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Build coalitions to protect life

Unusual allies show courage in pro-life activism

Lauren Handy of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising speaks at a news conference in Washington, D.C., on April 05, 2022. Getty Images/Photo by Anna Moneymaker

Build coalitions to protect life
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Three pro-life activists have been found guilty in a court of law. Last month, five of their friends were convicted of the same crime. They face potential penalties of 11 years each in jail and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. What exactly was their crime? Trying to save babies.

As Ericka Andersen reported, the Biden Justice Department perpetrated a shameless miscarriage of justice in broad daylight, throwing out evidence of real criminal activity at the Washington, D.C., abortion business where the activists staged their 2020 protest. Even aside from the fact that every abortion is an assault on innocent life, abortionist Cesar Santangelo has admitted to letting live-born infants die on his table after a failed “procedure.” Today, Santangelo walks freely, while those who tried to save his victims are in custody until their next appeal. Officially, they’re convicted of violating the FACE (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) Act, as well as committing “conspiracy against rights.” In reality, all they did was protest at the facility. As one of their lawyers dryly commented in his closing argument, it was the sort of protest for which Martin Luther King Jr. has a federal holiday.

Some of the activists became part of the group known as PAAU—Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising. Some previously served time for a pink rose rescue (in which pro-lifers do outrageous things like hand out roses to pregnant mothers while begging them not to kill their babies). PAAU is a motley crew that defies easy labels in the culture wars. In addition to abortion, they protest capital punishment, animal cruelty, torture, and war. Some even identify as gay, trans, or “queer.” Some are atheists.

Pro-life voices have rallied around PAAU in solidarity against the Biden administration’s naked anti-life bias. But there are some conservatives who might look at their political track record and urge caution, or even a withholding of support. A 2021 opinion piece on LifeSite News doesn’t mince words in bluntly saying that LGBT activists shouldn’t be welcomed into the pro-life movement. Writer Matt Lamb argues that whether PAAU admits it or not, pro-life activism and LGBT activism are in irreconcilable tension. Accordingly, pro-lifers shouldn’t attempt to “coexist” with people who protest abortion while simultaneously advancing sexual progressivism. 

There’s a rather presumptuous air in this language of “welcoming” or not welcoming people into the pro-life movement. After all, who decides exactly who is “allowed” to protest abortion centers?

Lamb isn’t wrong to note the profound worldview incompatibilities inherent in PAAU’s unusual activism patterns. If an appeal makes it all the way up to SCOTUS, there would be a gentle irony in the fact that all the justices likely to view their case with sympathy were appointed by conservative presidents. Lamb is also right that pro-lifers shouldn’t pretend our other serious disagreements are irrelevant. We oppose “affirming” care for gender-dysphoric children on the same principle by which we oppose abortion—that doctors should not destroy children’s healthy bodies.

However, there’s a rather presumptuous air in this language of “welcoming” or not welcoming people into the pro-life movement. After all, who decides exactly who is “allowed” to protest abortion centers? Is there a committee? I appreciate any clear articulation of a consistent Christian conservatism. But the awkward fact remains that  pro-life progressives are currently facing prison for trying to save babies. I’m not saying that all Christian conservatives are duty-bound to join them to prove their own pro-life bona fides. I merely suggest that those who haven’t chosen to risk jail time for the cause of life should refrain from high-handed think-pieces about those who have.

The simple fact is that people don’t have to be Christians to perceive by conscience the truth of what abortion does. Yes, it’s true that pro-life activism does largely skew Christian, because it takes a special tough-mindedness to speak that truth in public against the stream of one’s own atheist subculture. But as the existence of organizations like Secular Pro-Life and PAAU attests, there are people who have that tough-mindedness.

The parable of the Good Samaritan may not be an exact analogue here, and it has certainly been misapplied to death in much progressive preaching. Nevertheless, these activists could all legitimately claim the title of “Good Samaritan” for their selfless acts of service on behalf of society’s most vulnerable. To the extent that they would like pro-life conservatives to compromise on other foundational truths about bodies, minds, and souls, we should oppose their agenda. But there’s no moral law decreeing that we should withhold our pro-life solidarity in an hour of dire need, after they have courageously risked more than we ever will.

And so, in defense of life, we stand with them.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that not all participants in the 2020 protest were progressives or members of what would become PAAU.

Bethel McGrew

Bethel has a doctorate in math and is a widely published freelance writer. Her work has appeared in First Things, National Review, The Spectator, and many other national and international outlets. Her Substack, Further Up, is one of the top paid newsletters in “Faith & Spirituality” on the platform. She has also contributed to two essay anthologies on Jordan Peterson. When not writing social criticism, she enjoys writing about literature, film, music, and history.


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