Why Women Didn’t Need ‘Roe’ to Get Ahead: An Interview With the Head of Secular Pro-Life
Kelsey Hazzard, an attorney and the founder and president of the group Secular Pro-Life, is one of the signers of an amicus brief supporting Mississippi’s pro-life law.
WASHINGTON — This December, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Many legal experts say it presents the most momentous test yet of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. At issue is the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 2018 law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.
As with any high-profile Supreme Court case, dozens of amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs have been filed both in support of and in opposition to the Mississippi law.
Kelsey Hazzard, an attorney and the founder and president of the group Secular Pro-Life, is one of the signers of an amicus brief supporting Mississippi’s pro-life law. The brief argues that women’s “social, economic, and political opportunities” were already increasing before Roe, and that abortion is not necessary for women’s socioeconomic success
The following is a transcript of CNA’s interview with Hazzard. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell me about yourself. What is your personal and faith background? How did you come to the place where you are professionally?
I grew up attending a United Methodist church, which is officially a “pro-choice” denomination. Abortion was never discussed, from the pulpit or anywhere else. As a result, the pro-life position was not framed as “religious” for me. Once I was old enough to understand what abortion was, I came to the pro-life movement simply by applying my general values, e.g. sticking up for the “little guy.” When I left Christianity for unrelated reasons (it just stopped making sense to me), my pro-life position was unaffected because it was always secular.
Professionally, I am a lawyer in private practice; my pro-life advocacy is 100% volunteer. I earned my B.A. at the University of Miami and my J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law, and held leadership roles in the pro-life student organizations for each [university].
The amicus brief lays out an argument that, contrary to the Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion has not facilitated women’s advancement and, in fact, has hurt women. Can you walk me through the brief’s argument and evidence?
In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court said that even if Roe was wrong, it couldn’t correct its deadly error because American women had come to rely upon abortion for their professional advancement. This is the infamous “reliance interest.” And yet in the decades since Casey, abortion rates have plummeted dramatically while women have enjoyed ever-increasing gains in the workplace. Forget “correlation does not equal causation”—they don’t even have correlation!
As a professional woman myself, the fact that the highest court in the land attributes my success to the mass slaughter of preborn babies fills me with disgust. That is the polar opposite of my values, and I deserve credit for my own hard work.
How did it come about that you signed the amicus brief in this case?
One of Secular Pro-Life’s board members heard about the pro-life feminist brief in progress from another signatory, and we jumped on it!
Have you signed amicus briefs in similar cases in the past? If not, why was this case different for you?
This was my first opportunity to join an amicus brief.
Many are saying this case has a chance of overturning Roe v. Wade. Do you agree?
Yes, it does!
Have you always considered yourself to be pro-life, or was there a moment or event that convinced you of the position?
I can’t point to a moment. I’ve been pro-life ever since I heard about abortion.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions or myths about the pro-life position that you encounter in your professional environment?
That we’re all Trump supporters, that we’re all Bible thumpers, that we’re all… anything, really, is a myth! Our movement is incredibly diverse.
Do you ever feel you are treated differently from others because you are a pro-life woman? In the pro-life movement, do you feel as though you are treated differently due to your atheism?
The pro-life movement has welcomed me with open arms. In my experience, women are the majority of engaged pro-life advocates. Pro-life female leadership is commonplace and unremarkable. Pro-life atheism is less common statistically – according to Pew, religiously unaffiliated people are about 12% of abortion opponents in the United States – but most religious pro-lifers welcome the collaboration.
We hear a lot about the pro-life position being “anti-science.” Do you face this accusation often? If so, how do you respond?
Pro-life is pro-science. The pro-choice movement has become almost a caricature of itself at this point. I mean, talking about “cardiac activity” or “flutters” to avoid saying “heartbeat”? Come on.
That said, I think the “clump of cells” talking point is on its way out; the truth is just too difficult to avoid. Instead it’s the ad hominem attacks taking the lead: “you hate women,” “you don’t care about kids after they’re born,” that sort of thing.
What is it like leading an organization of secular pro-lifers? How do you counter the “get your rosaries off my ovaries” criticism?
Leading an organization of secular pro-lifers is an honor, and also reminiscent of herding cats. Secular Pro-Life has become a home not only for pro-life atheists and agnostics, but also for members of minority religious groups like Wiccans, Mormons, Muslims, and more liberal Christians who don’t fit the “religious right” label.
I’ve gotten to meet people from all walks of life. It’s really emphasized for me how unique every human being is – and how great a loss the world experiences with every abortion.
What do you hope for the future of the pro-life movement? How can other faithful women support your efforts?
We must remember that success in Dobbs is only the beginning. I worry that people will get complacent, thinking that reversal of Roe was the goal. No: saving lives is the goal. The post-Roe abortion industry is not going to accept defeat quietly. They are going to enact ever more extreme laws in pro-abortion states. They are already trying chemical-abortion-by-mail schemes. Increasingly, abortion advocates dehumanize not only children in the womb, but their defenders as well. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Is there anything you would like the pro-life movement, or pro-life people in general, to try to improve on, especially as the possibility of a post-Roe country becomes more and more likely?
Pro-lifers have spent decades building up an infrastructure of pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and other support systems for pregnant mothers in crisis. We need to continue that investment and also do a much better job of advertising what is already out there.
What good is a scholarship for pregnant students if the candidate who needs it doesn’t hear about it?
More broadly, we need to fix the mainstream media’s capture by pro-abortion interests, so pro-life efforts to help needy families can get fair coverage.