SPL’s Make Noise youth rally speech

Below the embedded video of the speech is a transcript of Monica’s remarks at the Make Noise! youth rally held in Bakersfield, CA on August 29, 2014. The transcript also includes sources and graphics not available during the original speech.
(If the embedded video ever stops working, click here.)
I’m Monica
Snyder, I’m from the group Secular Pro-Life, and I’m an agnostic. My group is
interested in making a space for pro-life atheists, agnostics, humanists – any
pro-life secularists. We also are a group for people of faith who are
interested in using secular arguments. And tonight I want to talk about why I
think you should make sure you are able to do that, and how you can do that.
But before I
do that, I want to do a kind of audience participation thing…though you guys
are kind of hard to see. I’m going to ask you some questions, but in case
anyone is shy, I’m going to ask you to go ahead and close your eyes again.
Seriously. Okay, now: raise your hand if you’re against abortion. Don’t open
your eyes. Put your hands down. Raise your hand if you consider yourself a
Christian. I was going to count but I can’t see you so – don’t open your eyes,
put your hands down. Alright, open your eyes.
Okay, before
I tell you what it kind of looked like, raise your hand if you think that at
least 60% of California is Christian. [Few people raise their hands.] Interesting!
Alright, what about 70%? If no one’s going for 60, no one’s going to go for
70—oh, a couple people. How about 80%? Alright, okay. Raise your hand if you
think at least 10% of California is not affiliated with religion. [Most people
raise their hands.] 15%? 20%? Okay – 25%? Alright, okay.
According to
the Pew Research Group, 72% of Californians are some type of Christian, and 22% [I misspoke – it’s 21%] are not affiliated with religion: 
Orange = California, Blue = United States. Source here.
So roughly 1 in 5 of all Californians is not
affiliated with religion. Do you think 1 in 5 of you kept your hands down when
I asked how many were Christians in this room? It wasn’t. It wasn’t literally
everyone, but it was almost everyone [who raised their hands]. I’ll try to keep it in mind for those of
you who didn’t.
And that’s
not surprising! Polls consistently show that Christians are more likely to say
they’re pro-life than other groups. And polls consistently show that
non-religious people are more likely to say they’re pro-choice than many other
demographics. You can break it down by race, by income, by education,
geographic region – and nothing predicts being pro-choice like being
Why do you
think that is? Some people tell me it’s because secularists don’t have a reason
to care about abortion because secularists don’t have a reason to care about
morality. If you don’t believe in God, then why should you care what’s right
and wrong? You can’t be good without god.
I’m not
going to get into a heavy theological debate about that tonight. I only have 20
or so minutes. But I will say that I know a lot of atheists and agnostics, and
we care a lot about things. We love our families, we love our boyfriends and
girlfriends and our friends and our husbands and wives. And we care a lot about
social issues too. You’ll actually find if you talk to a secularist that many
of us care deeply about a whole bunch of political and social justice topics.
People care a lot about women’s rights, gay rights, the death penalty, the
environment, education – you name it! And you might not agree with their
stances on some of these issues (or maybe you do, I don’t know) but the point
is we are not indifferent. We have strong opinions about what is right and
wrong and many of us work hard to shape society according to what we believe is
right. We care!
And yet,
where are we in the pro-life movement? I do think that to some extent,
secularists – because most secularists don’t believe in a soul, and they don’t
believe in the image of God that we were just talking about – it’s not so terribly obvious to talk about what makes human
beings valuable. There’s not that straightforward explanation you could apply
to everyone. And I’m going to talk more about that later.
But not all
secularists are pro-choice. Polls show that at least 15% of people who say they
have no religion also call themselves “pro-life.” If you do the math on that,
that’s millions of Americans – at minimum 6 million Americans. That’s what
these pictures are about. These are all secular people who call themselves
“pro-life.” My group, Secular Pro-Life, is trying to do this solidarity thing
where if you are secular and pro-life, send us a picture saying you’re one of
us, because it’s easy for us to feel like we’re the only one.
