Can you be Feminist, Atheist, or Progressive, and be Pro-Life?

By Alex Seghers, Director of Education

Pro-life and pro-choice church pastors, abortion clinic escorts, Archdiocese of New Orleans representatives, Planned Parenthood young and adult supporters in bright pink T-shirts, pro-life club students, Republican club students, Democrat club students, high school students in uniform from Academy of the Sacred Heart, and many others from on and off campus walks of life were found sitting side by side, surprisingly, enjoying the same event that discussed abortion.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, at Loyola University New Orleans, more than 130 of these people gathered for the panel discussion “Diversity in the Pro-Life Movement: Feminists, Atheists, Progressives,” hosted by Louisiana Right to Life, Loyola Wolfpack for Life, and Tulane Right to Life. The panel featured four currently prominent non-stereotypical voices that can be found and heard both at the March for Life and the Women’s March, which to many pro-life and pro-choice people appear diametrically opposed.

Because of the outrage that we saw to our social media advertisement, which is still fostering many comments and further heated discussion, along with the push back of other students on Loyola’s campus, we feared this event might devolve into a loud mess of opposition. However, the calm, honest, barrier-breaking dispositions of the panelists led instead to eye-opening and fruitful discussion with all, paving the way to changing hearts and minds!

See the full panel at

Here’s a glance at their impact on the panel discussion:

  • A student from the crowd: “As a pro-choice Democrat […] this was refreshing. …you talk a lot about women’s reproductive health and maternal mortality rates. How do you reconcile that with concern for women’s health with the reality that before Roe v. Wade thousands of women died from unsafe, legal abortions?”

“Regardless of what the laws are, we are not addressing the root. If you really want to dig deep, I look from the lense of race because of who I am. There was experimentation on my people. There was forced sterilization. There was rape. There was literally breeding my ancestors to create everything that we have. Even then, the root was never addressed. I don’t believe that abortion rights is addressing the root. When we think about the reasons why women choose to have abortion […] there could be a woman who’s being sex trafficked and could have fifteen abortions and she’s become numb to it, but that’s oppression, that’s misogyny, that’s patriarchy, that’s enslavement. Abortion is not the answer. We keep talking about abortion as if it’s this great thing. We are not supporting women. We are not getting down to the heart, the meat, the root of why this is even a thing. It was once safe, legal, and rare? Now it’s on demand without apology. It has become this thing that we uplift […] Weeds, their roots grow so deep and they choke out life. Abortion is apart of that. […] I’m talking about [wanting to see] families thriving and being happy about being pregnant, not being fearful of being pregnant.”

– Cessilye Smith, Racial and Maternal Justice Activist | Reconciler

  • Moderator Alex Seghers, Louisiana Right to Life Director of Education: “Can you address how people say pro-life is inherently misogynistic and address the idea of bodily autonomy and this issue?”

“My issue with bodily autonomy is when does it begin? Magically begin the second that you go through the birth canal? Am I a human being then? Science would tell me otherwise. […] at what point is the child my property? […] This person is my property because I am bigger and stronger and they’re weaker and vulnerable and voiceless, then I can do what I want with them. Ok, that sounds really familiar. The whole reason I am a feminist is because I don’t believe in that type of philosophy, right? Because men are bigger and stronger and have held most of the power and status of money throughout history they have been able to treat us like property and that has been used violence against us when we were inconvenient and we couldn’t do anything about it because “might makes right” […] So, if that’s something as a feminist I oppose, then how can I turn around and pass that very same oppression onto an unborn human being? […] it’s not consistent. […] With any other vulnerable subset in our community that’s not how we deal with it by saying the solution is not “oh, kill them.” That’s not how we deal with poverty or homelessness or anything else we say “OK, if you’re weak right now that’s where we are going to use our strength to protect you.”

– Destiny Herndon de la Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists

  • Moderator Sophie Trist, Wolfpack for Life President: “We want to get to know you better. What does the word pro-life mean to you and how does it intersect with feminism, atheism, or progressivism?”

