The National 2020 March for Life was a mixture of successes and failures demanding standards be developed to maintain the moral high ground. Among its successes was the visibly bi-partisan stage with elected Democrats and Republicans speaking to the audience, the first time in history a sitting U.S. President addressed the March setting a new bar in the abortion wars and dwarfing in attendance the so-called “Women’s March,” which three years after its inception only turned out a mere 10,000, compared to the tens of thousands that rallied for life. It’s failures, however, were equally problematic, including the continued inclusion of abortionists, giving them a platform to enrich themselves, and worse allowing the current misguided strain of Pro-Life Feminism to continue to pull focus away from the real victims, the unborn babies, in favor of their mothers.
These issues would most likely not have happened at all were the late Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life, still in control, but since her death, Jeanne Mancini has become the President of the March for Life. In many respects, this is a continuation of the 2019 National March for Life’s successes and failures.
In 2019, the March theme was Pro-Life is Pro-Science and one would expect the stage to be flooded with OBGYN’s, Midwives, Fertility Specialists, Pre-Natal Yoga Instructors, Delivery Nurses, Birth Right volunteers, Free Birthers, Doulas, or people who actually are involved in the science of new life. It wasn’t. Instead, Mancini invited several abortionists and Ben Shapiro to join elected American officials on stage. This was a disappointing waste of a national opportunity to both engage the actual medical/pregnancy/birth services community. The successes that year was the visibility of Congressman Dan Lipinski (D) and Louisiana Assemblywoman Katrina Jackson (D) at the rally, where Vice-President Michael Pence also dropped by, re-establishing American bi-partisan opposition to abortion in the national media.
Donald Trump’s appearance as the first sitting U.S. President was a coup for the Right to Life Movement, as has been his presidency. It was also strategically advantageous for himself by reminding pro-life voters they have something to protect at the polls in November and that no matter who the Democrat Nominee is, they have chosen to offer American voters nothing – AGAIN. Normal concern that once he has won re-election, Trump may no longer have any use for the Right to Life Movement, are further calmed thanks to Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment, ensuring that Trump must continually be campaigning for electoral support until 2024 to remain President. On the other hand, the attendance of Louisiana First Lady Donna Edwards and return of now state Senator Katrina Jackson, who saw re-election with Governor John Bel Edwards after successfully passing a law banning abortion, was an indicator of the future. It also paves the way for Governor John Bel Edwards or Senator Katrina Jackson to run for the Democrat Nomination in 2024 and gives them a badly needed connection to the grassroots. Simultaneously it pressures the Republican Party “the Party of life” to take action now if they want to keep winning elections.
The visibility of Pro-Life Feminism and Abby Johnsons’s media presence remains a major problem with the current incarnation of the National March for Life.
During the 1970s Women’s Liberation Movement schism over abortion, Pro-Life Feminism emerged as its own movement. It started when members of the National Organization for Women walked out of the NOW Convention in 1967, after the organization supported abortion rights, and formed the Women’s Equality Action League. Later when NOW began purging pro-life members, Feminists for Life of America was formed in 1972. Pro-Life Feminists were Pro-ERA, Pro-Life supporting both the Equal Rights Amendment and the Human Life Amendment. They were also actually Pro-Life in their defense of the unborn.
Graciela Olivarez, Cofounder of the National Organization for Women and Carter Administration Director of Community Services:
“To talk about the “wanted” and the “unwanted child smacks too much of bigotry and prejudice. Many of us have experienced the sting of being “unwanted” by certain segments of our society. Blacks were “wanted” when they could be kept in slavery. When that ceased, blacks became “unwanted” — in white suburbia, in white schools, in employment. Mexican-Americans (Chicano) farm laborers were “wanted” when they could be exploited by agribusiness. Every individual has his/her rights, not the least of which is the r right to life, whether born or unborn. Those with power in our society cannot be allowed to “want” and “unwant” people at will.”
Daphne Clair de Jong, Romance Novelist and Feminists for Life of New Zealand President wrote:
“That a woman or a doctor does not perceive a fetus or embryo as a human is not sufficient reason to put abortion outside the context of morality and law. Most people find babies more attractive than embryos, as most of us prefer kittens to cats, and as Hitler found Aryans more attractive than Jews. But to define humanity on the basis of one’s emotional response is to rational prejudice. To allow any person or group to define that certain human beings are to be regarded as less than fully human is to construct a basis for discrimination and eventual destruction . . . Women who will not accept that a woman’s value be measured by how far some man wants her body or needs her services, now demand that the unborn be judged by the same standard — to be allowed to live or die on one criterion, its sentimental value to its mother.”
