"The issue of human life and its preservation and development is one that begins with conception and ends only when God calls a person back to himself in death. If we are consistent, then, we must be concerned about life from beginning to end. It is like a seamless garment; either it all holds together or eventually it all falls apart." Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, 1975

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What is wrong about IVF?

My soul carries a new scar.  The pain is fresh and keen, and I know that while time might see the pain fade, I will never fully recover from what I've seen, and done.  For I have failed, intentionally and knowingly, in the first duty of a parent: protecting the lives of two of my children.
My wife and I wanted children; alas, we needed IVF treatment to realize this dream.  Several cycles and multiple embryo implantations later, we welcomed our blessing from G-d, who is the light of our lives.
Recently, we tried for another.

"It never rains, but it pours," said the fertility doctor -- of the three embryos that were implanted, all three took.  We were faced with the news of triplets.  I was shocked, knowing the burden that would entail, but since G-d gave us three, I was prepared to do whatever I needed to do to help, manage, and provide.

My wife?  Something snapped.  She insisted that we do a "selective reduction" from three to one, or else she would have a full abortion.  She was adamant.  She would not carry three.  She would not carry two.
I was presented with a Coventry-esque decision: save one, or save none.  I chose the former, though I tried on several occasions to convince her to at least keep twins.  I failed.

We were told, point-blank, by the doctor who would do the procedure that they would inject potassium chloride into the placenta to stop the hearts.  We were told, point-blank, that it was painless.  Even then, I knew I was being lied to, but given the choice presented, I agreed anyway.  My mantra became "Save one, or save none."

Before the procedure, my wife's eyes teared up; she asked the doctor over and over if they would feel pain, and was assured they would not.  I asked again if my wife was sure about this because once done, it could not be undone.  She said she was sure, but her tears and her looking away from the screen, deliberately, and her wanting me to not look either, told me the truth: she knew as well that this was wrong.  I wanted to insist that she look, but I think that her mind -- already fractured by the news of triplets -- would have snapped permanently had she seen the images onscreen.  And to save the one, and for the sake of the one we already had, I needed my wife sane.

My wife didn't look, but I had to.  I had to know what would happen to my children.  I had to know how they would die.

Each retreated, pushing away, as the needle entered the amniotic sac.  They did not inject into the placenta, but directly into each child's torso.  Each one crumpled as the needle pierced the body.  I saw the heart stop in the first, and mine almost did, too.  The other's heart fought, but ten minutes later they looked again, and it too had ceased.

The doctors had the gall to call the potassium chloride, the chemical that stopped children's hearts, "medicine."  I wanted to ask what they were trying cure -- life?  But bitter words would not undo what had happened.  I swallowed anything I might have said.

I know they felt pain.  I know they felt panic.  And I know this was murder.  I take cold comfort in knowing that as far as we can tell, the survivor is still fine, and in knowing that this decision did not come from me; I would have taken the chance on triplets, even with all the work and effort it would have required.  I pray that this one child will come to term, will be born into this world alive and healthy, and I know he or she will have all our love.

But that emotional scar will ache my whole life.  I see my child's smile every night and anticipate a new one in some months...but I think of the two smiles I will never see.  Every day, returning from work, I hear "Hi Daddy!" and know there are two voices and two giggles that I will never hear.  I play with and cuddle my child, looking forward to the same with the second...but I know there are two sets of hands that will never touch mine, two sets of toes that will never be counted, two hugs that will forever be absent from my arms.

I pray to G-d every day to take those two innocents to Him, to welcome them, and I ask them every day for forgiveness.  As I will every day for the rest of my life.  I don't know what accommodation my wife will make mentally and spiritually.  That is her business, and a burden her conscience must bear.

But let nobody fool you.  It is not painless for the child, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.  Abortion is not an excision of a featureless bunch of cells; it is infanticide.  We have revived the practice of child sacrifice to the new deities of casual sex and convenience.  We rationalize the reality of murder by altering our perspective of the nascent life through euphemisms like "fetus" or descriptions of "a clump of cells"...just like the Nazis convinced themselves that the people screaming as they were shot or gassed were "Untermenchen," subhuman, and therefore guiltlessly exterminated.