The pictures featured on stage during the speech.
So at least
6 million Americans are not affiliated with religion and still consider
themselves “pro-life.” But where are they? When you go to pro-life events, when
you do pro-life activism? I’ve had several situations where people tell me I’m
literally the first secular pro-lifer they’ve met. And I’m talking tonight
about secularism because I’m a secularist, but everything I say tonight keep in
mind for other non-traditional pro-life groups, okay? Whether it’s liberals or
gay people or even in some cases nonwhite people. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve seen
people from all of these groups do pro-life activism, but it’s often atypical,
for some more than others. You may have noticed that too. We get stereotyped
(we being pro-lifers) as conservative Christians and it’s not totally
ridiculous because there is a correlation to a lot of that.
Now here’s
the question: should you care? Let’s say that you’re doing a great job – and
here I’m speaking to the Christians in the room, obviously, not necessarily
everyone – let’s say you guys are doing a great job of getting your churches
more involved and your youth groups more involved and a lot more activity on
the Christian side. Which is great, I’m all for that. Should you care that
there’s sort of this drop in participation from these other groups? 
Yes! Yes!
You should care, okay? What is our goal here? Why are you here? We are against
abortion! We think abortion is a human rights violation. And it doesn’t just
harm the preborn who it kills, it’s also mothers and fathers and siblings and
families and communities that will never meet those children.
We want to
live in a society (I would say) not just where abortion is illegal, but where
abortion is unthinkable. What if you
lived in a society where abortion was like cannibalism? Where it’s such a
travesty that not only does nobody do it, you’re not even debating the legality
of it! Nobody would even take you seriously if you brought it up. What if you
lived in that society?
But if we want
to make abortion unthinkable (and we should!) then we need a stronger voice. We
need a more persuasive, larger
movement, and we’re going to need everyone.
And when you’re talking about “everyone” in a country as diverse as the United
States – in a state as diverse as California! – “everyone” is going to include
people that, at least in one way and sometimes more, are very different from
you. So how do you talk to those people? How do you talk to people that come
from such a different place and reach those hearts and minds?
However you
do it, we better find a way to bridge those gaps, because the people unlike us?
They’re not going anywhere! They vote. They have friends and family that they
influence, who care what they think. And this is especially true of
secularists! Polls show church and synagogue attendance has been decreasing and
more people in the country are saying they’re not affiliated with religion,
including calling themselves “atheists.” And this trend has been going on for years – including the youngest
generation! (And for polls, the youngest generation is 18 – 29. They don’t poll
below 18.) But they are more likely to say they are not affiliated with
religion than the older groups. 
Source here.
And however we might feel about that trend
personally – and I’m sure there are very strong feelings about that trend – it
does mean there’s a growing space for secular outreach in the pro-life
movement. So how do you do that? How do you begin to reach those people?
I think that
pro-life activists are very used to – often without even meaning to – talking
about their pro-lifeism in terms of their faith or their religion. And you know
what? There’s a huge place for that, because most pro-lifers are Christian.
Most of the country is Christian! So remember Josh was talking about finding
common ground? If you share common ground on your faith and you have a shared
basis of understanding with that, then by all means, talk about it in terms of
your faith! That makes sense. Not only do I think there’s nothing wrong with
that, I think it’s the strategically smart thing to do. You take what you have
in common with people and you build from there. That’s great!
The problem
is when you start to think that everyone you’re talking to (especially when
you’re at a pro-life event or pro-life activism) is Christian. And you know
what? It’s not just Christians who do this. I’m an agnostic, and I talk to
everyone like they’re Christian! I was doing a presentation at Stanford in the
spring, and I just – without even meaning to, while I’m lecturing other people about being more inclusive
