Finding Alternatives to Planned Parenthood

Posted on October 18, 2017 By

by Rachel MacNair

Back on January 7, 2016, I wrote a post for this blog called “Defunding Planned Parenthood” that went over the consistent-life reasoning to take such action for a nonviolent world. It responds to the objection that PP contraception programs prevent abortions by explaining how this doesn’t fit experience. It also responds to the objection that women in poverty need the non-abortion services – that is, actual medical services – that PP provides with the observation that there are thousands of Community Health Centers (CHCs), while only about 600 PP centers (350+ do abortions, 250+ only refer for surgical abortions). But then, there are pockets where there is in fact a PP center but no CHC; as it turns out, we found 77 of them with no CHCs within 5 miles. If I may quote myself:

Whenever there are such pockets, it’s telling those women in poverty they have no choice but to go to an organization that is startlingly callous about the lives of their prenatal children. Women should have the right to quality care, and quality care is best provided by people who are sensitive to all of human life and don’t make excuses for its destruction.

At that point, one of the strategies offered was to “get definite information on where all those pockets are, and then work with city or state legislatures to make alternatives available.”

Then, on April 17, 2017, I extended this point with “Noncooperation with Planned Parenthood.” I covered some basics about boycotts and the legislative goal of taxpayer defunding, and finally I offered a Noncooperation Campaign for grassroots activists. Find where the PP centers have no CHCs, and see what can be done about that. Find where they have perfectly good and readily available CHCs that can handle more patients if people go there instead, and figure out ways to persuade them to go there instead. Find out where there’s a problem: a specific CHC isn’t really a worthy place to send people. But if it has potential, figure out ways to make it more worthy.

Then I offered the web page for U.S. PP centers, the one PP itself offers, and the web page from the U.S. federal government on the federally-qualified community health centers. And I suggested this would be the homework for activists who wish to do that.

And there it sat.  One mention buried in a blog post somewhere does not a campaign make.

So we at the Consistent Life Network decided to make a US national campaign of it. We did all the start of the homework – getting each U.S. PP center in each state matched with all the U.S. CHCs that are close to it (and we encourage people in other countries to consider using this as a model). Each state has its own page on our website:


We explain in more detail on the web site, and we offer action suggestions:


Action: Ready to Go

When there’s at least one good CHC that we can feel comfortable sending people to.


Action: Needs Improvement

Some CHCs offer frustrations we want to avoid putting people into; are there things we can do to make the CHCs more suitable as PP alternatives?


Action: No CHCs Nearby

We count 77 centers that have nothing nearby; can we find some alternative to PP, or can we make an alternative?


Action: How to Participate

Starting local campaigns.



What we list is different from the average Crisis Pregnancy Center, or Pregnancy Help Center. Those are excellent alternatives to abortion, but they generally provide non-medical services almost entirely for pregnant women. This campaign is extending beyond alternatives to abortion, on to alternatives to all of Planned Parenthood. Around 40% of their business in the U.S. is testing and treatment for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). So in this campaign, we’re only looking at places that directly offer medical services, and at that, only the services that the PP centers also offer.

I said that we started the homework. But all we offer at the start was what can be found on the web. And not even all of that, since checking the web pages of all the individual CHCs would have extended the homework by several months more. It makes more sense for local people to do their own locales anyway, as a start to any local actions.

But there are all kinds of things that can’t be found on the web. In one case, we got word that although a particular CHC may be a certain number of miles away from the PP center, there was a large body of water in between them. No one local would really think of it as nearby. Distances “as the fish swims” show that web pages are often not very bright.

So any help on the homework by checking your own local listings and seeing what you already know, or check on their web pages, anything that improves the quality of the listings, can be a big help.

Then we look forward to getting stories from people about what local actions they’ve taken. More suggestions, more factual information, more ideas. The web page is a tool for coordinating all the information. From small 5-minute contributions to months or years in campaigns, the very thing that the pro-life movement excels in.

There’s no heirarchy here. One person coordinates, the web page communicates, and from there it’s all large numbers of people sharing.

Planned Parenthood

The Mind’s Drive for Consistency

Posted on October 10, 2017 By

by Rachel MacNair

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017. The presentation this post is based on was given at the session of the Consistent Life Network’s research arm, The Institute for Integrated Social Analysis.


Any bit of knowledge a person has about self or environment is a “cognition.” This can be a known fact or a vague concept, or anything in between.

When you have two of these cognitions, the relationship between the two is “consonant” if they agree with each other. Hugging someone is consonant if you are fond of that person.

But if one cognition would imply another, but the opposite is what is actually believed, if there is a contradiction, then the two elements are “dissonant” (the scholarly way of saying they’re out of whack). Slapping someone you are fond of, or voting for someone you don’t really believe is qualified, are examples.

Whenever someone has any cognitions that disagree with each other, she or he experiences cognitive dissonance. This is a tension, and it motivates action. Most people try to seek relief from this instability in their thoughts. They may or may not succeed in reducing it, but most commonly, they will try. There will be some attempt to get rid of the problem by changing one element or the other to either make the two agree or make one irrelevant.

Strategies for dealing with cognitive dissonance vary from person to person. But this dissonance is a strain, and people do try to get relief from it. Research has seemed to confirm theories that it is a type of stress.

The studies have a strong conclusion: human beings apparently have a basic psychological need to have consistency, stability, and order in the way they see the world. When new information threatens their previous views or assumptions, they feel uneasy and resort to defensive maneuvers of one kind or another. They may “screen out” upsetting experiences. They may deny obvious facts. They may try to reinforce beliefs by making aggressive and belligerent declarations.

So now let’s consider, for the case of abortion, what the situation has been in the United States over the last decades.


This chart from the research arm of Planned Parenthood shows that there’s been a dramatic downturn in the numbers of abortions. The same is true of the rate of abortions per woman of child-bearing age (so it’s not just that there are fewer such women). It’s also true of the ratio of abortions to live births (so it’s not just that fewer women are getting pregnant.)

And a greater downturn is on the way. Repeat abortions are becoming a greater proportion of all abortions. More abortions are being conducted on women who’ve already had at least one before. That’s what’s keeping the numbers up as high as they are.

But having a first is a prerequisite to being a repeater. No one has a second abortion until she’s had her first one. The pool of first-timers has gone down more dramatically. That’s the pool from which repeaters draw. And repeaters will at least hit menopause eventually.