This is how every perpetrator of genocide has always rationalized his or her actions.  By doing likewise, we condemn our own souls

I wept in joy, a few years ago, when I saw my first child's heartbeat on the screen.  And I weep in agony now at the memory of two of my children's heartbeats being stilled.  "Save one, or save none" has been eclipsed by "Out, out, damned spot!" as I wonder how I can redeem myself.
If, by baring this scar for others to see, I can prevent an abortion, perhaps that will help to balance the scales for when I face G-d's justice and I finally meet those two children -- who I hope will forgive me for my failure.

The author's name has been withheld by request.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Talking to Non-Christian Prolifers

13 May 2014,


After Alexandra G. was raped at age 13, her mother opted not to take her to a doctor or a counselor, but to an abortion clinic. “She was a child of the ’60s, vehemently pro-choice,” said Alexandra of her mother. “She scheduled an abortion. I refused it.”
The 13-year-old’s arguments and pleas were ignored. Neither her mother nor the doctor at the clinic could understand why the teen did not want an abortion.

In response to her protests that an abortion would take the life of her baby, the doctor calmly drew three circles on a piece of paper, and tried to reassure her that it was not a baby inside her, but merely cells he would scrape out.
“The counseling the clinic offered wasn’t counseling,” said Alexandra, who now lives in England. “They showed me a see-through vagina and told me about contraception, led me into a room, and told me to put on a paper gown. They put me to sleep, I woke up in agony, and they gave me some cookies and juice.”
At age 17, Alexandra became pregnant again, this time by her boyfriend. Although she was on birth control, looking back, she says that she was using it ineffectively. Her mother told her to have an abortion or get out of the house. With nowhere else to go, Alexandra submitted to another abortion, which left her with secondary infertility. Later medical treatment would disclose that one of her ovaries was fused to her uterus. Her tubes were so scarred that dye would not go through them. Meanwhile, her relationship with her mother, which was already strained, continued to go downhill.
Years later she confronted her mother. “I said to her, ‘You were pro-choice, but where was my choice? If there had been someone out there protesting at the time I had my abortion, I probably would have run into her arms. I really did want to keep my babies. I really wanted them.’”
People are listening to Alexandra now. Today, like many other post-abortive women, Alexandra volunteers as a sidewalk counselor with 40 Days for Life, a Christian organization. The difference between Alexandra and most other female pro-life activists, however, is that she is not a Catholic or an evangelical, but a self-proclaimed witch.
It is difficult to find polls or statistics that tease out the pro-life views of non-Christian religious people. Alexandra, who has created a Facebook page called Pro-life Pagans, reported that there are a lot of pro-life pagans, adding that “a lot of pagans are not willing to come out of the broom closet.”
Most of the discomfort Alexandra has experienced from Christian pro-lifers has occurred online. Many Christians tie pagans like Alexandra to religions in the Bible that participated in child sacrifice. This disturbs her, because she and others like her define themselves as neo-pagans, who tend to revere fertility and childbirth.
In addition to having a Wiccan administrator for the Pro-Life Pagans page, Alexandra also has an atheist, a Mormon, and a Catholic administrator. It’s become an ecumenical group.
Thus far, Alexandra has not really had any negative interactions with participants in 40 Days for Life. When 40 Days for Life participants engage in prayer, Alexandra respectfully doesn’t join in. She hands out flyers and at one point was bringing her own Pro-life Pagans sign, but eventually had to stop using it because the pro-choicers became too aggressive, encircling her and the other pro-life activists, blowing horns in their ears and bubbles in their faces.
