Roe Anniversary Protests, 2019
by several people who were there
For a mainstream press article on our presence at the March for Life, see “What It’s Like for Secular, Liberal Pro-lifers at the March for Life” in The Atlantic. The Washington Post also included some information from our supporters in their coverage.
March for Life Chicago, January 13
Rosemarie (my wife) and I, wearing pro-life T-shirts, wandered among the “pro-choice” counter-protesters. Between their shouts, we sincerely expressed to many, “We’re glad you got to get born.” One responded, “So am I,” to which I said, “Great. That means you’re a little bit pro-life!” Another said nothing at first, but then followed us to say, “I wish you weren’t!”
When we found two folks holding a banner with the words “Democratic Socialists of America,” I told them “I’m a socialist, too.” They asked “Are you for a woman’s right to choose?” I answered “No. That’s individualism. It turns the next generation into private property.” They looked taken aback for a moment, but then they resumed shouting.
Expo, January 17-18
We tried a new technique on the Grassroots Defunding campaign – we had an accordion-file with flyers for each individual state. So when people came by our table, we’d ask them what state they’re from, and then give them info from their own state with a summary of the Planned Parenthood centers in their state and the alternatives (on the actual medical services, the non-abortion things PP does) for each PP center nearby. That turned out to be a remarkably successful approach, as being more specific that way was way better than just a general flyer. Yet people definitely understood the general point: PP has the money, and that makes them stronger in the short term – but we as the pro-life movement have the grassroots, and that makes us stronger in the long term. It was fun to see the recognition in people’s eyes as something common to nonviolence theory and peace studies made perfect sense in their own experience.
We also had signs from member group New Wave Feminists for them to take, and those went like hotcakes, so more of the signs held at the March had to do with prolife feminism. We also ran out of our buttons saying “No Abortion, No Death Penalty, No War” – it was so gratifying to see so many people eager to take those, free if they promised to wear them.
D.C. Planned Parenthood Protest, January 17
Some of the weekend’s most memorable aspects were small, unexpected moments of human connection. One of these came paradoxically during the tensest episode: a vigil outside the Washington, DC, Planned Parenthood, where pro-life protestors stood a few feet from police and clinic escorts (I was there leafleting for Grassroots Defunding). Father Frank Pavone, a Consistent Life Network endorser, spoke at the vigil. During his remarks, he noted that one of the attendees was the journalist Robin Marty, who is pro-choice. Pavone thanked Marty for writing about abortion and pro-lifers in a fair-minded, respectful way. To witness this moment, in which people on opposite sides of such a divisive, emotionally charged issue could recognize each other’s humanity, was touching.
Democrats for Life Breakfast, January 18
While the Consistent Life Network is a non-partisan group, Democrats for Life is a member group. Their breakfast speaker line-up included Katrina Jackson, Louisiana state representative, who was also a major speaker at the rally for the March for Life. Our supporters, Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa and CJ Williams, also spoke, covering the consistent life ethic.
The speakers all emphasized the importance of social programs to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. The director of a crisis pregnancy center emphasized how many of the women who come to the center are referred to government safety net programs, such as Medicaid and housing vouchers. In a question-and-answer period, speakers and attendees lamented the fact that housing is so hard for single mothers to afford and there are so few programs to help them. The fact that Republican politicians cut social programs that are lifelines for women with crisis pregnancies is a huge detriment to the pro-life movement and the cause of helping women in crisis. Herndon-De La Rosa spoke about her own political awakening after she had her son at age 16. She realized that she was able to give birth to her son and parent with the help of her family, but many other young pregnant teens are not so lucky. They need, she realized, social programs to help them when their parents abandon them or simply don’t have the resources to help them. Because of this, she thinks politics will not be the solution to the abortion debate. Instead, pro-lifers have to change hearts and minds to make abortion unthinkable.
& March for Life, January 18
Top left: Aimee Murphy on the March, dancing as usual; her shirt has a picture of a uterus and says “Weapon-Free Zone.” Top right: We gather for the consistent-life rally.
