“I’m here to listen, not to judge.” Interview with a young Catholic sidewalk counselor

Maria on the right.
Signs read “I’m here to listen, not to judge”
and “We bring hope, love, and support.”



How did you get started sidewalk counseling? What draws you to the sidewalk compared to other types of pro-life work?

I got started with sidewalk advocacy when I joined my pro-life student group in college: Bama Students for Life! I had learned that the abortion facility less than a mile from our campus was the busiest facility in Alabama; that fact was a big catalyst in my pro-life advocacy. At the time, the facility performed nearly 70 abortions a week. So many were being killed, and I felt I could no longer stay silent.

What does your work entail? Describe an average day of sidewalk counseling.

On Saturday mornings I go to the closest abortion facility. I’ve coordinated with some friends from my church who also go, and there’s usually a handful of other local pro-lifers present, so on a regular Saturday there’s about 8–10 people out there. Because there are so many of us, we’ve gotten in the habit of splitting the group up across the sidewalk: groups of two or three will stand on either side of the entrance to the small parking lot to do outreach, and four or five people will stand a little further away to pray. Those doing outreach try to approach the people in their cars as they drive in or out. We also call out to people walking from their cars to the building, saying things like, “I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through right now, but I’d like to hear your story, and I want to know if there’s any way I can help. I’ve got information about free local resources that I would love to share with you.”

What are the most difficult aspects of this work, and how do you handle those?

For me, the most difficult thing is knowing what to say. I stumble over my words all the time, and talking to strangers makes me extremely nervous. I deal with that by trying to imagine what I would want to hear if I was the woman walking into the facility. I practice saying things to myself in the car on the way over. Obviously each person is unique, so I don’t want to sound scripted, but practicing certain phrases helps me feel more comfortable.

Do you hand out literature? If so, what is it about?

Yes! Lately I’ve been using the “This is not your only choice” pamphlet from Human Life Alliance. I also have several handwritten cards that I use if someone seems like they’re going to change their mind and leave; the cards list the closest local resources and include my personal phone number so they can reach out if they want to.

Do you refer people to local services? If so, what types or services? Provided by whom?

Yes — On the cards I give out I’ve list a couple different pro-life pregnancy care centers and a place that can help with housing. I also have the contact info for those places saved in my phone, along with information about what services they provide and whether they have any Spanish-speaking employees.

Do you have religious beliefs? If so, how do those influence your work? How do you handle religious differences between you and the people you meet?


I do! I’m Catholic and my faith influences my work in that I make a point to pray before, during, and after sidewalk advocacy. That said, I agree with the information in Sidewalk Advocates For Life’s training guide, which suggests the following topic progression: first, address the mother and her crisis; second, talk about her baby; and last, you could ask about her faith background (if she has one). Rehumanize International also talks about this progression under “Dialogue Tips” in our handouts here. Most women, in my experience at least, are in crisis mode. They want to know first and foremost that you genuinely care about them and you want to help them through this crisis.

How do you respond to people who say they are at the clinic for reasons other than abortion?

I get this rarely; the vast majority of people coming into the facility I go to are there for abortion. However, I typically respond explaining there are so many other organizations that provide birth control that don’t kill human beings.

What are some of the most common circumstances women describe that brought them to the clinic?

That they’re scared because the pregnancy was unexpected, or that they don’t have the finances to take care of the child.

Do you have ongoing relationships with any of the women you have met at the sidewalk? If so, what are those like?

I don’t have ongoing relationships directly, but one of the friends from church who goes with me usually stays in contact with them.

Do you interact with clinic staff? If so, what has that been like?

I see them pretty rarely, and when I do, I struggle to know what to say beyond, “You don’t have to work here.”

Many people believe that sidewalk counselors primarily try to shame and intimidate women. How do you respond to that idea?

I’ve witnessed my fair share of bad sidewalk advocates — so I won’t deny that they exist — but in my experience, the good greatly outnumber the bad. When I was in college, our student group made a point to try to convince other local advocates to use more loving and helpful signs. It didn’t always work. There was one man who’d carry a large sign with a swastika comparing abortion to the holocaust, and he refused to get rid of it because he had painted it himself. In those instances we distance ourselves as much as possible and carry signs like “Here to listen, not to judge.”

What do you think of buffer zone laws? Has your work been impacted by such laws?

It’s my understanding that buffer zone laws were created in response to some extreme measures taken by pro-lifers (like chaining themselves to the doors of facilities to keep people from going in). Obviously I don’t like these laws because they hinder our ability as peaceful sidewalk advocates to reach the people going in for abortion. When I started getting into sidewalk advocacy, the facility we went to was in a medical office park, so there was a large parking lot between us and the people going in. It makes it really tough to seem compassionate when you have to yell in order to be heard. There was a lot of shouting “GOOD MORNING!” those days.

What advice would you give someone interested in sidewalk counseling?

Expect to wait around a lot. It takes patience. But also stay prepared so you’re not caught off guard when someone actually takes the time to talk to you and needs help. Preparation is key.

What advice do you have for people who don’t sidewalk counsel but still want to help women with crisis pregnancies?

Donate to local pregnancy centers! If you don’t have the funds, ask if they need volunteers. You can also do a lot of outreach online, in forums and on social media where many people will ask questions if they’re considering abortion. Make your pro-life stance clear to social media friends, and in a nonjudgmental way; you want to make sure they know you’re a safe person to reach out to if they ever find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. If you’re a praying type, pray for the people out on the sidewalk.

What do you believe the pro-life movement is getting right? What do you believe could be better?

I think the pro-life movement is vibrant and powerful, and that as a whole, we are most successful when we allow for a diversity of opinion on unrelated issues and focus on the human rights injustice at hand. Let’s spread information about the truth of abortion. Let’s find ways to help parents considering it and heal those who have already gone through with it. Let’s debate which political strategy is going to be most likely to truly eliminate abortion. Basically, I believe the movement would be better if it were tied less closely to specific party platforms. I know too many people who were raised in a pro-life, conservative household, grew up, realized their politics didn’t align with their parents’, and decided that for that reason they could no longer be pro-life. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s a human rights issue, and we have to remind people of that.


Read more interviews:

Sidewalk counseling training resources:

“I’m here to listen, not to judge.” Interview with a young Catholic sidewalk counselor

Maria on the right.
Signs read “I’m here to listen, not to judge”
and “We bring hope, love, and support.”



How did you get started sidewalk counseling? What draws you to the sidewalk compared to other types of pro-life work?

I got started with sidewalk advocacy when I joined my pro-life student group in college: Bama Students for Life! I had learned that the abortion facility less than a mile from our campus was the busiest facility in Alabama; that fact was a big catalyst in my pro-life advocacy. At the time, the facility performed nearly 70 abortions a week. So many were being killed, and I felt I could no longer stay silent.

What does your work entail? Describe an average day of sidewalk counseling.

On Saturday mornings I go to the closest abortion facility. I’ve coordinated with some friends from my church who also go, and there’s usually a handful of other local pro-lifers present, so on a regular Saturday there’s about 8–10 people out there. Because there are so many of us, we’ve gotten in the habit of splitting the group up across the sidewalk: groups of two or three will stand on either side of the entrance to the small parking lot to do outreach, and four or five people will stand a little further away to pray. Those doing outreach try to approach the people in their cars as they drive in or out. We also call out to people walking from their cars to the building, saying things like, “I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through right now, but I’d like to hear your story, and I want to know if there’s any way I can help. I’ve got information about free local resources that I would love to share with you.”

What are the most difficult aspects of this work, and how do you handle those?

For me, the most difficult thing is knowing what to say. I stumble over my words all the time, and talking to strangers makes me extremely nervous. I deal with that by trying to imagine what I would want to hear if I was the woman walking into the facility. I practice saying things to myself in the car on the way over. Obviously each person is unique, so I don’t want to sound scripted, but practicing certain phrases helps me feel more comfortable.

Do you hand out literature? If so, what is it about?

Yes! Lately I’ve been using the “This is not your only choice” pamphlet from Human Life Alliance. I also have several handwritten cards that I use if someone seems like they’re going to change their mind and leave; the cards list the closest local resources and include my personal phone number so they can reach out if they want to.

Do you refer people to local services? If so, what types or services? Provided by whom?

Yes — On the cards I give out I’ve list a couple different pro-life pregnancy care centers and a place that can help with housing. I also have the contact info for those places saved in my phone, along with information about what services they provide and whether they have any Spanish-speaking employees.

Do you have religious beliefs? If so, how do those influence your work? How do you handle religious differences between you and the people you meet?


I do! I’m Catholic and my faith influences my work in that I make a point to pray before, during, and after sidewalk advocacy. That said, I agree with the information in Sidewalk Advocates For Life’s training guide, which suggests the following topic progression: first, address the mother and her crisis; second, talk about her baby; and last, you could ask about her faith background (if she has one). Rehumanize International also talks about this progression under “Dialogue Tips” in our handouts here. Most women, in my experience at least, are in crisis mode. They want to know first and foremost that you genuinely care about them and you want to help them through this crisis.

How do you respond to people who say they are at the clinic for reasons other than abortion?

I get this rarely; the vast majority of people coming into the facility I go to are there for abortion. However, I typically respond explaining there are so many other organizations that provide birth control that don’t kill human beings.

What are some of the most common circumstances women describe that brought them to the clinic?

That they’re scared because the pregnancy was unexpected, or that they don’t have the finances to take care of the child.

Do you have ongoing relationships with any of the women you have met at the sidewalk? If so, what are those like?

I don’t have ongoing relationships directly, but one of the friends from church who goes with me usually stays in contact with them.

Do you interact with clinic staff? If so, what has that been like?

I see them pretty rarely, and when I do, I struggle to know what to say beyond, “You don’t have to work here.”

Many people believe that sidewalk counselors primarily try to shame and intimidate women. How do you respond to that idea?

I’ve witnessed my fair share of bad sidewalk advocates — so I won’t deny that they exist — but in my experience, the good greatly outnumber the bad. When I was in college, our student group made a point to try to convince other local advocates to use more loving and helpful signs. It didn’t always work. There was one man who’d carry a large sign with a swastika comparing abortion to the holocaust, and he refused to get rid of it because he had painted it himself. In those instances we distance ourselves as much as possible and carry signs like “Here to listen, not to judge.”

What do you think of buffer zone laws? Has your work been impacted by such laws?

It’s my understanding that buffer zone laws were created in response to some extreme measures taken by pro-lifers (like chaining themselves to the doors of facilities to keep people from going in). Obviously I don’t like these laws because they hinder our ability as peaceful sidewalk advocates to reach the people going in for abortion. When I started getting into sidewalk advocacy, the facility we went to was in a medical office park, so there was a large parking lot between us and the people going in. It makes it really tough to seem compassionate when you have to yell in order to be heard. There was a lot of shouting “GOOD MORNING!” those days.

What advice would you give someone interested in sidewalk counseling?

Expect to wait around a lot. It takes patience. But also stay prepared so you’re not caught off guard when someone actually takes the time to talk to you and needs help. Preparation is key.

What advice do you have for people who don’t sidewalk counsel but still want to help women with crisis pregnancies?

Donate to local pregnancy centers! If you don’t have the funds, ask if they need volunteers. You can also do a lot of outreach online, in forums and on social media where many people will ask questions if they’re considering abortion. Make your pro-life stance clear to social media friends, and in a nonjudgmental way; you want to make sure they know you’re a safe person to reach out to if they ever find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. If you’re a praying type, pray for the people out on the sidewalk.

What do you believe the pro-life movement is getting right? What do you believe could be better?

I think the pro-life movement is vibrant and powerful, and that as a whole, we are most successful when we allow for a diversity of opinion on unrelated issues and focus on the human rights injustice at hand. Let’s spread information about the truth of abortion. Let’s find ways to help parents considering it and heal those who have already gone through with it. Let’s debate which political strategy is going to be most likely to truly eliminate abortion. Basically, I believe the movement would be better if it were tied less closely to specific party platforms. I know too many people who were raised in a pro-life, conservative household, grew up, realized their politics didn’t align with their parents’, and decided that for that reason they could no longer be pro-life. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s a human rights issue, and we have to remind people of that.


Read more interviews:

Sidewalk counseling training resources:

Interview with a post-abortive sidewalk counselor: love, not shame, is the key

Interviewer’s note: study after study confirm many women choose abortion because they feel they don’t have the resources to care for a child. Sidewalk counselors work to connect these women to resources in their communities. This work transforms—and literally saves—lives.

People who aren’t involved in the pro-life movement (and even some within it) tend to believe that those who stand outside abortion clinics are there to shame and terrify vulnerable abortion-minded women. Interestingly, in this interview Serena discusses these very type of ultra-aggressive protestors and how they make her goalsto reassure women and get them resourcesmuch more difficult. Still, she’s tenacious.
I’m an atheist. I don’t share Serena’s beliefs about God or Jesus. But I can’t help but note how Serena’s faith encourages and emboldens her to love and support other people in difficult circumstances. It’s admirable work. (You can also read an interview with a secular sidewalk counselor here.)

Meet Serena


How did you get started sidewalk counseling? What draws you to the sidewalk compared to other types of pro-life work?
I got started sidewalk counseling after seeing Unplanned. I had gone to the movie not even knowing what it was about and it was like watching my life unfold before my eyes.
I was raped at 13 years old by an uncle and taken for an abortion at Ulrich Klopfer‘s clinic. For 30 years I did not talk about my abortion because it was something I wanted to forget happened. It was by far worse than my rape. I didn’t know what abortion was when I went to that clinic but once I learned, it almost destroyed my life. I nearly lost everything. My marriage was almost over, and I was using drugs and alcohol to numb my pain.
One night after drinking heavily, I texted some friends to come get me. I knew I had too much to drink and I didn’t want to end up in jail. But no one would come get me. I had burned all my bridges. I sat in my car and cried and prayed for help. That night God met me in my car and lavished me in a love that I had never felt before. I made it home and my husband welcomed me back. That began my healing process from my rape. But I never talked about the abortion.
When I saw Unplanned, I felt moved to tell the rest of my story, though I wasn’t sure how exactly. I called our local Right To Life and asked if they ever minister to women before they go to abortion clinics. They explained they were going to start training people to sidewalk counsel in response to Whole Women’s Health opening nearby. I signed right up and began going to the clinic.
It’s so important to have peaceful people at the clinic. On the day of my abortion, no one was there. I will never know if it would have made a difference in my story, but I want to make sure that people know that they can make a difference for someone else.
What does your work entail? Describe an average day of sidewalk counseling.

