Recap: Let There Be Life Conference 2018 at UC Berkeley

The Let There Be Life Conference co-hosted by Berkeley Students for Life and Pro-Life San Francisco was a smashing success. Not only did each speaker cover very different content, but the style of each speech was entirely different. There were speeches in the style of spoken word poetry, rigorous academic discussion, sermon*, humorous dialogue, rousing call to action, and many others. It was engaging and inspiring to see so many different types of people uniting to educate and empower one another to work against abortion.

But let me back up. Fellow SPL co-leader Ellen and I arrived at UC Berkeley around 7:30 am and set up the Secular Pro-Life table. I was impressed at how many pro-life groups tabled for this event. We were right next to the table for Abide Women’s Health and across from our buds Rehumanize International and of course Josh Brahm’s Equal Rights Institute, but there were many great groups all around. People came up to chat with us about SPL and grab a brochure, and we got to say hi to many pro-life friends from around the state and country who I rarely get to see in person. That’s always one of the best parts of making it to a pro-life conference.

After about an hour of breakfast and chatting, Terrisa used her iconic bullhorn to get the conference underway. Pro-Life San Francisco very thoughtfully had staff to keep an eye on the tables so the tabling people could go inside and watch all the talks. The morning speeches went like this:

A Unified, Diverse Pro-Life Movement
Elijah Thompson

Elijah started off the conference with a talk about “blooming where you’re planted” i.e. focusing on your strengths and your natural circles of influence.
Building a Pro-Life California
Terrisa Bukvinac & Karen Rose

Terrisa & Karen outlined a strategy for persuading more pro-choice Californians to consider the pro-life position. They especially emphasized unifying the diverse pro-life groups around our similarities and de-emphasizing our (many) differences.
The Most Persuasive Pro-Life Argument
Josh Brahm
Josh, in usual comedic style, illustrated how to engage pro-choice people in a non-threatening, convincing way through open-mindedness, clarifying questions, and respectful dialogue. He finished his talk by outlining the Equal Rights Argument, which his team has found very effective at helping people see the pro-life view.
Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths
Monica Snyder
Speaking probably a bit too quickly, I gave an overview of the data surrounding three commonly perpetrated pro-choice myths: (1) we don’t know when human life begins, (2) most late-term abortions are for medical reasons, and (3) pro-life laws don’t decrease abortions. (You can see the sources for the presentation here.)
Bad Words: How Our Words Dehumanize
Herb Geraghty
Herb gave a passionate, honest talk about the language society has historically used (and continues to use) to dehumanize and marginalize vulnerable groups before oppressing and often killing people in those groups. Sadly, even pro-lifers sometimes use dehumanizing language regarding certain topics, which can undermine our credibility when we say all humans have equal value. “Whether it’s the violence of war, torture, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, human trafficking — all of these acts are perpetuated by dehumanizing language that makes the victim seem somehow ‘subhuman.'” Check out this excellent graphic Rehumanize International created to illustrate the point.
Or The Culture Will Decline
Walter Hoye
In a talk almost like a sermon*, Walter cut deep to the truth with facts about the rapidly declining fertility rate of black Americans which threatens to eliminate black culture. He specifically addressed the staggering abortion rates among the black population, and the targeting of black people by the abortion industry.

*The content here was not that of a sermon; it was not about religion at all. But the style very much reminded me of a sermon with the speaker’s variable pace and the way he engaged the attendees.

After Walter’s talk the conference stopped for lunch. Everyone stretched their legs and walked out to a beautiful warm day. We grabbed our sunglasses and sandwiches, chips, and cookies (included with the conference tickets) and Ellen and I continued tabling for Secular Pro-Life. Many attendees came up to congratulate us on SPL’s talk, which they enjoyed very much, and to get copies of our 5 page source list. Several of the attendees said they appreciated the analytical approach, and shared that they too had backgrounds in STEM and so were partial to a more data-centered discussion. I’m always pretty happy to meet other STEM pro-lifers. It may be the first conference Ellen or I have attended where we talked a lot more about the research and not as much about religious diversity, although there were several of those discussions too. Either way everyone was friendly and encouraging, and we ended up giving away all but one of our copies of the source list. There was a lot of interest, which was pretty great.

In what seemed like no time, lunch was over and we were ready for the second half, which included the following talks:

Pro-Life When It Counts
Marie Stettler


Marie shared her story about her unexpected pregnancy, in which she made a hesitant decision to abort, tried to use abortion pill reversal to undo it, but ultimately lost her child. She has since become a nurse with Culture of Life Family Services, the same organization that had tried to help with the reversal. You can read more about her journey here.
Pro-Life and the Church
Amy Ford
Amy shared her own experiences with an unplanned teen pregnancy and emphasized the importance of the church being a safe place for pregnant women and girls.
Strange Fruit
Cessilye Smith
Image may contain: one or more people

Cessilye opened by darkening the room and showing Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit. Cessilye then spoke softly but poetically and movingly about the disproportionate struggles black women face with pregnancy and childbearing, all while a silent array of powerful photos of black women faded in and out to a darkened room.
Accelerating the End of Abortion
David Bereit
David gave a rousing speech about how even one person can make a huge difference in creating a culture of life and called on all of us to work together and coordinate our efforts.

Bringing Life to the Golden State
Catherine Glenn Foster
Catherine discussed the importance of voter education in California. She also talked about the need for unity amidst diversity in the movement (a recurring and excellent theme for the conference).

Don’t be an A**hole
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa

Destiny talked about building bridges with pro-choice feminists, explaining how treating people respectfully and being approachable makes it easier to work together, whereas being more aggressive and assertive has the opposite effect.
The Wild West Coast: PP Sells Baby Parts
David Daleiden
David showed us (1) the CMP video he took of Dr. Deborah Nucatola detailing how she surgically obtains and sells fetal organs for money, (2) documents explicitly listing prices for fetal organ costs separate from the already-listed cost reimbursements, and (3) advertisements from procurement companies explicitly highlighting the financial gains abortion clinics may realize if they sell late-term fetal organs and other tissues.

Despite David’s dispassionate and informative demeanor, the presentation was horrifying and infuriating. It was interesting that the conference organizers chose to end on this note, as I think it left attendees feeling a strong sense of urgency to continue and expand their pro-life efforts.

Overall it was a phenomenal conference. It seemed like there were speakers to represent such a wide variety of pro-life people and I think a lot of people left feeling we are united, so I guess the conference organizers really hit the target theme. If you are able to go to a Pro-Life San Francisco event in the future, we recommend it. You can see more pics from this year’s conference here.