– I talked to the whole room like everyone was a Christian. And when it was
over, an atheist came up to me and he was like, “You suck, man. You didn’t even
think about including me and you’re an
So it’s an easy mistake to make. You’re used to everyone being a
Christian and if there are
non-religious people in the group – as there may be tonight – many times
they’re not super excited about letting everyone know they’re not religious. It
can be awkward, okay? It can bring awkward conversations. So it’s easy to make
the mistake of thinking everyone around you is Christian.
understandable, but it’s a problem. To give you some examples, just in my
experience: a few years ago I tried to volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center.
And they would not accept volunteers unless they signed a paper saying Christ
is lord and savior. And I’m not willing to lie about that, so I couldn’t work
with them. And a couple months ago I was at a conference: about 300 young
people, college age, maybe not as much high school, but the same kind of thing.
And two different speakers during the day made a point on stage of talking
about how pro-life atheists can’t really defend their views. So I was super
excited about that. And a couple months after that I went to a pro-life summit
with between 100 and 150 major pro-life activists in California. And at one
point early on in the summit, a guy with a microphone said that he thinks the
best way to help the pro-life movement in California is to “get the pagans out
of political office.” And when he said that, the room burst into applause! How
welcome do you think I felt? Not especially. And then a couple weeks ago a guy
told me that working for Secular Pro-Life mocks God by stealing his glory.
Now don’t
get me wrong: I don’t think this is typical behavior. We have a lot of
Christians that work with our group. Some of our biggest supporters are
Christian pro-lifers: some of our bloggers and people that help us with a lot
of things. And in my experience, most Christian pro-lifers are kind and
welcoming and they’re glad we share common ground and they’re happy to work
So don’t
mistake me in saying that this is normal behavior. But when the vocal minority
gives off this idea, you might be able to understand how some secularists would
feel like you don’t really want us here! You don’t understand us and you don’t like us and you don’t want us here. And
that can be a problem.
Now I think
most people have the common sense and the diplomacy to not go on about
“pagans.” In fact I’ve almost never heard anyone use that word in real life
before that one guy. But I think that the problem can be a little bit more
nuanced than that sometimes. Just to give you some insight: Josh talked about
finding common ground, right? I cannot overemphasize how useful that is. And
sometimes people feel like – whether it’s with a secularist or someone with
different politics than you or different sexuality or whatever – you might feel
like “I don’t even know how to start.” But you’d be surprised how much you have
in common. There are a lot of people that think abortion is wrong, and there
are a lot of people that think it should be illegal, from lots of different
walks of life. And if you go to a pro-life event and you talk about abortion,
and you talk about why you think it’s a problem and what you can do to help,
that’s actually very inclusive.
sometimes I find that at pro-life events, people – for example, they might get
into debates about bigger pro-life issues. You guys have probably heard some of
this. If you’re “really” pro-life, you’ll have certain opinions about the death
penalty or euthanasia or even veganism or the welfare state. There’s all sorts
of stuff. And the more you bring up other things, the more you make people
think that the only way they’re allowed to fight abortion with you is to agree
with you on other topics, the more you take the pool of people who are against
abortion and chop it up and make it smaller.
I’m not
saying you shouldn’t have opinions on other topics. Totally you should, and if
you feel strongly about them than do something about it. I’m all for that. But when you bring it up is crucial. That’s
just another example of a way that you might be alienating people without
realizing it. Not you guys personally – probably none of you have ever done
that, but in the future as you go forward as pro-life leaders you can keep that
in mind.
So I’ve
given you a whole list of things not
to do – talking about “pagans,” talking about other political topics. If you
are going to talk about the pro-life message, what do you say? What arguments
do you use?