Going to the clinic requires me to be ready to love others well. We really want to be a peaceful presence that is lead by the Holy Spirit on how to reach women. We want to love not only the mothers, fathers, and other family members but also the escorts and staff. We want to give the support so many of them are looking forin the moment, during the pregnancy, and after the baby is born.
What are the most difficult aspects of this work, and how do you handle those?
Escorts block us with their umbrellas and play music so the women can’t hear us. We also have to deal with another group who come out with mics to “preach.” They shame the women who then run right into the clinic. There have been times when we will get the attention of a father in the car and it looks like he is going to come over and talk, but the other group will call him a coward and he instead looks down and won’t come over. They are also known to put ladders up and yell at escorts. It’s awful.
During my own abortion, I remember the clinic telling our family that there would be people outside who hated us, so make sure to walk in quickly. Groups like these who shame women confirm the clinic workers’ warnings. I’ve worked with many post-abortive women, and something I often hear is “the protesters were yelling at me and I just wanted to get away.” In contrast, I had a woman share her story of two peaceful sidewalk counselors praying. She broke away from her parents and went to them for help. She said she could sense their love and knew they were safe. 
Do you hand out literature? If so, what is it about?
We hand out mom bags which include local resources, a free ultrasound coupon, and info about what abortion is (and that it’s not her only choice). I personally try to put a hand written note, a bracelet, and some type of lotion or something to make her feel loved. If she returns a second day we also include abortion pill reversal information. We also try to let her know about a website (Her Michiana) that can help with many of her needs as well as resources for the dad.
Do you have religious beliefs? If so, how do those influence your work? How do you handle religious differences between you and the people you meet?
I’m a Jesus follower and that helps me love others well. When I’m at the clinic or talking to an abortion-minded woman, I talk about Jesus in a way meant to bring hope, not shame. I want her to know she is so loved. Sometimes you can tell that someone is not really interested and you can feel push back. At that point I will not talk about him, but hope they will know his love by my actions.
How do you respond to people who say they are at the clinic for reasons other than abortion?
We have people who walk by the clinic all the time; it’s always a teaching moment to educate others on what abortion is. Some people just don’t know and we have the opportunity to have a conversation (not a debate, but a conversation). People seem more open to talking if we approach them in a non-confrontational way. 
What are some of the most common circumstances women describe that brought them to the clinic?
I talk to women daily and they have shared so many reasons they come to the clinics. Some feel like they are not supported by family or the boyfriend, some think they can’t afford a baby, some are scared of Covid. Some have been told something is wrong with their baby and abortion will show “compassion.” In the case of my rape at 13 my family was told abortion would fix my trauma. It was all a lie. 
Do you interact with clinic staff? If so, what has that been like?

I make a point of interacting with clinic staff because the Jesus I serve can reach anyone. I speak truth in love to them and pray for them. I try to reach them were they’re at.
I did befriend one of the escorts. Our first encounter did not go well. I shared my story with him and he cussed me out and flipped me off. The next week the escort was drinking a Snapple and made a face like it was terrible. I laughed and said “That bad?” and he laughed too, talked about how they changed the recipe. After that we started talking more, and he has since shared his story with me. He helps knit hats for premature babies! He has misplaced compassion that he doesn’t even understand. 
Other escorts don’t always like that he talks to me but he does it anyway. I’m going to keep showing him love and compassion. I believe it’s just a matter of time before he leaves.
Many people believe that sidewalk counselors primarily try to shame and intimidate women. How do you respond to that idea?
Trained sidewalk counselors are not there to shame women at all. Sadly, there are people who go to the clinics to shame women and it’s hurtful and counterproductive. The women don’t realize we are different groups; they lump us together. I try really hard to separate myself from anyone who is not being peaceful. If a woman is taken there against her will I hope she looks for the people praying, not shouting. There are people who will help and love you well. 
What advice would you give someone interested in sidewalk counseling?

Go to the training. Make sure that you conduct yourself in a way that is loving; don’t say anything that will hurt a woman for the rest of her life. Offer her hope. Be the hope. Love her, love him, and love the baby well. They are all God’s kids. 

What advice do you have for people who don’t sidewalk counsel but still want to help women with crisis pregnancies?

If you come across a woman who is in a crisis, meet her with love. Listen, discern, and respond. Figure out what is driving her to abortion and how to meet that need.
If you are part of a church, allow people to come in and talk about abortion. When the church doesn’t talk about abortion it sends a message that we are okay with it. Women in the church have gone from the pew to the abortion clinic because they believe people will gossip instead of help them. [See the Pastor Pledge from The Equal Rights Institute.] If you are a pastor who doesn’t know how to talk about it, invite me to speak. You can also make sure your local pregnancy centers are supported.   
Read more interviews:
Sidewalk counseling training resources:

Interview with a post-abortive sidewalk counselor: love, not shame, is the key

Interviewer’s note: study after study confirm many women choose abortion because they feel they don’t have the resources to care for a child. Sidewalk counselors work to connect these women to resources in their communities. This work transforms—and literally saves—lives.

People who aren’t involved in the pro-life movement (and even some within it) tend to believe that those who stand outside abortion clinics are there to shame and terrify vulnerable abortion-minded women. Interestingly, in this interview Serena discusses these very type of ultra-aggressive protestors and how they make her goalsto reassure women and get them resourcesmuch more difficult. Still, she’s tenacious.
I’m an atheist. I don’t share Serena’s beliefs about God or Jesus. But I can’t help but note how Serena’s faith encourages and emboldens her to love and support other people in difficult circumstances. It’s admirable work. (You can also read an interview with a secular sidewalk counselor here.)

Meet Serena


How did you get started sidewalk counseling? What draws you to the sidewalk compared to other types of pro-life work?
I got started sidewalk counseling after seeing Unplanned. I had gone to the movie not even knowing what it was about and it was like watching my life unfold before my eyes.
I was raped at 13 years old by an uncle and taken for an abortion at Ulrich Klopfer‘s clinic. For 30 years I did not talk about my abortion because it was something I wanted to forget happened. It was by far worse than my rape. I didn’t know what abortion was when I went to that clinic but once I learned, it almost destroyed my life. I nearly lost everything. My marriage was almost over, and I was using drugs and alcohol to numb my pain.
One night after drinking heavily, I texted some friends to come get me. I knew I had too much to drink and I didn’t want to end up in jail. But no one would come get me. I had burned all my bridges. I sat in my car and cried and prayed for help. That night God met me in my car and lavished me in a love that I had never felt before. I made it home and my husband welcomed me back. That began my healing process from my rape. But I never talked about the abortion.
When I saw Unplanned, I felt moved to tell the rest of my story, though I wasn’t sure how exactly. I called our local Right To Life and asked if they ever minister to women before they go to abortion clinics. They explained they were going to start training people to sidewalk counsel in response to Whole Women’s Health opening nearby. I signed right up and began going to the clinic.
It’s so important to have peaceful people at the clinic. On the day of my abortion, no one was there. I will never know if it would have made a difference in my story, but I want to make sure that people know that they can make a difference for someone else.
What does your work entail? Describe an average day of sidewalk counseling.

Going to the clinic requires me to be ready to love others well. We really want to be a peaceful presence that is lead by the Holy Spirit on how to reach women. We want to love not only the mothers, fathers, and other family members but also the escorts and staff. We want to give the support so many of them are looking forin the moment, during the pregnancy, and after the baby is born.
What are the most difficult aspects of this work, and how do you handle those?
Escorts block us with their umbrellas and play music so the women can’t hear us. We also have to deal with another group who come out with mics to “preach.” They shame the women who then run right into the clinic. There have been times when we will get the attention of a father in the car and it looks like he is going to come over and talk, but the other group will call him a coward and he instead looks down and won’t come over. They are also known to put ladders up and yell at escorts. It’s awful.
During my own abortion, I remember the clinic telling our family that there would be people outside who hated us, so make sure to walk in quickly. Groups like these who shame women confirm the clinic workers’ warnings. I’ve worked with many post-abortive women, and something I often hear is “the protesters were yelling at me and I just wanted to get away.” In contrast, I had a woman share her story of two peaceful sidewalk counselors praying. She broke away from her parents and went to them for help. She said she could sense their love and knew they were safe. 
Do you hand out literature? If so, what is it about?
We hand out mom bags which include local resources, a free ultrasound coupon, and info about what abortion is (and that it’s not her only choice). I personally try to put a hand written note, a bracelet, and some type of lotion or something to make her feel loved. If she returns a second day we also include abortion pill reversal information. We also try to let her know about a website (Her Michiana) that can help with many of her needs as well as resources for the dad.
Do you have religious beliefs? If so, how do those influence your work? How do you handle religious differences between you and the people you meet?
I’m a Jesus follower and that helps me love others well. When I’m at the clinic or talking to an abortion-minded woman, I talk about Jesus in a way meant to bring hope, not shame. I want her to know she is so loved. Sometimes you can tell that someone is not really interested and you can feel push back. At that point I will not talk about him, but hope they will know his love by my actions.
How do you respond to people who say they are at the clinic for reasons other than abortion?
We have people who walk by the clinic all the time; it’s always a teaching moment to educate others on what abortion is. Some people just don’t know and we have the opportunity to have a conversation (not a debate, but a conversation). People seem more open to talking if we approach them in a non-confrontational way. 
What are some of the most common circumstances women describe that brought them to the clinic?
I talk to women daily and they have shared so many reasons they come to the clinics. Some feel like they are not supported by family or the boyfriend, some think they can’t afford a baby, some are scared of Covid. Some have been told something is wrong with their baby and abortion will show “compassion.” In the case of my rape at 13 my family was told abortion would fix my trauma. It was all a lie. 
Do you interact with clinic staff? If so, what has that been like?

I make a point of interacting with clinic staff because the Jesus I serve can reach anyone. I speak truth in love to them and pray for them. I try to reach them were they’re at.
I did befriend one of the escorts. Our first encounter did not go well. I shared my story with him and he cussed me out and flipped me off. The next week the escort was drinking a Snapple and made a face like it was terrible. I laughed and said “That bad?” and he laughed too, talked about how they changed the recipe. After that we started talking more, and he has since shared his story with me. He helps knit hats for premature babies! He has misplaced compassion that he doesn’t even understand. 
Other escorts don’t always like that he talks to me but he does it anyway. I’m going to keep showing him love and compassion. I believe it’s just a matter of time before he leaves.
Many people believe that sidewalk counselors primarily try to shame and intimidate women. How do you respond to that idea?
Trained sidewalk counselors are not there to shame women at all. Sadly, there are people who go to the clinics to shame women and it’s hurtful and counterproductive. The women don’t realize we are different groups; they lump us together. I try really hard to separate myself from anyone who is not being peaceful. If a woman is taken there against her will I hope she looks for the people praying, not shouting. There are people who will help and love you well. 
What advice would you give someone interested in sidewalk counseling?

Go to the training. Make sure that you conduct yourself in a way that is loving; don’t say anything that will hurt a woman for the rest of her life. Offer her hope. Be the hope. Love her, love him, and love the baby well. They are all God’s kids. 

What advice do you have for people who don’t sidewalk counsel but still want to help women with crisis pregnancies?

If you come across a woman who is in a crisis, meet her with love. Listen, discern, and respond. Figure out what is driving her to abortion and how to meet that need.
If you are part of a church, allow people to come in and talk about abortion. When the church doesn’t talk about abortion it sends a message that we are okay with it. Women in the church have gone from the pew to the abortion clinic because they believe people will gossip instead of help them. [See the Pastor Pledge from The Equal Rights Institute.] If you are a pastor who doesn’t know how to talk about it, invite me to speak. You can also make sure your local pregnancy centers are supported.   
Read more interviews:
Sidewalk counseling training resources:

Interview with a secular sidewalk counselor

Interviewer’s note: People who aren’t involved in the pro-life movement—and even some within it—tend to believe that those standing outside abortion clinics are there to shame and frighten women seeking abortion. Videos of street “preachers” screaming at everyone tend to be much more viral than depictions of people quietly holding signs offering resources. I’m interested in shining more light on the latter group. 

From what I’ve seen, the people waiting peacefully outside clinics to offer help (referred to in pro-life circles as “sidewalk counselors”) are particularly brave and compassionate. In my experience they also tend to be particularly devout Christians. I was therefore happy to get an opportunity to interview one of Secular Pro-Life’s own, Nick Reynosa, on what it’s like for an agnostic to sidewalk counsel.

Before we begin, Nick asked that I clarify that while he sidewalk counsels when he has the chance, he doesn’t counsel on a consistent basis the way some do. He didn’t want to give the false impression that he has devoted the same time and energy as some of his trainers and friends have, although he has enjoyed the experience and will continue to counsel when he has the opportunities.


(Nick in the upper right.)

How did you get started sidewalk counseling? What draws you to the sidewalk compared to other types of pro-life work?

My campus pro-life club (through Students for Life of America) went to the sidewalk once or twice a week. In my area of northern California, Students for Life and 40 Days for Life formed a natural partnership such that about a half dozen people would counsel regularly.

So through the pro-life club I started sidewalk counseling in Sacramento in 2011. After I left the sidewalk during one of my very first visits, the other counselors saved three babies in a single day! So that was a fortunate and very encouraging beginning.

Sidewalk counseling is a great way to help women at the one-on-one level. Often pro-lifers are discouraged by a seeming lack of political progress, but the individual victories at the sidewalk can be encouraging. You really see how you can make a difference. Also sidewalk counseling helps you get to know the flesh and blood members of the pro-life movement, which serves as a powerful contrast to the stereotypes the media portrays.

