I think we could use a lot more silence and reflection, and my aim is for this newsletter to be part of the solution to that.
My first book, Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing, came out in late June, just days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The intervening months have illustrated something many of us had already noticed: Our culture is at a major crossroads. Americans disagree deeply on the most fundamental topics confronting us: what it means to be a human being and a human person, who has moral worth and the right to life, what mothers and fathers owe to the children they bring into the world, whether the government has a role in protecting human life.
Though policy debates are important and can be quite consequential, the sources of our disagreement and discontent go much deeper than politics. In Countercultured, I’ll explore the issues undergirding our political disagreements, while sharing some thoughts about what constitutes the good life — things like faith, food, and family.
What I’ve Been Writing
My latest piece at National Review is a reported article about how the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has obliquely threatened OB-GYNs who might speak publicly on behalf of pro-life laws.
I was able to interview one OB-GYN, Dr. Donna Harrison, who told me, “This is not just an idle threat. This is the actual elimination of pro-life OB-GYNs from the profession of OB-GYN.” The stakes, in short, are very high.
Here’s more from my article:
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) threatened to revoke the board certification of any OB-GYN who spreads “misinformation and disinformation about contraception and abortion.”
“ABOG will review reports of dissemination of misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19, reproductive health care, contraception, abortion, and other OB GYN practices that may harm the patients we serve or public health,” the statement reads. “Eligibility to gain or maintain ABOG certification may be lost if ABOG determines that diplomates do not meet the standards that they have agreed to meet and that the public deserves and expects.”
Of course, no one wants doctors to share false information with patients. But that’s not what’s at stake here. ABOG is a vocal advocate of unlimited elective abortion, and this statement is designed not as a means of ensuring that women receive good care but rather of suppressing the speech of doctors who oppose progressive abortion policy.
I reached out to ABOG requesting a comment about whether the group plans to define what is meant by “misinformation and disinformation,” but I received no response. ABOG has also failed to respond to a letter from legal counsel that several pro-life medical associations engaged to challenge the group’s nebulous new policy. The lack of clarity, it seems, is the goal.
The ABOG statement has gotten relatively little attention, probably because it was written so vaguely, likely by design. While the group might not ever follow through on its threat to decertify pro-life OB-GYNs, the statement has already led to at least two pro-life doctors changing their minds and declining to testify on behalf of pro-life laws, out of fear of reprisal from ABOG. This isn’t just about the abortion debate; there are major First Amendment implications here as well. You can read the full piece in National Review, and I’ll be following the story as it develops.
I also have a very short essay in Plough magazine, part of a symposium responding to an earlier article by my EPPC colleague Erika Bachiochi. In her initial essay, Erika wrote about how we can best address the demand side of the abortion problem in a post-Roe country, how we can create a society not only where we protect unborn children but where fewer women seek abortions in the first place.
The central point I offered in my response was this: Erika is correct that various forms of distress or desperation contribute to a woman’s decision to seek an abortion. All too often, women feel like they have no other choice. But I also noted that pro-lifers have an opportunity, in this context, to speak about abortion as a failed solution for everyone involved. If it’s the case that some women feel drawn to abortion as some sort of solution to various problems, we must become more adept at explaining why abortion always fails to solve problems, and instead compounds them.
Where I’ve Been
I recently had the chance to join the New Books Network for a podcast interview about my new book Tearing Us Apart, co-written with Ryan Anderson. I spoke with Hope Leman, who posed thoughtful questions and gave me the chance to talk at length about how the months since Dobbs have highlighted some of the major themes Ryan and I covered in our book. She was a generous and sharp interviewer, and I was grateful for the chance to join her and talk about the book in some depth. You can listen to the full episode here.
What I’ve Been Reading
As anyone who follows me closely on Twitter will know, I have a hard time reading just one book at a time. I’ve slowly been working my way through The Art of Simple Food: Notes Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution, a cookbook from legendary restaurateur Alice Waters. I’m starting to think it’s an indispensable book for the aspiring home chef; the recipes are simple and easy to follow, and they’re paired with Waters’s stylistically pleasant writing about her preferred ingredients, flavors, and cooking methods.
I’ve also been working my way through The Cost of Choice, an older book of essays assembled and edited by my EPPC colleague Erika Bachiochi. Each essay explores the question of how legal abortion has affected women, often for the worse, despite the feminist promise that abortion would liberate women and set us on equal footing with men. I’ll write about the book at greater length once I finish reading it.
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