Friday, January 29, 2016

The March for Life 2016 changed everything.

On January 22, 2016, for the first time in the history of the March for Life, a chanting blockade of counter-protesters from pro-abortion group Stop Patriarchy met the first wave of pro-life marchers, and those marchers were holding signs reading: “I AM A PROLIFE FEMINIST.”

However it happened, whether it was fate or luck, the very first people the Stop Patriarchy counter-protesters saw were not old men, not blue-haired ladies with Bibles, not priests or nuns, not frat boys or politicians or church leaders. They were young women, carrying signs declaring themselves feminists.

It was a moment I will never forget as long as I live.

And not only was it a badass moment for those of us who were there, it was also symbolic of what is happening in the pro-life world. Young women are getting out in front of a movement that has, in some ways, stopped moving. For many major pro-life groups and individuals, the approach hasn’t changed much in the past 43 years. There are still those who cling to their bullhorns, huge photographs of dismembered fetuses, and a one-size-fits-all overtly religious approach. There are still people getting arrested on purpose – as if that’s going to help any mothers or babies – and seeming more concerned with name recognition and speaking fees than changing the culture.

Overall, the movement as a whole is still taking a somber, deadly-earnest approach to being pro-life. This has to stop. We will never convince the culture to come over to our side when our side looks like a total drag.

Photo by Robin Marty

It was anything but a drag that frigid morning in D.C. A legit blizzard was going to start any minute when New Wave Feminists came over the crest of a hill in front of the Supreme Court and saw Stop Patriarchy’s familiar orange signs and blood-spattered pants. There was no one between us and them but the police.

Surge of adrenaline. We sped up almost to a jog, so they would see our signs first: “I AM A PROLIFE FEMINIST.”

We didn’t slow down until we were directly in front of them. We blocked their signs with our own signs and banner. They were chanting “WE ARE THE LIBERATION GENERATION!” So we started chanting it with them. Because, um, we are.

When the police told them to leave the street, they eventually did. (As opposed to last year, when several of them got arrested.) They started their own small rally, replete with P.A. system, just off the street. They did their best to drown out the testimonies of the women of Silent No More, who were on the steps of the Supreme Court building sharing stories of how abortion destroyed their lives and bodies. Meanwhile, our friends at Stop Patriarchy chanted ridiculous sing-songs about how babies aren’t real until they come out of a vagina, as if a woman’s birth canal is an enchanted doorway. (They also read us “science lessons” about this fact. “A FETUS IS NOT A BABY!” was screamed repeatedly.)

Definitely their most convincing argument was when one of the women screamed “F—k God!” at the top of her lungs.

The New Wave Feminist response was to be there, be living proof of how wrong they are, and show them there is joy when you let go of the lie that your womb has to be invaded by death in order for you to be a liberated woman.

We also had a lot of fun appropriating their chants. “EVERY GENERATION HAS AN OBLIGATION TO WOMEN’S LIBERATION!” Sure, we’ll chant that right along with you. “THEY ARE KILLING WOMEN!” Yeah, we’ll chant that, too, and remember the many women who have died from “safe, legal, and rare” abortions.

But you know what? We were having fun. That’s supposed to be a bad word, I know. You’re not supposed to have fun being pro-life. You’re supposed to be somber and on the verge of tears for all the missing children and wounded women. But I have long been firmly convinced that the appropriate response to tragedy is joy – joy in spite of everything.

And joy was the word of the day. Destiny and I couldn’t stop laughing. I mean, the situation in front of the Supreme Court was so absurd it was funny. We were all grown women. Couldn’t we have a conversation? Instead the Stop Patriarchy people wouldn’t even look us in the eye. They looked through us, and kept chanting and screaming. It was surreal to stand a few feet from someone, to be having a vocal disagreement with them, and yet have no conversation whatsoever. Just chants and signs and, most of all, shrieking. Next year I’m bringing them lozenges.

The only time anyone made eye contact with us was when a girl who looked like Zooey Deschanel shouted “YOU’RE NOT A FEMINIST!” at our faces. It was the closest thing to a conversation we had with Stop Patriarchy. Our response was to smile and say “Yet here we are!”

It’s important to remember that Stop Patriarchy is not the voice of the entire pro-choice movement. They are extremists, and a lot of people who believe in abortion rights find them gross and ineffective.