What does your work entail? Describe an average day of sidewalk counseling.

I try to create a peaceful presence and provide women materials and references to local pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) (usually located in close proximity to the clinic). Not all pro-lifers at the sidewalk necessarily talk to the women; conversations are usually reserved for more experienced (and usually female) counselors. The rest of us keep a general presence, often holding signs with information, being eyes and ears in case there are any altercations, getting water or snacks for the group, and sometimes providing more security than one or two female counselors might have alone. Many of the counselors who aren’t interacting directly with the women approaching the clinic take the time to pray instead, though of course that’s not something I do personally.

Typically at least some of the women accept our information. Nearly always some passersby will hurl profanity or flip the bird. It’s common to hear street preachers mix evangelization with sidewalk counseling. It’s also common for clinic escorts to play loud music or put up barriers like tarps in order to block the women’s view of the counselors.

What are the most difficult aspects of this work, and how do you handle those?

By far the hardest part is being a man. Successful male counselors are unicorns. Pregnancy is an intimate, personal, and deeply feminine experience. Often women associate their situation with their sex lives and this association make establishing trust and comfort with a man more difficult. Women going to the clinic often seem to feel more comfortable talking with other women, so if possible, I defer to the female counselor present.

However there are some circumstances in which it’s helpful to have a male counselor. For some women, interacting with a man who cares about what they’re going through can be a refreshing experience. And for some, having male counselors there makes them feel safe from an abusive situation. Additionally, men sometimes accompany the women in their lives to abortion appointments and end up waiting outside. Some of them find it helpful to talk to male counselors about the experience.

Do you hand out literature? If so, what is it about?

Yes, usually basic information about abortion and marketing materials for local PRCs. If you’re going to sidewalk counsel, I would recommend you read through these materials before you start handing them to people. Make sure you understand and agree with what you’re telling others. Some publications are particularly religious, or anti-sex or anti-contraception. Not all pro-lifers agree with those views. Usually, though, the reading material is straightforward, honest, harmless, and very helpful.

Do you refer people to local services? If so, what types or services? Provided by whom?

Yes, I usually refer to local PRCs, primarily for pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and counseling. I try to send them to the closest PRC with the highest level of medical services. It’s also common for counselors to refer to maternity homes.

It’s my impression most sidewalk counselors are fairly devoutly religious, but you’re an agnostic. How does being a secular person intersect with sidewalk counseling? Does it hinder you in any ways? Help you in others?

I think being secular can be very helpful when you’re speaking to women, because you’re presenting life-affirming resources that are religiously neutral and unlikely to come off as anti-contraception or anti-sex. I think female secular sidewalk counselors have the greatest potential of any demographic to connect with women at the clinic.

But being non-religious can be negative in two ways: (1) People tend to assume all of us at the sidewalk are from the same group or all together, which means if someone evangelizes at the sidewalk I’m held liable for everything they say, despite agreeing with probably very little of it. (2) If and when religious sidewalk counselors find out I’m agnostic, some feel the need to evangelize to me. They often believe that without faith in God, a person cannot believe in or access objective morality, and so they find a secular pro-life worldview nonsensical, and they want to debate it.

While I don’t especially want to be evangelized to, I do admire the honesty. Sometimes Christian pro-lifers will be happy to have a secular person around to show that this is not a purely religious issue, but then the same people will argue that secular morality is impossible. I’m glad to get along well with religious allies, but if they really do think my worldview is foolish, I’d rather they be honest about it than placate or tokenize me.

Overall I think the fact that I’m at the sidewalk is encouraging to some but also causes cognitive dissonance for others.

How do you respond to people who say they are at the clinic for reasons other than abortion?

I say three things:

  1. I’m sorry if they felt we were making an assumption about why they were there. We’re just trying to provide options to women in difficult situations.
  2. If they are there for contraception services, I recommend they get their contraception from providers that do not offer abortion, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Some counselors keep lists of local FHQCs. There are actually 25 FHQCs in the San Francisco area alone.
  3. I let them know that life-affirming clinics like PRCs often offer health care services like STD tests and pregnancy tests.

What are some of the most common circumstances women describe that brought them to the clinic?

  1. Economic concerns
  2. Tumultuous and dysfunctional relationships
  3. Educational concerns (primarily among younger women)

Do you have ongoing relationships with any of the women you have met at the sidewalk? If so, what are those like?

No, but I know this is very common. Often women who choose life will be in touch with PRCs for several years to come.

Do you interact with clinic staff? If so, what has that been like?

Yes. It has been almost universally negative. Everything from them playing loud music and erecting large barriers, calling the cops unjustifiably, threatening with non-existent buffer zone laws, taking my picture without my consent, etc.

Many people believe that sidewalk counselors primarily try to shame and intimidate women. How do you respond to that idea?

I find this to be patently absurd. I have only seen pro-life women being harassed, yelled at, cursed at on the sidewalk. While it is true that are clips of people doing this sort of thing in 1980s and 1990s, this behavior has almost entirely fallen away. The most common sight at the sidewalk is harmless middle-aged Catholic women.

What do you think of buffer zone laws? Has your work been impacted by such laws?

Buffer zone laws are blatantly unconstitutional. If they were consistently applied for all political topics, they would severely restrict all forms of speech and activism. As such, even a lot of passionately pro-choice people should oppose buffer zone laws.

I’ve never had my speech restricted but I have been threatened by escorts with nonexistent buffer zones. Another time I encountered some ridiculous doublespeak from the San Francisco Police Department. They began our interaction by claiming that “buffer zones are unconstitutional” and then proceeded to cite a city ordinance (which was a buffer zone in all but name) and threaten us with a citation. We promptly called the bluff, and nothing happened to us.

Pro-Life San Francisco actually maintains access to legal assistance in case there’s a problem, but I find that if they try to cite us and we threaten action, they usually back down because the law is already on our side.

What advice would you give someone interested in sidewalk counseling?

You shouldn’t feel guilty if you decide not to do it. There are many ways you can help women in need. If you are going to counsel and you’re a man, I would suggest making sure a female counselor is also there. But overall I think it is a great way to see the movement in action and help women in your community.

What advice do you have for people who don’t sidewalk counsel but still want to help women with crisis pregnancies?

Be a brand ambassador for your local PRC. Distribute their contact info everywhere: community poster boards, campuses, restrooms, gas stations, anywhere and everywhere helps. Attend annual fundraising dinners at local PRCs and donate. Help your local campus student group; they are often the best contact for the 18-24 age group where nearly 40% of abortions occur.

What do you believe the pro-life movement is getting right? What do you believe could be better?

The pro-life movement is doing an excellent job of providing a peaceful, compassionate, consistent, and nearly ubiquitous presence at abortion clinics throughout the country. However, too often well-meaning counselors mix their evangelization with their sidewalk work. The simple fact is that many secular women are on the fence about getting an abortion but not on the fence about premarital sex, contraception, and cohabitation. The stakes are too high for a potentially off-putting overtly religious approach, at least at the outset. Choosing life is a life-altering decision, and we are most effective when we focus on that specific issue and take care not to spend energy on other issues that may be major differences between the women and the counselors they’re speaking to.

Read more interviews:
Sidewalk counseling training resources:

Interview with a secular sidewalk counselor

Interviewer’s note: People who aren’t involved in the pro-life movement—and even some within it—tend to believe that those standing outside abortion clinics are there to shame and frighten women seeking abortion. Videos of street “preachers” screaming at everyone tend to be much more viral than depictions of people quietly holding signs offering resources. I’m interested in shining more light on the latter group. 

From what I’ve seen, the people waiting peacefully outside clinics to offer help (referred to in pro-life circles as “sidewalk counselors”) are particularly brave and compassionate. In my experience they also tend to be particularly devout Christians. I was therefore happy to get an opportunity to interview one of Secular Pro-Life’s own, Nick Reynosa, on what it’s like for an agnostic to sidewalk counsel.

Before we begin, Nick asked that I clarify that while he sidewalk counsels when he has the chance, he doesn’t counsel on a consistent basis the way some do. He didn’t want to give the false impression that he has devoted the same time and energy as some of his trainers and friends have, although he has enjoyed the experience and will continue to counsel when he has the opportunities.


(Nick in the upper right.)

How did you get started sidewalk counseling? What draws you to the sidewalk compared to other types of pro-life work?

My campus pro-life club (through Students for Life of America) went to the sidewalk once or twice a week. In my area of northern California, Students for Life and 40 Days for Life formed a natural partnership such that about a half dozen people would counsel regularly.

So through the pro-life club I started sidewalk counseling in Sacramento in 2011. After I left the sidewalk during one of my very first visits, the other counselors saved three babies in a single day! So that was a fortunate and very encouraging beginning.

Sidewalk counseling is a great way to help women at the one-on-one level. Often pro-lifers are discouraged by a seeming lack of political progress, but the individual victories at the sidewalk can be encouraging. You really see how you can make a difference. Also sidewalk counseling helps you get to know the flesh and blood members of the pro-life movement, which serves as a powerful contrast to the stereotypes the media portrays.

What does your work entail? Describe an average day of sidewalk counseling.

I try to create a peaceful presence and provide women materials and references to local pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) (usually located in close proximity to the clinic). Not all pro-lifers at the sidewalk necessarily talk to the women; conversations are usually reserved for more experienced (and usually female) counselors. The rest of us keep a general presence, often holding signs with information, being eyes and ears in case there are any altercations, getting water or snacks for the group, and sometimes providing more security than one or two female counselors might have alone. Many of the counselors who aren’t interacting directly with the women approaching the clinic take the time to pray instead, though of course that’s not something I do personally.

Typically at least some of the women accept our information. Nearly always some passersby will hurl profanity or flip the bird. It’s common to hear street preachers mix evangelization with sidewalk counseling. It’s also common for clinic escorts to play loud music or put up barriers like tarps in order to block the women’s view of the counselors.

What are the most difficult aspects of this work, and how do you handle those?

By far the hardest part is being a man. Successful male counselors are unicorns. Pregnancy is an intimate, personal, and deeply feminine experience. Often women associate their situation with their sex lives and this association make establishing trust and comfort with a man more difficult. Women going to the clinic often seem to feel more comfortable talking with other women, so if possible, I defer to the female counselor present.

However there are some circumstances in which it’s helpful to have a male counselor. For some women, interacting with a man who cares about what they’re going through can be a refreshing experience. And for some, having male counselors there makes them feel safe from an abusive situation. Additionally, men sometimes accompany the women in their lives to abortion appointments and end up waiting outside. Some of them find it helpful to talk to male counselors about the experience.

Do you hand out literature? If so, what is it about?

Yes, usually basic information about abortion and marketing materials for local PRCs. If you’re going to sidewalk counsel, I would recommend you read through these materials before you start handing them to people. Make sure you understand and agree with what you’re telling others. Some publications are particularly religious, or anti-sex or anti-contraception. Not all pro-lifers agree with those views. Usually, though, the reading material is straightforward, honest, harmless, and very helpful.

Do you refer people to local services? If so, what types or services? Provided by whom?

Yes, I usually refer to local PRCs, primarily for pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and counseling. I try to send them to the closest PRC with the highest level of medical services. It’s also common for counselors to refer to maternity homes.

It’s my impression most sidewalk counselors are fairly devoutly religious, but you’re an agnostic. How does being a secular person intersect with sidewalk counseling? Does it hinder you in any ways? Help you in others?

I think being secular can be very helpful when you’re speaking to women, because you’re presenting life-affirming resources that are religiously neutral and unlikely to come off as anti-contraception or anti-sex. I think female secular sidewalk counselors have the greatest potential of any demographic to connect with women at the clinic.

But being non-religious can be negative in two ways: (1) People tend to assume all of us at the sidewalk are from the same group or all together, which means if someone evangelizes at the sidewalk I’m held liable for everything they say, despite agreeing with probably very little of it. (2) If and when religious sidewalk counselors find out I’m agnostic, some feel the need to evangelize to me. They often believe that without faith in God, a person cannot believe in or access objective morality, and so they find a secular pro-life worldview nonsensical, and they want to debate it.

While I don’t especially want to be evangelized to, I do admire the honesty. Sometimes Christian pro-lifers will be happy to have a secular person around to show that this is not a purely religious issue, but then the same people will argue that secular morality is impossible. I’m glad to get along well with religious allies, but if they really do think my worldview is foolish, I’d rather they be honest about it than placate or tokenize me.

Overall I think the fact that I’m at the sidewalk is encouraging to some but also causes cognitive dissonance for others.

How do you respond to people who say they are at the clinic for reasons other than abortion?

I say three things:

  1. I’m sorry if they felt we were making an assumption about why they were there. We’re just trying to provide options to women in difficult situations.
  2. If they are there for contraception services, I recommend they get their contraception from providers that do not offer abortion, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). Some counselors keep lists of local FHQCs. There are actually 25 FHQCs in the San Francisco area alone.
  3. I let them know that life-affirming clinics like PRCs often offer health care services like STD tests and pregnancy tests.

What are some of the most common circumstances women describe that brought them to the clinic?

  1. Economic concerns
  2. Tumultuous and dysfunctional relationships
  3. Educational concerns (primarily among younger women)

Do you have ongoing relationships with any of the women you have met at the sidewalk? If so, what are those like?

No, but I know this is very common. Often women who choose life will be in touch with PRCs for several years to come.

Do you interact with clinic staff? If so, what has that been like?

Yes. It has been almost universally negative. Everything from them playing loud music and erecting large barriers, calling the cops unjustifiably, threatening with non-existent buffer zone laws, taking my picture without my consent, etc.

Many people believe that sidewalk counselors primarily try to shame and intimidate women. How do you respond to that idea?

I find this to be patently absurd. I have only seen pro-life women being harassed, yelled at, cursed at on the sidewalk. While it is true that are clips of people doing this sort of thing in 1980s and 1990s, this behavior has almost entirely fallen away. The most common sight at the sidewalk is harmless middle-aged Catholic women.

What do you think of buffer zone laws? Has your work been impacted by such laws?

