The March for Life
January 21, 2022 – This was my first time attending the DC March for Life. Until recently I lived in Northern California, so I had always attended the San Francisco Walk for Life instead. The DC March was, first and foremost, much colder, wow. It was also much larger! To be fair to the SF Walk, the DC March for Life has been going on nearly every year since the 1970s, whereas the SF Walk started in the early 2000s. In any case, I was impressed by the crowd size, and all the more so because others who have attended MFL before said this was actually a relatively small March for Life. Seemed huge to me.
I began at the Rehumanize Meet Up, which was excellent. I’ve started to think of organizations like us (Secular Pro-Life), Rehumanize, and other sister groups we work often with as the “alt pro-lifers,” and I really enjoy the camaraderie among the diversity as we make space for ourselves and other non-traditional pro-life demographics. I love meeting other pro-life activists who care enough about this issue that, like me, they are disinterested in our differences. Do we both oppose abortion? Then we’re on the same team.
Rehumanize had a great line up of speakers. I was particularly moved by speeches by Robin Atkins (watch here about 15:03 mark) and Braedon Eckert (watch here about 19:07 mark). Robin, a mental health counselor, talked about her life 20+ years ago. She was an addict in an abusive relationship and her partner cheated on her. She went to a clinic for STD testing. Clinic staff did not disclose to her that she was pregnant but did give her abortion pills under the premise that they were contraception (that they would prevent pregnancy, rather than end a pregnancy). That night Robin experienced a physically and emotionally traumatizing medication abortion, and she mourns her lost son to this day. She emphasized that the (coerced) abortion did not solve her other problems (addiction, abuse, poverty). She still had all of those problems, plus now the trauma of the abortion added to it. You can read her Twitter thread with more details about her experience here.
Braedon, a high school junior, spoke about his very difficult childhood, including a drug addicted mother followed by a horrifically abusive foster care situation. He said he still loves his life and resents abortion advocates using stories like his as justification for abortion. [See similar testimonies in our They Can Hear You collection.] Robin and Braedon are only two of multiple powerful speakers Rehumanize featured, which you can see in the live stream here.
As the Rehumanize Meet Up was wrapping up, I headed to the main March rally area. The March organizers had previously contacted Secular Pro-Life about sending a representative to stand on the main stage at the end of the rally and help showcase the diversity of pro-life groups. So I signed in and got access to the VIP tent. There were a lot of leaders of larger pro-life organizations there. I knew a few already, and tried to meet some more. But perhaps more importantly, the tent (1) was heated and (2) had free sandwiches. So I was pretty happy with it. I saw friends from Rehumanize, PAAU, Pro-Life San Francisco, and other orgs, and we chatted until it was time to go on stage.
I had asked in advance if we could carry signs on stage and the organizers agreed, but I guess I was one of only a few who had considered it because when we got to the risers there were only one or two other signs besides mine. Fine with me. My “Call me an extremist” sign (which you can get here or make yourself!) stood out all the more. I was on the top riser, centered behind the speaker, looking out over a huge crowd of pro-lifers across the National Mall. Considering this is my first time at the National Mall, it was pretty great. (I did think about Forrest Gump.)
As the rally dispersed and the March began, I headed away from the crowd to get a ride to SCOTUS, where the March would finish. My third-trimester-pregnant self wasn’t about to actually trek the whole way. (Thankfully, faithful volunteer Nick carried our 14-foot SPL banner for the whole march, with SPL president Kelsey Hazzard and other volunteers and supporters joining him along the way.) Meanwhile, I got to the Supreme Court in plenty of time to perch at a street corner and take pictures of the March as everyone moved past me.
Panel on Pro-Life Feminism
January 22, 2022, morning – The David Network Conference invited me to join a panel discussion on pro-life feminism. The conference is put together by and for Ivy League students (plus MIT and Stanford) who want to learn more about pro-life work. Before and after the panel discussions they had break out sessions at breakfast and lunch in which panel speakers shared tables with just a few students and had more specific conversations and Q&A time. I attended the breakfast and had a lively discussion with students from Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and others. They wanted to discuss the future of the pro-life movement if SCOTUS overturns Roe, ideas about how to vote in a pro-life context, where SPL stands on contraception and IVF, advocacy in a campus context, and plenty of other topics. It was great speaking with people who were so engaged.
After breakfast the panel discussion began. The pro-life feminism panel brought together a group of women with very diverse experiences in pro-life work, including:
- Karina Breceda, New Wave Feminists – Karina spoke about the work she and NWF are doing at the Texas-Mexico border to help pregnant migrant women and their children. As she tried to address immense needs in this community in the last several years, she saw Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights organizations offering material aid while no major pro-life orgs were to be found. Karina and New Wave Feminists are working to fill this gap and are currently fundraising to build a women’s shelter/pregnancy resource center in Juárez.