The fact that she is not a Christian pro-lifer can sometimes be used to advantage. Once, when 40 Days for Life was protesting in front of a clinic that faces University of Central London student housing, some students began complaining that the protest was disturbing them. The students then got into a debate with a priest who was there, saying that the pro-life position was merely religious. Alexandra shocked them by asking what their response would be to a pro-life witch. “I’m a practicing witch,” she told them. According to Alexandra, “They had nothing to say.” Then she started talking to them about abortion using secular arguments, and they listened.
After years of infertility, Alexandra’s story took a positive turn when she and her husband conceived their son Sebastian. She refers to her pregnancy as a fluke, but it may well have been a miracle. Today, when Alexandra protests in front of clinics, she brings the medical records that document her infertility, along with her son’s baby book. In addition, Alexandra’s mother eventually changed her abortion stance to pro-life without exceptions after Alexandra explained to her the reality of abortion.
Sebastian has autism and keeps her very busy, but if she had the time she would like to volunteer as a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center (CPC). She cannot volunteer, however, because the CPC in her local area will not allow non-Christians as peer counselors. For her part, Alexandra said she does not understand why she could not volunteer at a CPC and counsel women not to abort, and perhaps a Catholic or Evangelical could come in afterward to pray with the women.
“I have a story to tell,” she said.
For this article I contacted Heartbeat International and Care Net, the two largest pregnancy care affiliate organizations, as well as Birthright International. Even after talking to representatives from these organizations, however, it was difficult to gauge how many CPCs accept non-Christian volunteers.
Debora Myles, director of communications and marketing for Heartbeat International, explained that since they are a Christian organization, their materials are based on Biblical principles, and each of their approximately 1,800 pregnancy help affiliates worldwide usually adopts a statement of faith. One example of a statement of faith, Myles pointed out, is the Nicene Creed. Although they are not required to agree with a particular statement of faith, each affiliate does agree to abide by the Commitment of Care and Compe-tence. Heartbeat International does not restrict affiliates from using non-Christian staff, board members, or volunteers. At any rate, Heartbeat International has no statistics on which, if any, of their affiliates use non-Christian volunteers, staff, or board members.
Care Net has over 1,180 affiliate CPCs in the United States and Canada. Cynthia Hopkins, vice president of Center Services and Client Care, said that all board members, staff, and volunteers of the center are required to agree with Care Net’s Statement of Faith and uphold all of the principles and requirements set forth in Care Net’s Core Values. “Because Care Net is a Christian ministry, non-Christians are not eligible to serve as volunteers, board members, or employees at Care Net affiliated pregnancy centers,” Hopkins said.
Birthright, which is based in Canada and has 300 CPCs across the world, has no religious requirements for staff, board members, or volunteers, according to Mary Berney, co-president. “The main requirement that we have for a Birthright volunteer is that they be 100% pro-life,” said Berney. “We are a volunteer organization and we look for men or women who are dedicated to Life and want to help girls and women bring their babies to term. We do this by helping the mother.”
The Nurturing Network (TNN), which receives referrals from CPCs, is an organization that helps women in crisis pregnancies across the U.S. and in 30 countries. TNN helps women bring their babies to term by meeting their immediate needs, whether through finding them a family to live with across the country, helping them get out of an abusive relationship, or finding them a new job, medical care, or counseling. Mary Cunningham Agee, TNN’s founder and president, said “[V]olunteers from every background have donated their time, training and expertise as TNN Resource Members . . . . Our goal is to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible with respect to both clients and members. The Nurturing Network does not use faith as a ‘litmus test’ for service. Our detailed online member applications are designed to gain a specific understanding of the support a volunteer would like to offer from many perspectives—and then make an informed introduction to an appropriate client when an opportunity to serve a woman directly presents itself.”