Buffer zone laws are blatantly unconstitutional. If they were consistently applied for all political topics, they would severely restrict all forms of speech and activism. As such, even a lot of passionately pro-choice people should oppose buffer zone laws.

I’ve never had my speech restricted but I have been threatened by escorts with nonexistent buffer zones. Another time I encountered some ridiculous doublespeak from the San Francisco Police Department. They began our interaction by claiming that “buffer zones are unconstitutional” and then proceeded to cite a city ordinance (which was a buffer zone in all but name) and threaten us with a citation. We promptly called the bluff, and nothing happened to us.

Pro-Life San Francisco actually maintains access to legal assistance in case there’s a problem, but I find that if they try to cite us and we threaten action, they usually back down because the law is already on our side.

What advice would you give someone interested in sidewalk counseling?

You shouldn’t feel guilty if you decide not to do it. There are many ways you can help women in need. If you are going to counsel and you’re a man, I would suggest making sure a female counselor is also there. But overall I think it is a great way to see the movement in action and help women in your community.

What advice do you have for people who don’t sidewalk counsel but still want to help women with crisis pregnancies?

Be a brand ambassador for your local PRC. Distribute their contact info everywhere: community poster boards, campuses, restrooms, gas stations, anywhere and everywhere helps. Attend annual fundraising dinners at local PRCs and donate. Help your local campus student group; they are often the best contact for the 18-24 age group where nearly 40% of abortions occur.

What do you believe the pro-life movement is getting right? What do you believe could be better?

The pro-life movement is doing an excellent job of providing a peaceful, compassionate, consistent, and nearly ubiquitous presence at abortion clinics throughout the country. However, too often well-meaning counselors mix their evangelization with their sidewalk work. The simple fact is that many secular women are on the fence about getting an abortion but not on the fence about premarital sex, contraception, and cohabitation. The stakes are too high for a potentially off-putting overtly religious approach, at least at the outset. Choosing life is a life-altering decision, and we are most effective when we focus on that specific issue and take care not to spend energy on other issues that may be major differences between the women and the counselors they’re speaking to.

Read more interviews:
Sidewalk counseling training resources:

Interview: How Gabriela became a sidewalk counselor outside the clinic where she had her abortion

I met Gabriela recently through Secular Pro-Life. I asked her if she had always been pro-life, and when she said no, I asked her what brought her to our side. Her story moved me, and she gave me permission to share it through an interview. – Monica


How long were you
pro-choice? What were the main reasons you were pro-choice? 
I was pro-choice for
as long as I can remember. It’s funny: I don’t remember the exact moment I
first heard the word “abortion” or learned what it was; I just
remember always supporting it. Even though I grew up Catholic and went to a
Catholic high school, I don’t remember it ever really being mentioned. But
honestly I was pro-choice mainly because I never wanted children. And it just
seemed logical to me that if you don’t want kids, you would support abortion.
It didn’t make sense to be pregnant for nine months only to give the kid to
someone else.
Tell me about your
abortion. What led you to that decision? 
The part that gets
me most about my abortion is that I had an IUD (intrauterine device), so none
of this was supposed to happen. I had a Paragard (copper) IUD, which is
supposedly 99.7% effective, and yet approximately six months after the IUD was
inserted, I got pregnant. My ultrasound appointment showed that the IUD was
exactly where it was supposed to be—it didn’t fall out or embed in the uterus;
it just didn’t work. I decided to have an abortion out of pure panic: I was terrified. I had intended to prevent pregnancy, and I wasn’t planning on
this, so an abortion just seemed like the logical choice.
How did you feel
about it after? 
The moment after my
abortion, I felt relief. The day after, I felt a despair and hopelessness and
horror at what I had done unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.
It’s still hard to talk about.
What did you do to
try to get support and heal? 
In order to try and
heal, I named my child. I also participated in a retreat with Rachel’s Vineyard, a Catholic
post-abortion recovery group that I found through my church bulletin. I tried therapy for a couple sessions, and then I joined a local sidewalk advocate group, which I found out about through a nearby crisis pregnancy center. After that, I was able to get a copy of my ultrasound picture, which I framed.
All of these methods
helped in some way, and I basically did them one after the other. Naming my child
and framing his ultrasound picture were important because those gestures acknowledged his humanity.
Though it was too early to determine the gender of my unborn child, I just
knew he was a boy. The retreat helped because it made me realize I wasn’t
alone, and it provided the participants
 little mementos to honor our unborn children. Therapy kind of
helped,
 but I needed something more. 

Being a sidewalk advocate really helped because I could actually do something
useful, rather than just wallow in regret. 
Sidewalk advocacy has helped me process my abortion by providing me an opportunity to use my story for good. I wish, more than anything, that someone had been on the sidewalk when I went to get my abortion. I now want to be that person for others, and hopefully prevent other women and unborn babies from going through what I and my unborn child went through. A couple of months after I started, a young woman told me that years ago she was about about to get an abortion but someone was on the sidewalk so she changed her mind. Her baby is now 3 years old.

Did you know the
sidewalk counselors before you started working alongside them? 
Before I joined the group, I didn’t know anything about them, but I wanted to
join a group that I knew valued unborn children and shared my newfound pro-life
beliefs.
Did you tell them
your story? If so, what were their reactions? 
I have told them and they are very supportive of me. They
think it can really change people’s hearts to hear about my regret,
particularly because I am now an advocate outside the abortion facility where I
received my abortion.
Are you close to
people who are pro-choice (friends, family, etc.)? What are those relationships
like? 
I am close with
people who are pro-choice, and the relationships are fine because we just don’t
talk about my abortion. Only a few people know, and they responded without
judgment. But overall I just don’t really
talk about it much with those I know.

If you could say anything to yourself years ago, what advice would you give? If I could say something to my younger self, I’m telling you she would not have listened! In all seriousness, I think the best way to change a pro-choicer’s mindset is to ask some simple questions: If a pregnant woman is murdered, should the perpetrator be charged with one murder or two, and why? If you’re in a burning building and have to choose between saving a pregnant woman or saving a woman who isn’t pregnant,  who would you save and why? If it’s the woman’s choice, is it okay for a woman to use abortion as birth control? If not, what’s not okay about it? These pointed questions might have made me question my pro-choice stance a lot earlier, which in turn could have saved my child’s life.

Interview: How Gabriela became a sidewalk counselor outside the clinic where she had her abortion

I met Gabriela recently through Secular Pro-Life. I asked her if she had always been pro-life, and when she said no, I asked her what brought her to our side. Her story moved me, and she gave me permission to share it through an interview. – Monica


How long were you
pro-choice? What were the main reasons you were pro-choice? 
I was pro-choice for
as long as I can remember. It’s funny: I don’t remember the exact moment I
first heard the word “abortion” or learned what it was; I just
remember always supporting it. Even though I grew up Catholic and went to a
Catholic high school, I don’t remember it ever really being mentioned. But
honestly I was pro-choice mainly because I never wanted children. And it just
seemed logical to me that if you don’t want kids, you would support abortion.
It didn’t make sense to be pregnant for nine months only to give the kid to
someone else.
Tell me about your
abortion. What led you to that decision? 
The part that gets
me most about my abortion is that I had an IUD (intrauterine device), so none
of this was supposed to happen. I had a Paragard (copper) IUD, which is
supposedly 99.7% effective, and yet approximately six months after the IUD was
inserted, I got pregnant. My ultrasound appointment showed that the IUD was
exactly where it was supposed to be—it didn’t fall out or embed in the uterus;
it just didn’t work. I decided to have an abortion out of pure panic: I was terrified. I had intended to prevent pregnancy, and I wasn’t planning on
this, so an abortion just seemed like the logical choice.
How did you feel
about it after? 
The moment after my
abortion, I felt relief. The day after, I felt a despair and hopelessness and
horror at what I had done unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.
It’s still hard to talk about.
What did you do to
try to get support and heal? 
In order to try and
heal, I named my child. I also participated in a retreat with Rachel’s Vineyard, a Catholic
post-abortion recovery group that I found through my church bulletin. I tried therapy for a couple sessions, and then I joined a local sidewalk advocate group, which I found out about through a nearby crisis pregnancy center. After that, I was able to get a copy of my ultrasound picture, which I framed.
All of these methods
helped in some way, and I basically did them one after the other. Naming my child
and framing his ultrasound picture were important because those gestures acknowledged his humanity.
Though it was too early to determine the gender of my unborn child, I just
knew he was a boy. The retreat helped because it made me realize I wasn’t
alone, and it provided the participants
 little mementos to honor our unborn children. Therapy kind of
helped,
 but I needed something more. 

Being a sidewalk advocate really helped because I could actually do something
useful, rather than just wallow in regret. 
Sidewalk advocacy has helped me process my abortion by providing me an opportunity to use my story for good. I wish, more than anything, that someone had been on the sidewalk when I went to get my abortion. I now want to be that person for others, and hopefully prevent other women and unborn babies from going through what I and my unborn child went through. A couple of months after I started, a young woman told me that years ago she was about about to get an abortion but someone was on the sidewalk so she changed her mind. Her baby is now 3 years old.

Did you know the
sidewalk counselors before you started working alongside them? 
Before I joined the group, I didn’t know anything about them, but I wanted to
join a group that I knew valued unborn children and shared my newfound pro-life
beliefs.
Did you tell them
your story? If so, what were their reactions? 
I have told them and they are very supportive of me. They
think it can really change people’s hearts to hear about my regret,
particularly because I am now an advocate outside the abortion facility where I
received my abortion.
Are you close to
people who are pro-choice (friends, family, etc.)? What are those relationships
like? 
I am close with
people who are pro-choice, and the relationships are fine because we just don’t
talk about my abortion. Only a few people know, and they responded without
judgment. But overall I just don’t really
talk about it much with those I know.

If you could say anything to yourself years ago, what advice would you give? If I could say something to my younger self, I’m telling you she would not have listened! In all seriousness, I think the best way to change a pro-choicer’s mindset is to ask some simple questions: If a pregnant woman is murdered, should the perpetrator be charged with one murder or two, and why? If you’re in a burning building and have to choose between saving a pregnant woman or saving a woman who isn’t pregnant,  who would you save and why? If it’s the woman’s choice, is it okay for a woman to use abortion as birth control? If not, what’s not okay about it? These pointed questions might have made me question my pro-choice stance a lot earlier, which in turn could have saved my child’s life.

Interview: Pro-life Democrats reflect on the Democratic Party and the pro-life movement

Secular Pro-Life strongly encourages pro-lifers from different backgrounds to seek to understand one another and form coalitions in the fight against abortion. SPL’s main focus, obviously, is on different religious backgrounds, but the longer we’ve done this work the more we’ve realized how important it is to amplify the voices of all kinds of non-traditional pro-lifers. 

In this post we want you to hear from pro-life leftists and Democrats. We interviewed six people—Jenna, Kristin, Travis, Paula, Theresa, and Benjamin—who identify as pro-life or anti-abortion.

SPL is run by a liberal, a moderate, and a conservative. Not all of us (especially the conservative) necessarily agree with every view expressed in this post. In fact there are some parts some of us very strongly disagree with. Nevertheless, we post the content unedited (except for brevity) in order to give a voice to people against abortion who are often overlooked. We hope the perspectives here will help all of us gain better insight into different paths one can take to being pro-life.

Click to enlarge.


1. How would you describe your position on abortion? How long have you held that position and how did you arrive at it?

Jenna: I was raised pro-life, but it was seeing the Lennart Nilssen Nova special in fourth grade that I really, incontrovertibly became pro-life for my own reasons. I even found myself thinking that the abortion debate was over now—the humanity of the human embryo and fetus was right there, in front of our eyes.

Kristin: I am anti-abortion and view it as no different than killing anyone else. I have felt that way since I first heard what it was back when I was 14. It was an instantaneous repulsion. I heard that it was the termination of a pregnancy, knew from my middle school biology classes that that would mean killing another living human being, and was immediately against it and horrified that it was a thing to begin with. As an energetic feminist I instantly saw it as the exploitation of women, assumed that conservative deadbeat dads must be behind it, as there was no way that hoards of women were up and making the decisions to kill their children. I used to get anxiety attacks about it and had a lot of survivor’s guilt given that I made it out of my mother’s uterus alive whereas so many were killed.

Travis: Ever since I knew abortion existed I have been against it, even though both of my parents are pro-choice. It has never made sense to me why someone would terminate a healthy pregnancy. Politically, I do not think abortion can be eliminated by judicial order; we must change hearts and minds first. I support allowing individual states to determine their abortion policies, so Louisiana and Alabama can outlaw abortion but New York and California can keep it legal. Eliminating abortion in states where abortion rights are popular would have a severe political backlash. The Trump administration has been good business for Planned Parenthood, with abortions and revenues on the rise. I support exceptions for rape and incest until 24 weeks and after that only for non-viable pregnancies and serious health risks to the mother.


Paula: I believe in the sanctity and worthiness of all life from conception to natural death. I was raised Catholic, but I also base my beliefs on science. Genetics fascinate me and the uniqueness and worthiness of each conceived human being is very real to me. I have always been pro-life, even as a child.

Theresa: I’m unwaveringly against abortion, regardless of reason for seeking one. And I’ve been against it since the moment I was aware of its reality, which was probably in middle school or early high school. Back then, it began as a matter of having been formed by Catholic Church teaching within my parish community and at home from my parents: that human life has inherent and non-refutable value and the willful and intentional destruction of human life is absolutely not acceptable, especially within the womb.

Benjamin: I am pro-life and have been so consistently since my early twenties (I’m now in my early forties). I am conflicted on the rape/incest question, as well as abortion in cases of disability. I don’t care what anyone says—these are heartrending cases for the expectant mother/parents who deserve the sympathy of pro-lifers rather than judgment. 

I grew up Jewish in the rural South (the “buckle of the Bible Belt”), which imparted on me “outsider status”—an identity that I embraced. My congressional district was (and is) super-majority Republican. This along with my parents’ influence (who had come from elsewhere) led me to gravitate to more liberal politics—which, of course, included a reliably pro-choice position on abortion. I recall laughing at my pro-life 8th Grade health teacher (male—also a football coach) when he told our class that abortion was performed with “scissors” and that “sometimes the baby comes out crying.”