But today’s Pro-Life Feminists, are not that interested in talking about human rights of the unborn, or about the unborn at all. During the mid-1990’s Serrin Foster became President of FFLA and Marjarie Dannenfelser took over the Susan B. Anthony List. Dannenfelser turned the SBAList from a non-partisan Pro-Life PAC for Women in Office, into another arm of the Republican Party, including decimating the ranks of Pro-Life Democrats in Congress. Further,Dannenfelser angrily denounced the idea that a woman should be punished by the law for having an elective abortion, after Trump’s comments in 2016. Feminists for Life of America’s website sidesteps the issue in its FAQ, preferring to blame everyone except “the woman” who makes the decision to murder, operating off Executive Director Serrin Foster’s talking point “abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women. Women deserve better than abortion,” and blaming society for failing women.
The problem with this is that it places sex privilege above the of law and human rights in general. Would either of these women have lobbied for Charles Manson, a man most certainly a victim of a society that failed to intervene in his horror story childhood, to be released from prison during his lifetime? The issue of punishing women for abortion is touchy, primarily because it is a crime committed by young women between fifteen to twenty-five. While nobody wants to see girls incarcerated, the vicious statements from women who have had abortions, including the “Shout Your Abortion” campaign, is a clear and present reminder on the danger of not holding murderers accountable. Michelle Williams dedicated her Golden Globe to the right to have an abortion, no word of the baby she murdered to get to that point in her career. Pro-Life Feminists ignore the fact abortion rights movement gained public steam not just from Roe v. Wade, but from 1972 when it featured an article “We Had Abortions” with the signatures of 53 women declaring they killed their baby for their careers and didn’t regret it. The appropriate response to “Our Bodies, Our Selves” would have been “Our Bodies, Our Responsibility.”
In many respects, Serrin Foster and Marjorie Dannenfelser are in the same camp as the National Organization for Women who rushed to protect Andrea Yates after she drowned her five children in the bathtub under the rational “one of our feminist beliefs is to be there for other women” and blame American Patriarchy. While Yates was clearly psychotic and perhaps deserved institutionalization over death, the insistence of feminism to focus on her, not the real victims sets a dangerous precedent. This isn’t exactly new for feminism either. In 1868, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Women’s Rights Movement rushed to protect Hester Vaughns who was found guilty of first-degree murder of her newborn baby.
Feminists, Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, are scapegoating for crimes mothers commit against their own babies in utero. No matter how much the rest of the world reforms, Pro-Life Feminism in its current incarnation remains an anti-life philosophy in so far that it seeks to excuse, rather than challenge, crimes committed by mothers. And it is dangerous. A snapshot view of statistics shows mothers are more likely to commit domestic violence and homicide against children than fathers. At least in the early days of Pro-Life Feminism gave attention to the link between abortion and child abuse and recognize moms are guilty of domestic violence. In 1983, Grace Dermody published in FFLA’s then magazine Sisterlife an interview “Trial and Trauma in New Jersey” about Renee Nicely who beat to death her three-year-old son Shawn Nicely, after three years of horrific abuse. A more grisly account in The New York Times of his abuse indicates that despite being only twenty-one, she would have deserved the death penalty had the jury applied it.
The real horror was that society didn’t fail the mom, they failed three-year-old Shawn by not putting his violent, abusive mother in a jail cell ASAP. To the contrary, one neighbor who lived across the street took the little boy into her home and asked for custody, which Renee Nicely initially agreed with, taking “the problem” off of her hands. Nicely backed out when she realized her unfitness as a mother might become known and she’d rightfully lose her other children. Nicely forced the neighbor to return Shawn to her care. Within four months he was dead. (“When Parents Kill, The Story of Shawn, 3” – The New York Times, Samuel G. Freedman, Sept 2, 1983, https://www.nytimes.com/1983/09/02/nyregion/when-parents-kill-the-story-of-shawn-3.html)
Pro-Life Feminism cannot continue to misrepresent itself as pro-life as long as it pulls focus away from the real victims and places sex privilege above human rights, selectively prosecuting crimes and only supporting justice when it doesn’t involve holding a woman accountable. For organizations like Feminists for Life of America and the Susan B. Anthony List to not take a stance favoring holding women accountable while preaching “support the mother” is to do the same thing that Shawn’s neighbors did — which was absolutely nothing while a three-year-old was tortured and then callously murdered.
