Flag for life
Grassroots pro-lifers push for a universal flag, but it may take time to gain traction
The LGBT movement first flew its iconic rainbow flag in June 1978, nine years after the Stonewall riots in New York City and eight years after the first gay rights march. Less than a decade after the inception of Black Lives Matter in 2013, that movement has several flags, but one stands out: Its black and white text nods to the rap and hip-hop music of black artists through resemblance to the Straight Outta Compton logo and the “Parental Advisory” stamp that appears on music albums containing explicit content.
The pro-life movement, meanwhile, has been around since before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. But more than 50 years after the National Right to Life Committee started in the late 1960s, there is no universal pro-life flag. Pro-lifers recently organized a grassroots contest for a flag design and announced the winner this past weekend. The design has the potential to become a standard for the movement, but it might need more time to catch on.
Will McFadden remembers seeing a broad array of symbols at his first March for Life in 2017: Catholic schools’ bright reds, the classic “I am the pro-life generation” signs from Students for Life, the blue and white logo of Democrats for Life, and others. He remembers thinking, “Yeah, this is cool that we’re a big, diverse, eclectic group. But we don’t have any unifying symbol.”
A couple of years later, McFadden made a website and started contacting pro-life groups across the United States and internationally, including Students for Life, March for Life, and Focus on the Family. He gathered a team of professional and amateur designers and partnered with pro-life organizations to narrow it down to a few finalists. An open vote and runoff vote online this month determined the winner: a flag with pink and blue baby feet encircled by hands with a pink and blue stripe on a white background.
Leading up to the vote, the website solicited “simple, symbolic, and recognizable” designs and pointed participants toward the short booklet Good Flag, Bad Flag, compiled by North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) secretary Ted Kaye. As a vexillologist, Kaye consults with cities on flag redesign efforts and has edited hundreds of works on the subject for NAVA’s scholarly journal. His booklet outlines five basic flag design guidelines: simplicity, meaningful symbolism, two to three colors, no lettering or seals, and avoiding duplicating other flags while still making connections to other designs.
“‘Good’ means a flag that can meet its purpose, and the purpose of a flag usually is to distinguish and represent a person, place, or thing as seen on a piece of cloth at a distance while it’s flapping in the wind and seen from both sides,” said Kaye, who is not pro-life himself.
The flag that won was not Kaye’s top pick. He preferred the simplicity of “Flag B,” a blue and red flag with an abstract white heart. But he said Flag F’s baby feet were probably the best symbol if pro-lifers want outsiders to identify the flag quickly. As the pro-life flag website notes, a 1979 symposium in Ireland designated baby feet the “international pro-life symbol.” Kaye also said the winner had the best design ideas and the most potential: “There’s a great flag trying to get out of that design.”
Now that voters have selected a winner, McFadden and his team will promote the final design so more people will recognize the flag as a pro-life symbol. But that might be an uphill battle for the same reason that pro-lifers don’t have a universal flag after all these years: They’re busy.
Despite the high visibility of groups like Students for Life, March for Life, and Focus on the Family, most of the groups that partnered on the project were local organizations or less prominent national groups. The project’s website boasts a reach of more than 3 million thanks to its partners, but the open and runoff competitions combined only netted 5,000 votes.
Some groups McFadden and his team invited declined to partner with the project. “I don’t know if we found anyone that said a pro-life flag is a bad idea, it was more just like, ‘We have other things that we’re trying to focus on, and we can’t be a part of this at this time.’ And that’s fine and understandable,” McFadden said.
Students for Life and Focus on the Family, prominent pro-life national groups, both said the same busyness probably kept a flag from emerging in the past several decades. “I think it’s one of those projects that people like,” said Kristi Hamrick with Students for Life. “But, you know, we all get busy.” March for Life, who also partnered on the project, declined to comment due to a busy schedule.
But maybe that busyness is another reason why a universal pro-life flag is a good idea. Paul Batura, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, said he saw no drawbacks to the effort: “It’s such a noisy busy world, and if you can do anything to get someone’s attention in a good way, in a positive way, I think that’s a good thing.”
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