Therefore, as repeaters drop by attrition, a deeper plunge may be coming.

Why the decline?

∞  As clinics close, less supply leads to less demand.

∞  Stigma remains.

∞  Services to pregnant women expand.

∞  In the 1990s, the Supreme Court allowed laws like informed consent & parental involvement.

∞  “Little-sister effect” on abortion aftermath – women see what others went through and know they want to steer clear

∞   Pro-life education

∞   Ultrasound technology – lots of young people have photos of themselves as fetuses up on their refrigerator doors.



Applying this also to the Death Penalty, Euthanasia, and Infanticide

These are now shadows of the carnage they used to be. Psychology says, keep pointing that out!

And as hard as it is to believe from the news, deaths from war are declining as well:



Also, nuclear weapons stockpiles, while still absurdly high, are way down from where they used to be:


Much as activists are tempted to get people excited about how terrible the situation is on any of these issues, on the idea that this will motivate people to action, psychology shows the opposite is the case.

People are more motivated if they know that violence they oppose is in fact waning. When that can be said truthfully, it’s important to make the point.

The mind’s drive for consistency means that people will be far more resistant to hearing what’s wrong with violence which is increasing, and far more open to hearing what’s wrong with any form of violence that’s on its way out.



The rest of our series of blog posts from presentations at our 30th anniversary conference in August, 2017:

The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly)

The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)

Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem (Monica Sohler)

Common Ground (Jim Kelly)


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

abortiondeath penaltyeuthanasiapsychologywar and peace

Speech for a Peacemaker Award

Posted on October 4, 2017 By

Patrick O’Neill and Mary Rider

NC Peace Action honored Patrick O’Neill and Mary Rider at their annual dinner on September 19, 2017. Below is the text of Mary Rider’s speech. She reports:

“I was pleasantly surprised that they included our consistent life witness, since so many are the more typical leftist peaceniks (read “prochoice”). I wanted to speak the truth in a way that I thought folks could hear me, so it may seem a bit weak on abortion to you, but I had some good dialogue with people after the dinner and think it was a good opening for them to hear me rather than just hear about me. Our friends, Dave and Debbie Biesack presented us with the award and mentioned our consistent life work, and Patrick, in his remarks, spoke about our being prolife “from conception until natural death.”  So, all in all, I’d say the Consistent Life Ethic was well represented at the Peace Action dinner!”



Thank you for honoring us tonight. Patrick, our daughter Bernadette, Sr. Kitty Bethea and I moved to Garner in 1991 to start the first Catholic Worker House in NC. Our dear friend, Father Charlie Mulholland was in Garner at the time and was our Chaplain.

1991 was quite a while ago and a lot has happened in our lives, in our state and in the world since then.  We are honored and humbled to have been working with you all on trying to bring some peace and some justice to our state and our world.

Those who know me well know that I am “prolife.” That doesn’t mean that I am out picketing at clinics.  What it means is that I am pro-everybody’s life.  I want to see the kind of supports in place in our society that will help a woman to choose not to have an abortion whether her child has a disability or the mother’s on her own and needs financial and loving support or help in finishing her education. As a feminist I believe women should receive equal pay for equal work, maternity leave that gives us real time with our newborns and good options for childcare and job sharing.

But that’s not all.  I’m prolife on the death penalty.  I was on the board of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty for a number of years and once spent 15 days in jail for kneeling in front of Central Prison the night the state of North Carolina executed Sammy Flippen in our names.  That was the last time the state of North Carolina executed anyone in more than 10 years.

I’m prolife on immigration.  I believe that people who are in the U.S. without benefit of papers should be given a chance to have legal standing in our country and a path to citizenship.

I’m prolife on healthcare.  I believe it is a RIGHT not a privilege and everyone should have access to good health care.

And I’m prolife on peace which means I am opposed to nuclear war. I’m opposed to “conventional war” (whatever THAT means). I’m opposed to drone warfare. I’m just opposed to us killing each other, be it in the name of God or country or, if we want to be honest about it, in the name of oil and money and power.

So I stand her tonight pledging to you that I will continue to be prolife by opposing violence in all its forms: Racist violence, Sexist Violence, LGBTQ Violence, Economic Violence and Environmental Violence.

I hope that someone will say about me what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted people to say about him: “I’d like for somebody to say that day that (I) tried to love somebody. Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that i was a drum major for peace.”

In closing I’d like to read to you an easy essay written by Peter Maurin, a frenchman who founded the Catholic Worker with Dorothy Day.  He gives some good advice as to what we are to do in times such as this.

Better Off

by Peter Maurin

 The world would be better off if people tried to be better.

And people would become better if they stopped trying to be better off.

For when everybody tries to become better off, nobody is better off.

But when everybody tries to become better, everybody is better off.

Everybody would be rich if nobody tried to become richer.

And nobody would be poor if everybody tried to be poorest.

And everybody would be what we ought to be if everybody tried to be what we want the other one to be!


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

consistent life ethic

Almost No One?

Posted on September 26, 2017 By

by Rachel MacNair

In our neck of the internet, many are abuzz over an article in Christianity Today (CT) entitled “Almost No One in the US Believes in a ‘Consistent Ethic of Life.’” The subheading is: “Pope Francis’ critique of President Trump would apply to 96 percent of Americans, surveys suggest.” Thousands of hits, hundreds of comments.

I have a Ph.D. in psychology and make my living by consulting with dissertation students on their statistics, so my mind runs on how to do studies correctly. I also review for academic journals quite a bit – the “peer review” that’s required before an article can get published. CT is a popular magazine rather than a journal, but this piece would never get past my review.

How Do You Ask The Question?

Here’s the abortion question from the poll CT cites: “Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if: The woman wants it for any reason? (Favor/Oppose)”

First, the wording is biased toward the “pro-choice” way of seeing the situation. Second, there are plenty of people who assume that a woman is only going to “want” an abortion if she’s in dire circumstances, such as a threat to her life. Third, there are people who are dead set against abortion who nevertheless fear back-alley butchers.

Indeed, there are people who assert that they’re pro-life, and who spend major amounts of their time educating against abortion, who still think that making it illegal isn’t the best way to stop it. Gallup asked straight out if people see abortion as immoral regardless of legal status, and found that about half do.