2. How would you describe your political position with respect to American politics (e.g. liberal, moderate, conservative, Republican, Democrat, etc.)? How long have you held that position and how did you arrive at it?

Jenna: I’m pretty far left and consider myself a Democratic Socialist. I first started leaning left when I struck out on my own at 18, and came face to face with low wages and a lack of healthcare resources. As income inequality widens and our health care system erodes further, I move farther left.

Kristin: Generally I just say that I am everything on the left. I have often called myself a hippie, even as a kid. I have been anti-war since I was young and have always hated violence and supported equal rights for all. I was about 13 when I first started to understand Democrat vs. Republican and started to say I was a Democrat, and then liberal vs. conservative and used “liberal” more often. I came out as atheist right before that. I agree with general left-wingers, though my main ideals are more anarcho communist in nature. When I found out what communism was in my high school history class, which was basically described as a society that is governmentless, moneyless, and classless, where people come together to take what they need and only what they need so that there is enough to go around for everyone, I had a eureka moment of “That sounds like a utopia!” and knew that even if that is hard to attain, that is what I think the goal of humanity should be. I have often thought of it as weird to say that, given that all humans are for all intents and purposes created equal, one human or a group of humans should rule over all others when we are essentially all peers. Still, I understand that moving the status quo is better than doing nothing at all so I agree with pushing Democratic and Socialist policies such as raising the minimum wage or supporting universal healthcare in the meantime, but I would like to see an end to Capitalism.

Travis: I have stereotypical liberal positions on most issues with the exception of abortion and religious freedom issues. On economic issues, I am more liberal because I find American capitalism is morally corrupt.

Paula: For many years I was a Republican. I was upset that the Democrats had abortion rights in their platform. However, I was seldom able to vote for Republican candidates because they seemed to ignore the needs of the poor and vulnerable. I often did “write-ins.” I was an Independent for a few years and I might return to that status someday. For now, I am firmly a Democrat. I joined the party when Obama was running because I wanted to vote for him in the primary and you must be affiliated with a party in my state in order to do that. I guess I am a liberal. I worked as a social worker before I retired and I saw with my own eyes the need for safety nets such as food stamps, Medicaid, WIC, SS benefits. I resist labels.

Theresa: I am more liberal leaning nowadays. Ultimately the issues are more important to me than partisanship. Human dignity, rights, and life transcend partisanship. I was once registered as a Republican because I voted with the idea that abortion was the most important issue. It remains a grave issue to me, but I left the Republican Party as of 2016, completely appalled at the nomination of Donald Trump, a man so vile and repulsive in his words and in his treatment of anyone who will not feed his ego. I knew that it was not possible for me to both oppose abortion and support a man who was clearly not consistently pro-life, if he was even pro-life to begin with.

Abortion has always been a grave evil to me, but I’ve since come to understand that human life is not a single issue phenomenon, and abortion cannot be the only important issue to focus on. Babies aren’t born in vacuums and choices, especially the decision to abort, aren’t made in a vacuum either. Every life issue that impacts you or me or others impacts the unborn too. If an expecting mother is facing a crisis, that crisis will affect her child, too—often and unfortunately in the form of abortion. So if I care about unborn children, I really ought to care about all issues that affect their mothers and families. Whether it is the environment, healthcare, childcare, a living wage, parental leave. Whether it is racism, misogyny, ableism, and any forms of bigotry. Valuing the rights of the unborn begins before conception, with ensuring that society supports the needs of women so that they are capable of bringing a child into the world freely, without distress. And every child deserves to be born into a loving and well-supported family.

I didn’t come to this more comprehensive position right away: it’s been an ongoing progression from my Catholic liberal arts college through today (I’m now in my thirties). It was a college Sociology course that started my personal growth, but it was also listening to various arguments from both pro-life and pro-choice people over the years. I came to understand that life isn’t so simple, and that my experiences are not the same as others’. Listening to understand has helped me empathize with people who are struggling in ways I never did.


Benjamin: I am probably what would be called a “moderate” Democrat. I take issue with the direction that the party seems to be going. I know that I am getting more fiscally conservative as I get older—this has coincided with a rising income, so perhaps I am blinded by my own self-interests. I admire the passion of the younger Democratic activists but I believe that too much of what the party is pushing now is exclusionary. There appears to be a purity test on almost every issue, as well as a hyper-focus on social issues (like race/gender) that I believe is short-sighted, not to mention a mistaken electoral strategy. (I refer the reader to the recent election results in the United Kingdom.)

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3. How do you see the anti-abortion position fitting in with other Democratic values?

Jenna: Democrats protect the vulnerable in society. We work tirelessly for born children, and for equality for marginalized people. Being anti-abortion truly seems to be more in line with Democratic values than with the values of a party that does so little to help people thrive.

Kristin: I view it as the same as my other left-wing beliefs: it’s all about supporting the most innocent, vulnerable, poor, downtrodden, voiceless, helpless, and defenseless. There is no group that fits these words more than the pre-born, other than non-human-animals. So I see being pro-life as just about the most liberal thing there is. It fits in with my stances of being a vegan and feminist, anti-war, not anti-death penalty, anti-police brutality, and supporting the rights of all who are disenfranchised. I’m against the violence and oppression of anyone.

Travis: The Democratic Party supports more pro-life positions than the Republicans, with abortion being the main exception. The positions of Democrats on the death penalty, LGBT rights, immigration, and gun control tend to more closely align with a consistent life ethic than Republicans’ positions. Also, Democrats don’t support an unapologetic racist and sexual predator for president. 

Paula: I believe in social safety nets. I also appreciate the Democratic Party’s support for civil rights, public schools, immigration, and refugee services. Statistics demonstrate that abortions go down when Democrats are elected.

Theresa: As a whole the Democrat Party fights for civil rights for most human beings. Unfortunately, they fail entirely when it concerns unborn human beings. Without a doubt, the Democrat Party establishment firmly supports abortion. But I also acknowledge their position regarding a living wage; their support for LGBTQIA people, people of color, and the disabled; their position regarding affordable healthcare; their call to employers to provide parental leave for new parents, their opposition to discrimination against religious minorities, and their advocacy for the environment. These are all issues that matter when it comes to deciding whether to have a child—whether to get pregnant in the first place, or if already pregnant, whether to carry the baby to term.

Benjamin: I’m not sure. I believe that the party has become so doctrinaire on the abortion position that its “values” have become muddled. I like to say that Democrats have the moral advantage when it comes to guns and the environment; Republicans have the moral advantage regarding the abortion issue.

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4. Regarding abortion, the Democratic Party platform says in part:

We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.

What are your thoughts on this stance?

Jenna: I disagree, and especially with the idea of revoking the Hyde Amendment. Hyde, along with gestational limits, have long allowed pro-life Democrats to have an uneasy truce with the pro-choice plank of the party.

Kristin: That is an inherently oppressive stance because they conveniently leave out that abortion kills distinct living human beings. We know way too much about science to ignore that elephant in the room. And I view it as inherently manipulative toward women to try to convince us that the deaths of our children equals healthcare and our rights to our own bodies, choices, and lives. An abortion is considered botched if it doesn’t end someone else’s life and destroy their body. I love the quotes “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women” and “Abortion is a tool of the patriarchy.” Ignoring what abortion is and trying to get us to support it with all this other talk about access and healthcare is exploitative.

Travis: I don’t have a problem with funding Planned Parenthood, since they do other things besides abortion and the federal funds they receive cannot go to abortion. I do wonder what was wrong with the “safe, legal and rare” wording the Democratic platform used to have. The current wording and many politicians seem to celebrate abortion, rather than looking at it as a tragedy. I understand that Democrats feel the need to not stigmatize women who have had an abortion, which I respect. The onus of abortion is heaped on women, while the father escapes relatively unscathed. But taking a life or pretending that something with different DNA and a heartbeat isn’t a life doesn’t comport with Democrats’ other values. At least the word “rare” respected the value Democrats place on life and made the platform less revolting to people who vote solely on the abortion issue.

Paula: I support the Hyde Amendment. I was so disappointed in Joe Biden for caving into pressure regarding his support of the Hyde Amendment. I don’t want my tax dollars to be spent on abortion (or war or the death penalty or ICE). The Hyde Amendment seems like a good compromise on an issue that is so divisive. I am also very disappointed that abortion has become a litmus test for Democrats, and I don’t feel welcome in the party. I have FB friends who have blocked me over abortion. It saddens me that we can’t find some areas of agreement or compromise.

Theresa: I believe everyone should have access to affordable healthcare, but abortion is not healthcare in the first place. The medical profession has a grave duty to first do no harm. And abortion, as opposed to miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, is the deliberate destruction of the developing human embryo or fetus. Intentional destruction of life is something I will always oppose. By all means, if women need contraception or any other means to prevent—not terminate—a pregnancy, prevention would be far more preferable to ending a life. Punish rapists and end rape culture instead of arguing that abortion is a necessity in cases of rape. Insisting that babies conceived in rape should be aborted does absolutely nothing to stop rapists. How many abusers take their victims to have abortions, only to continue with the abuse? End rape culture.
 

Benjamin: I strongly disagree. The term “reproductive health” was conceived in a focus group. (Though it’s not as bad as “abortion care.”) On the other hand, in this day and age, who (other than activists) cares about what is in a party platform?

5. Have you interacted much with Democratic activists or politicians? If so, how has that gone? If not, why not?

Jenna: Yes, some. It’s gone well, but I have mostly interacted on conservation issues rather than abortion issues.

Kristin: Not much yet. I would like to though, to see if I can get anywhere with getting them to understand the viewpoint of those who are pro-life, and how [the Democratic Party is] screwing themselves over by rejecting pro-lifers. I have Facebook commented to local Democratic politicians before and one seemed civil at first but then blocked me after I started talking about science.

Travis: I have had little involvement with Democratic activists and politics because my children take up most of my free time.  


Paula: Not personally, although I do keep informed. I write letters and send emails occasionally.

Theresa: I have only minimally interacted with my Democrat representatives in Congress, particularly regarding the issue of gun violence. I merely expressed my concerns to my Congressman and he responded by acknowledging that he shares my concerns and has voted in support for certain restrictions. Of course, this remains an ongoing battle so there isn’t any definitive conclusion to this issue at all.

Then there is the matter of the Women’s March in DC. I’ve wanted to participate in the Women’s March but I do not feel welcome since I do not share their support for abortion and they have made it clear that pro-life feminists aren’t welcome. But perhaps I shouldn’t think about my own personal comfort zone. If I intend to support Democrat candidates over Republican ones, I do intend to challenge them to give a greater support for life and to work towards decreasing the numbers of abortion.

Benjamin: Not really.

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6. If you could sit down with DNC leadership to discuss the issue of abortion, what would you want to say to them?

Jenna: I’d tell them that when she was pregnant with me, my mother was poor, mentally ill, in an abusive relationship, about to be single, and experienced complications that caused her doctors to say I would to be disabled. I’d tell them my life is worth living and that I, and people like me, can hear them when they talk about the reasons women “need” access to abortion.

Kristin: Ignoring or denying the humanity of the pre-born makes them look like a bunch of anti-science flat-earther ripoffs, so they need to actually admit that abortion causes real deaths, and that a lot of women have PTSD from abortions because of those deaths. [Party leaders] need to work with pro-lifers to hear our concerns instead of just ignoring everything and pretending that we just want to control women’s bodies. We are women and a lot of us are strong feminists. Stereotyping the pro-life movement as a bunch of old, white, christian, conservative men will get them nowhere because most of us don’t fit into that caricature, so they’re just speaking past us. That’s why the abortion debate is still fiery and has not budged in decades. And, most importantly, if they want to win against people like Trump, it is imperative that they start understanding that it is because the pro-life movement sees abortion as killing babies that so many pro-lifers are single issue voters and voted for him just because he is pro-life, whereas pro-life Democrats could win.

Travis: I would say that Democrats are politically dead on the state and federal level in the South and the Great Plains because of their abortion position. Widening the tent for people who are against abortion would be a great way to attract people uncomfortable with the racism of the Republicans.

Paula: I would want them to understand that their rigid support of abortion, without any restrictions or nuance, forces some reluctant folks to vote for Republicans. They are shooting themselves in the foot. This issue is being successfully manipulated by Trump and the Republicans. I have a FB friend who calls abortion a “shield” for all the terrible, cruel policies that are not pro-life being pushed by Trump and Republicans. Whenever I object to a policy that is immoral, I hear, “but abortion.” I would like Democrats to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn; a little human being in the first stages of life. Democrats used to be better at that.

I would also encourage them to talk about how abortions go down when they hold office. Democrats do more than Republicans to help women choose life. They should also show some respect for us. Apparently 1/3 or all Democrats are pro-life. They need us.

Theresa: Human rights begin the moment there is new human DNA. Life is the first and foremost human right and to deny it to the most vulnerable is absolutely not acceptable. Abortion takes the historical and lasting oppression of women and displaces it on helpless children. And a person isn’t valuable because he or she is wanted, but because he or she is human. 

A woman’s right to choose is like any other right: we are always free to choose, to speak, to worship or not, to protest and to bear arms, but none of us are free to exercise our rights in a manner that will infringe on the rights of others. We aren’t islands. We are members of society and our choices do not only affect ourselves. Freedom exists so long as we are responsible with it. If you claim to value a woman’s right to choose, provide her with better options. Unwanted pregnancy is not a default state of existence. Pregnancy can be avoided. Or, if in certain situations, it can’t be avoided, provide all the necessary societal support that makes it easier to choose life. Support single mothers. Give them access to a living wage, to affordable healthcare and affordable childcare, to maternity leave. Punish those who commit domestic violence or sexual assault and rape. There should be severe consequences for those who would assault and abuse women.