- Michele Sterlace-Accorsi, Feminists Choosing Life of New York – Michele talked about her background as a homeless teenager who eventually earned her GED, attended junior college, then NYU, and went on to get a law degree. Now she focuses on decreasing abortion particularly by addressing issues of poverty and seeking public policy solutions to give women in need more support.
- Arina Grossu, Areté Global Consulting – Arina described her early years of pro-life activism, including a formative encounter outside an abortion clinic where a father shoved teenage Arina out of the way as he ushered his crying teenage daughter into the facility despite the daughter’s protests. Many years and several degrees later, Arina has given lectures on how the issues of abortion, sex trafficking, and pornography intersect, and she has recently started her own consulting firm to help pro-life groups with communication, partnerships, and other policy.
- Mary Fiorito, Ethics and Public Policy Center – An attorney, Mary has worked on pro-life issues especially in Chicago but also in Washington DC for many years. She discussed a wide array of work but gave the recent example of advocating against Illinois’ repeal of a parental notification law. Mary emphasized that this was not a parental consent law (where the parent must give permission for the abortion), but a parental notification law (where a parent must be notified the abortion is happening). She described the sex trafficking victims who testified to Illinois lawmakers about how their predators would take them for abortions in states that did not require parental notification, and if any of those facilities had notified their parents their trauma would have been shorter lived. Unfortunately Illinois still chose to repeal parental notification.
- Terrisa Bukovinac, Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising – Terrisa focused on the connection between abortion industry funding and the Democratic Party and the importance of direct nonviolent action to disrupt that connection. She explained the activist techniques and philosophies she learned through her entry into activism in San Francisco within the animal rights movement and emphasized the importance of not only dialogue but also action.
- and me (Monica Snyder, Secular Pro-Life) – I mentioned some of the polls and research demonstrating the abortion debate is not actually a very gendered debate (women are as likely as men to oppose abortion) and I also touched on some of the research that leads me to believe destigmatized abortion “on demand and without apology” significantly increases the pressure women feel to choose abortion if they conceive in anything less than ideal circumstances.
In addition to our brief bio introductions and comments about pro-life feminism, the students had a chance for some Q&A, which was attentive and thoughtful. I was enjoying it so much I think I could’ve continued the discussion for hours more, but it ended too soon. I hope they do a similar panel again next year.
National Pro-Life Summit
January 22, 2022, afternoon and early evening – While I was at the pro-life feminism panel, our steadfast volunteer, Nick (an agnostic) was tabling for us all morning at the National Pro-Life Summit. I joined him near lunch time and we worked the table together for the rest of the day and into early evening.
We spoke to so many people. Sometimes at conferences I get the vibe that the primarily Christian attendees are thrown off by our group and not sure if or how to talk to us, so we have started keeping candy (Starbursts and Dove chocolates) and imploring people to take some of it, and it has made a surprisingly large difference, lol. They also seem put at ease when they realize I’m pregnant, as if it makes me relatable. In any case, we heard from many different walks of life, including:
- A 19-year-old atheist from Toronto who thanked us for being there, because it made her feel less lonely.
- A Catholic priest who asked a bit about our religious (secular) leanings, and ended the convo saying “Well if I’m right, I’ll see you in heaven, and if I’m wrong, it won’t matter!” I laughed pretty hard.
- A grandmother who lost her 7-year-old grandson several years ago, and that experience was a major factor in her and her husband starting a local pro-life radio station.
- A woman who had four abortions before becoming pro-life, and now works for LoveLine getting resources to other pregnant women.
There were many others, from all over the country with all kinds of backgrounds. I was particularly struck by how many people come into pro-life work because of deeply personal and often difficult life experiences. The pro-choice side sometimes suggests we are pro-life because we lead easy, privileged lives and haven’t had to experience the complicated reality of real struggle. I have not found that to be the case at all. In fact often it’s trauma that leads people to not only “be” pro-life but get involved in pro-life activism.
Anyway. We gave away countless informational brochures, stickers, pens, and of course, candy. Also got people to take some of the signs pictured above because I didn’t want to fly home with all of them. (We saved a few for future events.)
Overall the weekend was exhausting but incredibly productive. I’m particularly grateful to Nick for helping me with marching, tabling, moving supplies around, tag teaming the work in general. I would have really struggled to do it without him. We are very appreciative of our volunteers. If you’re interested in getting more involved, we list some ideas here. And thank you to our donors – your funds helped send us to DC in the first place, assisting us with flights, hotels, printed materials, Starbursts, and so much else. If you like the work we’re doing, there are multiple ways to donate here.