Here’s the question on the death penalty: Do you favor or oppose the death penalty for persons convicted of murder? (Favor/Oppose).

It’s been known for years among death penalty opponents that the quickest way to lower support for the death penalty is to offer life without parole as an alternative. A lot of people just want to be clear that the crime of murder is being taken seriously.

The Death Penalty Information Center reports: “A 2010 poll by Lake Research Partners found that a clear majority of voters (61%) would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder” when the question was asked that way. Their 61% figure is the sum of the three alternate punishments that respondents chose (13% + 9% + 39%).

From the Death Penalty Information Center

The wording on euthanasia in the CT-cited poll was: “Do you think a person has the right to end his or her own life if this person: Has an incurable disease? (Yes/No).” To test how neutral this wording is, consider: are you going to tell someone in such bad shape that he or she doesn’t have a right? What kind of hard-hearted person are you, to take rights away from people?

When there have been state referenda, where people opposed to assisted suicide are able to make their case, it’s been more persuasive to people than a one-sentence question worded in a pro-suicide direction would allow for.

How many people who say people should have a right to “end life” would change their minds if the question simply used the word “suicide”?

A “right to end his or her own life” could have very different meanings to different people. Some might interpret the question as referring to people killing themselves without any assistance (“suicide” as conventionally understood), people killing themselves with a doctor’s assistance (“assisted suicide”), or people being killed by another person (“euthanasia”). If they’re thinking it through that clearly at all.

Perhaps some aren’t even catching what this wording is a euphemism for. They might assume we’re only talking about refusing more medical care (“pulling the plug”), not actively killing. Refusing care is already a right, and has been for centuries. It actually isn’t euthanasia and shouldn’t be labeled as such.

Have You Stopped Beating Your Wife – Yes or No?

The poll asks for yes/no or favor/oppose responses. People have to put themselves in a straightjacket to answer. Nuances and extra details are out the window.

I’ve had fun when I was being polled by phone by arguing with the wording I was given. Those poor poll-takers were so used to compliant people who would give them a simplistic answer according to the script they had.

Some people haven’t devoted a lot of thought to issues and are easily persuaded by something as simple as wording the question differently. I remember back in the 1980s, there was a poll that asked people two questions, with several questions in between: “Should abortion be a matter between a woman and her doctor?” (which implies a medical need) and “Should the life of the unborn child be protected by law?” The “yes” answers were the majority both times – from the same people in the same poll.

Again, sometimes the same people in the same poll can be easily diverted from support for the death penalty by offering alternatives. People could also quickly change their ideas of a supposed right to end life if they understood alternatives. Many are assuming we’re talking about people  in unbearable pain, and would feel differently if they were aware of pain control. Or they have images of hopeless sterile hospital rooms, but might change their minds if they were more familiar with hospice care.

Almost No One?

Still, we’ve always known that the proportion of clear-cut consistent-lifers, who would oppose killing no matter how the questions are worded, is small.

But consider this as an analogy: in the U.S., 3 to 6% is around the percentage of full vegetarians – people who say they never eat meat. You can get a higher percentage if you simply ask them if they’re vegetarians.

Yet vegetarian foods are readily available in their own section of the menu at most non-fast-food restaurants, and vegetarian/vegan restaurants are proliferating. Vegetarian foods are readily available in most grocery stores. The number of people who eat vegetarian much of the time is much larger. The influence of vegetarianism is far greater than simply the number of people who are 100% committed to eating that way.

The small percentage doesn’t make them “almost no one.”

But the bias of the title fits the bias of the questions. Thinking of us as nobodies suggests we don’t need to be taken seriously. Of course, thinking of any human beings as nobodies is exactly what we’re objecting to.

Making the Appeal

We’ve always known that we have a hard time getting the consistent life ethic across.

Would but that we could get as many as 4% of politicians for higher office in the U.S. to follow the consistent life ethic. We’d be ecstatic if we could find just one politician who knew how to articulate our view well, did so frequently, and could get news coverage.

Would but that we could get as many as 4% of reporters outside the Catholic press to take the consistent life ethic seriously. Even within the Catholic press, there’s a lot of parting of the ways as Respect Life goes to one corner and Peace and Justice goes to another.

I’m a Quaker myself, but Pope Francis was mentioned in the CT article’s sub-title, and is a prominent voice. When he spoke to the US Congress, he had two devout Catholics standing behind him – Vice President Joe Biden, and Speaker of the House John Boehner. Neither one follows the consistent life ethic. They choose different ways to diverge from it.

But the percentage of Americans who think any old kind of socially-approved violence is ok is actually also very small. Most people are bothered by at least one type of legalized killing, and usually several. This was Edith Bogue’s conclusion in Chapter 10 of our book, Consistently Opposing Killing, which analyzed data from the exact same survey the CT article used, the General Social Survey, though that chapter used data from several years ago. She says the seamless garment needs many tailors, but most people do worry about some kind of violence. We can use that discomfort with at least some kinds of violence as a starting point to appeal for people to consistently oppose other kinds of violence as well.

After all, the poll only asked people about issues one by one. What happens when connections are made is another matter.

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abortionconnecting issuesconsistent life ethicdeath penaltyeuthanasiapolls

Equal Concern for Each Human Being, Not for Each Human Issue

Posted on September 19, 2017 By

by Richard Stith


Editor’s Note: Richard is responding to a recent article in LifeSite News which has a common criticism of the consistent life ethic by pro-lifers, that by addressing several issues we’re treating all of them as equally important, and thereby watering down the crucial importance of the right to life as a foundation. This was offered as a response, and in the spirit of a good exchange of views, we offer below e-mails between him and the editor.  

Richard is a senior research professor at Valparaiso University Law School, and is on the board of the Consistent Life Network.  

Richard Stith at March for Life in Washington, D.C.

The “seamless garment” or “consistent life” ethic should be understood as equal concern for every human being, not equal concern for every human issue.

If one person is threatened with losing her house and another is threatened with losing her life, equal concern for both would make us rush to the assistance of the latter, not the former. Thus those who think housing and abortion to be issues of equal weight are letting a false consistency cover up a deeply inconsistent politics of care. Such people have no right to cover themselves with the “seamless garment.”

