They’re young. They’re articulate. They’re well-organized. And it has taken only a spark to set them ablaze: The explosive Planned Parenthood “baby parts” scandal has ignited a raging fire in the pro-life women’s movement.
“Women Betrayed” rallies in 65 cities across the United States July 28 drew more than 12,000 Americans, mostly young women, demanding that Planned Parenthood be stripped of the $528 million in funding the behemoth organization receives annually from taxpayer dollars.
“The face of the pro-life movement is a young woman’s face,” observed Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, whose organization came up with the idea for the rallies. “These rallies were overwhelmingly run by young women. This is counter to what Planned Parenthood and NARAL would like you to believe. They want you to think the pro-life movement is run by old men and all young women are really on their side. That’s simply not true.”
Although many journalists persist in reporting on the “pro-life movement” and the “women’s movement” as two separate, mutually exclusive and even conflicting social forces, George Mason University law professor Helen Alvaré suggested this notion is decades out of date.
“Any characterization of the ‘women’s movement’ which understands it to be opposite or exclusive of the pro-life movement is now anachronistic. … It’s a thing of the 1970s,” declared Alvaré, president of Women Speak for Themselves. “Since the late 1960s — but exploding in more recent decades — women have been leading the charge in the pro-life movement, and doing so precisely in the name of the human rights of women and of the unborn … together, never opposed.”
Mainstream Media Attention
Mainstream media attention for the rallies was intense. In Washington, Fox and MSNBC live-streamed the rally, and three presidential candidates — Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and Dr. Ben Carson — spoke before an estimated crowd of 400 people.
“We had over 300 local and national stories about the rallies,” Hawkins reported. “Between print and TV coverage, more than 300 million read or saw our messages.”
Why do women feel so betrayed?
“For decades,” Hawkins replied, “women have been told, ‘You have to have an abortion in order to continue your education or to be successful in your career, that [the baby in the womb] is nothing but a ‘blob of tissue’ and that an abortion is nothing — it’s like having your appendix out or a tooth removed. And now, women find out they’re selling parts of these babies for their organs. They’re fully developed human beings. So over and over again, the abortion lobby and Planned Parenthood have lied to and betrayed women.”
Proclaiming the July event the pro-life movement’s “biggest day, ever,” Hawkins said in a press release sent out by email, “I’ve never been more proud of our team and our grassroots leaders at Students for Life. That our small staff of 24 and courageous volunteers all over the country could pull off the largest media event in the history of the pro-life movement, it just shows how the Holy Spirit is working in our movement.”
Two babies — one in Houston, the other in Pittsburgh — were saved from abortion as a direct result of the rallies, Hawkins said.
Speaking to the D.C. pro-life advocates, Cruz denounced the videos as “nothing short of horrifying.” He called for the U.S. Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation immediately to determine whether Planned Parenthood nationally is “a criminal organization breaking the law.”
He also called upon state and local law enforcement to open criminal investigations on a local level and on the U.S. Congress to hold hearings to determine whether Planned Parenthood is violating federal criminal law.
Bridget Mullen, 31, who attended the D.C. rally, was struck by the message that Planned Parenthood’s push for abortion as the ultimate expression of women’s freedom has been a betrayal of women’s identity, freedom and self-expression.
“I had known that intellectually for a while,” she said, but “today it really soaked in and made me think about it even more.”
Mullen was also impressed at the rally by Carson’s remarks. The message she heard from him was that “we’re at that point in the pro-life movement where our voices are strong enough to be heard and to make a difference. I think that’s very encouraging for everyone in the pro-life movement to be reminded of, because it’s easy to get pulled down because you think you’re not making that much progress compared to the ‘Big Voice’ and all the money that Planned Parenthood has.”
In St. Louis, 300 protesters gathered before the only Planned Parenthood abortion facility left operating in Missouri. “The crowd was outraged” over the selling of baby body parts, said Reagan Nielsen, 23, who organized the rally there. “People are fed up. They’re sick of donating to Planned Parenthood.”
Nielsen said the Center for Medical Progress’ videos have caused the abortion issue to break out of the political arena and to go beyond politics into the moral realm. “It’s not really a pro-choice, pro-life argument anymore. This is just barbaric. Pro-choice people aren’t for selling baby body parts either.”
Hours after the rally in Sacramento, Calif., Emily Wilkinson, 27, was still on fire. “Although we’re calling attention to something very morbid and awful, it’s encouraging for people to realize this is truly a historic moment,” she said. “I think this is a complete game changer.”
“Oh, my gosh, the rally was just a huge success in St. Paul [Minn.],” said Angela Erickson, 23, who organized the event even though she’s 38-weeks pregnant with her first child. “We had over 800 people. Everyone was crammed together. It was crazy.”
Erickson noted that although abortion rates are decreasing nationwide, they’re going up in Minnesota. Yet “even in Minnesota we have huge support for defunding the abortion Goliath and for them to be investigated and prosecuted.”
Now that the “Women Betrayed” rally is over, what’s next? “Now that it’s over, I want to say that it’s not over,” said Michele Hendrickson, Capitol-area coordinator for the event. “We want to build on this momentum and continue to call on Congress and on all the presidential candidates to promise to defund Planned Parenthood.”
“We still have a long road ahead of us before we can defund Planned Parenthood, as President Obama is still vowing to veto any laws that take away their federal funds,” Hawkins said. “We must keep the pressure up.”
Jamie Jeffries, 24, a songwriter who organized the rally in Nashville, Tenn., passionately said she’s ready to do whatever it takes. “This is definitely a new beginning,” she said joyfully. “I’m personally super-motivated. We’re in this for the long haul.”
Although the pro-life women’s movement has long been gaining momentum, Hawkins suggested many reporters fail to see truth before their very eyes. “We have 900 groups on school campuses, the majority of them led by young women.”
Yet when an ABC reporter, who obviously favored abortion, recently followed her around campus for a story, the question the reporter kept coming back to was: “There are all these intelligent, young, attractive women in your group. Where did they all come from?”
“That was the biggest thing that struck her about the pro-life movement,” Hawkins recalled, “that it has this young woman’s face.”
Building on the Past
The pro-life women’s movement has been here and visible for a very long time, Hawkins added. “It’s just not being talked about.”
March for Life’s president, Jeanne Mancini, agreed. “The early feminists like Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul were actually pro-life,” she said. “However, the modern feminist movement and Planned Parenthood have tried to hide this fact by painting the false picture that being supportive of women’s rights equals support for abortion.”
Instead of being surprised that so many strong, independent young women today are pro-life, Mancini said, “People need to wake up to the fact that being pro-life and pro-woman go hand-in-hand. To separate a healthy respect and understanding of the inherent dignity and respect for woman from the innate capacity for women to bear children creates a false tension and dichotomy.”
Sue Ellen Browder is the author of
She writes from Ukiah, California.