Like Father, Like Daughter
For Maria McFadden Maffucci, being a “daddy's girl” meant learning to read before kindergarten and devouring books by the Brontes and Jane Austen in grade school. Her “daddy” was James McFadden, who began his journalism career in the founding days of William F. Buckley Jr.'s National Review and went on to become a prolific pro-life writer and publisher.
His crowning achievement was printing President Ronald Reagan's “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” in his Human Life Review in 1983. This rallied the grass-roots pro-life movement and marked a change in the political discussion about abortion.
McFadden Maffucci grew up in a New York City apartment with her four siblings amid the rush of deadlines, dinner-time discussions of religion, literature and philosophy, and a kitchen table filled with materials of her father's next pro-life project. Her mother, Faith Abbott McFadden, a convert from Protestantism, is a writer in her own right. She is a coworker and confidante as her daughter carries on the family's business.
“Because of my parents, I loved the Catholic Church but also at a young age had my own beliefs and deep emotional feelings about Christ,” McFadden Maffucci says. “There was never a question about being pro-life; it was all part of what I believed. I witnessed the pro-life cause take over my dad's life. While it was hard on us children because he worked all the time and pretty much stopped taking vacations, I knew how committed he was and so admired his dedication.”
For her, it was a case of like father, like daughter. As her father was dying of cancer in 1998, McFadden Maffucci promised to carry on his publishing and pro-life work. The strong spirit and opinions of “JP,” as he is affectionately known within the family, still guide the work. McFadden Maffucci is editor of Human Life Review, which is published by the Human Life Foundation, which she heads as well. The foundation also raises funds for pro-life pregnancy centers as part of its “baby-saving” efforts.
“They have given us matching funds for more than 20 years; they have been a great help for us,” says Teresa Ware, executive director of Lifeline, a pregnancy center in Austin, Texas. “Many women say that they choose abortion because there is no one there to help them at their time of need. We try to address that need.”
McFadden Maffucci also publishes Catholic Eye, a newsletter founded by her father that offers a feisty commentary on issues in the Church and the world.
All this and a family, too. She and her husband, Robert Maffucci, live on the East Side of Manhattan with their three young children.
McFadden Maffucci says she struggles with the demands of work and family.
“I'm in a tricky position,” she admits. “On the one hand, I believe in the importance of a mother being home with her children. On the other, I am a working mother. Ideally, I'd be working part-time and having less responsibility, but my father's death forced me to accept responsibility for his work earlier than I had anticipated.”
Motherhood is especially time-consuming for McFadden Maffucci because her oldest child, who is 9 years old, was diagnosed a few years ago with developmental delays related to autism. He attends a special school and requires extra attention at home. Her two girls are Anna Clara, 7, and Grace Francesca, 3.
A quarterly, Human Life Review was founded by James McFadden in 1975 in response to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. Besides President Reagan, noted writers have included Malcolm Muggeridge, Clare Booth Luce, U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, Judge John Noonan and Nat Hentoff, one of the few pro-life atheists in America.
Like all small nonprofit organizations, the Human Life Foundation struggles financially. Many of the donors who signed on in the early days have retired or passed on, and McFadden Maffucci has little time to find new ones. Her sister, Christina McFadden, recently joined the foundation as development director to help organize the foundation's first Great Defender of Human Life dinner, a fund-raiser that honored Congressman Hyde. The second dinner is scheduled for the fall.
“We're hoping to honor one major voice in the pro-life movement each year,” McFadden Maffucci says.
“I am tremendously lucky,” she adds. “I have the privilege of working for this noble cause, and my mother and I feel fortunate that we could work through our grief over dad's death by immediately picking up where we left off here, as if dad is still a boss, but just not physically present. I hope when my children understand what I did while I was at work that they will be proud.”
Stephen Vincent is based in Wallingford, Connecticut.