And it has set a dangerous trend where abortionists are now eagerly shoving the mothers out of the way to steal center spotlight.
ABORTIONISTS DESERVE BETTER?
Worse, Foster publicly defended abortionists in 2019 while promoting former abortion worker Abby Johnson’s movie about her career as a star employee at Planned Parenthood. In an interview with The Washington Examiner, Foster was quoted as saying-
“If you support abortion as a right or a choice, this is a must-see film. … Women deserve better — including abortion workers. You can’t unsee this.” (‘Unplanned’ can change the debate on abortion, Katie Anderson, March 25, 2019 11:12 AM, The Washington Examiner https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/unplanned-can-change-the-debate-on-abortion)
Johnson herself was one of the former abortionists on stage at the 2019, March for Life, where she was given a platform for her “ministry” ‘And Then There Were None’ which financially supports abortion workers to job transition out of the abortion industry and the movie release of “Unplanned” based off her memoir. This year, Johnson took it even further in a Fox News Opinion Piece, demanding that the “national fight in Washington D.C.” stop talking about the murder of the unborn, human rights or justice and replace it with a focus on “women.” (https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/march-for-life-2020-abortion-abby-johnson)
The fact that Jeanne Mancini gave Johnson a platform in the first place is itself troubling. Apart from her dubious claims to not know what abortion really entailed till she assisted with an ultrasound abortion, despite having had two herself, and Texas Monthly exposing Johnson as a liar (https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/fact-fiction-pro-life-celebrity-abby-johnson-unplanned/), Johnson undermines the entire moral foundation of the right to life movement. Johnson’s entire story depends on the fact that someone, who again had undergone two abortion procedures herself, could really be ignorant of abortion in the twenty-first century. But the ultrasound wasn’t invented in 2007 and the narrative of Johnson’s story was already pushed in the 1980s with the documentary “Silent Scream” that showed a real abortion, not a dramatized CGI. The fact that feminists in the 1800s, before ultrasound referred to abortion as “child murder” further undermines Johnson’s attempts to hide behind false consciousness.
On an ethical level, Johnson’s presence in the Right to Life Movement is un-conscionable. By all accounts, Johnson has never had a real job or a career. She worked at Planned Parenthood and claims responsibility for facilitating nearly 20,000 abortions as a clinic director. Since leaving, she has made a career of lecturing on her career as a murderer charging $15,000 an appearance, not to mention her book and movie deal. In the course of her “leadership” in the pro-life movement since 2010, Johnson has used her position to castigate Pro-Lifers for calling murderers murderers and attempting to re-write the narrative with abortionists as co-victims. In 2013 Johnson penned an Op-Ed for lifesite.com defending Kermit Gosnell and whining about how pro-lifers hurt her feelings by referring to people like her and Gosnell as “murderers,” and then speaking of her personal hardship and sacrifice of taking a major pay cut working for the Pro-Life Movement, in comparison to what she was paid at Planned Parenthood.
Johnson has also taken rhetorical swipes at protestors outside of abortion clinics for not being conscious about the feelings of abortion workers. In other words, the Pro-Life Movement should completely disassociate from the Summer of Mercy, when real Right to Life activists put their bodies on the line for human rights. In her rhetorical assault and hijacking the Pro-Life Movement, Johnson’s favorite tactic has been manipulating people through their religion and moral equivalence, comparing herself to the Apostle Paul and telling her critics they are just as guilty as she is because they murdered her in their heart. Her murders are referred to as “sinning” which has a softer cultural connotation comparable to pre-marital sex, as opposed to murder. In the process, Johnson is doing damage to the ethical foundation of the Right to Life Movement.
Reformed killers don’t broadcast their stories about harming innocent defenseless human beings and they certainly don’t expect to financially profit from it. They also make an effort to make an amends for their crimes. While abortion may be legal in Texas, Johnson has gone as far as claiming to have committed a number of atrocities well outside the law including criminal negligence. In her memoirs and interviews, Johnson described running her clinic like a back alley butchery using dawn dish soap to “sanitize” and reused contaminated surgical instruments on women. In a Tweet last year, Johnson stated that in her capacity as a Director of Planned Parenthood
“Um, I ran an abortion clinic for 8 years. I referred healthy women with babies for 3rd-trimester abortions regularly. You see, I AM an expert in abortion and abortion law. You are simply a pediatrician.”