Properly understood, true consistency is what we pro-lifers all uphold. Every one of us is absolutely inclusive. Not one of us cares more for unborn babies than for other human beings. Each of us would protest against the mass killing of toddlers or teenagers just as forcefully as we now protest against the mass killing of unborn babies. Our all-inclusive philosophy is often expressed in this way: We are for the equal protection of all human beings from conception to natural death.

Moreover, this inclusive approach is our best strategy to help the unborn. The only way abortion can be tolerated is if unborn babies are excluded from concern. That is why our opponents insist above all on not calling the babies “human beings.” They know that once the unborn are brought within the circle of our concern, there is absolutely no way that their cruel dismemberment can be justified. So our first pro-life step has to be simply to counteract specific exclusion of the unborn with their specific inclusion.

Thus, for example, a wonderful congregational prayer would be “For all people in our community, born and unborn, who are threatened by violence, let us pray to the Lord.” This phrase “born and unborn” is actually a much better reminder of the babies’ plight than just something focusing entirely on pro-life in a narrow sense, like “Let us pray for an end to abortion.”

By being inclusive and also explicitly mentioning the unborn, we do a much better job of focusing on them as fellow human beings just like the rest of us. Talking only about abortion makes killing unborn babies seem to be a side issue that can be easily ignored.

Bottom line: We pro-lifers need to seize upon the “seamless garment” and “consistent life” language, properly understood, and make it our own. We are the ones who want to include everyone. Our pro-abortion opponents are the ones who want to exclude some people from our society’s care and concern.

By contrast, when we attack the “seamless garment” and “consistent life” philosophies, we make ourselves seem to be the excluders and our opponents seem to be the includers, which is just the opposite of the truth.

Infinity symbol


Editor’s second note: Richard requested this be published in Life Site News and was turned down. The editor gave us permission to publish his response:

Hello Richard,
We really do not want to get into an extended debate on the Seamless Garment approach. Past experience has been that it has a strong tendency to go on at length without any resolution and get heated. There are very different views on this.
As for LifeSite, during all of our years of existence we have seen the Seamless Garment do substantial damage to the pro-life movement and take the focus especially off the killings of children in the womb, regardless of all the rhetoric that the unborn are a priority. The seamless garment has almost always been promoted by liberal social justice Catholics who have tended not to agree with the Church’s moral teachings.
I know you do not fit into that category Richard and are as solid as a rock, but there will undoubtedly be those on the liberal left who will see your article as affirming them, even though you have taken an orthodox approach. It will still be lose-lose if we publish your article. We have found the promoters of the false “social justice” of the Seamless Garment approach do not want to engage in sincere debate, they are very aggressive, if not ruthless, and quite a few have a Marxist outlook.

Personally, I don’t think we can co-opt the seamless garment to our advantage, although most of what you say makes sense. The social liberals created this phrase for a definite strategic purpose – to exploit strong pro-life sentiment to turn it towards social issues that are not about moral absolutes and which do not involve the deliberate killing of massive numbers of innocents. We can’t pretend that abortion is not the great evil that is it – as well as those issues related to it such as euthanasia, assisted suicide, infanticide, embryonic stem cell research, etc. – all killings of the most innocent and vulnerable.
Steve Jalsevac
Co-Founder and President



Richard responds: 

Thanks, Steve, for taking the time to respond at length. 
I do think that working within the seamless garment (aka consistent life) approach helps our work against abortion, particularly with Catholic parish committees (because they are pretty much committed to the seamless garment). 
But maybe my view is distorted by the fact that I really am totally against every kind of intentionally lethal violence, including the death penalty and war (though I do see them as less objectively evil than abortion insofar as they lack the element of betrayal of an entrusted dependent). 
And I also appreciate where you’re coming from. I agree with you that the seamless garment has often been misused by people who do not want to campaign hard against killing babies.
How about leaving it this way: Don’t publish my little counter argument, but also please in the future don’t publish direct attacks on the seamless garment or consistent life, especially in your headlines (which may be all that some people read). I really do think that hurts us with many people. Makes us seem obsessed with just one stage in life.
Keep up the great work you’re doing! God bless you folks.




For more of our blog posts from Richard Stith, see:

Open Letter to Fellow Human Rights Activists

When “Choice” Itself Hurts the Quality of Life

For another blog post addressing this criticism, see:

Does the Consistent Life Ethic Water Down Life Issues?


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.



abortionconsistent life ethic

Common Ground

Posted on September 12, 2017 By

by James Kelly

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017. It’s also the second of three posts that come from Jim Kelly. This was at the session of the Consistent Life Network’s research arm, The Institute for Integrated Social Analysis.


We can’t pay attention to everything in this boom-buzzing confusion called life. We necessarily focus on some elements and omit others.  So we “frame,” (The primary text is Irving Goffman’s 1974 Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience)

To frame is to capture something well, but to omit other points – which, as time goes on, prudence might teach us are key. Individuals constantly project onto the world around them the interpretive frames that allow them to make sense of it; we only shift frames (or even realize that we have been framing) when an inescapable incongruity calls for a “frame-realignment.” We only become aware of our habitual frames when something challenges us to replace one frame with another.

Frame alignment happens when we find that we must leave the security of our moral tribes and present our interpretations to skeptics in a way that makes the most sense to us, and then to them, both in terms of first principles and their prudent applications. Within our moral tribes we mostly do tactics and brand the enemy as thoroughly disreputable.  In frame alignment, we persuade by listening in dialog to the “morally other” and then seeking common ground with them. Frame alignment becomes frame deepening, a broadening of perspective by taking seriously the claimed values of the opposition.

“Common ground” doesn’t mean any loss of moral deepening, but after the experience of dialogue, finding creative ways for both sides to better advance their moral core. In the abortion controversy, that means advancing the pro-life goal of non-violence and the pro-choice goal of human equality.

Making Free Choice Real Choice: The Need for Common Ground

Let’s begin with an example from the more brutal real world of hard politics – the New Jersey  “Family Cap.” In January 1992 the New Jersey State Legislative, under Democratic Party control, passed a welfare reform bill with national significance. In its pre-Donald Trump embodiment of a mistrust of government programs, of tax revolts, and of an “individual-moral-failure” explanation of long-term poverty, New Jersey (NJ) included in its welfare reform a novel Family Cap. Its premise was that the single most important cause of poverty was unmarried women having children. Now, any woman on welfare who became pregnant and gave birth would receive no additional state monies to cover her increased costs (although she would continue to receive food stamps and Medicaid for herself and her “additional” child).

