Pro-Life Women Make History Too

My Heroes Are Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony and Judie Brown

Judie Brown
Judie Brown (photo: Photo Provided)

Yes, Judie Brown — a woman who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Tubman and Anthony as we celebrate Women’s History Month. I’ll explain.

Harriet Tubman saved lives by sheltering runaway slaves. Susan B. Anthony helped protect women and taught others to understand their value. Judie Brown has not only championed the defense of women, but she has helped save thousands of lives.

Judie is the president and cofounder of American Life League — a Catholic, pro-life organization that works to build a culture of life by teaching about the beauty and dignity of all people, born and preborn. Aside from my mother, I can’t think of a woman who has had a greater impact on my life than Judie. I am blessed to have known her for more than 40 years and to have worked with her for the past 14.

I met Judie Brown when I was just 7 years old. One of her daughters and I were in the same class in our small Catholic grade school. This started a lifetime of friendship, which meant numerous sleepovers and a lot of time at the Brown house.

During that time, I was able to get to know this woman who seemed larger than life to me. I knew that she had helped start a pro-life organization and that she worked diligently to save the lives of preborn babies. I knew that she spoke to groups, that she traveled frequently to speak, that she was on radio and TV, and that she educated people about the humanity of the preborn baby. And I witnessed her passion firsthand. It was an infectious passion that would one day lead me to write and edit at American Life League.

While the media shines its spotlight on women like Barbara Walters, Melinda Gates and Oprah Winfrey, I prefer to encourage people to pay homage to the women who truly make a difference and who give voice to the voiceless. And that is exactly what Judie does. In fact, she was once a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show (as it was then called) doing just that. Oprah — one of the most influential women in the country and who has interviewed presidents, politicians, peacemakers, and Hollywood stars — listened as Judie eloquently spoke about abortion and beautifully articulated why all preborn babies deserve protection. 

Just as Nelson Mandela once spoke to Oprah about human dignity and his imprisonment, Judie spoke to Oprah of the oppression that both women and preborn babies face and of the need to emancipate women from the scourge of abortion. I was floored.

Judie’s indefatigable defense of all preborn babies — without exception — helped instill that same passion in me.

As I grew and got married, memories of Judie and all her work flooded my mind, especially during my pregnancies. I recalled her strength, her determination, and her profound love for babies. And when I gazed in awe at my babies on the sonogram, something clicked. While I had always abhorred abortion, I finally truly understood what Judie was fighting for all those years. She was fighting for that tiny, beautiful human being who isn’t yet able to speak for himself. And as I looked at the sonogram, I remember thinking to myself, “How can anyone deny this is a human being?” 

I have watched Judie tirelessly write books and articles, speak to groups, mentor staff, start a pro-life education program for kids in pre-K through high school, fight for the Catholic Church, pray and more. But most of all, I have watched her love.

Judie Brown has taught me how to speak lovingly to women who are scared, how to provide resources to women who have nowhere to go, how to encourage women who feel they can’t be a good mom, and how to educate the next generation. Most of all, she has taught me that, even in today’s culture, women can have babies and the career they want. Neither is mutually exclusive.

To this day, I honestly couldn’t tell you how tall Judie actually is, but to me, she always was and always will be a giant. Women like Judie Brown give strength where it is needed, education where it is lacking, and love where it has disappeared. Like Tubman and Anthony, Judie Brown is truly a hero who proves that one woman can make a difference.

Susan Ciancio is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and has worked as a writer and editor for nearly 19 years; 13 of those years have been in the pro-life sector. Currently, she is the editor of American Life League’s Celebrate Life Magazine — the nation’s premier Catholic pro-life magazine. She is also the executive editor of ALL’s Culture of Life Studies Program — a pre-K-12 Catholic pro-life education organization.