It's not often that the terms “hard-rock music” and “pro-life activism” are spoken in the same sentence—unless the topic of discussion is the lead singer of one of the world's biggest-selling bands.

Gary Cherone, whose soaring vocals stand out even against the earsplitting crunch of Van Halen, is turning his powerful voice to protect the unborn.

On Aug. 14, Cherone stood on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and read an open letter he penned in June.

“When is a woman not a woman?” said Cherone. “The answer is nonnegotiable: The ability to pursue happiness is contingent upon liberty—her liberty—and her freedom is solely dependent upon the mother of all human rights, the right of life.”

The letter was addressed to Eddie Vedder, lead singer of the rock group Pearl Jam and an outspoken supporter of the abortion-rights organization Rock for Choice.

The occasion for the reading was the arrival in Washington of a group of participants in the Crossroads Coast-to-Capitol Pro-Life Walk, which had just completed a three-month trek to spread their message. Additionally, Cherone received the American Life League's Courage Award.

Representing Rock for Life, an American Life League organization, Cherone challenged Vedder and others in the entertainment industry to consider redirecting their political energies.

Following the address, the usually reticent Cherone answered several questions for the Register.

Register: How do your band mates feel about your pro-life position?

Cherone: They support what I do. But this is my own view and I would leave it up to those guys. This is personal, but they support anything I do other than singing out of key. They wouldn't support that.

In your letter you speak a great deal about rights. Does your pro-life position arise primarily from a natural-rights or a religious sensibility?

Actually, it was important for me to not make it a political or religious letter. The letter was more philosophical and scientific. I wanted to go there because I thought I could reach an audience that had a common ground, regardless of what side of the fence you're sitting on. Anybody who is offended at the letter is offended at the truth. I said nothing in the letter that wasn't true.

Do you have a religious faith?

Yes, I'm a Messiah-believing Christian, nondenominational.

You must be aware that your stance clashes with the reckless lifestyle people expect from rock stars.

I've been doing this almost 20 years and I hate to break the news to the public, but that's more myth than anything.

What are your upcoming plans for supporting life?

Getting more involved with Rock for Life and speaking when I can. I was also invited to meet with the Pope next year. That would be pretty incredible.

Breaking Ranks

Bryan Kemper, founder of Rock for Life, says that Cherone has angered many in the rock community by breaking ranks over abortion. They're surprised, he says, that “one of their own” would defy their staunch position on the issue.

“But there are also those who wish to God they had the courage that Gary has,” says Kemper. “I think there are a lot of people in the rock community with a respect for life. I know that there are people whose lives are changing and I believe that, through something like what Gary's done, they will get the courage to stand up also.”

Read the full text of Cherone's Rock for Life letter at www.rockforlife.org, or by calling Steve Anborn at (540) 659-4171.

Matt Hisrich writes from Washington, D.C.