Are Christians Shutting Out Non-Christian Pro-lifers?

Although it is difficult to pinpoint how many non-Christian religious pro-lifers there are, identifying non-religious pro-lifers is somewhat easier. According to information on Secular Pro-Life’s (SPL) website, there are at least 6 million non-religious prolifers in the United States, and that is probably a conservative estimate. SPL was founded by attorney Kelsey Hazzard, a non-Christian who started the group when she was a college student to bring together people of all faiths or no faith in defense of unborn human life. Members strive to use only philosophical and scientific arguments to argue against abortion.
Secular Pro-Life, Pro-Life Pagans, and Pro-Life Humanists, a newer group for secular prolifers, are not the first groups to accommodate or recognize non-Christian prolifers. In 1976, Doris Gordon, a Jewish atheist, founded Libertarians for Life, which is open to non-religious and religious Libertarians. There is also the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League, which for the most part has an online presence. The Jewish Pro-Life Foundation seeks to save Jewish lives by promoting alternatives to abortion in the Jewish community.
On another front, non-Christian pro-lifers may have more opportunity to get involved than ever before. National, secular pro-life organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life, and Students for Life of America have no qualms about hiring non-Christian staff or using non-Christian volunteers when they are filling positions. This is not an exhaustive list; it just represents a sampling of pro-life organizations contacted.
However, since the pro-life movement is overwhelmingly made up of Christians, some non-Christian pro-lifers can experience discomfort. One of those non-religious prolifers is Sarah Terzo, 38, a writer who lives in New Jersey. Terzo is a lesbian and an atheist who agreed with legal abortion until she was about 14. That was when she saw a postcard put out by Human Life International that featured a life-sized 8-week-old unborn baby on one side of the card and a picture of an aborted baby of the same age on the other.
“I immediately knew that this was a child, this was a baby, and at that moment, I dedicated my life to fighting abortion,” said Terzo. “From the time I saw that picture, I knew that I had to do whatever I could to help babies like that. My pro-life journey began then.”
 Because she has rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, Terzo is limited in the pro-life activities she can participate in. Despite finding it difficult to walk and stand for long periods, she is able to do a lot from home, including networking with other prolifers, participating in online discussions, distributing pro-life material, and working on her pro-life webpage, www.clinicquotes.com. She also writes for Live Action, LifeNews, and Secular Pro-Life, and runs a pro-life Facebook group and two Facebook pages.
 For Terzo, being part of the pro-life movement has sometimes been isolating.
It has been hard. I often run into a lot of Christian rhetoric, and while I respect a Christian’s right to talk about [his or her] religion and to evangelize when [he or she] feels it’s appropriate, it does make me feel very alienated sometimes. For example, when I listened to one of the webcasts that was done a while back, I felt bad that those running it spoke as if all the listeners were Christian. When the webcast was going on and on about how we all oppose abortion because we are Christians, and as Christ instructs us, we must spread the word in our churches, I wished that he would have taken a moment to give a nod to those listening who might not have been Christians, instead of automatically assuming that only Christians are pro-life. A simple “We are happy to have pro-lifers of all different backgrounds listening, but now I’d like to talk tomy fellow Christians,” or something like that, would help a lot of people like me feel a little more welcome.
Terzo said she often feels like a second-class prolifer.
I have had many prolifers tell me that I can’t be pro-life because I am not a Christian, tell me that I can’t have moral values if I’m not a Christian, tell me that I’m going to hell—which is always unpleasant—unless I accept Jesus. I have to admit that I am not always as tolerant of these things as I should be, I tend to feel frustrated and have, unfortunately, sometimes gotten into arguments, but I am making an effort to ignore it. I find myself wishing that people would just leave it alone and focus on the unborn. But I see that I, too, have a responsibility in this to keep quiet and just ignore it rather than complaining and making it worse.
As alienating as being an atheist can be, Terzo said that being gay and in the movement is even more difficult. “Most people don’t really know that I am a lesbian prolifer. I seldom talk about it. My byline on Live Action says that I’m a member of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL)—and Live Action has always been wonderful and has been willing to work with me from day one.”
Terzo remembers back in college, when she was following March for Life events, that PLAGAL wanted to walk in the March for Life under the PLAGAL banner. When members of PLAGAL showed up with their banner, the late Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life, told them that they would be arrested if they showed up again. “They tried to reason with her, but she said that if they showed up with their banner the police would be on hand to arrest them,” said Terzo. “I believe PLAGAL caved in and did not march. All they were asking for was a chance to march with a banner like all the other groups.”
 There are not as many non-Christian prolifers in the movement as Terzo would like to see. “There are a number of non-Christians that I’ve met online. Now that we have Facebook, it’s easier for us to organize and meet one another,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful thing that groups like Secular Pro-Life and the very active Facebook page Pro-Life Pagans exist. Secular Pro-Life is filling a huge void—for a very long time, there was no group for atheists and agnostics in the pro-life movement.” Pro-life Humanists is another group that was formed recently to represent non-religious prolifers.
Terzo desired to counsel abortion-minded women at her local crisis pregnancy center, so she picked up an application. It required her to get a recommendation from her home church and a statement from her pastor. When she discussed these requirements with the staff, they informed her that non-Christians were not allowed to volunteer there. “If I had been offered the chance to do clerical work, I would probably have done it,” said Terzo. “I’m sure it would have bothered me a bit, and made me feel a little excluded, but I would have been grateful to help in any way I could.”