But these are the ones who braved the blizzard and came out. These are the true believers. We have at least that much in common with them. In fact, we probably have more in common with them than we think.

I’ll never forget looking up and seeing that barrier made up of women with their signs: “ABORTION ON DEMAND AND WITHOUT APOLOGY.” I’ll never forget the anger I felt – not at them, but at the lie. They believe it. They really do. They believe abortion is their liberation. They believe they can be released from oppression only by the deaths of their innocent children. They believe it so strongly they can’t even let themselves admit those children were once alive.

It’s crushing, it’s horrifying, and it’s gone on too long. 

We aren’t fighting them. We’re fighting for them. We’re fighting the lie that has twisted their hearts, invaded their wombs, and killed their children: that abortion is liberation.

Abortion is not liberation. Abortion is misogyny in action. 

On paper, the theme of this year’s March was “Pro-Woman, Pro-Life.” It didn’t really feel like that in reality – the majority of speakers at all the major events were still men - but New Wave Feminists and our allies are working toward a future when we don’t need to designate that theme, when the pro-life movement is truly a woman-centered and woman-led movement.

For me, the theme this year was Joy.

Joy was what separated us from the wounded and enraged women (and men) of Stop Patriarchy. Joy is what draws people to New Wave Feminists. 

Joy – just being happy to be alive – should be a cornerstone of the pro-life movement. 

We are here not just to defend, but to celebrate Life. If it’s not worth celebrating, then why are we fighting so hard for it?

Post by K-Hatt


  1. I am older than you and have a different perspective, but I love you guys -- that video you did of the abortionist's presentation as a Nazi stand-up comedy act had me rolling on the floor. That was GENIUS. I know you are making a point here but I hope you really don't think that all those people who came before you, including all the men, are in some way bad. I'm a woman, I work for a pro-life organizations whose staff is all women (though its board is half men), and I work with other pro-life organizations, crisis pregnancy centers, churches, etc. whose staff are all or half women. I also work with some headed by men. We need the men. We need everyone!!! There was a time when those arrests were necessary to wake people up. Sometimes they still are. You are right, we need joy, especially joy about being women. Joy is what attracts people. If we're not happy, why would they want to join us? These poor souls think they have to sterilize themselves and kill their children -- make themselves into some kind of second-class men -- to have any worth at all. There is nothing wrong with us! Women are half the human race, and we're GOOD JUST THE WAY WE ARE! I'm so glad you were there facing them, keep up all the great work you do!

  2. You inspire me so much. Loved this post!

  3. My favoourite phrase: "as if a woman’s birth canal is an enchanted doorway."

  4. I love irony. And the irony of using their own chants as counter-chants at the march was a beautiful thing. -Victoria Gisondi

    1. Reminds me of the Roman pro-consul demanding that Polycarp say, "Away with the atheists!"

  5. Wow! Sounds like a Pro-Life woman just used the same argument as a choicer. I'm a guy so I guess I shouldn't be involved because the women should be the ones to have a say in this. I guess myself and 3 of my 5 kids should just stay home and watch you ladies run the show. This was my 20th March and maybe my last, since you have it under control. I was under the impression that since it took a man and a woman to help create life, they should both fight for that life. But what the heck that's only my "one-size-fits-all overtly religious approach", Roman Catholic, thinking coming through. Btw, how'd that getting locked for a great cause work for Martin Luther King Jr.? I love ya ladies and love the passion, just don't make your allies feel insignificant and out dated. Loving and finding Joy 24/7/365 not just 1 day a year. Pax vobiscum

    1. Steve,

      First of all, thank you for the thoughtful reply. You bring up some good points which believe it or not, we agree on. This is a HUMAN RIGHT'S movement, not just a WOMEN'S RIGHTS movement. Men absolutely belong... please tell me where we said otherwise?

      With all due respect (and I seriously mean that, I'm not trying to sound like a sarcastic jerk), your comment reflects the same sensitive male ego we saw quite a bit of during most of the conferences this year. In no way are we saying you don't belong at the table, we're simply saying that we want a seat too.
      Example, I co-emcee'd a youth rally the day before the march. In the year where the theme was "Pro-Woman is Pro-Life," the number of male speakers invited to this rally more than doubled the female speakers AND there was even a panel dedicated to "Men's Place in the Prolife Movement." The keynote for the Rose Dinner? Also a man... at which point it felt as though the theme was merely put out there to shut down the media's narrative that the movement is all old, white men, because you couldn't even give us one year to have our voices heard a bit louder than your own.

