Earlier this week, the Women’s March on Washington removed two pro-life organizations from its list of sponsors and released a statement reinforcing its pro-choice position. Several pro-life groups voiced displeasure at their exclusion from an event originally billed as an inclusive march for a host of social justice issues. The Heritage Foundation’s publication, The Daily Signal, released a video on Thursday that features several representatives from these pro-life organizations, and a New York Times survey of women’s reactions to this controversy.
“When [Women Speak for Themselves] saw that The New York Times posted an online survey asking for comments from women planning to participate in the Women's March, we blasted it out to the thousands of women on our email list serve,” said Meg McDonnell, the director of W.S.F.T., a pro-life feminist blog. “They flooded the survey, and one of our members—Maria Lyon—was featured prominently in some of their coverage of the march. We were glad to take the opportunity to make our voices heard in the media and public—that abortion rights are not unilaterally a “women's issue.”
“Pro-life women have been the backbone of the grassroots advocacy, pregnancy centers and post abortive ministries for decades,” Ms. McDonnell said, adding, “and there is diversity of opinion among women about what it means to be a feminist.”
Several Catholic groups and many Catholic individuals attended the march despite their disappointment with its overtly pro-choice platform.
“It’s disappointing,” said Sister Deborah Troillett of the Sisters of Mercy, who originally saw this march as an opportunity to bridge differences and serve as a model of cooperation. “If we are not able to dialogue about what we have in common,” she said, “we’ll never bridge those divides.”
"All life is sacred to me,” asserted Sister Patricia Chapell of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who believes in a consistent life ethic. She sees her pro-life position as extending to all aspects of life, saying she wants to advocate for the responsible use of the resources we have to be directed toward helping the poor and marginalized from the “womb to the tomb,” or from conception to natural death. Whether it’s healthcare reform or prison reform, she said, she wants to advance the dignity of every person.
Reproductive rights was undoubtedly a central issue at the march. Plenty of women attending the march carried posters and chanted pro-choice slogans like “my body, my choice” and “keep your rosaries off my ovaries.”
“I think the removal of those sponsors might have been a wise decision on behalf of the march’s leaders,” noted Danielle Rose, a recent graduate of Emmanuel College. “Based on my observations, the beliefs of the people at the march today and the pro-life motives don’t necessarily coincide. Perhaps it is a good thing that those two worlds didn’t clash and the march stayed relatively peaceful.”
Nevertheless, several pro-choice attendees disagreed with the exclusion of pro-life feminists from the event. Patty Stein, a Catholic participating in the march with her friends, said, “If I have a right to my voice, they should have a right to theirs.”
Teresa Donnellan is an O'Hare Fellow at America.