Muslim Prolifer Says Focus Should Be on Life, Not Religious Differences

Angel Armstead, 34, is a 2008 convert to pro-life and a 2010 convert to Islam. Armstead became pro-life purely through philosophical and scientific arguments.
I actually spent some time studying the issue on the Internet. I know there is a lot of bad info on the net so I looked at both sides. I was also at that time in college and we got to look at fetal skulls and that gave me a better idea of fetal development. I didn’t really talk much about it until I saw that there were atheist prolifers. For a long time I thought it was just a religious issue.
Armstead, a writer, is not currently participating in pro-life activities, but donates to pro-life organizations frequently. In the future, she sees herself adopting a child and assisting young women with unplanned pregnancies. Armstead hasn’t met other Muslim prolifers, but she wonders if they would feel welcome in the movement. She was once part of a pro-life group on Facebook, but got tired of the anti-Islam posts and eventually left. “I know Muslims and Christians are not going to agree on certain religious issues but we should focus on what we do agree with,” said Armistead. “If the issue is truly about human life and not religion then Christians should be able to work with anyone in order to save lives. That should be the main focus. That should get the attention of anyone Muslim or otherwise.”
Suzy Ismail, a visiting professor at DeVry University in North Brunswick, New Jersey, is also a Muslim prolifer. In an article written for Public Discourse, Ismail stated: “Modernity encourages us to view ‘unwanted’ life as a burden that will hold us back. For Muslims, however, just as for many in other faith traditions, life must be acknowledged, always and everywhere, as a true blessing.”
Ismail laid out her case for defending the sanctity of life according to Islamic teachings. In pre-Islamic times, according to Ismail, female infanticide was prevalent throughout Arabia. The Quran, however, prohibited these practices. She added that many verses in the Quran point to the sanctity of life, including, “Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin” (17:31).
Ismail recounts how she truly began to understand life’s fragility after losing two babies in utero, one just weeks prior to giving birth. “While the religious injunctions reverberate through faith on a spiritual level, the blessings of life touch us daily on a worldly level, as well. As the mother of three beautiful children, I can truly attest to and appreciate the gift of life. But I also understand how heartbreaking it is to lose it.”

Some Christians See Non-Christian Pro-lifers as Needed and Would Welcome Their Involvement

Rod Murphy, director of Problem Pregnancy of Worcester, Inc., in Massachusetts and author of Stopping Abortions at Death’s Door, would have no problem accepting the help of non-Christians at the crisis pregnancy center (CPC) he directs. In the early days of the clinic there was a rabbi who volunteered and helped women with spiritual matters, but Murphy “never had a secularist or atheist come to me to want to volunteer. We never had the opportunity to say yes or no. We would say yes if [she] had a legitimate interest in helping women and babies.”
If Murphy (who apparently works behind the scenes) has a bias against any category of people volunteering at his clinic, it would be men. “Men wouldn’t fit well because our pregnant clients think that men are the enemy when they are abandoned.”
On the other hand, if a group of lesbians, for example, wanted to help CPCs stop abortions, he would be willing to talk to them, vet them, and possibly write a recommendation letter to another CPC, so they would be given a chance. (Murphy went on to offer that if a non-Christian prolifer is interested in counseling at a CPC and would like a recommendation from him, she can call him at 774-230-1756.)
Murphy speculated that CPC staff may be reluctant to accept lesbian pro-lifers as volunteers because they are suspicious of feminist ties they may have, and fear they may try to sabotage pro-life efforts. But the real problem, according to Murphy, is the scarcity of young prolifers—whether Christian or not—willing to work in the trenches. Participating in the March for Life is one thing, but being involved in the day-to-day operations of the pro-life movement is something else. “There is a lot of talk, but not a lot of action.” Murphy’s advice to non-Christian prolifers is to become trained as sidewalk counselors. “A non-Christian prolifer who wants to protest or do sidewalk counseling in front of a clinic has as much of a right to show up as anyone else.”
Murphy said the pro-life movement would benefit from secular and religious prolifers positioned in front of abortion clinics—even if they just stood there. “There are many abortion facilities that do not have anybody outside when pregnant clients go in. All you need is someone out there, willing to save some babies,” he said. He thinks sidewalk counseling offers the best opportunities for non-Christian prolifers who want to get involved.
“There are girls who tell us they said, ‘God, if you don’t want me to do this, put somebody in my way.’ Just being there saves babies, and you don’t have to belong to any organization to do it.”
Like the non-Christian prolifers interviewed for this piece, Murphy, a practicing Catholic, believes that secular arguments are more effective in convincing women not to abort their babies. He recalled a man outside a Portland, Maine, Planned Parenthood clinic reading loudly from the Bible to women going into the building. “He isn’t going to reach her,” concluded Murphy. “Most of these women are unchurched. A woman who reaches her secularly, practically, they are likely to get more bites.”
“Our counselors talk to women practically,” he continued. “They have real-world problems. You don’t have a place to live? We’ll get you an apartment. Child care problems? We’ll get you some child care.”
Murphy acknowledges that at the March for Life and other pro-life events, the atmosphere might be off-putting to non-Christians because of the prayers and references to Jesus Christ and God. “I can see how an atheist or someone who doesn’t believe would feel out of sorts,” he said. “It’s the same for Catholics. When we go to evangelical pro-life meetings, [it can] make us uncomfortable, and I suspect it is true the other way around.”
If you want to be part of the pro-life movement, though, you have to get used to being a little uncomfortable, he added.