Benjamin: I would say that pro-life voters should not be ostracized. I live in New York and it’s basically a thought crime to be pro-life. There is certainly a silent plurality here, however, that consider the mainstream New York “Democratic” position on abortion to be downright barbaric. Recall Gov. Cuomo’s “celebration” of the recent New York abortion law by mandating that the Freedom Tower be lit in pink (the law itself is truly remarkable in what it allows).

7. Due to the DNC platform and the statements of major Democratic candidates, a lot of pro-lifers assert a person cannot vote for Democrats and call his or herself “pro-life.” What’s your response to that?

Jenna: Neither major party is pro-life. But given two imperfect choices, between the party I disagree with on just the matter of abortion—which Democrats are better at reducing than Republicans—and the party I disagree with on every other subject, I’m going with the lesser evil. Denying people a living wage, family leave, universal health care, affordable daycare, and gap mending benefits drives people to think abortion is their only or best choice. I can’t be party to that, or to the many other dangers and indignities the Republicans impose on people. And I haven’t found a third party I can be totally on board with.

Kristin: Given the endless amounts of other issues that are really important to people, I can understand why someone would want to vote for a pro-choice Democrat, and I think that people who say those voters can’t be pro-life are ignoring all of these other issues. There are so many things that are super important to me besides abortion that I could never vote for a conservative. I don’t really consider bombing people in other countries to be consistent with my pro-life beliefs. The “you’re not really pro-life” mentality could easily go either way, so it’s best for people to vote with their conscience instead of what other people label them. I likewise have a hard time voting for a pro-choicer, so I have yet to vote for a person. I will vote for left-wing pro-lifers, but I don’t blame anyone for voting for pro-choice Democrats.


Travis: Neither party is pro-life; the Republican Party platform states that it’s against abortion but that doesn’t make it pro-life. As a voter, we have to determine which candidate most closely adheres to a consistent life ethic. Since most Republicans have declared fealty to Trump, they cannot argue that they are more pro-life than a Democrat.

Paula: I totally understand that position. Hillary was the first Democrat I ever voted for in a national election (Obama only got my vote in the primary). I never vote for Republicans either. However, I will vote for the Democratic candidate in the next election. I don’t care who it is. That is how imperative it is to get Trump out of office. As a Catholic, abortion is considered a great evil. I know many fellow Catholics who cannot vote for a Democrat due to that conviction. However, the Church says that we must vote our conscience. If we are not voting for a candidate because they are for abortion, but because they are less evil than the other candidate, it is okay. Also, there is a good case for saying that abortions go down when Democrats are in office. Social programs help pregnant women choose life.

Theresa: I disagree. I no longer vote according to one issue because a human life is not ever one issue. Life is more than being born. We all have needs, aspirations, personalities, experiences, and different perspectives. Our lives involve so many different issues from the womb until the tomb. I recognize how privileged I am, never having worried how bills would be paid, never enduring an abusive relationship, never being a victim of discrimination. I have always been free to make my choices, my dignity has always been intact, and I am content and at peace. Is it so unreasonable that I should want this dignified existence for all human beings? And if I have been so fortunate as to never have had a crisis pregnancy, I want the same for all women. At the moment only the Democratic Party supports policies that will best respect human dignity. When it concerns the quality of life for Americans, we shouldn’t fear government overreach as much as we should abhor the government’s indifference to people in need. Human life and dignity should be our highest priorities.

If anything, I cannot consider myself pro-life if I choose to turn a blind eye to all of the faults of the Republican Party and continue to vote for and support them. I firmly believe that being anti-abortion alone is not enough. Opposing abortion alone doesn’t make one pro-life if one doesn’t value needs of all after the baby has been born. There are nine months of development in the womb, and 70 or so years of life outside of the womb. To be pro-life means to defend life for the duration of those 70 years.

Benjamin: I’m torn. I see their point but I care too much about the environment to hand over the reins to the Republicans. 

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8. Have you interacted much with the overall pro-life movement (e.g. walks, rallies, meetings, lectures, protests, political activities, sidewalk counseling, pregnancy centers, etc.)? If so, how has that gone? If not, why not?

Kristin: A little bit. I have volunteered with crisis pregnancy centers which has taught me a lot, especially that they help a ton of low-income minority families by giving free supplies. I have gone to my local March for Life a few years in a row and that taught me that the pro-choice counter-protesters have absolutely no idea who pro-lifers are as people and why we are pro-life. They just read off chants from a script, stereotyping pro-lifers as religious conservatives. I have done small things like sidewalk chalked or hidden drop cards in various places. I returned to a chalking I did to see that people had actually taken the effort to grab a bunch of handfuls of grass and dirt from the local park and smear it on the chalk so that people wouldn’t see it. I definitely want to do more and would like to start up my own local activism group.

Travis: I’m interpreting “pro-life” in this question to mean anti-abortion. I only use the term “pro-life” for people who are pro-life on all issues, not just abortion. I would never attend a rally that welcomes Trump or people like him, so I have never gone to the March for Life rally even though I live in the DC area. I am turned off by the misogyny I see underlying the anti-abortion movement. I knew one male Trump supporter who was obsessed with the idea that Hillary had an abortion but didn’t bother to ask how many Trump may have paid for. The comment sections of sites like LifeSiteNews are full of vile, hateful nonsense. I am embarrassed to admit I’m for more restrictions on abortions because I realize I’m aligning myself with male zealots who don’t respect women’s needs and autonomy when it comes to cases of rape and non-viable pregnancies.

Paula: I ran a pregnancy support and adoption agency for a Catholic Social Service agency for 10 years. We also had a program for post-abortion healing. It felt good to offer alternatives to abortion. Most of the parents we helped were able to find a way to give birth and raise their children. We helped them find the resources and support they needed to do that. Adoptions were hard, but we promoted open adoptions and the birth parents were empowered to pick the parents themselves and develop a good relationship with them. Occasionally, adoption was the only path they could take to give life.

The complicated grief of abortion was very difficult to resolve primarily because of politicization of this decision. They did not know where to go to talk about their grief and they could not forgive themselves. Many did not want the abortion in the first place, but felt pressured by boyfriends, parents, husbands, professionals, and friends. Financial circumstances also played a big role in some abortion decisions. The women and men I met regretted their decisions and came for healing. It did not feel like a “choice” to them. For many, there was an emotional and mental price to be paid for their abortion. Sometimes the grief and loss of their unborn children did not surface until decades after the abortion. Many had problems with addiction, promiscuity, and relationships after the abortion. I know that the clients I met might not be considered representative of all post-abortive men and women, but it made me determined to help parents of unborn children choose life. After the birth of a beautiful child, there is seldom regret.

I demonstrated in front of a PP clinic once. It was right after the undercover videos of the Planned Parenthood doctors came out. I don’t know if baby body parts were sold illegally, but I was sickened by the callous way the doctors discussed killing babies and picking out body parts, all while sipping wine and munching on salad. I needed to do something to protest and I joined a group in front of the local PP. As an aside, this was the first time I understood why some do not trust mainstream media. No one was covering this except Fox news. That was an eyeopener. I am not a fan of Fox news but it was the only place I could get information about this situation.

Theresa: When I was in high school and college, I attended the March for Life in Washington D.C with my Catholic schools. It was certainly quite the experience to be present with so many other pro-life supporters, even in the bitter cold. It has been almost 20 years since I’ve been to one of the marches. As of more recently, I interact mostly with pro-life groups online. It is often quite informative as over the years, the discussions I have had have further shaped my stance against abortion and they have convinced me more and more of the necessity for a more whole life approach.

Benjamin: Not much. I recently saw a group of people outside a church that had participated in a march for life and told them how much I admired their efforts.

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9. How accessible is the pro-life movement for you? How could it be more accessible? What are some ways other pro-lifers could make Democrats and leftists feel welcome?

Jenna: I haven’t interacted with the PLM in real life for years, for a variety of reasons. We don’t have much of an alternative PLM here in the Seattle area, and I don’t want to be part of the conservative movement. A big part of it is the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. It would be very hard for me to stand next to someone who shares the goal of preventing abortion, but then would deny a loving family, which might include people I love, from adopting a child. That’s certainly not the only leftist stance I find a lot of mainstream PLM activists are antagonistic to, but it’s a big one. So I’d say not tying anti-LGBTQ activism to pro-life activism. Also, not devaluing other human lives—immigrants, chronically ill people, the poor and homeless.

Kristin: Because I tend to stick to my progressive, feminist, atheist pro-life bubble, it seems hopeful and welcoming in those groups and with those people. When I venture out into the mainstream pro-life spaces, I start to remember that there are still people who argue with us that atheists have no moral grounding to be pro-life or we’re going to hell for being atheist, or pro-choicers who tell us we cannot be pro-life feminists. There is still too much religious imagery and quotes, which makes the movement seem alienating to those who are secular. You can be religious but there’s no reason to bring it to pro-life events and pages, just like you wouldn’t hold a cross while giving a homeless person a meal. Conservative pro-lifers tend to not trust left-wingers and still frame it as a “left vs. right” concept, thus ignoring us. A big step in the right direction would be if these conservatives, especially the ones who have an audience such as those who associate with Fox News, would make sure to never frame the issue in a left vs. right way but rather just “pro-life vs. pro-choice.” It would be amazing if they would take a minute of their time to mention that there are lots of left-wingers who are pro-life and perhaps even mention organizations such as Democrats for Life of America or Rehumanize International. Can you imagine what it would be like if Steven Crowder or Ben Shapiro said, “Also there are a lot of lefty feminist pro-lifers these days too. Check out the organizations New Wave Feminists and Consistent Life for more info on that”? That would be amazing. Basically, give us a platform, let us speak, and promote us like crazy. Abortion would end so quickly if that were to happen, because we can reach the people that the stereotypical pro-lifers can’t.

Travis: I would only feel comfortable with an anti-abortion movement that is consistently pro-life. I would never be a part of an anti-abortion movement that is homophobic. LifeSiteNews posts anti-LGBT stories and, from my experience, anti-abortion and anti-LGBT tend to go together. The current anti-abortion movement overlooks an unrepentant Trump’s serial adultery and sexual harassment but won’t do the same for the perceived sexual sins of the LGBT community. I cannot be a part of that hypocrisy and hatred. I do follow New Wave Feminists on Twitter and Facebook and NWF has given me hope that I can find an anti-abortion group to call home. Also, Christian activist Shane Claiborne is consistently pro-life. If there was a march for the consistent life ethic, I would participate enthusiastically.

Paula: I don’t find it accessible at all except through facebook. Facebook has allowed me to make friends who share my values. So many people who call themselves pro-life are Republicans and sadly they seem to be under the spell of Trump. It is weird to me.

Nancy Pelosi made a statement a short time back that helped me feel welcomed. She said something about some of her own family members being pro-life. I can’t find the exact quote but I heard it when she was being interviewed. I will say this: Democrats are not doing a very good job of making me feel welcomed. They come across as very extreme and rigid. Our way or the highway!

Theresa: The movement itself is accessible enough. We don’t have to go far to find pro-life groups on social media, for instance. And my parish supports local pregnancy centers. But in truth, it has become more and more alienating when there is this commonly expressed belief that you can’t be pro-life and Democrat or liberal leaning. I don’t know that I need to feel particularly welcome because ultimately my concern is to uphold consistent respect for human dignity. I don’t believe as I do to fit in; I care for the sake of the unborn and their families.

But I can’t speak for everyone who is pro-life and more liberal. If people feel alienated from the pro-life movement, it can do nothing but hurt our cause. Pro-lifers as a whole need to recognize that we will not agree on everything, but we all share the desire is to end abortion. We should strive to work in the most effective manner possible. For too long I voted based only on opposing abortion, and there was nothing to show for it. Abortion continued with each vote I cast for Republicans and babies were continuously slaughtered regardless of the words on the lips of these politicians. Abortion itself is a more deep and insidious problem. We don’t treat diseases by addressing a single symptom—we attack the virus itself, and the symptoms will then disappear. Abortion is a symptom and we have yet to eradicate the underlying disease that is the overall lack of respect for human life and dignity.

Benjamin: Secular Pro-Life is a great example. Unfortunately many Democrats see the pro-life movement as male-dominated and “anti-woman” (false!) as well as religiously dominated (true). Just keep doing what you’re doing.

Interview: Pro-life Democrats reflect on the Democratic Party and the pro-life movement

Secular Pro-Life strongly encourages pro-lifers from different backgrounds to seek to understand one another and form coalitions in the fight against abortion. SPL’s main focus, obviously, is on different religious backgrounds, but the longer we’ve done this work the more we’ve realized how important it is to amplify the voices of all kinds of non-traditional pro-lifers. 

In this post we want you to hear from pro-life leftists and Democrats. We interviewed six people—Jenna, Kristin, Travis, Paula, Theresa, and Benjamin—who identify as pro-life or anti-abortion.

SPL is run by a liberal, a moderate, and a conservative. Not all of us (especially the conservative) necessarily agree with every view expressed in this post. In fact there are some parts some of us very strongly disagree with. Nevertheless, we post the content unedited (except for brevity) in order to give a voice to people against abortion who are often overlooked. We hope the perspectives here will help all of us gain better insight into different paths one can take to being pro-life.

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1. How would you describe your position on abortion? How long have you held that position and how did you arrive at it?

Jenna: I was raised pro-life, but it was seeing the Lennart Nilssen Nova special in fourth grade that I really, incontrovertibly became pro-life for my own reasons. I even found myself thinking that the abortion debate was over now—the humanity of the human embryo and fetus was right there, in front of our eyes.

Kristin: I am anti-abortion and view it as no different than killing anyone else. I have felt that way since I first heard what it was back when I was 14. It was an instantaneous repulsion. I heard that it was the termination of a pregnancy, knew from my middle school biology classes that that would mean killing another living human being, and was immediately against it and horrified that it was a thing to begin with. As an energetic feminist I instantly saw it as the exploitation of women, assumed that conservative deadbeat dads must be behind it, as there was no way that hoards of women were up and making the decisions to kill their children. I used to get anxiety attacks about it and had a lot of survivor’s guilt given that I made it out of my mother’s uterus alive whereas so many were killed.