Recap: Let There Be Life Conference 2018 at UC Berkeley

The Let There Be Life Conference co-hosted by Berkeley Students for Life and Pro-Life San Francisco was a smashing success. Not only did each speaker cover very different content, but the style of each speech was entirely different. There were speeches in the style of spoken word poetry, rigorous academic discussion, sermon*, humorous dialogue, rousing call to action, and many others. It was engaging and inspiring to see so many different types of people uniting to educate and empower one another to work against abortion.

But let me back up. Fellow SPL co-leader Ellen and I arrived at UC Berkeley around 7:30 am and set up the Secular Pro-Life table. I was impressed at how many pro-life groups tabled for this event. We were right next to the table for Abide Women’s Health and across from our buds Rehumanize International and of course Josh Brahm’s Equal Rights Institute, but there were many great groups all around. People came up to chat with us about SPL and grab a brochure, and we got to say hi to many pro-life friends from around the state and country who I rarely get to see in person. That’s always one of the best parts of making it to a pro-life conference.

After about an hour of breakfast and chatting, Terrisa used her iconic bullhorn to get the conference underway. Pro-Life San Francisco very thoughtfully had staff to keep an eye on the tables so the tabling people could go inside and watch all the talks. The morning speeches went like this:

A Unified, Diverse Pro-Life Movement
Elijah Thompson

Elijah started off the conference with a talk about “blooming where you’re planted” i.e. focusing on your strengths and your natural circles of influence.
Building a Pro-Life California
Terrisa Bukvinac & Karen Rose

Terrisa & Karen outlined a strategy for persuading more pro-choice Californians to consider the pro-life position. They especially emphasized unifying the diverse pro-life groups around our similarities and de-emphasizing our (many) differences.
The Most Persuasive Pro-Life Argument
Josh Brahm
Josh, in usual comedic style, illustrated how to engage pro-choice people in a non-threatening, convincing way through open-mindedness, clarifying questions, and respectful dialogue. He finished his talk by outlining the Equal Rights Argument, which his team has found very effective at helping people see the pro-life view.
Deconstructing Three Pro-Choice Myths
Monica Snyder
Speaking probably a bit too quickly, I gave an overview of the data surrounding three commonly perpetrated pro-choice myths: (1) we don’t know when human life begins, (2) most late-term abortions are for medical reasons, and (3) pro-life laws don’t decrease abortions. (You can see the sources for the presentation here.)
Bad Words: How Our Words Dehumanize
Herb Geraghty
Herb gave a passionate, honest talk about the language society has historically used (and continues to use) to dehumanize and marginalize vulnerable groups before oppressing and often killing people in those groups. Sadly, even pro-lifers sometimes use dehumanizing language regarding certain topics, which can undermine our credibility when we say all humans have equal value. “Whether it’s the violence of war, torture, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, human trafficking — all of these acts are perpetuated by dehumanizing language that makes the victim seem somehow ‘subhuman.'” Check out this excellent graphic Rehumanize International created to illustrate the point.
Or The Culture Will Decline
Walter Hoye
In a talk almost like a sermon*, Walter cut deep to the truth with facts about the rapidly declining fertility rate of black Americans which threatens to eliminate black culture. He specifically addressed the staggering abortion rates among the black population, and the targeting of black people by the abortion industry.

*The content here was not that of a sermon; it was not about religion at all. But the style very much reminded me of a sermon with the speaker’s variable pace and the way he engaged the attendees.

After Walter’s talk the conference stopped for lunch. Everyone stretched their legs and walked out to a beautiful warm day. We grabbed our sunglasses and sandwiches, chips, and cookies (included with the conference tickets) and Ellen and I continued tabling for Secular Pro-Life. Many attendees came up to congratulate us on SPL’s talk, which they enjoyed very much, and to get copies of our 5 page source list. Several of the attendees said they appreciated the analytical approach, and shared that they too had backgrounds in STEM and so were partial to a more data-centered discussion. I’m always pretty happy to meet other STEM pro-lifers. It may be the first conference Ellen or I have attended where we talked a lot more about the research and not as much about religious diversity, although there were several of those discussions too. Either way everyone was friendly and encouraging, and we ended up giving away all but one of our copies of the source list. There was a lot of interest, which was pretty great.

In what seemed like no time, lunch was over and we were ready for the second half, which included the following talks:

Pro-Life When It Counts
Marie Stettler


Marie shared her story about her unexpected pregnancy, in which she made a hesitant decision to abort, tried to use abortion pill reversal to undo it, but ultimately lost her child. She has since become a nurse with Culture of Life Family Services, the same organization that had tried to help with the reversal. You can read more about her journey here.
Pro-Life and the Church
Amy Ford
Amy shared her own experiences with an unplanned teen pregnancy and emphasized the importance of the church being a safe place for pregnant women and girls.
Strange Fruit
Cessilye Smith
Image may contain: one or more people

Cessilye opened by darkening the room and showing Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit. Cessilye then spoke softly but poetically and movingly about the disproportionate struggles black women face with pregnancy and childbearing, all while a silent array of powerful photos of black women faded in and out to a darkened room.
Accelerating the End of Abortion
David Bereit
David gave a rousing speech about how even one person can make a huge difference in creating a culture of life and called on all of us to work together and coordinate our efforts.

Bringing Life to the Golden State
Catherine Glenn Foster
Catherine discussed the importance of voter education in California. She also talked about the need for unity amidst diversity in the movement (a recurring and excellent theme for the conference).

Don’t be an A**hole
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa

Destiny talked about building bridges with pro-choice feminists, explaining how treating people respectfully and being approachable makes it easier to work together, whereas being more aggressive and assertive has the opposite effect.
The Wild West Coast: PP Sells Baby Parts
David Daleiden
David showed us (1) the CMP video he took of Dr. Deborah Nucatola detailing how she surgically obtains and sells fetal organs for money, (2) documents explicitly listing prices for fetal organ costs separate from the already-listed cost reimbursements, and (3) advertisements from procurement companies explicitly highlighting the financial gains abortion clinics may realize if they sell late-term fetal organs and other tissues.

Despite David’s dispassionate and informative demeanor, the presentation was horrifying and infuriating. It was interesting that the conference organizers chose to end on this note, as I think it left attendees feeling a strong sense of urgency to continue and expand their pro-life efforts.

Overall it was a phenomenal conference. It seemed like there were speakers to represent such a wide variety of pro-life people and I think a lot of people left feeling we are united, so I guess the conference organizers really hit the target theme. If you are able to go to a Pro-Life San Francisco event in the future, we recommend it. You can see more pics from this year’s conference here.

Supporting women with unplanned pregnancies: can we find common ground with the pro-choice side?

(Shop artist Alisha Vernon on Etsy.)

A few weeks ago the New York Times ran “The Women the Abortion War Leaves Out,” a refreshingly objective op-ed about the high costs of motherhood that drive many to choose abortion. Author Michelle Oberman, a law professor and self-described feminist from California, wanted to better understand the goals of the American pro-life movement, so she decided to go to crisis pregnancy center in Oklahoma–Birth Choice–and interview the women who run it.