Bottom: group photo before marching. Left to right, back: Rosemarie and Richard Stith, Bill Samuel, Tom Taylor. Tony Masalonis. Front: Sarah Terzo, John Whitehead, Rachel MacNair
Signs were creative, as is common in large demonstrations, but it occurred to me afterward that I don’t recall seeing any partisan political sentiments during all that time. There were a couple of vague things about voting pro-life, with no specifics of who that meant. Signs were mainly on the issue, with some identifying the group that was marching, and some that were certainly religious.
The slogan “making babies great again” was not uncommon; it’s not one I would wear because of what it’s based on. But I will say that my pro-abortion anti-Republican father burst out laughing when I told him about it (as did I when I first saw it). At least it’s a sensible sentiment on its own.
Probably the best moment for me came during the March when I was assisting Consistent Life Board member Sarah Terzo, who uses a wheelchair. We came to a spot on the sidewalk that was filled not only with police officers but fatigues-wearing soldiers, presumably all there for crowd control. I asked them if we could pass; they were very friendly and obliged by parting to let us through. It was a tiny moment yet seemed symbolically apt: a crowd of men with guns moved out of the way in response to mere words. Could there be a better representation of what we seek to accomplish?
A pre-March meet up, sponsored by member group Rehumanize International emphasized the theme of the march itself, “Pro-Life Is Pro-Science” with multiple speakers. Being surrounded by so many consistent life ethic supporters, both experienced older supporters as well as vibrant, enthusiastic young people, was a huge mental and emotional boost to me. An article in The Atlantic said that there were over 60 people at the meet up. The coverage was quite positive and it was a great way to kick off the March.
A moment that inspired me at the March itself was when Consistent Life president John Whitehead and I left the main flow of marchers and headed towards the Southeast Neighborhood Library where Consistent Life sponsored a discussion after the March. From a side street, we could see the March go by. We watched as a huge crowd of pro-lifers, seeming to have no end, walked down the street. As with past marches, it was incredibly inspiring to see the massive number of people who turned out. I left the March feeling energized and enthusiastic for the pro-life movement’s future.
Post-March Meet-up, January 18
The group who gathered for a wide-ranging discussion of consistent life ethic issues after the March kept growing as people finished the March and were able to come over to our location. The groups with the most representation were the Consistent Life Network, the American Solidarity Party, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County Students for Life. After the discussion, we all went out for dinner together at a nearby taco place.
Student for Life Conference, January 19
Another memorable moment came during the Students for Life of America Conference, where Consistent Life had a table. One attendee knew Consistent Life from Facebook. She confided to me that as a “pro-life pacifist” she often felt in the minority and was glad to find like-minded people.
O’Connor Conference, January 19
Speakers on pro-life feminism included our supporters Serrin Foster, Aimee Murphy, and Herb Geraghty. Speaking from the Catholic Mobilizing Network about the criminal justice system and restorative justice, including opposition to the death penalty, were Emma Tacke and Caitlin Morneau.
Women’s March, January 19
Ross Bones-Valentin, Feminists Choosing Life of New York / New York City Regional Director:
Against all odds, our presence didn’t go unnoticed at the Women’s March. A small but determined group of pro-life feminists walked together holding signs in support of life and women. To our surprise, several women came to us with an uplifting “I’m glad you’re here,” and others even asked to take pictures of us. There were cameras, chanting, banners, music and an atmosphere of empowerment and hunger for change.
In the middle of the crowd, we had a very pleasant conversation with a “pro-choice” ob-gyn doctor who was collecting signatures in favor of an Equal Rights Amendment. She expressed the reasoning behind her support for legalized abortion. The doctor claimed “women will die” if left with no choice but to go to illegal abortion clinics. In response, we explained that legalized abortion “addresses” the wrong problem. Instead, we discussed the importance of advocating for all women to have better healthcare and socioeconomic opportunities. Opportunities that free women from confronting situations where abortion appears like the apparent, sensible choice. In the end, we all agreed that feminists need to promote a culture which acknowledges the value and dignity of women; a change that would ultimately make unplanned, ’inconvenient’ pregnancies a thing of the past.
With peace and conviction, we marched. And next year, we’ll be back.