The monetary pressure to abort offended both pro-life and pro-choice sensibilities and led to some common ground political cooperation. The NJ Right to Life chapter, NJ Citizens for Life, and the NJ Catholic Conference immediately announced their opposition. And because it seemed self-evident that the cap subverted a poor woman’s “reproductive freedom,” the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and the NJ Civil Liberties Union announced their opposition. Their joint opposition was endorsed by dozens of other NJ activist groups.

The initial pro-choice/ pro-life collaboration was tentative and resulted only in a joint press release. When NOW and the ACLU filed a civil rights class action suit, it didn’t include any pro-life members.

By 1998, 20 states had followed New Jersey’s example. But that was not the end of common ground.

More Common Ground Efforts

At its heart, common ground signifies the possibility that adversaries can engage in joint ventures without either side compromising their essential principles.Common ground” is not a synonym for “centrist.”  If common ground jeopardizes integrity, it’s no longer common ground, but compromise.

Common ground is difficult to accomplish, and even more difficult to maintain. Since legal abortion is the status-quo, abortion opponents are wont to find the notion of common ground veering ever closer to compromise.

Dr. Wanda Franz

In his Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes (1990), pro-choice Harvard Professor of Law Laurence H. Tribe has a section entitled “Towards Common Ground’’ which designates a future which, while there are no restrictions on abortion, is “a world of only wanted pregnancies” achieved by better sex education  and better and more available contraception. Tribe’s outlook resembles President Clinton’s meme of making abortion safe, legal and rare. Mainstream pro-life organizations viewed such “safe and rare” outlooks more as trench warfare than as dialogue invitations. In her March 16, 1993 National Right to Life News editorial NRLC President Wanda Franz cautioned her 3,000 chapters in 52 states that common ground was a “clever pro-choice” strategy seeking “to gain acceptance of the pro-choice position as morally equivalent (or morally superior!) to the pro-life position.”

Both sides feared the term would mean compromise and at least a tacit endorsement of their adversary as morally legitimate. One of the first pro-choice members of the first common ground venture (in St. Louis Missouri, July 12, 1990), B. J. Isaacson-Jones, recalled “the barrage of resentment from her pro-choice colleagues that left her cuddling up in the fetal position for her days in her Planned Parenthood office.”

Loretta Wagner listens in a legislative hearing

But in her arguments to her pro-life critics another member of the first common ground effort, Loretta Wagner, pointed out that both  sides ought to acknowledge and do something about the high rates of abortion among the poor who felt they had no real choices. “We need to relieve some of the pressures that cause many women to choose abortion and to make it possible for a kinder society for them and their children. There are many things we can agree on: more and better quality pre- and post-natal care, providing more access to treatment of substance abusing mothers and their children, welfare reforms, day-care, affordable housing, adoption, improved recruitment of foster parents, helping women find jobs and educational opportunities. Neither side wants to see poor women economically compelled to have abortions.” Wagner’s analysis and policy suggestions are far more aligned with the typical Democratic platform than with the Republicans.


The concrete achievements of common ground in its St. Louis birthplace were short-lived. B. J. Isaacson-Jones, director of St. Louis Reproductive Health Services, could not find the additional financial resources to support its adoption placement services for her predominantly poor Black clientele. Loretta Wagner acknowledged that “The media thinks common ground is a really dramatic new story but I can’t say we’ve done anything dramatic – just getting the idea out.”

Stories appeared, for example, in USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, Glamour Magazine, and countless local media.

One of the early efforts was by the Family Institute of Cambridge (FIC) which in September 1992 initiated a “Public Conversations Project” whose aim was to improve the debate about abortion through a dialogue that would enable opponents to come to see each other as “people just like themselves.” The Public Conversations Project eventually comprised 72 people. But in and interview I had with her, the project director, Laura Chasin, acknowledged that although their goal was to move to problem solving action, the conversations remained “one-shot experiences.”

In February 1992 a grass roots group comprised of six pro-life and six pro-choice women published the North Carolina Piedmont Area Directory of Pregnancy Support Services which was distributed in the area’s churches and family planning clinics.  In 1993 Washington DC the Common Ground Coalition for Life and Choice was initiated by a conflict resolution organization founded in 1982 to help international diplomacy. CGCFLC co-coordinators were Mary Jacksteitt, a lawyer with experience in arbitration, and Sister Adrienne Kaufman, OSB, who coordinated the Peace and Conflict Resolution program at Washington University. In 1995 they published a manual entitled Finding Common Ground in the Abortion Conflict, explaining that their work is simply the facilitation of dialogue and not any specific proposals or policies.

With their assistance a Buffalo (NY) Coalition for Common Ground was formed to help mitigate the anticipated community conflict that was expected by a “Spring of Life Campaign” announced by Operation Rescue. One of its founders, Rev. Sanford, the executive director of the Buffalo Council of Churches, reports very slight impacts.


While disheartening for its promoters, the ebb and flow – and it’s mostly ebb – of common ground efforts makes good sociological sense. Leaders of social movements, who are preoccupied with daily concerns, are making tactical gains that encourage their membership that they are winning, albeit slowly, the abortion wars and, not incidentally, justifying their most recent fund raising appeal.

Besides, the man-bites-dog media appeal of common ground – that abortion opponents can actually talk to each other – has lost any front-page reader appeal.

It’s sociologically naïve to expect that any social-movement organization that can still plausibly promise its membership at least some tactical incremental victories will endorse a common-ground approach. Sociologically, common ground is tangential ground.

But tangential does not mean marginal. In the long run, the common ground frame realignment is highly significant. For abortion adversaries their moral culture – non-violence and justice for women – is far, far more important than seeking tactical gains and fearing tactical losses.



The rest of our series of blog posts from presentations at our 30th anniversary conference in August, 2017:

The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly, the first of three)

The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)

Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem (Monica Sohler)

The Mind’s Drive for Consistency (Rachel MacNair)


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.

abortioncommon groundhistory

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem

Posted on September 5, 2017 By

by Monica Sohler

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017. The Consistent Life Network doesn’t endorse specific candidates or political parties, but offers helpful information on all of them.