Despite her initial nervousness, Oberman found that the ladies who run Birth Choice were more than willing to show her their work. She said the Birth Choice employees spoke with “deep compassion” about the women they serve, many of whom are grappling with unplanned pregnancies in dire circumstances, including:

  • Violent partners 
  • Living out of a car 
  • Children lost to foster care 
  • Mental illness 
  • Addiction 
  • Undocumented status and unable to speak English 

Birth Choice works hard to support these women, offering services such as pregnancy tests, registration with Oklahoma’s Medicaid, weekly meetings with case workers, counseling, drug abuse treatment, and vocational training. For women with particularly trying circumstances, Birth Choice also has Rose Home, a shelter which can house up to five pregnant women and up to 13 children at a time.

As Oberman learned of all Birth Choice does for these women, she realized, as she puts it, that the abortion debate involves us “[hurling] rhetoric about choice and life, while remaining distracted from the reality that so many women have far too little of either.”

The rhetoric of “choice” and “life” encourages us to see a pregnant woman as if she’s balancing a scale, with abortion on one side and motherhood on the other. Which will she choose? Tilt her one way and she might get to finish high school or college, gaining time to plan for the child she wants. Tipped another way, she might become a mother or allow a childless couple to adopt.

The women living at Rose Home reveal the shallowness of that metaphor.

Women face the surprise of an unplanned pregnancy as if on train tracks, with a locomotive barreling toward them. The only variation lies in how many other trains are coming from other directions. Homelessness, violence, addiction and the biggest of all: poverty.

I don’t mean to suggest money is the only factor that shapes many women’s response to an unplanned pregnancy, but let’s be clear about how much it matters. One of the largest research studies on the question of why women choose abortion surveyed about 1,200 abortion patients and found 73 percent said they could not afford a baby at the time.

Oberman is describing the part of the abortion debate that should be common ground for the pro-choicers who want to support and liberate women and the pro-lifers who want to protect fetal life. As we have said many times over, many women get abortions precisely because they feel they don’t have a choice, and that should be a problem for activists on both sides of the debate. The pro-choice side is quick to point out the many ways unplanned pregnancy can devastate a woman’s life, but if the implication is that she is choosing abortion because of these external reasons–and not because she specifically doesn’t want children–these are precisely the situations when even pro-choicers should see abortion as a travesty, not a panacea. If most women choose abortion because they feel they have to, then it’s backwards and even a bit grotesque to model abortion as women’s liberation. As the stats Oberman quoted suggest, for most women abortion is the result of fear, not freedom.

Pro-choicers and pro-lifers can hopefully agree that women who don’t actually want abortions shouldn’t feel pressured, economically or otherwise, into getting abortions. Broadly speaking, from the pro-choice view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because that pressure takes away their agency over a life-changing and fundamentally important, intimate decision. From the pro-life view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because they are being pressured to destroy innocent human beings. Both sides can recognize that this decision can have grave consequences (emotionally, psychologically, socially) for the woman; the pro-life side also recognizes the decision has grave consequences for the fetus. So while the two sides should be able to come to a similar conclusion–we want a society in which women never feel pressured to abort–the thought processes that lead us there mean coerced abortion is where our common ground ends.

This distinction is crucial and often misunderstood. A few years ago I did a brief interview for The Friendly Atheist podcast to discuss the secular pro-life posistion and what it’s like for us secularists to work with a predominantly Christian movement. I emphasized that SPL cares about education and resources for women as methods of decreasing abortion, and the hosts asked me if that’s where SPL’s advocacy ends. I know we would be much more palatable to the pro-choice side if we advocated for decreasing abortions in every way except legally, but it would be dishonest to suggest that is SPL’s full position. So I explained that no, we do not end at education and resources; we also believe that abortion should generally be illegal and we support some legislative efforts to that end. I explained that for many pro-lifers, education and resources–even if they prevented nearly all abortions–would still not be enough, because killing innocent human beings should be illegal in itself, as a baseline position.

I can’t count how many times the pro-choice side has misunderstood this basic pro-life premise. They often assume no one truly cares about fetal life and then try to understand pro-life efforts from that flawed lens. Even Oberman, who I believe wishes to be objective and fair in her descriptions, misunderstands pro-life motivation in her op-ed when she claims that pro-life laws aimed at closing abortion clinics are “designed to drive up the costs of abortion.” We aren’t trying to close clinics to make abortion more expensive; we are trying to close clinics to make abortion impossible, because abortion kills innocent human beings. (It’s also worth noting that Oberman seems to believe the pro-lifers trying to close clinics are distinct from the pro-lifers trying to support women facing unplanned pregnancies. I’m not sure there’s such a bright line there.)

But even as the two sides sharply disagree about the legality of abortion, we can agree that we should decrease abortion by increasing support for women facing unplanned pregnancies. (And given Live Action’s recent work demonstrating that, contrary to common assertions, Planned Parenthood rarely provides prenatal care, it’s more obvious than ever how much work we have ahead of us.) If you believe the best way to support these women is through government-run programs such as WIC or Medicaid, fight for those. If you believe the best way to do it is through private charitable efforts such as the work of CPCs like Birth Choice, contribute to those. I care less about how you think we should increase support and more about whether you are working to make it happen.

More reading:
7 things pro-lifers wish our pro-choice friends understood about us.
So I met some sidewalk counselors.
In-depth interview with a millennial sidewalk counselor.
In-depth interview: Kristi Burkhart, Executive Director, Pregnancy Care Center

Supporting women with unplanned pregnancies: can we find common ground with the pro-choice side?

(Shop artist Alisha Vernon on Etsy.)

A few weeks ago the New York Times ran “The Women the Abortion War Leaves Out,” a refreshingly objective op-ed about the high costs of motherhood that drive many to choose abortion. Author Michelle Oberman, a law professor and self-described feminist from California, wanted to better understand the goals of the American pro-life movement, so she decided to go to crisis pregnancy center in Oklahoma–Birth Choice–and interview the women who run it.

Despite her initial nervousness, Oberman found that the ladies who run Birth Choice were more than willing to show her their work. She said the Birth Choice employees spoke with “deep compassion” about the women they serve, many of whom are grappling with unplanned pregnancies in dire circumstances, including:

  • Violent partners 
  • Living out of a car 
  • Children lost to foster care 
  • Mental illness 
  • Addiction 
  • Undocumented status and unable to speak English 

Birth Choice works hard to support these women, offering services such as pregnancy tests, registration with Oklahoma’s Medicaid, weekly meetings with case workers, counseling, drug abuse treatment, and vocational training. For women with particularly trying circumstances, Birth Choice also has Rose Home, a shelter which can house up to five pregnant women and up to 13 children at a time.