Travis: Ever since I knew abortion existed I have been against it, even though both of my parents are pro-choice. It has never made sense to me why someone would terminate a healthy pregnancy. Politically, I do not think abortion can be eliminated by judicial order; we must change hearts and minds first. I support allowing individual states to determine their abortion policies, so Louisiana and Alabama can outlaw abortion but New York and California can keep it legal. Eliminating abortion in states where abortion rights are popular would have a severe political backlash. The Trump administration has been good business for Planned Parenthood, with abortions and revenues on the rise. I support exceptions for rape and incest until 24 weeks and after that only for non-viable pregnancies and serious health risks to the mother.


Paula: I believe in the sanctity and worthiness of all life from conception to natural death. I was raised Catholic, but I also base my beliefs on science. Genetics fascinate me and the uniqueness and worthiness of each conceived human being is very real to me. I have always been pro-life, even as a child.

Theresa: I’m unwaveringly against abortion, regardless of reason for seeking one. And I’ve been against it since the moment I was aware of its reality, which was probably in middle school or early high school. Back then, it began as a matter of having been formed by Catholic Church teaching within my parish community and at home from my parents: that human life has inherent and non-refutable value and the willful and intentional destruction of human life is absolutely not acceptable, especially within the womb.

Benjamin: I am pro-life and have been so consistently since my early twenties (I’m now in my early forties). I am conflicted on the rape/incest question, as well as abortion in cases of disability. I don’t care what anyone says—these are heartrending cases for the expectant mother/parents who deserve the sympathy of pro-lifers rather than judgment. 

I grew up Jewish in the rural South (the “buckle of the Bible Belt”), which imparted on me “outsider status”—an identity that I embraced. My congressional district was (and is) super-majority Republican. This along with my parents’ influence (who had come from elsewhere) led me to gravitate to more liberal politics—which, of course, included a reliably pro-choice position on abortion. I recall laughing at my pro-life 8th Grade health teacher (male—also a football coach) when he told our class that abortion was performed with “scissors” and that “sometimes the baby comes out crying.”

2. How would you describe your political position with respect to American politics (e.g. liberal, moderate, conservative, Republican, Democrat, etc.)? How long have you held that position and how did you arrive at it?

Jenna: I’m pretty far left and consider myself a Democratic Socialist. I first started leaning left when I struck out on my own at 18, and came face to face with low wages and a lack of healthcare resources. As income inequality widens and our health care system erodes further, I move farther left.

Kristin: Generally I just say that I am everything on the left. I have often called myself a hippie, even as a kid. I have been anti-war since I was young and have always hated violence and supported equal rights for all. I was about 13 when I first started to understand Democrat vs. Republican and started to say I was a Democrat, and then liberal vs. conservative and used “liberal” more often. I came out as atheist right before that. I agree with general left-wingers, though my main ideals are more anarcho communist in nature. When I found out what communism was in my high school history class, which was basically described as a society that is governmentless, moneyless, and classless, where people come together to take what they need and only what they need so that there is enough to go around for everyone, I had a eureka moment of “That sounds like a utopia!” and knew that even if that is hard to attain, that is what I think the goal of humanity should be. I have often thought of it as weird to say that, given that all humans are for all intents and purposes created equal, one human or a group of humans should rule over all others when we are essentially all peers. Still, I understand that moving the status quo is better than doing nothing at all so I agree with pushing Democratic and Socialist policies such as raising the minimum wage or supporting universal healthcare in the meantime, but I would like to see an end to Capitalism.

Travis: I have stereotypical liberal positions on most issues with the exception of abortion and religious freedom issues. On economic issues, I am more liberal because I find American capitalism is morally corrupt.

Paula: For many years I was a Republican. I was upset that the Democrats had abortion rights in their platform. However, I was seldom able to vote for Republican candidates because they seemed to ignore the needs of the poor and vulnerable. I often did “write-ins.” I was an Independent for a few years and I might return to that status someday. For now, I am firmly a Democrat. I joined the party when Obama was running because I wanted to vote for him in the primary and you must be affiliated with a party in my state in order to do that. I guess I am a liberal. I worked as a social worker before I retired and I saw with my own eyes the need for safety nets such as food stamps, Medicaid, WIC, SS benefits. I resist labels.

Theresa: I am more liberal leaning nowadays. Ultimately the issues are more important to me than partisanship. Human dignity, rights, and life transcend partisanship. I was once registered as a Republican because I voted with the idea that abortion was the most important issue. It remains a grave issue to me, but I left the Republican Party as of 2016, completely appalled at the nomination of Donald Trump, a man so vile and repulsive in his words and in his treatment of anyone who will not feed his ego. I knew that it was not possible for me to both oppose abortion and support a man who was clearly not consistently pro-life, if he was even pro-life to begin with.

Abortion has always been a grave evil to me, but I’ve since come to understand that human life is not a single issue phenomenon, and abortion cannot be the only important issue to focus on. Babies aren’t born in vacuums and choices, especially the decision to abort, aren’t made in a vacuum either. Every life issue that impacts you or me or others impacts the unborn too. If an expecting mother is facing a crisis, that crisis will affect her child, too—often and unfortunately in the form of abortion. So if I care about unborn children, I really ought to care about all issues that affect their mothers and families. Whether it is the environment, healthcare, childcare, a living wage, parental leave. Whether it is racism, misogyny, ableism, and any forms of bigotry. Valuing the rights of the unborn begins before conception, with ensuring that society supports the needs of women so that they are capable of bringing a child into the world freely, without distress. And every child deserves to be born into a loving and well-supported family.

I didn’t come to this more comprehensive position right away: it’s been an ongoing progression from my Catholic liberal arts college through today (I’m now in my thirties). It was a college Sociology course that started my personal growth, but it was also listening to various arguments from both pro-life and pro-choice people over the years. I came to understand that life isn’t so simple, and that my experiences are not the same as others’. Listening to understand has helped me empathize with people who are struggling in ways I never did.


Benjamin: I am probably what would be called a “moderate” Democrat. I take issue with the direction that the party seems to be going. I know that I am getting more fiscally conservative as I get older—this has coincided with a rising income, so perhaps I am blinded by my own self-interests. I admire the passion of the younger Democratic activists but I believe that too much of what the party is pushing now is exclusionary. There appears to be a purity test on almost every issue, as well as a hyper-focus on social issues (like race/gender) that I believe is short-sighted, not to mention a mistaken electoral strategy. (I refer the reader to the recent election results in the United Kingdom.)

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3. How do you see the anti-abortion position fitting in with other Democratic values?

Jenna: Democrats protect the vulnerable in society. We work tirelessly for born children, and for equality for marginalized people. Being anti-abortion truly seems to be more in line with Democratic values than with the values of a party that does so little to help people thrive.

Kristin: I view it as the same as my other left-wing beliefs: it’s all about supporting the most innocent, vulnerable, poor, downtrodden, voiceless, helpless, and defenseless. There is no group that fits these words more than the pre-born, other than non-human-animals. So I see being pro-life as just about the most liberal thing there is. It fits in with my stances of being a vegan and feminist, anti-war, not anti-death penalty, anti-police brutality, and supporting the rights of all who are disenfranchised. I’m against the violence and oppression of anyone.

Travis: The Democratic Party supports more pro-life positions than the Republicans, with abortion being the main exception. The positions of Democrats on the death penalty, LGBT rights, immigration, and gun control tend to more closely align with a consistent life ethic than Republicans’ positions. Also, Democrats don’t support an unapologetic racist and sexual predator for president. 

Paula: I believe in social safety nets. I also appreciate the Democratic Party’s support for civil rights, public schools, immigration, and refugee services. Statistics demonstrate that abortions go down when Democrats are elected.

Theresa: As a whole the Democrat Party fights for civil rights for most human beings. Unfortunately, they fail entirely when it concerns unborn human beings. Without a doubt, the Democrat Party establishment firmly supports abortion. But I also acknowledge their position regarding a living wage; their support for LGBTQIA people, people of color, and the disabled; their position regarding affordable healthcare; their call to employers to provide parental leave for new parents, their opposition to discrimination against religious minorities, and their advocacy for the environment. These are all issues that matter when it comes to deciding whether to have a child—whether to get pregnant in the first place, or if already pregnant, whether to carry the baby to term.

Benjamin: I’m not sure. I believe that the party has become so doctrinaire on the abortion position that its “values” have become muddled. I like to say that Democrats have the moral advantage when it comes to guns and the environment; Republicans have the moral advantage regarding the abortion issue.

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4. Regarding abortion, the Democratic Party platform says in part:

We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured. We believe that reproductive health is core to women’s, men’s, and young people’s health and wellbeing. We will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers, which provide critical health services to millions of people. We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.

What are your thoughts on this stance?

Jenna: I disagree, and especially with the idea of revoking the Hyde Amendment. Hyde, along with gestational limits, have long allowed pro-life Democrats to have an uneasy truce with the pro-choice plank of the party.

Kristin: That is an inherently oppressive stance because they conveniently leave out that abortion kills distinct living human beings. We know way too much about science to ignore that elephant in the room. And I view it as inherently manipulative toward women to try to convince us that the deaths of our children equals healthcare and our rights to our own bodies, choices, and lives. An abortion is considered botched if it doesn’t end someone else’s life and destroy their body. I love the quotes “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women” and “Abortion is a tool of the patriarchy.” Ignoring what abortion is and trying to get us to support it with all this other talk about access and healthcare is exploitative.

Travis: I don’t have a problem with funding Planned Parenthood, since they do other things besides abortion and the federal funds they receive cannot go to abortion. I do wonder what was wrong with the “safe, legal and rare” wording the Democratic platform used to have. The current wording and many politicians seem to celebrate abortion, rather than looking at it as a tragedy. I understand that Democrats feel the need to not stigmatize women who have had an abortion, which I respect. The onus of abortion is heaped on women, while the father escapes relatively unscathed. But taking a life or pretending that something with different DNA and a heartbeat isn’t a life doesn’t comport with Democrats’ other values. At least the word “rare” respected the value Democrats place on life and made the platform less revolting to people who vote solely on the abortion issue.

Paula: I support the Hyde Amendment. I was so disappointed in Joe Biden for caving into pressure regarding his support of the Hyde Amendment. I don’t want my tax dollars to be spent on abortion (or war or the death penalty or ICE). The Hyde Amendment seems like a good compromise on an issue that is so divisive. I am also very disappointed that abortion has become a litmus test for Democrats, and I don’t feel welcome in the party. I have FB friends who have blocked me over abortion. It saddens me that we can’t find some areas of agreement or compromise.

Theresa: I believe everyone should have access to affordable healthcare, but abortion is not healthcare in the first place. The medical profession has a grave duty to first do no harm. And abortion, as opposed to miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, is the deliberate destruction of the developing human embryo or fetus. Intentional destruction of life is something I will always oppose. By all means, if women need contraception or any other means to prevent—not terminate—a pregnancy, prevention would be far more preferable to ending a life. Punish rapists and end rape culture instead of arguing that abortion is a necessity in cases of rape. Insisting that babies conceived in rape should be aborted does absolutely nothing to stop rapists. How many abusers take their victims to have abortions, only to continue with the abuse? End rape culture.
 

Benjamin: I strongly disagree. The term “reproductive health” was conceived in a focus group. (Though it’s not as bad as “abortion care.”) On the other hand, in this day and age, who (other than activists) cares about what is in a party platform?

5. Have you interacted much with Democratic activists or politicians? If so, how has that gone? If not, why not?

Jenna: Yes, some. It’s gone well, but I have mostly interacted on conservation issues rather than abortion issues.

Kristin: Not much yet. I would like to though, to see if I can get anywhere with getting them to understand the viewpoint of those who are pro-life, and how [the Democratic Party is] screwing themselves over by rejecting pro-lifers. I have Facebook commented to local Democratic politicians before and one seemed civil at first but then blocked me after I started talking about science.

Travis: I have had little involvement with Democratic activists and politics because my children take up most of my free time.  


Paula: Not personally, although I do keep informed. I write letters and send emails occasionally.

Theresa: I have only minimally interacted with my Democrat representatives in Congress, particularly regarding the issue of gun violence. I merely expressed my concerns to my Congressman and he responded by acknowledging that he shares my concerns and has voted in support for certain restrictions. Of course, this remains an ongoing battle so there isn’t any definitive conclusion to this issue at all.

Then there is the matter of the Women’s March in DC. I’ve wanted to participate in the Women’s March but I do not feel welcome since I do not share their support for abortion and they have made it clear that pro-life feminists aren’t welcome. But perhaps I shouldn’t think about my own personal comfort zone. If I intend to support Democrat candidates over Republican ones, I do intend to challenge them to give a greater support for life and to work towards decreasing the numbers of abortion.

Benjamin: Not really.

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6. If you could sit down with DNC leadership to discuss the issue of abortion, what would you want to say to them?

Jenna: I’d tell them that when she was pregnant with me, my mother was poor, mentally ill, in an abusive relationship, about to be single, and experienced complications that caused her doctors to say I would to be disabled. I’d tell them my life is worth living and that I, and people like me, can hear them when they talk about the reasons women “need” access to abortion.

Kristin: Ignoring or denying the humanity of the pre-born makes them look like a bunch of anti-science flat-earther ripoffs, so they need to actually admit that abortion causes real deaths, and that a lot of women have PTSD from abortions because of those deaths. [Party leaders] need to work with pro-lifers to hear our concerns instead of just ignoring everything and pretending that we just want to control women’s bodies. We are women and a lot of us are strong feminists. Stereotyping the pro-life movement as a bunch of old, white, christian, conservative men will get them nowhere because most of us don’t fit into that caricature, so they’re just speaking past us. That’s why the abortion debate is still fiery and has not budged in decades. And, most importantly, if they want to win against people like Trump, it is imperative that they start understanding that it is because the pro-life movement sees abortion as killing babies that so many pro-lifers are single issue voters and voted for him just because he is pro-life, whereas pro-life Democrats could win.

Travis: I would say that Democrats are politically dead on the state and federal level in the South and the Great Plains because of their abortion position. Widening the tent for people who are against abortion would be a great way to attract people uncomfortable with the racism of the Republicans.

