WASHINGTON — Celebrities exert a considerable amount of influence in American life today. Their support or opposition can make a big difference to any social crusade. Supermodels have spoken out recently against the use of animal fur, actors in favor of government funding for arts, rock stars against nuclear proliferation — and so on.
Now a small, but growing, number of celebrities have begun to step forward to proclaim their opposition to both abortion and the death penalty.
“The pro-choice people just took over the idea of feminism in the 1960s and said that you must end this child's life,” actress Margaret Colin told the Register in an exclusive interview. The true feminist heritage, she said, opposed abortion as a denial of femininity. Gone now, she said, is the feminist ideal of having “the right to bear your child and protect your child.”
Colin credits her mother's involvement in the pro-life movement for instilling in her a respect for all life.
Even though Hollywood is known for its support of abortion, she doesn't think she should be regarded as a saint just because she acknowledges the sanctity of life
“It's life. It's fundamental,” Colin told the Register. “This is just oxygen. This is reality. You should be born. You should be taken care of,” said the actress, who appeared in Three Men and a Baby and the sci-fi blockbuster, Independence Day.
Feminists for Life, a national women's pro-life organization with no religious affiliation, recently honored Colin and other female celebrities that they call “Remarkable Pro-Life Women” for defending human life against all forms of violence, including both abortion and the death penalty.
The actress Patricia Heaton was another woman recognized by the organization this year. Receiving awards is nothing new for Heaton. When she accepted an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series, she thanked “my mother for letting me out, because life is really amazing.”
Known as the mother on CBS's “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Heaton defended motherhood in a debate on the Oxygen network.
A doctor on the program had told the audience that the “morning after” pill would allow women “the opportunity — instead of having babies every year — they could actually do something with their lives.” To which Heaton, a mother of four, responded, “Having and raising children is doing something with your life! … And I have to say that having your kids is one of the greatest things you can do.”
But defending life can sometimes be very difficult says another honoree, Kate Mulgrew, star of the television series Star Trek: Voyager.
“I practiced my belief at great cost to myself,” the television actress told the American Feminist, a publication of Feminists for Life. Mulgrew had become pregnant at an early age and decided to place her baby girl for adoption. They were reunited two years ago.
‘Life is sacred to me on all levels. Abortion does not compute with my philosophy.’
She said that though “adoption or abortion almost always promises the mother a legacy of shame and regret, I have to be frank about my experience. I survived it.” She added, “women often don't believe that they can survive nine months of pregnancy and place the child with an adoptive family. Life is not always easy.”
But life should always be protected, she said.
“Life is sacred to me on all levels,” said the self-described liberal Democrat. “Abortion does not compute with my philosophy.” Neither does capital punishment, she added. “Execution as punishment is barbaric and unnecessary.”
Journalists can have as much power as movie stars and they can often be just as resistant to defending innocent human life.
But not columnists Michelle Malkin and Norah Vincent, two other recipients of this year's awards from Feminists for Life.
Born of Filipino immigrants, Malkin said that while working for the Seattle Times, she found few people who shared her views about protecting the unborn.
“I was the only outspoken pro-life [member] of the editorial board on that paper. Sometimes it's a little lonely,” Malkin told the Register. “But even in liberal Seattle there are people who want to hear the pro-life perspective.”
She now writes a twice-weekly column syndicated to newspapers around the country. And she still doesn't shy away from the life issue.
“That's the surprising thing for me. [My columns] don't get silenced,” said Malkin. “I get picked up by violently liberal editorial pages.”
Malkin stressed that concerned pro-lifers must adopt a consistent life ethic, which she said means opposing abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment.
“I think that ideological consistency is important,” she said. “I think it can persuade a lot of anti-death penalty liberals to second-guess their support for abortion.”
Norah Vincent is anything but your stereotypical pro-lifer. An avowed lesbian, she writes a bi-weekly column on higher education for the left-wing New York newspaper, the Village Voice.
Vincent has been critical of those who accept the women's movement's approval of abortion. “Second-wave feminists embraced the wrongheaded notion that for women to be equal to men, they had essentially to become men and erase all signs of womanhood, especially the biologically determinative ones,” she wrote in one of her columns.
Feminists for Life also honored two elected officials: Michigan State Rep. Patricia Lockwood and Minnesota State Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba. Both Democrats, they work on legislation that expresses their pro-life position. Lockwood sponsored a law to curb baby abandonment, while Otremba co-sponsored a Women's Right to Know bill.
Additional women honored by Feminists for Life this year include: professor and author Sidney Callahan, former Filipino president Corazon Aquino, Irish singer and politician Dana Rosemary Scallon, disabled rights activist Mary Jane Owen, pro-life activist Marion Syversen and attorney Rebecca Wasser Kiessling.
The Washington-based pro-life organization also plans to honor Remarkable Pro-Life Men.
Joshua Mercer writes from Washington.