As Oberman learned of all Birth Choice does for these women, she realized, as she puts it, that the abortion debate involves us “[hurling] rhetoric about choice and life, while remaining distracted from the reality that so many women have far too little of either.”

The rhetoric of “choice” and “life” encourages us to see a pregnant woman as if she’s balancing a scale, with abortion on one side and motherhood on the other. Which will she choose? Tilt her one way and she might get to finish high school or college, gaining time to plan for the child she wants. Tipped another way, she might become a mother or allow a childless couple to adopt.

The women living at Rose Home reveal the shallowness of that metaphor.

Women face the surprise of an unplanned pregnancy as if on train tracks, with a locomotive barreling toward them. The only variation lies in how many other trains are coming from other directions. Homelessness, violence, addiction and the biggest of all: poverty.

I don’t mean to suggest money is the only factor that shapes many women’s response to an unplanned pregnancy, but let’s be clear about how much it matters. One of the largest research studies on the question of why women choose abortion surveyed about 1,200 abortion patients and found 73 percent said they could not afford a baby at the time.

Oberman is describing the part of the abortion debate that should be common ground for the pro-choicers who want to support and liberate women and the pro-lifers who want to protect fetal life. As we have said many times over, many women get abortions precisely because they feel they don’t have a choice, and that should be a problem for activists on both sides of the debate. The pro-choice side is quick to point out the many ways unplanned pregnancy can devastate a woman’s life, but if the implication is that she is choosing abortion because of these external reasons–and not because she specifically doesn’t want children–these are precisely the situations when even pro-choicers should see abortion as a travesty, not a panacea. If most women choose abortion because they feel they have to, then it’s backwards and even a bit grotesque to model abortion as women’s liberation. As the stats Oberman quoted suggest, for most women abortion is the result of fear, not freedom.

Pro-choicers and pro-lifers can hopefully agree that women who don’t actually want abortions shouldn’t feel pressured, economically or otherwise, into getting abortions. Broadly speaking, from the pro-choice view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because that pressure takes away their agency over a life-changing and fundamentally important, intimate decision. From the pro-life view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because they are being pressured to destroy innocent human beings. Both sides can recognize that this decision can have grave consequences (emotionally, psychologically, socially) for the woman; the pro-life side also recognizes the decision has grave consequences for the fetus. So while the two sides should be able to come to a similar conclusion–we want a society in which women never feel pressured to abort–the thought processes that lead us there mean coerced abortion is where our common ground ends.

This distinction is crucial and often misunderstood. A few years ago I did a brief interview for The Friendly Atheist podcast to discuss the secular pro-life posistion and what it’s like for us secularists to work with a predominantly Christian movement. I emphasized that SPL cares about education and resources for women as methods of decreasing abortion, and the hosts asked me if that’s where SPL’s advocacy ends. I know we would be much more palatable to the pro-choice side if we advocated for decreasing abortions in every way except legally, but it would be dishonest to suggest that is SPL’s full position. So I explained that no, we do not end at education and resources; we also believe that abortion should generally be illegal and we support some legislative efforts to that end. I explained that for many pro-lifers, education and resources–even if they prevented nearly all abortions–would still not be enough, because killing innocent human beings should be illegal in itself, as a baseline position.

I can’t count how many times the pro-choice side has misunderstood this basic pro-life premise. They often assume no one truly cares about fetal life and then try to understand pro-life efforts from that flawed lens. Even Oberman, who I believe wishes to be objective and fair in her descriptions, misunderstands pro-life motivation in her op-ed when she claims that pro-life laws aimed at closing abortion clinics are “designed to drive up the costs of abortion.” We aren’t trying to close clinics to make abortion more expensive; we are trying to close clinics to make abortion impossible, because abortion kills innocent human beings. (It’s also worth noting that Oberman seems to believe the pro-lifers trying to close clinics are distinct from the pro-lifers trying to support women facing unplanned pregnancies. I’m not sure there’s such a bright line there.)

But even as the two sides sharply disagree about the legality of abortion, we can agree that we should decrease abortion by increasing support for women facing unplanned pregnancies. (And given Live Action’s recent work demonstrating that, contrary to common assertions, Planned Parenthood rarely provides prenatal care, it’s more obvious than ever how much work we have ahead of us.) If you believe the best way to support these women is through government-run programs such as WIC or Medicaid, fight for those. If you believe the best way to do it is through private charitable efforts such as the work of CPCs like Birth Choice, contribute to those. I care less about how you think we should increase support and more about whether you are working to make it happen.

More reading:
7 things pro-lifers wish our pro-choice friends understood about us.
So I met some sidewalk counselors.
In-depth interview with a millennial sidewalk counselor.
In-depth interview: Kristi Burkhart, Executive Director, Pregnancy Care Center

Common ground on undercover video investigations?

The Friendly Atheist blog is very vocally pro-choice, and especially supportive of Planned Parenthood. That’s a shame, because the blog is often a source of insightful commentary and interesting, under-reported news. And when we appeared on the Friendly Atheist podcast some time ago, we got along with the host fairly well on a personal level—strongly opposed positions on human rights notwithstanding.

So I got a kick out of this article on Friendly Atheist yesterday. Raise your hand when you notice the blindingly obvious parallel:

An ongoing lawsuit between a mysterious sect of the Roman Catholic Church and one of its former members suggests that the group performs private exorcisms as part of its core practices. That sect is asking U.S. courts to make sure any evidence of such a practice is hidden from public view. According to a lawsuit filed by the Heralds of the Gospel Foundation, a Brazil-based organization, this past June, former member Alfonso Beccar Varela illegally obtained videos of their private rituals and then posted them on his personal blog in violation of copyright law.

The subject of an undercover video investigation seeks court intervention to keep things hidden from public view … why am I feeling déjà vu?

Why was Varela so intent on posting these videos? He explained in his response to the lawsuit: “I don’t deny that I made available these videos to the public but it was done with the expressed intention of denouncing the true nature of this organization that recruits adepts and solicits donations under the pretense of being just a devout Catholic association but that in fact has another concealed face… The so called “healing rituals” revealed in the videos are highly questionable “exorcisms” carried in quite a free manner…”

Organizations that claim to be about helping people while concealing their nefarious activities are just the worst, aren’t they? Denouncing them using undercover footage is totally appropriate!

Just to reiterate: The Heralds are worried that the inner workings of their group are so embarrassing that donors might not want to support them financially after learning about the exorcisms.

You would think that a group “devoted to a life of charity” would find another way to spend their money than by shielding what they do behind closed doors.

Exactly! Courts have no business censoring undercover videos just because they’re embarrassing to the subject’s reputation or call its charitable status into question.

By the way, the case of the National Abortion Federation videos, censored by order of Judge William Orick (a Planned Parenthood ally), may be headed to the Supreme Court.

