(This is a follow-up to my earlier report on the Pro-Life Women’s Conference held in Dallas, Texas in June.)
Six weeks after the first-but-not-last Pro-Life Women’s Conference bringing together pro-life women from all over the U.S.A., I’ve had time to digest what I heard from the people I met there. I’ve had time to read the bagful of material I picked up from various groups at the event. How can I summarize it all?
I think a to-do list is the way to go. Here are some of the calls to action I heard, from some of the amazing and challenging people I met in Dallas at PLWC.
Get out there
Not every sidewalk counseling or sidewalk witness organization was represented at the conference, but those that were agreed on this much: peaceful pro-life presence outside abortion facilities is essential.
I’m partial to 40 Days for Life, as longtime readers know. It was great to shake hands with a 40DFL leader from Dallas who was handing out flyers for the next campaign, beginning September 28. For New Hampshire information, go to 40daysforlife.com/manchester.
Expose clinic abuses: the #NotOver Campaign
Put women’s health ahead of politics by scrutinizing every inspection report available from abortion facilities – and if there’s no public health oversight, work to change that.
Even as abortion providers in Texas were challenging the state law calling for abortion facilities to improve their safety standards, concerned Texas citizens led by Abby Johnson were investigating inspection records from abortion facilities. At PLWC, Johnson revealed the first of several records indicating various violations that put women’s health at risk.
The inspection record’s campaign got its name just a day after the conference, when the Supreme Court struck down portions of the Texas law on safety standards for abortion facilities. It’s not over, replied Johnson – and so the #NotOver Campaign got its name.
Read the Texas reports. Do the abortion facilities in your area get this kind of scrutiny?
Support and expand pro-life women’s health care options
Representatives of The Guiding Star Project shared their ministry of partnering with pregnancy care centers and medical practices to provide abortion-free health care. Other speakers referred to the thousands of federally-funded community clinics where abortions aren’t performed or funded.
Through whatever mechanism is available, reach toward the goal of more abortion-free options for women seeking authentic health care for themselves and their families.
Expand your definition of pro-life
Many speakers at the conference came at this point from different angles. Respecting the right to life means respecting it for the unborn, the elderly, the medically vulnerable, the convicted criminal. There’s something to prompt prayer and discernment.
Protect and expand the Hyde Amendment
I reported on the #HelloHyde campaign in my earlier post on the conference. Since then, one of the two major American political parties has made repeal of the Hyde Amendment a plank in the party platform. This would change the 40-year-old policy, known as the Hyde Amendment, that prevents Medicaid dollars from funding most abortions.
Ask candidates about this – particularly federal candidates. Will you protect Hyde? Will you expand it so that it protects children conceived in violence? Or do you want taxpayers to pay for abortions?
Listen to birth mothers
“These are the bravest women I know,” said Abby Johnson as she introduced a panel of women who chose life for their children and then placed them for adoption.
Each woman had a different story regarding circumstances of pregnancy and adoption. It’s impossible to be indifferent when listening to them.
Look for allies in unlikely places
The pro-life movement is much broader than its detractors would have you believe. Break a barrier by listening to someone who took a different path from yours to the truth about the value of human life.
In Texas, I met people from way outside my day-to-day experience: Democrats for Life of America. Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. Pro-Life Humanists.
They made me wonder how many pro-life allies I haven’t met simply because I haven’t looked.
I was pleased to see at the conference that Pro-Life Humanists were handing out a brochure that included quotes from the late Nat Hentoff, a journalist whose work influenced my early activism.
“Being without theology isn’t the slightest hindrance to being pro-life. As any obstetrics manual – Williams Obstetrics, for example – points out, there are two patients involved, and the one not yet born ‘should be given the same meticulous care by the physician that we long have given the pregnant woman.’…It misses a crucial point to say that the extermination can take place because the brain has not yet functioned or because the thing is not yet a ‘person.’ Whether the life is cut off in the fourth week or the fourteenth, the victim is one of our species, and has been from the start.”
I could go on. What I’ll remember about this conference, and the reasons I’ll come back if there’s another, are the women with different beliefs but a common respect for life.