Paula: I would want them to understand that their rigid support of abortion, without any restrictions or nuance, forces some reluctant folks to vote for Republicans. They are shooting themselves in the foot. This issue is being successfully manipulated by Trump and the Republicans. I have a FB friend who calls abortion a “shield” for all the terrible, cruel policies that are not pro-life being pushed by Trump and Republicans. Whenever I object to a policy that is immoral, I hear, “but abortion.” I would like Democrats to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn; a little human being in the first stages of life. Democrats used to be better at that.

I would also encourage them to talk about how abortions go down when they hold office. Democrats do more than Republicans to help women choose life. They should also show some respect for us. Apparently 1/3 or all Democrats are pro-life. They need us.

Theresa: Human rights begin the moment there is new human DNA. Life is the first and foremost human right and to deny it to the most vulnerable is absolutely not acceptable. Abortion takes the historical and lasting oppression of women and displaces it on helpless children. And a person isn’t valuable because he or she is wanted, but because he or she is human. 

A woman’s right to choose is like any other right: we are always free to choose, to speak, to worship or not, to protest and to bear arms, but none of us are free to exercise our rights in a manner that will infringe on the rights of others. We aren’t islands. We are members of society and our choices do not only affect ourselves. Freedom exists so long as we are responsible with it. If you claim to value a woman’s right to choose, provide her with better options. Unwanted pregnancy is not a default state of existence. Pregnancy can be avoided. Or, if in certain situations, it can’t be avoided, provide all the necessary societal support that makes it easier to choose life. Support single mothers. Give them access to a living wage, to affordable healthcare and affordable childcare, to maternity leave. Punish those who commit domestic violence or sexual assault and rape. There should be severe consequences for those who would assault and abuse women.

Benjamin: I would say that pro-life voters should not be ostracized. I live in New York and it’s basically a thought crime to be pro-life. There is certainly a silent plurality here, however, that consider the mainstream New York “Democratic” position on abortion to be downright barbaric. Recall Gov. Cuomo’s “celebration” of the recent New York abortion law by mandating that the Freedom Tower be lit in pink (the law itself is truly remarkable in what it allows).

7. Due to the DNC platform and the statements of major Democratic candidates, a lot of pro-lifers assert a person cannot vote for Democrats and call his or herself “pro-life.” What’s your response to that?

Jenna: Neither major party is pro-life. But given two imperfect choices, between the party I disagree with on just the matter of abortion—which Democrats are better at reducing than Republicans—and the party I disagree with on every other subject, I’m going with the lesser evil. Denying people a living wage, family leave, universal health care, affordable daycare, and gap mending benefits drives people to think abortion is their only or best choice. I can’t be party to that, or to the many other dangers and indignities the Republicans impose on people. And I haven’t found a third party I can be totally on board with.

Kristin: Given the endless amounts of other issues that are really important to people, I can understand why someone would want to vote for a pro-choice Democrat, and I think that people who say those voters can’t be pro-life are ignoring all of these other issues. There are so many things that are super important to me besides abortion that I could never vote for a conservative. I don’t really consider bombing people in other countries to be consistent with my pro-life beliefs. The “you’re not really pro-life” mentality could easily go either way, so it’s best for people to vote with their conscience instead of what other people label them. I likewise have a hard time voting for a pro-choicer, so I have yet to vote for a person. I will vote for left-wing pro-lifers, but I don’t blame anyone for voting for pro-choice Democrats.


Travis: Neither party is pro-life; the Republican Party platform states that it’s against abortion but that doesn’t make it pro-life. As a voter, we have to determine which candidate most closely adheres to a consistent life ethic. Since most Republicans have declared fealty to Trump, they cannot argue that they are more pro-life than a Democrat.

Paula: I totally understand that position. Hillary was the first Democrat I ever voted for in a national election (Obama only got my vote in the primary). I never vote for Republicans either. However, I will vote for the Democratic candidate in the next election. I don’t care who it is. That is how imperative it is to get Trump out of office. As a Catholic, abortion is considered a great evil. I know many fellow Catholics who cannot vote for a Democrat due to that conviction. However, the Church says that we must vote our conscience. If we are not voting for a candidate because they are for abortion, but because they are less evil than the other candidate, it is okay. Also, there is a good case for saying that abortions go down when Democrats are in office. Social programs help pregnant women choose life.

Theresa: I disagree. I no longer vote according to one issue because a human life is not ever one issue. Life is more than being born. We all have needs, aspirations, personalities, experiences, and different perspectives. Our lives involve so many different issues from the womb until the tomb. I recognize how privileged I am, never having worried how bills would be paid, never enduring an abusive relationship, never being a victim of discrimination. I have always been free to make my choices, my dignity has always been intact, and I am content and at peace. Is it so unreasonable that I should want this dignified existence for all human beings? And if I have been so fortunate as to never have had a crisis pregnancy, I want the same for all women. At the moment only the Democratic Party supports policies that will best respect human dignity. When it concerns the quality of life for Americans, we shouldn’t fear government overreach as much as we should abhor the government’s indifference to people in need. Human life and dignity should be our highest priorities.

If anything, I cannot consider myself pro-life if I choose to turn a blind eye to all of the faults of the Republican Party and continue to vote for and support them. I firmly believe that being anti-abortion alone is not enough. Opposing abortion alone doesn’t make one pro-life if one doesn’t value needs of all after the baby has been born. There are nine months of development in the womb, and 70 or so years of life outside of the womb. To be pro-life means to defend life for the duration of those 70 years.

Benjamin: I’m torn. I see their point but I care too much about the environment to hand over the reins to the Republicans. 

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8. Have you interacted much with the overall pro-life movement (e.g. walks, rallies, meetings, lectures, protests, political activities, sidewalk counseling, pregnancy centers, etc.)? If so, how has that gone? If not, why not?

Kristin: A little bit. I have volunteered with crisis pregnancy centers which has taught me a lot, especially that they help a ton of low-income minority families by giving free supplies. I have gone to my local March for Life a few years in a row and that taught me that the pro-choice counter-protesters have absolutely no idea who pro-lifers are as people and why we are pro-life. They just read off chants from a script, stereotyping pro-lifers as religious conservatives. I have done small things like sidewalk chalked or hidden drop cards in various places. I returned to a chalking I did to see that people had actually taken the effort to grab a bunch of handfuls of grass and dirt from the local park and smear it on the chalk so that people wouldn’t see it. I definitely want to do more and would like to start up my own local activism group.

Travis: I’m interpreting “pro-life” in this question to mean anti-abortion. I only use the term “pro-life” for people who are pro-life on all issues, not just abortion. I would never attend a rally that welcomes Trump or people like him, so I have never gone to the March for Life rally even though I live in the DC area. I am turned off by the misogyny I see underlying the anti-abortion movement. I knew one male Trump supporter who was obsessed with the idea that Hillary had an abortion but didn’t bother to ask how many Trump may have paid for. The comment sections of sites like LifeSiteNews are full of vile, hateful nonsense. I am embarrassed to admit I’m for more restrictions on abortions because I realize I’m aligning myself with male zealots who don’t respect women’s needs and autonomy when it comes to cases of rape and non-viable pregnancies.

Paula: I ran a pregnancy support and adoption agency for a Catholic Social Service agency for 10 years. We also had a program for post-abortion healing. It felt good to offer alternatives to abortion. Most of the parents we helped were able to find a way to give birth and raise their children. We helped them find the resources and support they needed to do that. Adoptions were hard, but we promoted open adoptions and the birth parents were empowered to pick the parents themselves and develop a good relationship with them. Occasionally, adoption was the only path they could take to give life.

The complicated grief of abortion was very difficult to resolve primarily because of politicization of this decision. They did not know where to go to talk about their grief and they could not forgive themselves. Many did not want the abortion in the first place, but felt pressured by boyfriends, parents, husbands, professionals, and friends. Financial circumstances also played a big role in some abortion decisions. The women and men I met regretted their decisions and came for healing. It did not feel like a “choice” to them. For many, there was an emotional and mental price to be paid for their abortion. Sometimes the grief and loss of their unborn children did not surface until decades after the abortion. Many had problems with addiction, promiscuity, and relationships after the abortion. I know that the clients I met might not be considered representative of all post-abortive men and women, but it made me determined to help parents of unborn children choose life. After the birth of a beautiful child, there is seldom regret.

I demonstrated in front of a PP clinic once. It was right after the undercover videos of the Planned Parenthood doctors came out. I don’t know if baby body parts were sold illegally, but I was sickened by the callous way the doctors discussed killing babies and picking out body parts, all while sipping wine and munching on salad. I needed to do something to protest and I joined a group in front of the local PP. As an aside, this was the first time I understood why some do not trust mainstream media. No one was covering this except Fox news. That was an eyeopener. I am not a fan of Fox news but it was the only place I could get information about this situation.

Theresa: When I was in high school and college, I attended the March for Life in Washington D.C with my Catholic schools. It was certainly quite the experience to be present with so many other pro-life supporters, even in the bitter cold. It has been almost 20 years since I’ve been to one of the marches. As of more recently, I interact mostly with pro-life groups online. It is often quite informative as over the years, the discussions I have had have further shaped my stance against abortion and they have convinced me more and more of the necessity for a more whole life approach.

Benjamin: Not much. I recently saw a group of people outside a church that had participated in a march for life and told them how much I admired their efforts.

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9. How accessible is the pro-life movement for you? How could it be more accessible? What are some ways other pro-lifers could make Democrats and leftists feel welcome?

Jenna: I haven’t interacted with the PLM in real life for years, for a variety of reasons. We don’t have much of an alternative PLM here in the Seattle area, and I don’t want to be part of the conservative movement. A big part of it is the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. It would be very hard for me to stand next to someone who shares the goal of preventing abortion, but then would deny a loving family, which might include people I love, from adopting a child. That’s certainly not the only leftist stance I find a lot of mainstream PLM activists are antagonistic to, but it’s a big one. So I’d say not tying anti-LGBTQ activism to pro-life activism. Also, not devaluing other human lives—immigrants, chronically ill people, the poor and homeless.

Kristin: Because I tend to stick to my progressive, feminist, atheist pro-life bubble, it seems hopeful and welcoming in those groups and with those people. When I venture out into the mainstream pro-life spaces, I start to remember that there are still people who argue with us that atheists have no moral grounding to be pro-life or we’re going to hell for being atheist, or pro-choicers who tell us we cannot be pro-life feminists. There is still too much religious imagery and quotes, which makes the movement seem alienating to those who are secular. You can be religious but there’s no reason to bring it to pro-life events and pages, just like you wouldn’t hold a cross while giving a homeless person a meal. Conservative pro-lifers tend to not trust left-wingers and still frame it as a “left vs. right” concept, thus ignoring us. A big step in the right direction would be if these conservatives, especially the ones who have an audience such as those who associate with Fox News, would make sure to never frame the issue in a left vs. right way but rather just “pro-life vs. pro-choice.” It would be amazing if they would take a minute of their time to mention that there are lots of left-wingers who are pro-life and perhaps even mention organizations such as Democrats for Life of America or Rehumanize International. Can you imagine what it would be like if Steven Crowder or Ben Shapiro said, “Also there are a lot of lefty feminist pro-lifers these days too. Check out the organizations New Wave Feminists and Consistent Life for more info on that”? That would be amazing. Basically, give us a platform, let us speak, and promote us like crazy. Abortion would end so quickly if that were to happen, because we can reach the people that the stereotypical pro-lifers can’t.

Travis: I would only feel comfortable with an anti-abortion movement that is consistently pro-life. I would never be a part of an anti-abortion movement that is homophobic. LifeSiteNews posts anti-LGBT stories and, from my experience, anti-abortion and anti-LGBT tend to go together. The current anti-abortion movement overlooks an unrepentant Trump’s serial adultery and sexual harassment but won’t do the same for the perceived sexual sins of the LGBT community. I cannot be a part of that hypocrisy and hatred. I do follow New Wave Feminists on Twitter and Facebook and NWF has given me hope that I can find an anti-abortion group to call home. Also, Christian activist Shane Claiborne is consistently pro-life. If there was a march for the consistent life ethic, I would participate enthusiastically.

Paula: I don’t find it accessible at all except through facebook. Facebook has allowed me to make friends who share my values. So many people who call themselves pro-life are Republicans and sadly they seem to be under the spell of Trump. It is weird to me.

Nancy Pelosi made a statement a short time back that helped me feel welcomed. She said something about some of her own family members being pro-life. I can’t find the exact quote but I heard it when she was being interviewed. I will say this: Democrats are not doing a very good job of making me feel welcomed. They come across as very extreme and rigid. Our way or the highway!

Theresa: The movement itself is accessible enough. We don’t have to go far to find pro-life groups on social media, for instance. And my parish supports local pregnancy centers. But in truth, it has become more and more alienating when there is this commonly expressed belief that you can’t be pro-life and Democrat or liberal leaning. I don’t know that I need to feel particularly welcome because ultimately my concern is to uphold consistent respect for human dignity. I don’t believe as I do to fit in; I care for the sake of the unborn and their families.

But I can’t speak for everyone who is pro-life and more liberal. If people feel alienated from the pro-life movement, it can do nothing but hurt our cause. Pro-lifers as a whole need to recognize that we will not agree on everything, but we all share the desire is to end abortion. We should strive to work in the most effective manner possible. For too long I voted based only on opposing abortion, and there was nothing to show for it. Abortion continued with each vote I cast for Republicans and babies were continuously slaughtered regardless of the words on the lips of these politicians. Abortion itself is a more deep and insidious problem. We don’t treat diseases by addressing a single symptom—we attack the virus itself, and the symptoms will then disappear. Abortion is a symptom and we have yet to eradicate the underlying disease that is the overall lack of respect for human life and dignity.

Benjamin: Secular Pro-Life is a great example. Unfortunately many Democrats see the pro-life movement as male-dominated and “anti-woman” (false!) as well as religiously dominated (true). Just keep doing what you’re doing.