Why do I bring that up? Oh, no reason.

Common ground on undercover video investigations?

The Friendly Atheist blog is very vocally pro-choice, and especially supportive of Planned Parenthood. That’s a shame, because the blog is often a source of insightful commentary and interesting, under-reported news. And when we appeared on the Friendly Atheist podcast some time ago, we got along with the host fairly well on a personal level—strongly opposed positions on human rights notwithstanding.

So I got a kick out of this article on Friendly Atheist yesterday. Raise your hand when you notice the blindingly obvious parallel:

An ongoing lawsuit between a mysterious sect of the Roman Catholic Church and one of its former members suggests that the group performs private exorcisms as part of its core practices. That sect is asking U.S. courts to make sure any evidence of such a practice is hidden from public view. According to a lawsuit filed by the Heralds of the Gospel Foundation, a Brazil-based organization, this past June, former member Alfonso Beccar Varela illegally obtained videos of their private rituals and then posted them on his personal blog in violation of copyright law.

The subject of an undercover video investigation seeks court intervention to keep things hidden from public view … why am I feeling déjà vu?

Why was Varela so intent on posting these videos? He explained in his response to the lawsuit: “I don’t deny that I made available these videos to the public but it was done with the expressed intention of denouncing the true nature of this organization that recruits adepts and solicits donations under the pretense of being just a devout Catholic association but that in fact has another concealed face… The so called “healing rituals” revealed in the videos are highly questionable “exorcisms” carried in quite a free manner…”

Organizations that claim to be about helping people while concealing their nefarious activities are just the worst, aren’t they? Denouncing them using undercover footage is totally appropriate!

Just to reiterate: The Heralds are worried that the inner workings of their group are so embarrassing that donors might not want to support them financially after learning about the exorcisms.

You would think that a group “devoted to a life of charity” would find another way to spend their money than by shielding what they do behind closed doors.

Exactly! Courts have no business censoring undercover videos just because they’re embarrassing to the subject’s reputation or call its charitable status into question.

By the way, the case of the National Abortion Federation videos, censored by order of Judge William Orick (a Planned Parenthood ally), may be headed to the Supreme Court.

Why do I bring that up? Oh, no reason.

“Is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist?”

[Today’s guest post by Acyutananda is part of our paid blogging program.]

So far as I know, the recent “Why Can’t a Feminist Be Pro-Life?” panel at the Catholic University of America marked the first time that pro-choice feminists, who are the feminist mainstream, entered a formal setting where they found undeniable confirmation of the existence of pro-life feminists, and had to grapple with pro-life feminist minds. If “the winning future for the pro-life movement is . . . young, feminist, and disproportionately people of color,” as Prof. Charles Camosy has written, that event may have had an importance that is hard to estimate. But here I will simply outline most of the arguments on each side, while attempting an evaluation of only a few of them. Then I will try to identify a few of the highlights and illuminating moments.

The arguments really concerned not just one, but three issues:

  1. whether a feminist should be pro-choice or pro-life
  2. whether abortion can be moral
  3. whether abortion should be legal.

In looking at the arguments, I would like to focus first on two that came up, one from the pro-life side and one from the pro-choice side, that I would like to see all of us phase out:

In relation to issue 3 above, pro-lifers often point out that legal abortion is called “pro-choice,” and then proceed to object (as at 15:43 in the video) “It’s not pro-choice when we feel like we have no choice.” This quip does make a good point about social conditions, but it is framed as if it demolishes either the term “pro-choice” or the pro-choice policy; and does it really succeed in doing either? I think that all this argument really does is to play on two different meanings of the word “choice.” There is no real inconsistency here in pro-choicers’ position.

Then from the pro-choice side we regularly hear a guilt-by-association argument that could be called the “pro-birth argument.” The argument goes, in effect, “Because many who identify as pro-life on abortion hold obnoxious positions and harm women’s interests on other issues, the pro-life position on abortion must also be obnoxious and harmful to women’s interests.” On the panel, this was the argument on which Pamela Merritt mainly relied (though she did refer, more briefly, to some other arguments).

Merritt certainly argued convincingly and memorably that many pro-life politicians are destructive in many ways to the well-being of the female gender (and everyone else). But what does that really prove in terms of whether abortion is moral, whether abortion should be legal, or whether a feminist should be pro-choice or pro-life? As an argument against the pro-life positions even of the Missouri politicians she focused on, hers was an ad hominem, and against the pro-life positions of three of her fellow panelists, it was a strawman as well.

Differences of perception about the moral value of the unborn are the single main source of the big divide in the abortion debate overall, and those differences were key to understanding the divide between the two groups of panelists at CUA also. (Though bodily-rights arguments normally accept the personhood of the unborn in a nominal way, I contend that even in such arguments, pro-choicers’ particular perception about the humanity of the unborn, or rather their perception that the unborn lack humanity, is the real subtext.) “. . . when life begins [is a] question with no answers that can be proven” came up (at 11:25) in the first presentation, that of Megan Klein-Hattori, and was echoed by the other two on the pro-choice side. Robin Marty put her finger on that question as the key, saying at 50:31 “We’re not disagreeing on the definition of ‘equality,’ and we’re not disagreeing on the definition of ‘feminism.’ We’re disagreeing on the definition of ‘people’.”

And when she said that, things came to a head. Aimee Murphy suggested that the word “person” could be dispensed with, since “if we’re talking human rights” what we want to know is who is a human. “At the moment of fertilization you have two human gametes; they fuse; it’s a member of the same species.” Merritt tried to dismiss that with “We’ve got science on one side, we’ve got science on the other side,” but Murphy shot back, “Do you have an embryology textbook that can back that up?” Merritt replied, “For every textbook that you have, there has been a textbook produced on the other side.” The two were not in a situation where they could immediately produce their documentation, so that discussion ended there. But I think that anyone who does delve into the documentation will decide that Murphy won that debate.

Marty’s above input had come in response to Murphy’s main argument for issues 1, 2 and 3 above. Murphy had said in her opening presentation (29:18) that she is “dedicated to . . . the core principles of feminism: equality, non-discrimination, and non-violence.” She had also said, “I push for . . . the abolition of the social construct that holds the wombless male body as normative. . . . if the male body is seen as the norm, then pregnancy is seen as a disease condition.” This last point is not an argument in relation to issue 2 or 3 above, but it is an argument in relation to 1. The institution of legal abortion, to the extent that it seems designed as a crutch without which women cannot be equal to men, helps perpetuate a negative perception of femaleness, and thus denigrates femaleness.