March for Life: We Have a Wide Tent for Prolifers

Many years have passed since PLAGAL members were told to leave the March for Life. Bethany Goodman, an evangelical who is assistant director of March for Life, said the fact that more non-Christians and seculars are becoming actively pro-life is good for the movement. She added that it should not come as a surprise that seculars and Christians would arrive at the same conclusions on the life issue. “Christians cite Biblical truth in talking about pro-life issues, along with science and natural law,” she said.  “Secular prolifers can look to natural law and science, and use those natural human rights arguments. All of these reasons complement each other and make sense because truth is truth.”
On a personal level, Goodman said she is seeing her generation, the Millennials, as more open to the truth about life as a human-rights issue.
Does the March for Life now allow groups like PLAGAL to march with their PLAGAL banner in the event, unlike in years past? “Yes,” said Goodman. “We encourage any group that is focused on the pro-life issue, and that issue alone, in good taste and in good will, to participate in the march with the express purpose of advocating for the right to life for the unborn.”
“We are open to anyone who is pro-life,” she said. “We have a wide tent for pro-lifers.”
Terzo said Goodman’s comments are good news. “I’m glad that people from different walks of life can march together in unity. I think that seeing the signs and banners from many different groups really emphasizes how diverse the pro-life movement is, and shows that the stereotype that all prolifers are the same is not true,” she said. “I think it’s a win-win situation for everyone, because not only will it encourage more gay and lesbian people to become involved in the movement and raise the morale of the ones that are already there, it will challenge members of the public who feel that being pro-life is an exclusively conservative, Christian thing.”
Although the March for Life was founded by Gray, a conservative Catholic, the event has featured (and continues to feature) prolifers from other faith traditions and political persuasions. In years past, for example, Rabbi Yehuda Levin spoke at the March for Life on at least three occasions. In 2014, evangelical icon Dr. James Dobson and his adopted son, Ryan, spoke to prolifers, along with a heterogeneous mix of pro-life elected officials that included Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Washington State Democratic Legislator Roger Freeman, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO).
Although many of the outside group events surrounding the March for Life are religious in nature, Goodman singles out some offerings that would also appeal to non-Christian and secular pro-lifers. “The 5K run/walk is one example of an activity anyone can participate in to advocate for the sanctity of life, as well the March for Life-sponsored Rose Dinner.” In addition, Goodman encouraged secular prolifers to talk to elected representatives and senators about life issues as an important part of their March participation.
“It’s powerful for non-religious prolifers to go to their [representatives], and say, ‘This is why I am pro-life.’ From there, non-Christian prolifers can go back to their communities and get involved at the local level.”