“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It’s that they can’t see the problem.” – G.K. Chesterton


Monica with baby Maura

From the time I was a teen I was pro-life. I had been challenged with photos of fetal development. I was an atheist at the time, so religious arguments against abortion (not commonly heard back then) were not compelling. On the other hand the photos, which clearly showed this was human life, were compelling. In the ensuing years medical imaging improved, along with our understanding of biology and DNA. This progress only underscored the obvious humanities in those photos.

I was also opposed to the death penalty, which surprised some people who tried to debate me on abortion. Even back in the 1970s, the divide had begun; people who were anti death penalty might be expected to be anti-war, but certainly not anti-abortion. A consistent life view was a surprise to many.

As I reached voting age I found I had difficulty finding candidates who held a consistent pro-life view. Back then, most people in both parties were claiming to be “personally opposed, but” regarding abortion. I voted for candidates from both major parties after carefully weighing each candidate on life issues, with abortion being to me the most critical. If one cannot value the most helpless and vulnerable, how can one value anyone?

But my difficulty in voting increased over the years, with each major party often on opposite sides of life issues, and each tolerating less diverse views on these positions both within and outside the parties.

Yet, I began to notice something eerily similar with both parties. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. There was a sameness despite the very different platforms, and this sameness grew over time, and tied in directly to the life issues. Special interests and the backing of big business became something shared by both parties. Both parties moved towards abortion, the death penalty, and a quick trigger finger on war issues.

Each election I continued to look at each candidate individually, and pick the “lesser of two evils,” at times deciding to hold my nose and vote.

Then came the 2016 election. Like so many, I couldn’t see myself voting for either major presidential candidate based on one being the lesser of two evils; both choices seemed terrible. In the previous two elections, I’d come close to voting third party, but I didn’t want to “throw away my vote.” But this time I simply could not vote for either. I could not play ball with either side. This time I was willing to vote my complete conscience, even if “it did no good.”

I had to vote, but for whom? What party really shared my values?

One day last fall, while commiserating over this with my adult daughter, she suggested that I look into the American Solidarity Party. This, she said, was a party that had elements from both the Republican and Democratic parties, yet was pro-life in the broadest sense. Would I look into it?

After years of wandering in the political desert, occasionally finding an oasis, I found home. And in finding this home, I discovered the reason for that strange similarity between the two major parties.

The Solidarity Party is built upon the idea that human beings have worth, no matter their age or condition. Then they take this idea to its logical conclusion. Every policy, every position, comes from this view.

On the other hand, in the two major parties it does not. At the end of the day, regardless of those parties’ stated views on abortion, war, capital punishment, workers rights, euthanasia, or immigration, their “solutions” look at humans as commodities, as numbers, as problems. Instead of “how do we work for the common good,” it becomes “how do we rid ourselves of the problems?” And that very quickly translates into “how can we get rid of these troublesome people?” The only difference I saw was a difference in who the troublesome people were. The solutions to deal with the “trouble” were much the same. In short, both parties denigrate the dignity of the human person, albeit in different ways.

When I first opened the Solidarity Party web page, I saw the motto: Common Good, Common Ground, Common Sense. This appealed to me – I’d seen no common sense in politics in years (one can question whether it’s ever been there). Certainly no common sense used to find solutions that actually work towards the common good. Instead I saw factions; no one listening, no one willing to see the valid points in an opposing view, each vilifying the other. And what suffers? The common good.

So is the problem with the major parties simply a matter of not trying to find common ground and working together for common sense solutions for the common good?

No. I have come to believe that they have a more basic problem: without the fundamental belief that human beings have inherent worth and dignity despite condition, age, or ability, any solutions promulgated by these parties will ultimately prove to be flawed. This is because their solutions will continue to lead, on some level, to the destruction of life and the commoditization of human beings. Compromise without the notion of the non negotiable value of human life and the human person, will often turn deadly.

Below the ASP slogan on their web page, I saw their “party requirement.” It says if you can say “I affirm . . . the sanctity of human life, the necessity of social justice, our responsibility for the environment, and the possibility of a more peaceful world,” you can join the American Solidarity Party.

Why those four things? Because they are the logical conclusion of the basic view: Human life has dignity and worth, no matter what. Life, from conception through natural death, should be valued and protected, without making exception for those who cannot produce or who don’t otherwise meet someone’s specifications. Life is worthwhile, because you are human.

Social justice follows from that. How do we treat our fellow people? Do we stand apart or do we stand in solidarity, no matter rich or poor, weak or strong? If human beings are not commodities to be used, it changes our entire worldview. If we are not simply commodities, perhaps the creation we care for has worth as well. While property is a good, misuse of what we have is not. Respect for life starts at one point and flows naturally to others. And all that, of course, leads us to value a more peaceful world. War is the great destroyer – destroying love, destroying people (born and unborn), promoting hatred and vengeance, and destroying the creation around us. If we value human life, and the environment in which we live, a quick trigger looks less and less desirable.

This past election showed many who thought as I did: people who were uncomfortable with both major parties and who joined the Solidarity Party. With them they brought a diversity of ideas for solving human problems, but they also brought their common belief that human beings have innate worth from conception to natural death, with that value based on their humanity, not what they can produce for society. That common ideal was ever present as the party revised its platform recently. There was much discussion, and many compromises, as the party strove to find common ground, using common sense. But there was a difference here – the common good was based on the dignity of human life. It resulted in a platform I can joyfully embrace.

For more information on the Solidarity Party, and to read the full platform, go to

Mitzi Hellmer and Mark Dominesey at the American Solidarity Party table at our 30th anniversary conference


The rest of our series of blog posts from presentations at our 30th anniversary conference in August, 2017:

The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly)

The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)

Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)

Common Ground (Jim Kelly)

The Mind’s Drive for Consistency (Rachel MacNair)


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.


abortionconnecting issuespolitics

Over 20 Million People Facing Starvation – And We Should Care!

Posted on August 31, 2017 By

by Tony Magliano

Think of a time when you were hungry. Remember how it felt, a bit uncomfortable, right? You may have even said, “I’m starving!” But you knew that in a short time the next meal would be there for you. Knowing that a good meal was awaiting you allowed your slight hunger to actually whet your appetite.

Now imagine that you are very hungry and have no idea where the next meal will come from for you and your family. In this case your hunger is physically painful and terrifyingly stressful.

Imagine now that there is no work to be found, the drought has dried up your crops. Your livestock are dead. And you and your family have eaten the last seeds that were meant for next season’s planting.