That presentation of Murphy’s ended with: “If feminism is truly in support of equality of human beings, then my question is actually ‘Is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist?’ ”

At 18:13 Merritt said, “Feminism is an action agenda to secure the social, economic and political equality of women. The pro-life movement seeks to deny women access to abortion . . .” She clearly meant that lack of access to abortion will undermine women’s equality. But this contains a big assumption – the assumption that being equal often requires being unpregnant, and that there are not ways to be both pregnant and equal. See “Next Steps for the Pro-Life Feminist Movement.”

At 37:37 Merritt offered the common argument that abortion can’t be prevented and that therefore the only issue is whether it will be done safely. At another point Klein-Hattori said the same. But I’m convinced it’s not true that laws cannot save unborn lives; see “A Pro-Life Feminist Balance Sheet.”

At 37:43 Merritt said, “Women have been controlling their reproductive lives since the dawn of women.” See Herndon-De La Rosa’s reply below.

Though the bodily-rights argument is the strongest pro-choice argument in relation to issues 2 and 3 above, and also important in relation to 1, the pro-choicers on the panel mentioned it surprisingly little. I have discussed it elsewhere and will not try to evaluate it here. As another pro-choice argument that I won’t try to evaluate here, but that clearly leaves some things unexplained, Klein-Hattori said (at 9:20) that “all reproductive rights, including to abortion. . . . are central to feminist politics . . .” At 39:37 Merritt suggested that access to abortion results in “communities that are free from violence and oppression.” Beyond observing that this sounds awfully ironic, I won’t try to evaluate it here. And as a pro-life argument that resonates with my intuition but might not with everyone’s, see Cessilye Smith’s remark below about “barbaric.”

The highlights, for me:

Aimee Murphy at 91:22: “I am 100% for restricting abortion and making it illegal in all cases, as with all forms of aggressive violence.”

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and Cessilye Smith do not advocate legal restrictions on abortion as many pro-lifers do, but with their clear-eyed grip on the humanity of the unborn and their passion that the right choice be made, no one could be more pro-life than they. At 41:00 Herndon-De La Rosa said (in reply to Merritt), “. . . there’s a lot of horrible atrocities that have been around since the dawn of time. We exploit people. We objectify others. We have slaves and human trafficking. . . . there’s all these things that we see for the evil that they are. But any time in history that we have had one group . . . and said this group . . . is less than human, we always look back with horror that we have done that. . . . And I think that in the future, we will look back and say the same thing about the unborn.”

At 24:17 Cessilye Smith said of abortion, “We put a pretty bow on it and we call it empowerment. . . . We have taken something completely barbaric and attempted to normalize it . . . . we’ve made abortion . . . a pillar of feminism. Something is wrong with that.”

Other illuminating moments:

Klein-Hattori and Merritt found their stereotypes of pro-lifers exploded. Merritt said at 90:20 “What you’re describing is not pro-life that I experience and that millions of people experience . . . [it] is really blowing my mind.” Klein-Hattori said at 67:40 “One of the things that has me most excited is to hear the way that the pro-life women up here are talking.”

Merritt said at 47:34: “I don’t view abortion as evil at all. I think abortion is a really important social good.”

At 9:28 Klein-Hattori said, “I’m proud to donate to Planned Parenthood.” (Attention Congress: Planned Parenthood does not need tax money.)

The discussion was more than civil, it was very friendly. All seemed to feel that hearts were in the right place. Seeing that some pro-lifers I admired felt the pro-choicers’ hearts were in the right place, I was forced to try that attitude myself!

What’s the answer?
So is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist? In the discussion we saw a mixture of principle-based arguments and utilitarian arguments. (One does not need to be a utilitarian to feel that utilitarian outcomes should not be ignored.) Smith’s “barbaric” is a principle-based argument. Merritt’s argument about better communities is a utilitarian argument. Personally I feel that the pro-life side wins with either philosophical approach, and wins both in the moral dimension and the legal dimension.

Those who find it inconceivable that American women could benefit in a utilitarian way from making abortion illegal are usually overlooking, first and foremost, one simple thing: the fact that most American women, if faced with an unplanned pregnancy, would not choose to get an abortion even if it is legal. So right off the bat, most American women have nothing to gain from the institution of legal abortion; while that group of women win in several ways, though perhaps not obvious ways, if it is illegal. Let’s start with that reality and go on and do the math.

“Is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist?”

[Today’s guest post by Acyutananda is part of our paid blogging program.]

So far as I know, the recent “Why Can’t a Feminist Be Pro-Life?” panel at the Catholic University of America marked the first time that pro-choice feminists, who are the feminist mainstream, entered a formal setting where they found undeniable confirmation of the existence of pro-life feminists, and had to grapple with pro-life feminist minds. If “the winning future for the pro-life movement is . . . young, feminist, and disproportionately people of color,” as Prof. Charles Camosy has written, that event may have had an importance that is hard to estimate. But here I will simply outline most of the arguments on each side, while attempting an evaluation of only a few of them. Then I will try to identify a few of the highlights and illuminating moments.

The arguments really concerned not just one, but three issues:

  1. whether a feminist should be pro-choice or pro-life
  2. whether abortion can be moral
  3. whether abortion should be legal.

In looking at the arguments, I would like to focus first on two that came up, one from the pro-life side and one from the pro-choice side, that I would like to see all of us phase out:

In relation to issue 3 above, pro-lifers often point out that legal abortion is called “pro-choice,” and then proceed to object (as at 15:43 in the video) “It’s not pro-choice when we feel like we have no choice.” This quip does make a good point about social conditions, but it is framed as if it demolishes either the term “pro-choice” or the pro-choice policy; and does it really succeed in doing either? I think that all this argument really does is to play on two different meanings of the word “choice.” There is no real inconsistency here in pro-choicers’ position.

Then from the pro-choice side we regularly hear a guilt-by-association argument that could be called the “pro-birth argument.” The argument goes, in effect, “Because many who identify as pro-life on abortion hold obnoxious positions and harm women’s interests on other issues, the pro-life position on abortion must also be obnoxious and harmful to women’s interests.” On the panel, this was the argument on which Pamela Merritt mainly relied (though she did refer, more briefly, to some other arguments).

Merritt certainly argued convincingly and memorably that many pro-life politicians are destructive in many ways to the well-being of the female gender (and everyone else). But what does that really prove in terms of whether abortion is moral, whether abortion should be legal, or whether a feminist should be pro-choice or pro-life? As an argument against the pro-life positions even of the Missouri politicians she focused on, hers was an ad hominem, and against the pro-life positions of three of her fellow panelists, it was a strawman as well.