Before I even get into this, I’m going to tell you right now I’m not going to
have enough time to really tell you. And so if you want to know, I have all
these cool business cards that I made with our website on them and all sorts of
information. If you’re curious I would be delighted to give you tons of
information on arguments you can make from a secular perspective. But I find
that most Christian pro-lifers already do that. Most of the stuff you say is
usually pretty secular.
We go with
four major premises, okay? The first premise: the zygote or embryo or fetus –
whatever stage of development you want to talk about – is, from a biological
standpoint, a human being. And that’s the first premise. I can talk to you
about how to make that more comprehensive, but that’s the beginning.
The second
one gets more philosophical: there’s no consistent, objective distinction between
a human being and what many refer to as a “person.” You can get into all sorts
of things about cognitive ability or ability to feel pain, and I’m not going to
go into that right now, but the point is that you can say that they are a human
being, and that’s what matters.
The third
one – which is where people sometimes get tripped up when you’re talking
between Christians and secularists – is that human beings deserve human rights.
And sometimes I have Christians talk to me about how you can make that argument
to a secularist. Because if you believe that human beings deserve human rights
because they’re made in the image of God, how are you going to talk to a secularist about that
It’s a very good question. And, again, I don’t have a
lot of time to go into it. I will say that in my experience – and not everyone
has had this experience – but in my experience secularists aren’t wondering why
human beings should have human rights. They already agree that human beings
should have human rights. They don’t know if they agree that the preborn are
valuable human beings, and that’s what you have to talk about. But if you talk
to them about how they feel about born human beings, you’ll find that they
completely think human beings should have human rights. So your question is a matter of consistency. How do you get them to apply that feeling consistently?
You will occasionally get people who are like, “Well, why? Why should anyone have human rights?” And that’s a
whole different ball game. And I can give you resources on that if you want to
talk more about it. There are philosophical points of view from a secular
standpoint of why that should still matter. But most of the time if you happen
to be talking to a secularist, don’t jump into all that philosophy unless they
ask you to, because a lot of times you’ll find that they’re like, “Yeah, human
beings get human rights, but is the preborn a human being?” Different topic.
And the
fourth premise. Again, don’t have a lot of time. I think this is very
important. I think pro-lifers often overlook this and I want to emphasize it,
okay? So (1) the fetus is a human being, biologically speaking, (2) there’s no
major difference between a human being and a person, and (3) human beings
deserve human rights. That’s usually where we stop. The fourth premise: bodily rights – my body, my choice – is an important argument. There are many
situations in society where bodily rights take precedence. It’s not enough to
justify abortion. And if you’re really interested in getting into debates and
discussions and dialogues, you should look into this so you can talk about it.
Because at least the pro-choicers that I know, the most intelligent
pro-choicers, this is one of the first things they’ll go to: bodily rights.
So I can’t
get into all the details of why all this is true. I’m going to continue with
something Josh said, though. You know I’m talking about dialogue and debate and
stuff, and I find that a lot of people – whether it’s in pro-life work or any
other political work – they might feel very strongly about a certain political
topic but they’re not really sure what they can do to help. Because not
everybody is confrontational. Not everyone’s ready to speak in front of a big
group, not everyone’s ready to stand outside of a clinic, or even have a
dialogue on a college campus. Some people aren’t comfortable with that level of
face-to-face. What if someone yells at me? What if it’s awkward?
You know
what? That’s okay. There are lots of ways you can help the pro-life movement.
If you can do those things, do those
things! You can find them very interesting and they can teach you a lot. But if
you’re not sure you’re ready for that stuff – you’re not ready to hold clever
picket signs – I submit that one of the best things you can do (especially
young people!) for the pro-life movement is learn how to be good friends with
people who are totally different from you
. Seriously.
There are
three ways this helps the pro-life movement. The first one is – especially for
those of you about to go into college or those of you already In college – many
women in crisis pregnancies (as we just heard a story earlier tonight) choose
abortion because they feel like they lack support. It’s not that they can’t
wait to necessarily get rid of their pregnancies; some of them would actually
like to keep them. A lot of them would! And they feel like they don’t have the
financial support and the social support. If you are friends with a lot of
people you might find yourself in a position to be a voice of encouragement and
comfort and resource, and that can be the difference between life and death.
That’s the first thing, okay?
thing: when you become friends with people who are very different from you, you
bust stereotypes. You want to be the “token pro-life friend.” They don’t know
any pro-lifers besides you. You’re the first pro-lifer they’ve ever met in
person, and they like you! You’re nice, you’re smart, you’re interested in a
lot of things. So then when someone starts mouthing off about the pro-life movement,
this person thinks of their friend and they’re like, “That doesn’t really fit.”
They might even get defensive on your behalf because they don’t want people
bashing their friends. Just by existing as a good friend and being out as a
pro-life person, you’re helping show what the pro-life movement is like.
And it
doesn’t hurt that you’re young! Because a lot of people think that the pro-life
movement is just a bunch of people that have been fighting this since the 70s,
grandmas outside of abortion clinics, and it’s all going to go away eventually.
It’s not going anywhere! Plenty of young people are pro-life and we need to
make that clear. Okay?
So the first
thing is you help someone in a crisis pregnancy, bust stereotypes just by
existing as a cool person – and if for some reason you’re not a cool person,
you can just keep to yourself, but if you’re nice, okay?
Third thing:
it’s not just about teaching them and
showing them and swaying them. When you’re friends with people
who are different from you, it changes you.
You learn about people that are coming from a totally different place. I can’t
tell you how different my relationships are because I have people I love dearly
who are Christians and Catholics. And it completely changes many of my
conversations with other secularists. And it can be the same thing for race,
sexuality, politics, whatever. 
The point is: try to understand why they think
what they do, why they’re coming from where they are, and it helps you think
about what you think – not just on abortion, on everything. Hone your own
opinions – yes your arguments, but also really think about what you think. And
you come to a place of confidence and knowledge about where you’re coming from.
And then you can communicate with them too, and not just the ones who are your
friends, who you’ve gotten to know, but other people like them also. It makes
a big difference.
So if you’re
not ready to stand outside of an abortion clinic, that’s okay. When you go back
to school – if you’re already back in school? I don’t know – try to figure out
how to just start slowly, get to know someone you would have otherwise never
talked to, just out of curiosity! And you don’t have to start with “Hey, so
what do you think of abortion?” You can just say “Hey! How’s it going? What are
you reading? What’s going on?” You don’t have to lead off with confusing,
controversial topics. If you want to you can, I don’t know how it will go over,
could be interesting.