Now how are you feeling?

This is how many Africans and others are feeling, especially those in South Sudan, Somalia, northeast Nigeria, and nearby Yemen. In these nations over 20 million people are facing famine and starvation. Armed conflict and severe drought are the main engines driving this emergency – the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II  (see:  

 “Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death” and “many more will suffer and die from disease,” said Stephen O’Brien, U.N. under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs. He emphasized that to avert a catastrophe, immediate adequate funding from wealthy nations is critical.

O’Brien said the largest humanitarian emergency was in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, where two-thirds of the population – 18.8 million people – desperately need aid, and over seven million people are hungry and don’t know where their next meal will come from (see: and

Compounding the famine, Yemen is now facing the world’s worst cholera outbreak according to the U.N., which has placed blame on all sides of the nation’s ongoing conflict between the U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Houthis (see:

An editor friend of mine in Nigeria put me in touch with Bishop Stephen Mamza, head of the northeast Nigerian Diocese of Yola. Bishop Mamza sent me a report with his assessment of the crisis in Yola. His report states that the U.N. World Food Program’s response to the food crisis in Nigeria is critically underfunded, meaning that hundreds of thousands of food-insecure northeast Nigerians are not being helped.

 Bishop Mamza wrote that he and other diocesan aid workers visited a makeshift settlement where “we met scores of hungry, malnourished and crying children who told us that they had not eaten for three days.”

American citizens should email and call their two U.S. senators and congressperson highlighting this emergency and urging that instead of slashing funding to programs that feed desperately hungry fellow human beings and programs that assist the poorest of the poor to build self-sustaining lives, the 2018 fiscal year budget needs to robustly increase funding for these life-saving programs (see:

And urge them to stop supplying weapons to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition waging war in Yemen and instead to broker an immediate cease-fire with total access to humanitarian relief.

Catholic Relief Services is on the ground in Bishop Mamza’s diocese and throughout Northeast Africa working to ease the suffering. Please help them expand their life-saving efforts by making a generous donation to CRS’ “Africa Hunger Crisis Emergency Fund” (see:


“For I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25: 31-46).  

 [Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at]        



Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives

Posted on August 29, 2017 By

by John Whitehead

Editor’s Note: This is the third in the series of blog posts based on presentations at our 30th Anniversary conference, held August 4-6, 2017.

John Whitehead at the 2017 conference with Kristen Day

In the United States, political conservatives tend to support American wars and military interventions abroad and generally favor a hawkish foreign policy. People dedicated to peace and alternatives to violence need to persuade such conservatives to oppose U.S. military action more often.

Persuading people, whatever their ideological affiliation, to change their minds is extremely difficult. No one approach is going to work with everyone. I will offer a few suggestions, however, of how at least to encourage conservatives to reconsider support for a hawkish foreign policy. A crucial principle that unites these suggestions is that showing someone how the peace cause is compatible with his or her existing views can open the door to consideration of your argument.

Make arguments based on American interest.

Many American wars or policies can be criticized on practical, self-interested grounds that do not require challenging anyone’s patriotism. For example, the various wars the United States has fought over the past 16-odd years in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have not been prudent. Experience shows that overthrowing a hostile regime and replacing it with a stable, friendly government is extremely difficult. Despite all the American lives sacrificed and money spent in those three countries, they continue to be troubled by insurgencies. Moreover, judged by the goal of countering terrorism from groups such as al Qaeda or its splinter group ISIS, these wars have been at best futile and at worst counterproductive

The 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was justified because Afghanistan was a safe haven for al Qaeda. However, while the American invasion and occupation may have hampered the terrorist group’s operations somewhat, al Qaeda, ISIS, and others with similar ideologies continue to carry out successful terrorist attacks such as the Barcelona attack this August. When a terrorist attack requires so few resources—a single man in a car can kill or injure many people—investing so much in stabilizing a chaotic, violent nation to prevent it from serving as a terrorist haven seems an inefficient strategy. Moreover, in Iraq and Libya, the American overthrow of Saddam Hussein and Moammar Qadaffi led to those countries descending into chaos and civil war and allowed terrorists such as al Qaeda and ISIS to use them as safe havens.

Some conservatives who would probably not listen to arguments that the Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya wars manifest some inherent American malevolence might listen to explanations of how these wars were not in America’s own best interests. Similar arguments can be made against overthrowing the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Connect criticism of US wars or foreign policy with causes conservatives support.

While many conservatives support a hawkish foreign policy, such a policy is not always compatible with other conservative policies or values. For example, American social conservatives who care about stable family life should recognize the damage done to families by war. If a parent is in the military, war or other deployments take them away from children—in many cases permanently. The same process separates spouses and even if the spouse in the military does return home from war, the marriage might not survive. History shows that divorce rates increase after war. This happened in the United States after both world wars, and in the early 2000s, roughly during the first years of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, divorce increased among Army officers.

War separates parents and children in other ways. One result of sending American troops abroad is that men have relationships with women in the countries they are sent to, the women get pregnant, and at the end of his deployment that man will leave, abandoning his former lover and their child. After the Second World War, tens of thousands of children fathered by American servicemen were born in Britain and Germany. Something similar occurred in various Asian nations where American troops were stationed. One estimate in the early 1980s placed the number of children fathered by American servicemen since the beginning of American military involvement in Asia at around 2 million.

Pro-life conservatives might consider the points discussed in this blog post, “War Causes Abortion.” As noted in that post, the hardships and disruptions to normal life that war creates may lead to women having abortions because they believe they cannot support their children. In addition, soldiers on all sides of a conflict have been known to rape women in the countries they fight in and occupy. If these women become pregnant, they might have an abortion. In fact, the same danger applies to the aforementioned cases of short-term consensual relationships between American servicemen and women in other countries.  For various reasons, women in these relationships who become pregnant might also abort.  Therefore, in addition to the millions of children of soldiers and local women who are born into broken families, untold numbers might have been killed in the womb

Do not lump together opposition to a war or specific foreign policy with liberal/progressive positions on other issues.

The peace organization the Fellowship for Reconciliation once featured the following statement on their website: “we challenge economic exploitation, work to eradicate racism and religious intolerance, and call attention to imperialistic U.S. foreign policy.”