Differences of perception about the moral value of the unborn are the single main source of the big divide in the abortion debate overall, and those differences were key to understanding the divide between the two groups of panelists at CUA also. (Though bodily-rights arguments normally accept the personhood of the unborn in a nominal way, I contend that even in such arguments, pro-choicers’ particular perception about the humanity of the unborn, or rather their perception that the unborn lack humanity, is the real subtext.) “. . . when life begins [is a] question with no answers that can be proven” came up (at 11:25) in the first presentation, that of Megan Klein-Hattori, and was echoed by the other two on the pro-choice side. Robin Marty put her finger on that question as the key, saying at 50:31 “We’re not disagreeing on the definition of ‘equality,’ and we’re not disagreeing on the definition of ‘feminism.’ We’re disagreeing on the definition of ‘people’.”

And when she said that, things came to a head. Aimee Murphy suggested that the word “person” could be dispensed with, since “if we’re talking human rights” what we want to know is who is a human. “At the moment of fertilization you have two human gametes; they fuse; it’s a member of the same species.” Merritt tried to dismiss that with “We’ve got science on one side, we’ve got science on the other side,” but Murphy shot back, “Do you have an embryology textbook that can back that up?” Merritt replied, “For every textbook that you have, there has been a textbook produced on the other side.” The two were not in a situation where they could immediately produce their documentation, so that discussion ended there. But I think that anyone who does delve into the documentation will decide that Murphy won that debate.

Marty’s above input had come in response to Murphy’s main argument for issues 1, 2 and 3 above. Murphy had said in her opening presentation (29:18) that she is “dedicated to . . . the core principles of feminism: equality, non-discrimination, and non-violence.” She had also said, “I push for . . . the abolition of the social construct that holds the wombless male body as normative. . . . if the male body is seen as the norm, then pregnancy is seen as a disease condition.” This last point is not an argument in relation to issue 2 or 3 above, but it is an argument in relation to 1. The institution of legal abortion, to the extent that it seems designed as a crutch without which women cannot be equal to men, helps perpetuate a negative perception of femaleness, and thus denigrates femaleness.

That presentation of Murphy’s ended with: “If feminism is truly in support of equality of human beings, then my question is actually ‘Is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist?’ ”

At 18:13 Merritt said, “Feminism is an action agenda to secure the social, economic and political equality of women. The pro-life movement seeks to deny women access to abortion . . .” She clearly meant that lack of access to abortion will undermine women’s equality. But this contains a big assumption – the assumption that being equal often requires being unpregnant, and that there are not ways to be both pregnant and equal. See “Next Steps for the Pro-Life Feminist Movement.”

At 37:37 Merritt offered the common argument that abortion can’t be prevented and that therefore the only issue is whether it will be done safely. At another point Klein-Hattori said the same. But I’m convinced it’s not true that laws cannot save unborn lives; see “A Pro-Life Feminist Balance Sheet.”

At 37:43 Merritt said, “Women have been controlling their reproductive lives since the dawn of women.” See Herndon-De La Rosa’s reply below.

Though the bodily-rights argument is the strongest pro-choice argument in relation to issues 2 and 3 above, and also important in relation to 1, the pro-choicers on the panel mentioned it surprisingly little. I have discussed it elsewhere and will not try to evaluate it here. As another pro-choice argument that I won’t try to evaluate here, but that clearly leaves some things unexplained, Klein-Hattori said (at 9:20) that “all reproductive rights, including to abortion. . . . are central to feminist politics . . .” At 39:37 Merritt suggested that access to abortion results in “communities that are free from violence and oppression.” Beyond observing that this sounds awfully ironic, I won’t try to evaluate it here. And as a pro-life argument that resonates with my intuition but might not with everyone’s, see Cessilye Smith’s remark below about “barbaric.”

The highlights, for me:

Aimee Murphy at 91:22: “I am 100% for restricting abortion and making it illegal in all cases, as with all forms of aggressive violence.”

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and Cessilye Smith do not advocate legal restrictions on abortion as many pro-lifers do, but with their clear-eyed grip on the humanity of the unborn and their passion that the right choice be made, no one could be more pro-life than they. At 41:00 Herndon-De La Rosa said (in reply to Merritt), “. . . there’s a lot of horrible atrocities that have been around since the dawn of time. We exploit people. We objectify others. We have slaves and human trafficking. . . . there’s all these things that we see for the evil that they are. But any time in history that we have had one group . . . and said this group . . . is less than human, we always look back with horror that we have done that. . . . And I think that in the future, we will look back and say the same thing about the unborn.”

At 24:17 Cessilye Smith said of abortion, “We put a pretty bow on it and we call it empowerment. . . . We have taken something completely barbaric and attempted to normalize it . . . . we’ve made abortion . . . a pillar of feminism. Something is wrong with that.”

Other illuminating moments:

Klein-Hattori and Merritt found their stereotypes of pro-lifers exploded. Merritt said at 90:20 “What you’re describing is not pro-life that I experience and that millions of people experience . . . [it] is really blowing my mind.” Klein-Hattori said at 67:40 “One of the things that has me most excited is to hear the way that the pro-life women up here are talking.”

Merritt said at 47:34: “I don’t view abortion as evil at all. I think abortion is a really important social good.”

At 9:28 Klein-Hattori said, “I’m proud to donate to Planned Parenthood.” (Attention Congress: Planned Parenthood does not need tax money.)

The discussion was more than civil, it was very friendly. All seemed to feel that hearts were in the right place. Seeing that some pro-lifers I admired felt the pro-choicers’ hearts were in the right place, I was forced to try that attitude myself!

What’s the answer?
So is it possible to be pro-choice and feminist? In the discussion we saw a mixture of principle-based arguments and utilitarian arguments. (One does not need to be a utilitarian to feel that utilitarian outcomes should not be ignored.) Smith’s “barbaric” is a principle-based argument. Merritt’s argument about better communities is a utilitarian argument. Personally I feel that the pro-life side wins with either philosophical approach, and wins both in the moral dimension and the legal dimension.

Those who find it inconceivable that American women could benefit in a utilitarian way from making abortion illegal are usually overlooking, first and foremost, one simple thing: the fact that most American women, if faced with an unplanned pregnancy, would not choose to get an abortion even if it is legal. So right off the bat, most American women have nothing to gain from the institution of legal abortion; while that group of women win in several ways, though perhaps not obvious ways, if it is illegal. Let’s start with that reality and go on and do the math.

A crazy week in Washington, D.C.

Your president, Kelsey Hazzard, here. I’m in Washington, D.C. and staying with my friend Lauren Handy, sidewalk counselor extraordinaire. She’s a Christian, but takes a totally secular approach to sidewalk counseling. As she describes it, she’s doing crisis intervention—if you were rescuing people from a burning building, you wouldn’t pause to proselytize, so why on earth would anyone do such a thing when a mom is about to have an abortion? She gets it. She’s written for this blog before, and I was excited to shadow her and learn some life-saving skills.