So yeah. So
that’s pretty much my thing. If anyone wants to know, I could go on for hours
about the details of secular arguments. If you want to know, if you want to be
equipped, come talk to me. I’d be happy to talk to you about the details of the
four things that I just mentioned very briefly. But if you don’t have time,
that’s fine. If you’re not ready to get into that, that’s fine. If you don’t
feel like reading philosophy, that’s fine. Then go out there and make some
friends. Help an agnostic out, okay guys?

27 thoughts on “SPL’s Make Noise youth rally speech”

  1. Could a Neanderthal, if alive today, be a person? Or does h.sapiens DNA the essential requirement to be considered a person?

    FYI, Neanderthals created art, and buried their dead.

  2. If intelligent aliens came to earth, absolutely they should be recognized as persons.

    And they should ALL be recognized as persons, including the very young, very old, disabled, or sick aliens.

    That simple.

  3. Hypothetically, what if intelligent aliens had an extra emotion, or skill that we don't – say they can communicate through telepathy..

    Would they be justified in treating us as non-persons with some rights, the way you suggest we treat Neanderthals?

    After all, if we are not on the same plane as highly intelligent aliens, then why should we have the same status as them?

  4. A garbage argument for several reasons. Case in point, what was written here:
    **there’s no consistent, objective distinction between a human being and what many refer to as a “person.” You can get into all sorts of things about cognitive ability or ability to feel pain, and I’m not going to go into that right now, but the point is that you can say that they are a human being, and that’s what matters.**

    Which, if anyone actually believed it, (rather than just pretending to so that they could use the pretense to punish people for having sex) would mean that we would be prosecuting all staff at IVF facitilities for murder (given that 50% of all embryos will be killed by the freezing process there), as well as doctors who harvest organs from brain dead motorcycle accident victims.

  5. When the nature of their actions and demands are such that it really allows for only one real explanation, it's a waste of time to 'ask' them and get a 5 page gerrymandered answer.

  6. The occasional IVF facility has been picketed by antis, but from what I have seen, they spend more time protesting PP facilities THAT DONT EVEN DO ABORTION, and only hand out contraception.

  7. Ann, I'm pro-life and have no problem with people having sex. So you might want to guess again. You're telling me what I believe, and you're wrong.

  8. Which also fits in with their REAL agenda being punishment for sex rather than concern for the 'tiny innocent vulnerable sweet unborn babies'. The specific purpose of contraception is to allow people to have sex without having a baby. The specific purpose of IVF is pure reproduction, sex is entirely irrelevent to the process, so out goes all their pretended 'concern' about the 'tiny unborn vulnerable babies' never mind that 50% of the embryoes in IVF are destroyed by the freezing process.

  9. **Ann, I'm pro-life and have no problem with people having sex. **

    Except of course that if they get pregnant as a result of the sex, you then want to punish them by telling them that they have to have a baby. If you really had no problem with it, you'd butt out of their lives. Spare me the games that a baby is not a 'punishment'. Anything you don't want, that others force on you, is a punishment. A nice cup of tea is a punishment, if you are sick and don't want to drink it, but someone forces you to, anyways.