These are admirable and worthy activities, but they are likely to appeal primarily to progressives while potentially alienating those with differing perspectives. Not everyone who opposes or is uneasy about American military intervention necessarily feels comfortable with the characterization of U.S. policy as “imperialistic” or agrees that economic exploitation and racism are closely connected with war.

Cite conservative thinkers or Republican politicians who opposed wars or hawkish foreign policies. Opposition to nuclear arms/warfare is a useful topic to focus on.

Historical examples abound of conservatives or Republicans opposing hawkish foreign policies, from Abraham Lincoln’s opposition to the Mexican-American War to Dwight Eisenhower’s warning of the military-industrial complex. Conservative opposition to nuclear weapons and their use is particularly striking.

In the 1940s, many conservatives condemned the use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. National Review even declared, in a 1959 editorial, “The indefensibility of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is becoming a part of the national conservative creed.” Eisenhower, who was commander-in-chief of Allied forces in Europe when the atomic bombs were used, later recounted his reaction to learning of the planned bombings: “I was getting more and more depressed just thinking about it. Then [the U.S. secretary of war] asked for my opinion, so I told him I was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon” (quoted in Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, p. 688).

The tradition of conservative opposition to nuclear weapons continued past the 1940s. Julianne Wiley, co-founder of Consistent Life Network precursor Pro-Lifers for Survival, recalled Brent Bozell, a major conservative theorist who ghostwrote Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative, explaining his belief the nuclear weapons were profoundly immoral. In 2007, four American foreign-policy elder statesmen, including Henry Kissinger, who had been secretary of state under Republican Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and George Shultz, who had been secretary of state under Republican President Ronald Reagan, published an op-ed declaring “We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and working energetically on the actions required to achieve that goal.”

In 2015, Jason Jones, a military veteran and politically conservative activist co-produced a white paper, Toward the Abolition of Strategic Nuclear Weapons, to which Aimee Murphy of Consistent Life member group Rehumanize International and I contributed. The paper uses Just War Theory and concerns for the honor of military service personnel to argue for dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons.


These four suggestions are just a few possibilities of how to persuade American conservatives to take a more critical stance toward U.S. military interventions. Peace activists should find additional approaches (The American Conservative and are good sources for conservative-leaning critiques of U.S. foreign policy). Finding arguments that appeal to people across the political spectrum is vital to the peace cause.


Some anti-war books by conservative authors:

Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-war Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism, by Bill Kauffman

Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, by Justin Raimondo

Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, by Andrew J. Bacevich


Mary Meehan wrote an article on this topic on her web page:

Antiwar Conservatives Make a Strong Case

For the similar topic on our own blog, see:

Nukes and the Pro-Life Christian: A Conservative Takes a Second Look at the Morality of Nuclear Weapons



The rest of our series of blog posts from presentations at our 30th anniversary conference in August, 2017:

The History of Framing the Arguments (Jim Kelly)

The Vital Need for Diversity (Sarah Terzo)

Making the Case for Peace to Conservatives (John Whitehead)

My Difficulty in Voting: Identifying the Problem (Monica Sohler)

Common Ground (Jim Kelly)

The Mind’s Drive for Consistency (Rachel MacNair)


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.




conservativeswar policy

The Frustrations of Being a Consistent Life Activist

Posted on August 22, 2017 By

by Lisa Stiller


Lisa Stiller at the post-Charlottesville rally

I recently attended a rally in support of the people in Charlottesville, Virginia. The previous Saturday a “Unite the Right” rally protesting the removal of statues of Confederate figures had erupted into violence, as one participant plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many. Many Confederate statues were raised in the early 20th century as explicit support of Jim Crow segregation laws and “white supremacy.” 

I wanted to be part of a gathering supporting love, respect, and dignity. That seems to me to be a pretty “whole life” issue. Racism and bigotry are an especially insidious form of violence. We all know that racism motivates people to hurt and kill others, and it also does terrible psychological damage. Racism destroys the dignity and sanctity of the human person, injuring its perpetrators as well as its victims.

But those of us who spend much of our time as activists speaking out for so many whole life issues such as health care and housing, and opposition to poverty, the death penalty, and war, find ourselves having to navigate a difficult path when other issues get thrown into the mix.

This is what happened at the rally. Most of the speakers at a rally that had a compassionate, community-oriented tone stuck to the message of intolerance for racism and called on members of our community to support one another. A few people ventured to speak about the influence of unregulated capitalism on racism (and a case can be made for that, as it contributes to the economic inequality that largely targets minorities and women) and the need to support measures that protect human rights.

But when a speaker got up and decided that not only was he going to recite the slogans on the “resistance flag” (pictured below) but have the crowd recite it back to him, I had a momentary feeling that I didn’t belong in this crowd. Most of the flag’s slogans are pretty much benign and support a whole life world view: “All People are Equal,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Immigrants and Refugees are Welcome Here,” and so on. But slogan number six is definitely not whole life: “Women Are in Charge of Their Bodies”.

Bringing support for abortion into a rally addressing racism, bigotry, and intolerance is nothing short of an oxymoron. Supporting the right to take a human life while advocating the need to defend human life from the violence of racism is, to me, counterintuitive.

Also, consider the fact that a very disproportionate number of minority and low-income women have their unborn babies aborted. Also, abortion clinics are most likely to be located in minority and poor neighborhoods. It makes no sense to advocate for the protection of our most vulnerable people, such as low income people and racial minorities and people with disabilities, as well as Jewish and Muslim people who are also targets of hate groups, while affirming the right to kill unborn children, the most voiceless members of our society. And, as our friends at Feminists for Life of America remind us, in the process of taking the lives of unborn children, we are hurting women.

So, as with other rallies and events I go to where I fully support the main issue, I have to find a way, when support for abortion is brought up, to remain “present,” put aside the seething anger, and acknowledge and let go of the discomfort. I have to carry on. And keep looking for ways to send a different message.

 The “resistance flag” at the rally.

Our own yard sign, available through Café Press, that those who wish to can use in similar locations to gently counter it.


For more of our blog posts on Actions and Adventures, see:

The Adventures of Organizing as a Consistent Lifer

My Day at the Democratic National Convention

Adventures as a Delegate to the Democratic Party Convention

A Tale of Two Cruises

The Marches of January (2017)

Progressive Prolifers at the Progressive Magazine 100th Anniversary Celebration


See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.


abortionliberalsorganizingpersonal storiesprogressivesracism