But Texas banned abortions after 24 weeks in 2005, meaning that Johnson was facilitating illegal abortions. Johnson could set an example to other abortionists by turning herself in for the crimes she committed and also testifying against her accomplices. Instead she has demanded money for her “ministry” because millions of Americans who have earned a living without resorting to murder should not expect murderers to just give up their practice — serial killers have bills to pay and a lifestyle to afford. Johnson’s website specifically states they provide abortionists quitting their jobs with financial aid :
Once we have fully vetted a worker and received proof of their resignation from the clinic, ATTWN provides limited transitional income. It is easy to tell someone that they should quit their job. Please remember, these workers have families and bills. They want out. Transitional financial assistance is key in helping them take that first step.”
Johnson further promises to help them escape prosecution for their crimes.
Many times, workers have been a part of or witnessed illegal activity at their clinics. We have attorneys in all 50 states who are willing to help these workers bring these facts to light and offer them legal protection and representation. When appropriate, these lawyers also use the testimony of the workers to close down abortion facilities.”
The fact that Jeanne Mancini and the National March for Life, or for that matter, other “pro-life” groups gave Johnson and her organization the time of day severely undermines their credibility. These “workers” are murderers and the worst kind — performing abortions for cash and lifestyle. The sheer narcissism and entitlement of being allowed to murder for money and then demanding transitional aid, legal immunity for crimes and employment (something that many innocent Americans were forced to do without during the 2008 recession) is a strong indicator of the lack of any sort of reform and a reminder of why we have prisons in the first place. The past twenty years American’s struggle with low minimum wage, minor criminal records or worse parking tickets and delinquent taxes and unemployment — yet millions of Americans support their families and bills (including myself) without resorting to becoming a Jack the Ripper.
It also brings up the real question that everyone should be asking — if there is no more money flowing would Johnson simply return to helping kill babies and blaming the Pro-Life Movement for forcing her back into the abortion industry? After all, Johnson has a family and bills, if the pro-life movement ever cut her off financially would she still be “pro-life?”
NEED FOR STANDARDS
The Pro-Life Movement is a political movement that suffers from the same issues most political movements that don’t accomplish their goals in a short amount of time do — slowly turn into a social club as evident from the fact that the National March for Life bragged it was its 47th year. This is nothing to celebrate. It’s an indicator that the Pro-Life Movement has failed to accomplish its mission for nearly half a century.
It’s also not unusual.
In 1912, the Women’s Suffrage Movement was one of the largest political movements in America, celebrated and respectable. Its leaders were icons, meeting with the President and the National American Women’s Suffrage Association had members all over the country. It also resorted to reprehensible practices of excluding black women and non-socially conservative women. It also failed to make any headway until Alice Paul formed the National Woman’s Party in 1913 and resurrected the Federal Suffrage Amendment, winning the vote seven years later.
Human rights violators trying to take over and corrupt the movements and organizations formed to police and bring them to justice is also not unusual.
In 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, where she pushed back against the U.S.S.R.’s attempts to hijack terminology and corrupt the organization to make Soviet Socialism with all its evils acceptable. Fifty-five years later Jeane Kirkpatrick headed the delegation and declared that the failure of the U.N. to establish standards and perquisites for membership had allowed the world’s worst human rights abusers to sit on the Commission and use it as a propaganda weapon against countries that did institutionalize respect for human rights. In 2018, the United States left the Commissions successor UN Human Rights Council under Nikki Haley’s leadership due to a failure to repair. The U.S. Delegation at the United Nations as a founding member would not stand for it and refused to continue legitimizing this trend.
The same applies to the National March for Life.
If the National March for Life wants to retain its credibility it has some serious repair work to do — especially making amends to millions of Americans who have not, do not and will not resort to killing a baby to resolve their problems or make a living. Giving Visibility to Republicans and Democrats, who support the right to life, has been a major accomplishment. It recognizes that the right to life, human rights and due process are political universals, not the philosophy of a single political party. It further recognizes that American citizens of all creeds, religions and political affiliation recognize that killing a baby is a matter of public morality, that it is wrong and that Government is obliged to establish the same legal protections for the unborn that it does for all human beings, namely the right to not be deprived of one’s life without due process and compelling cause. It paves the way for a Pro-Life Democrat to run for President in 2024 after Donald Trump leaves office. But allowing focus to be pulled away from the real victims, watering down the reality of what is happening and worse giving a platform to baby killers cannot continue, especially at such a vital moment in American history.