  10. You want to know why, miss stupid and spoiled? Because I lived for YEARS as a child in an environment where I had my bodily autonomy taken away from me, by simpering spoiled people like you, who thought it would be interesting and popular to give the rights to my body to other people, who they thought were cuter than me, and deliberately enabled these people to physically torture and sexually molest me.

    That is where taking away someone's bodily autonomy ALWAYS ends up, regardless of how cute you might think the person you give the rights to the other person's body might be, or whatever naive notions you might think you have that you can somehow magically limit taking away someone's bodily autonomy to only those particular areas where you WANT it taken away.

    And now you want it taken away again. Just a little bit. Just for a little while. Just for the embryo's 'very life'. Why does that remind me of the old game: Just the tip. Just for a second. Just to see how it feels." Fuck you and your sad little feelies about something with no brain. I've met people like you and you have zero sympathy for real children with real brains, who experience real suffering, and you'll hand them over to that suffering in a heartbeat, provided whoever wants to make them suffer for their amusement either looks a little bit cuter to you, or you might have to inconvenience yourself (rather than other people) to put a stop to it.

  11. Ms. Morgan
    You need to seek help with your anger. It is not healthy or productive. Whatever has happened to you to cause such unreasonable rage needs to be healed. I say this with absolute concern.

  12. That's a possibility. But I'd say that whatever happened to others on here, to cause them to place zero value on the human mind and desire to punish people for having sex needs to be treated as well. Probably more urgently than what's wrong with ME needs to be treated, because what's wrong with me merely pisses people off. What's wrong with THEM will end up with people being enslaved and lobotomized.

  13. The first premise: the zygote or embryo or fetus – whatever stage of development you want to talk about – is, from a biological standpoint, a human being.

    A WORTHLESS LIE, because there is a major difference between "a human" and "a human being" –and even abortion opponents are subconsciously aware of that difference.

    "A human" is a member of the species homo sapiens. "A human being" is more than merely that simple thing. For proof, all you have to do is take the word "being" and apply it to other life-forms:

    Is a snail also a snail being? Is a salmon also a salmon being? Is a worm also a worm being? Is a carrot also a carrot being? If you use the definition of "being" which means "exists", then the answers are "Yes" and "Yes" and "Yes" and "Yes" –and even a rock would qualify as a "rock being".

    But if you use the definition of "being" which relates to "personhood", then the answers are all "No". Nevertheless, it is still possible to imagine something for which the answer might be "Yes": Can an extraterrestrial life-form qualify as an extraterrestrial being? Obviously it depends on the life-form. If it is as ordinary as a snail or salmon or worm or carrot, then the answer is "No" –but if it can interact with an average human adult in much the same manner that two such human adults are able to interact with each other, then the answer is probably "Yes".

    Meanwhile, no unborn human at any stage of development is able to interact with an average human adult in much the same manner that two such human adults are able to interact with each other. Merely CALLING it a "person", by calling it a "human being", is totally inadequate to prove it actually is a person! Which is why that "first precept" quoted above is a worthless lie.

  14. ''And they should ALL be recognized as persons, including the very young, very old, disabled, or sick aliens.''
    Argue why so? Don't say it and just walk away.

  15. Your speech is nothing more than propaganda. Why not tell the truth. Your choice is to let innocent born babies die. Why not just admit the truth and then see who follows.

  16. My choice is to make all life sacred and safe from the murderous intentions of people like Russell Crawford who has dedicated his pathetic life to killing children.

    Go to Google images…..Google late term abortions and see the many fine examples of Russell Crawford's demonic intentions.

  17. Your choice is to practice self aggrandizement for your pro life actions while being incapable of understanding that you murder innocent babies in an effort to save a fetus. You don't have the IQ to understand what you are doing, so you will never stop.

  18. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but most likely the type of people who are reading a pro-life blog have already seen late-term abortion images. I don't think you're introducing anyone to any new information.

  19. I kind of follow Russell around. I want anyone NEW to his nonsense to have an opportunity to see for themselves exactly what is at stake here. While most of your audience has seen these……I respond to him through disqus so I don't always know who the audience is.

    I use Google because in the past i have been accused of making things up and directing people to doctored images. Nobody questions Google. But thanks for the heads up. I appreciate it. The Peace of Jesus to you.


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