The Right to Life Is Not Just a Religious Issue

Other non-Christian prolifers have had different experiences from those of Terzo or Armstead. Monica Snyder, 28, of Sacramento, had the honor of being the first non-religious prolifer among the speaking lineup at the Walk for Life West Coast, representing Secular Pro-Life (SPL).
“I’ve always found people at the Walk friendly, but I’ll admit I am surprised and touched by this level of acceptance,” said Snyder, an agnostic. “I really do hope this is a sign of things to come!” She stated that her goals as an SPL representative were to let other pro-life secularists know they are not alone—indeed, they are welcomed—and to let religious prolifers know they are eager to work alongside them.
“The Walk was fantastic!” added Snyder.
At Secular Pro-Life we’ve had an outpouring of support from people who [heard the] speech and are excited to have us in the pro-life movement. It has been so encouraging. During both the Walk and the SFLA (Students for Life of America) conference the next day, I was able to meet fellow nonreligious prolifers and prolifers of faith interested in increasing the diversity of our movement. We exchanged contact information, and I’m really looking forward to working with them going forward. The whole experience has been incredibly inspiring and uplifting, and I can’t thank the Walk organizers enough for giving SPL a voice and a part to play.
Penelope Whisnant, one of the co-founders of the Walk for Life West Coast, said Snyder was chosen to speak for several reasons, including her participation in the event since 2006 and her commitment to the pro-life cause. “The pro-life cause is not just a religious cause, although most prolifers are religious; it is a human-rights movement and as such we do not need to bring God, religion, or the Bible into the argument against abortion and for life. Reason alone is sufficient.”
“You need look no further than this country’s founding documents, where the Declaration of Independence talks about how we are endowed with ‘certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’” continued Whisnant. “Life is the first one mentioned—and it’s unalienable. You can approach the pro-life argument from many angles, and we must be open to all these angles and all those willing to defend life.”
“This is the first time we’ve had someone who is not affiliated with any religion speak at the Walk. However, this is totally in line with what we envisioned for Walk for Life from the beginning,” said Whisnant. “We always wanted it to be for everyone of good will who acknowledges that abortion hurts women, children, men and society, whether they have a faith or no faith. They are all welcome and we want them and their groups to have a presence at Walk for Life.”
“I have been pro-life for as long as I can remember,” commented Snyder. “My parents are both passionately pro-life, and they raised me to be the same way.” She has memories of participating with her family at pro-life protests, they worked with local CPCs, and her father volunteered as a sidewalk counselor. At one point, her parents invited an abortion-minded woman to live with them during the duration of her pregnancy. “Now, many years later, the woman’s daughter recently graduated high school. The example my parents set has had quite an impact on me,” said Snyder.
For Snyder, her experience in the pro-life movement has been mostly positive. “In my experience working with SPL, most religious prolifers have been friendly and welcoming. We regularly have people tell us that, while they are Christian, they are so glad we exist to show that religious reasons are not the only reasons to be pro-life. Many of SPL’s supporters are, in fact, religious, but work with us to raise awareness of the non-religious pro-life stance.”
 That’s not to say there hasn’t been occasional friction. “We do, on occasion, come across religious prolifers who believe it’s wrong to purposefully leave God or their faith out of their arguments, and there can be some tension in those conversations,” said Snyder. “However, for the most part I’ve found people take a very ‘live and let live’ approach. We use secular arguments, other people use religious arguments, but we are all on the same team. We all want to make abortion unthinkable.”
 Snyder said religious prolifers have been far more reasonable than secular pro-choicers. “Religious prolifers tend to be pretty welcoming, but secular prochoicers have been, for the most part, considerably more hostile. In fact, some secular prochoicers refuse to believe secular prolifers exist! They’ve accused us of being a ‘secretly religious’ group—a Trojan horse trying to sneak into the atheist and agnostic communities with our pro-life message. It’s pretty amazing,” said Snyder.
“Religious and non-religious prolifers work together best when we stick to common ground,” said Snyder. “Our common ground includes the non-religious reasons to be against abortion. When the pro-life movement focuses primarily on religious reasons to be against abortion, secularists—both pro-life and pro-choice—are disconnected.”
“That’s not to say religious prolifers must hide their faith. It’s simply to say it means a lot to pro-life secularists to know we have a place in the movement,” she continued. “The Walk organizers are doing an excellent job of conveying this message by having both religious and secular speakers this year. Secular prolifers are more likely to build ties with the overall pro-life movement when we feel free to be secular within the movement.”