      I don't know about you, but we're here to end abortion. This is not about ego for us; it's about how we can be the most effective.

      To that point, who heads up the largest abortion rights groups? Women. And why is that? Simple, it's because they understand the optics. As much as males have a place in this battle for human lives, you will never experience abortion, crisis pregnancy, or even labor and delivery on the same level we will. You just won't. It is happening within our bodies. It's an experience unique to us. And you can keep demanding to be the face of the movement, or you can realize that it is more effective to have women out front. Because when pro-choice women are faced with pro-life feminists, suddenly 80% of their arguments against our stance on abortion go flying out the window.

      We have to stop working harder and start working smarter, because we should've won this battle long ago, and honestly sometimes it feels like we're just giving it away because we care too damn much about who gets all the credit and attention.

    2. It's also worth noting that I was co-emceeing that rally with my good friend Bryan Kemper who's a prolife rock star (and proudly claims the title of Pro-life Feminist) so this isn't about kicking men out. I love men! I'm married to one and made two with my body and hope to raise my sons to be just as outspoken as my daughters when it comes to fighting for life.

  6. Like I said, I appreciate the passion and there's plenty of room for everyone at the table. Yes we guys can't no the horrors of an abortion, THANK GOD, but we can feel the pain that comes from it. As you know being married you experience all the heart ache and jubilation that you spouse experience. We lost a child the day he was born. My wife at least got to feel him when he was moving around in her womb. I on the other hand was given a dead child to hold after he was delivered. This is one of the reasons I fight for these babies. I could care less who gets the credit or the face of the movement. You are in our prayers and keep fighting the good fight. Peace

    1. Very interesting perspective Steve. I have always felt men definitely needed to step up and stand up for the rights of the unborn but I have never thought of the scenario you described: "We lost a child the day he was born. My wife at least got to feel him when he was moving around in her womb. I on the other hand was given a dead child to hold after he was delivered. This is one of the reasons I fight for these babies." I'm so sorry for your loss and I really appreciate you sharing this side of the story that we really never hear.

  7. Thank you for this excellent article.

  8. "We also had a lot of fun appropriating their chants."

    In a video that I think was on the SFLA Facebook page a day or two after the March, some pro-life women, I don't know who, can be heard chanting, “Pro-choice, it’s a lie, babies never choose to die!”

    That was in response to “Pro-life, your name’s a lie, you don’t care if women die!” from Stop Patriarchy.

    1. Check out @jennagain28's Tweet:

  9. Hello, my name is Albion Nyemba and I would like to start a campaign that revolves around new wave feminism. I'm coming from a different angle of feminism. Rather than fighting for rights and trying to make deliberate change within political issues (which is mainly what I understand of Feminism), I would like to embrace individuality within femininity and challenge the negative portrayal of women. In this modern era I've acknowledged and have done research that women have become desensitised and have adapted to the discrepancy between the ways that women are treated as compared to men. I also intend on this campaign to remind the young generation that feminism doesn't exclude male participants ( there are also male feminists) and it would be a pleasure to also get them widely involved. Furthermore, I was wondering if i could get any suggestions or help on how to approach this campaign and also if you know any male feminists that i can speak to, to help me with the campaign and potentially meet up. Please get back to me via email I would really appreciate some help. Kindest Regards, Albion.

  10. No exaggeration here. Perhaps the most obnoxious 30 seconds of the day. (I heart you guys so big time, beeteedubs)
    Check out @jennagain28's Tweet:

  11. Awesome work ladies! I really admire your courage to literally stand up in front of the pro-abortionists there, especially since their chants were so vile and just disgusting.

    Keep fighting, you have plenty of support behind you!!

  12. Prolifers have been betrayed by fellow prolifers for the last 43 years; instead of working together on out goal of ending abortion. Some prolifers, notably the National Right to Life committees has thwarted the creative efforts that the Holy Spirit has brought to the fore with their wanting to run the prolife movement.