And boy, did we pack a lot of activity into one day yesterday! First stop was an abortion center in Bethesda, where on an average morning, at least 5 to 10 women have abortion appointments…

…but no one came! We’re not clear on what happened or why; an abortion worker did arrive and turn the lights on, but the abortionist never showed, and there were no clients. Lauren says I must have been a good luck charm. I’ll take it!

Next, we headed over to the Capitol for a press conference on the federal heartbeat bill. Secular Pro-Life hasn’t taken an official position on this legislation, but I thought it would be wise to at least get informed about it and take some pictures.

Toward the end of the press conference, a pro-choice woman passed by and struck up a conversation with me. She was upset that no women of color spoke at the presser. I agreed that women of color should have been included, and shared some photos of the diverse pro-lifers I met in San Francisco last weekend. We wound up having a wide-ranging discussion and finding a lot of common ground, including the desire for women to have as many non-violent reproductive choices as humanly possible (and also some totally non-abortion-related things; she’s an entrepreneur with a career in solar energy, which is pretty cool). I gave her my email so we can follow up.

That conversation lasted so long that Lauren had to leave in the middle of it for lunch. In my attempt to meet up with Lauren later, I proceeded to get hopelessly lost. Finally we reunited and ate in a Congressional cafeteria, where the TVs displayed the House debate on the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act (which would make the Hyde Amendment permanent).

I about flipped when I saw this:

That 2 million statistic comes from a Charlotte Lozier Institute report which they produced at the request of our #HelloHyde campaign last September. Not a bad ripple effect!

Next, we met up with a larger pro-life group and watched Rep. Marsha Blackburn receive an award for her right-to-life advocacy. That larger group included some 20-somethings from Created Equal, whom I had never met. I wound up networking with them for the remainder of the afternoon, which included a nice visit to the Museum of American History.

I told them to pose “like an album cover.”

So that was yesterday! Today should be slightly more relaxed. Here’s where you’ll find Secular Pro-Life for the remainder of this week:

  • On Thursday beginning at 9:00 a.m., check out our booth at the March for Life Expo on 999 Ninth Street NW.
  • On Thursday night from 7 to 9 p.m., we’re co-hosting a happy hour with Beltway Right to Life benefiting Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center. It’s a shame we weren’t able to make karaoke happen, but come out anyway and socialize with a great group of folks for a good cause. Our venue is the 201 Bar at 201 Massachusetts Ave NE.
  • On Friday morning, we’ll probably be at the Expo again.
  • On Friday at 11:00 a.m., meet us for the March for Life! Our meetup location is near the official rally site; get the exact coordinates here. Immediately following the March for Life, there are a number of events going on, including a consistent life ethic meeting, a Pro-Life Future happy hour, etc. Take your pick.
  • On Saturday, it’s the Students for Life of America east coast national conference! Don’t forget to register at SFLAlive.org.

This time of year is a whirlwind for us. We have no paid staff and rely entirely on volunteers to maximize our participation in Roe anniversary memorial events. We’re so grateful to everyone who came out to San Francisco last weekend, and to everyone who’s joining us in D.C. this weekend.

If you aren’t able to help out in person, we understand. Please consider making a donation to our work. We want to build on the energy of this week to make 2017 our best year yet!

A crazy week in Washington, D.C.

Your president, Kelsey Hazzard, here. I’m in Washington, D.C. and staying with my friend Lauren Handy, sidewalk counselor extraordinaire. She’s a Christian, but takes a totally secular approach to sidewalk counseling. As she describes it, she’s doing crisis intervention—if you were rescuing people from a burning building, you wouldn’t pause to proselytize, so why on earth would anyone do such a thing when a mom is about to have an abortion? She gets it. She’s written for this blog before, and I was excited to shadow her and learn some life-saving skills.

And boy, did we pack a lot of activity into one day yesterday! First stop was an abortion center in Bethesda, where on an average morning, at least 5 to 10 women have abortion appointments…

…but no one came! We’re not clear on what happened or why; an abortion worker did arrive and turn the lights on, but the abortionist never showed, and there were no clients. Lauren says I must have been a good luck charm. I’ll take it!

Next, we headed over to the Capitol for a press conference on the federal heartbeat bill. Secular Pro-Life hasn’t taken an official position on this legislation, but I thought it would be wise to at least get informed about it and take some pictures.

Toward the end of the press conference, a pro-choice woman passed by and struck up a conversation with me. She was upset that no women of color spoke at the presser. I agreed that women of color should have been included, and shared some photos of the diverse pro-lifers I met in San Francisco last weekend. We wound up having a wide-ranging discussion and finding a lot of common ground, including the desire for women to have as many non-violent reproductive choices as humanly possible (and also some totally non-abortion-related things; she’s an entrepreneur with a career in solar energy, which is pretty cool). I gave her my email so we can follow up.

That conversation lasted so long that Lauren had to leave in the middle of it for lunch. In my attempt to meet up with Lauren later, I proceeded to get hopelessly lost. Finally we reunited and ate in a Congressional cafeteria, where the TVs displayed the House debate on the No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act (which would make the Hyde Amendment permanent).

I about flipped when I saw this:

That 2 million statistic comes from a Charlotte Lozier Institute report which they produced at the request of our #HelloHyde campaign last September. Not a bad ripple effect!

Next, we met up with a larger pro-life group and watched Rep. Marsha Blackburn receive an award for her right-to-life advocacy. That larger group included some 20-somethings from Created Equal, whom I had never met. I wound up networking with them for the remainder of the afternoon, which included a nice visit to the Museum of American History.

I told them to pose “like an album cover.”

So that was yesterday! Today should be slightly more relaxed. Here’s where you’ll find Secular Pro-Life for the remainder of this week:

  • On Thursday beginning at 9:00 a.m., check out our booth at the March for Life Expo on 999 Ninth Street NW.
  • On Thursday night from 7 to 9 p.m., we’re co-hosting a happy hour with Beltway Right to Life benefiting Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center. It’s a shame we weren’t able to make karaoke happen, but come out anyway and socialize with a great group of folks for a good cause. Our venue is the 201 Bar at 201 Massachusetts Ave NE.
  • On Friday morning, we’ll probably be at the Expo again.
  • On Friday at 11:00 a.m., meet us for the March for Life! Our meetup location is near the official rally site; get the exact coordinates here. Immediately following the March for Life, there are a number of events going on, including a consistent life ethic meeting, a Pro-Life Future happy hour, etc. Take your pick.
  • On Saturday, it’s the Students for Life of America east coast national conference! Don’t forget to register at SFLAlive.org.

This time of year is a whirlwind for us. We have no paid staff and rely entirely on volunteers to maximize our participation in Roe anniversary memorial events. We’re so grateful to everyone who came out to San Francisco last weekend, and to everyone who’s joining us in D.C. this weekend.

If you aren’t able to help out in person, we understand. Please consider making a donation to our work. We want to build on the energy of this week to make 2017 our best year yet!