How the Movement Could Benefit from More Involvement from Non-Christian Pro-lifers

Despite the hurt feelings and occasional lack of inclusion, Terzo says pro-life gays and atheists should not give up, especially in light of various secular pro-life groups that are popping up.
What could pro-life organizations willing to include non-traditional pro-lifers do to make them feel welcome? “I think just reaching out to nontraditional groups. Send an invitation out to the groups like Secular Pro-Life and post notices in forums that non-Christian prolifers frequent and simply tell them that they want them to be there,” said Terzo. “Just plain general encouragement. I think if the March for Life included a speaker who was nontraditional, that would help too. Maybe including secular speakers and allowing secular leaders to take part in planning some of these events would help.”
Terzo added that March for Life’s welcome to nontraditional prolifers is important. “It will communicate to people outside the movement that our message is universal, and they may find pro-life arguments harder to dismiss,” Terzo continued. “It may also cause people on the fence to be curious about why gay people are pro-life, and help start conversations, leading to the opportunity for the pro-life message to be shared. So this isn’t just good for PLAGAL, it’s good for the movement and ultimately good for unborn babies—and that, of course, is the most important thing.”
Terzo believes that the pro-life movement needs help from non-Christians, because Christians can’t do it alone. Like many people, Terzo sees the U.S. becoming more secular; in response,
[W]e need to bring others into the fold. Christians don’t have the numbers to reverse abortion on their own. Religious arguments only work on religious people. In order for pro-life laws to be passed and pro-life candidates to be elected, more support is needed. Nonreligious people need to be persuaded to embrace the pro-life cause, and that will probably not happen if the movement is exclusively Christian. People from all walks of life need to band together before abortion will be defeated. It just can’t be a Christian-only movement, we have to appeal to more people. As long as pro-life is perceived as a bunch of Christians telling people what to do, mainstream people won’t listen. The movement needs wider support.
How might the pro-life movement benefit from the help of Muslims like Armstead? “I think one of the biggest benefits is it dispels the argument that pro-life is only a conservative, Christian, white male belief,” said Armstead. “But also the more the better.”
Walk for Life’s Whisnant agreed that it is beneficial to the pro-life cause to have atheists and agnostics joining to defend life, because it demonstrates that this is not just a religious movement, as the media wants people to believe, but also a human-rights movement that all people of good will should join.
“How I wish that the secular pro-life movement would grow,” added Whisnant. “Imagine if most secularists were pro-life—we wouldn’t have abortion. We live in an ever-growing secular society, so if we want to change society’s view on abortion, we have to bring secularists on board.”
Alexandra G. created the Pro-Life Pagans Facebook page as a way to find fellow travelers. As a result, she said something she hears a lot is, “I thought I was the only one.” As more pro-life non-Christians of all stripes are seen actively working in the movement, it may move other, likeminded people to say, “I thought I was the only one,” and come out of the woodwork to take their stand for life.
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Leslie Fain is a freelance writer who lives in Louisiana with her husband and three sons. She can be reached at lwfain92@gmail.com. You may also visit her new blog, at lesliefain.com.

What’s Dad Got To Do with It?

Posted by Care Net on Dec 14, 2014 1:57:00 PM


father and sonSince most clients are women, new pregnancy center staff or volunteers might sometimes wonder: What's dad got to do with it?
Men are frequently ignored in the cultural conversation about pregnancy, abortion, adoption, and parenting. Yet the thoughts of the baby's father or her feelings about him can be amongst the most important factors in a woman's pregnancy decision. Some women will go through an unwanted abortion in order to avoid losing a relationship with a man they love. Other women will choose abortion rather than consider the possibility that a man they distrust would ever gain custody of their child. Conversely, women who feel secure in their relationship with their partner and who know that he wants the baby, are more likely to carry to term.