“I grew up in California where everyone’s a feminist, everyone’s a progressive, it’s just a given. If you care about human beings that’s what you’re gonna be. Oh and if are you are, you’re probably going to be pro-choice. I was pro-choice when my boyfriend turned rapist threatened to kill me if I didn’t have an abortion, that was the moment when everything clicked in my head. When I realized that he was telling me you are an inconvenience to me you are an inconvenience to my future, and because I am bigger and stronger than you, I am going to kill you. I realized that I couldn’t be like him. […] that I couldn’t use violence to get what I wanted in life. […] How contrary is it to the principal of human rights. […] As a progressive, you probably believe that we want more human rights for more human beings. […] when you think about it that way, it really only makes sense that as a progressive that I should support the right to life being respected for more human beings.”

– Aimee Murphy, Rehumanize International

  • Moderator Sophie Trist, Wolfpack for Life President: “What resources and help do you recommend for post-abortive women?”

“I was scrolling through my papers, and [pause, crying] there was a sonogram. It was the first time I had ever seen my son that I aborted. It was like reliving seeing my daughter’s sonogram realizing what I did in my abortion, and it was really starting all over with healing. I went and started a website where I could help women across the U.S. reclaim their abortion records, if it was going to find healing. […] What I want to say though is that I really think the pro-life movement [needs to to better with post-abortive healing], and I’m saying this from a secular perspective, we don’t have a lot of options for secular women. Rachel’s Vineyard is a great organization, […] Silent No More […] there are options, but there’s not options for everyone. […] Abortion-minded women, where do we start? How can we reach every woman and help her know she’s not alone and help her with the reason that she’s choosing abortion whether that’s pressure, finances, she has kids. I have sidewalk counseled many times and I’ve always done it with love.”

– Albany Rose, Post-Abortive, Pro-Life Atheist, Lead with Love

  • One more highlight: Student from the crowd: “Albany you’ve actually mentioned that you’ve done sidewalk counseling, and I’m actually on the other side, I’m a clinic escort. Where do you guys see common ground, … how can we make productive progress because you care about so many things that I do too. How can we work together?”

“A big part is that we know coercion plays a role, so when you see a woman who is crying, who is upset, a parent who is forcing her, be an advocate for that woman, because you know someone is going to be going in there uncomfortably. And you need to stand up for her, being pro-choice, making sure that she really has a choice.

“You have to be able to be uncomfortable. You have to be willing to take a seat at the table. I love that fact that [Planned Parenthood] is here. I went to a socialist meeting… I went to a reproductive justice meeting […] I know that my friend who works for the Texas Abortion Fund, if she does find a woman who is unsure about the decision and wants to parent, I’m going to be the first person that she comes to because she knows me now. […] She knows that I am going to get her that care and access. […] there are a host of issues that most of us can agree on in the middle, especially about preventative care. Suddenly, it’s not so scary anymore.”

– Destiny Herndon de la Rosa, New Wave Feminists

“We can come together and work on this world and work on loving people without even talking about abortion. It’s about relationships. You have to be able to listen.”

– Albany Rose, Post-Abortive, Pro-Life Atheist, Lead with Love

“Something that I think we can work together on as pro-choice and pro-life, is not only everything that all these beautiful humans have been talking about […] we can also talk about our justice system. […] We can reorient it to our inherent human dignity. […] We’re seeking to ask the question how did this person get into this situation (abortion) in the first place, how do we empower them with the information and resources that they might need to they never feel they need to be put in this situation again. How do we address the injustices that are at play in their workplace, or in their school, or in their society in general. We’re talking about not just punishing […] but rather restoring community […] that’s something we really can and should be working together on.”

– Aimee Murphy, Rehumanize International

“I work with a lot of people across the spectrum. I think what it really boils down to […] pro-liberation. I think ways in which we can work together is by putting together doula programs that can support women. That we provide comprehensive childbirth education. Not only parenting classes but breastfeeding […] helps reduce infant mortality. Parental leave. Going across the aisle, being ok with not agreeing on everything, humanizing each other, breaking down our barriers will help us communicate with each other better.”

– Cessilye Smith, Racial and Maternal Justice Activist | Reconciler