With the Catechism’s clear defense of human life from the moment of conception, the Catholic Church is one of the most vocal advocates for an end to elective abortion. It’s natural that many Catholics, then, are leaders in the pro-life movement.
But Catholics and other Christians are hardly the only pro-lifers, and the issue of abortion is one in which it’s easy to find common ground with scientifically-minded non-believers or people of other faiths.
The group Secular Pro-Life is an organization of those who oppose abortion not for any religious reasons, but simply because of biology.
As Respect Life Month draws to a close, ZENIT spoke with Monica Snyder, a representative of this group that “seeks to unite all pro-lifers regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof.”
ZENIT: The pro-abortion movement seems to be intent on trying to associate the pro-life position with religious fundamentalism. How does your group fit into that scenario?
Snyder: Secular Pro-Life (SPL) demonstrates that a person does not have to be religious at all, much less a religious fundamentalist, to be against abortion. When pro-choice people dismiss pro-life views as “imposing religious beliefs,” many of our Christian allies point to SPL as a counter-example. In some cases this helps improve the conversation; people will reconsider the stereotypes they held.
ZENIT: What are your main strategies in spreading the message of Secular Pro-Life?
Snyder: Our main form of communication is our blog, Secular Pro-Life Perspectives. We publish 4-6 posts a week from a variety of bloggers talking about abortion and the pro-life perspective from a secular viewpoint. We also have an active Facebook page (facebook.com/secularprolife) where we repost the blog posts as well as pose discussion questions and post announcements about upcoming events. And then we have our Web site, which ties it all together: secularprolife.org.
So most of our messaging is online. However, we do a fair amount of college outreach, speaking at campuses all over the country. For example, on Oct. 18 our president, Kelsey Hazzard, spoke to students at Fordham University in the Bronx about pro-life strategy and relational apologetics.
We also make a point of participating in both the March for Life in DC and the Walk for Life in San Francisco every January. In fact, last year I had the honor of speaking at the Walk for Life on behalf of SPL, and it was great! The Walk organizers are very pro-active about making the Walk inclusive and peaceful, and that means so much to us.
ZENIT: Catholics understand the pro-life position to be based on reason, at least as much, if not more than, faith. You hold a similar position. Could you give a summary of the reasons that Secular Pro-Life is pro-life?
Snyder: We recognize that, biologically speaking, the fetus is a member of our species, that is, a human being. There are a lot of conversations about whether the fetus counts as a “person,” based on a variety of definitions of “personhood,” but we find those definitions inconsistent or arbitrary. For example, many people suggest the fetus isn’t a person until she is viable – until she can survive without natural life support from her mother. Yet the same people don’t deny personhood to humans who use artificial life support, so we find the viability definition inconsistent.
When considering who among us should count as morally relevant members of our species, we believe the consistent position is to say all members of our species are morally relevant.
ZENIT: As mentioned above, Catholics can find much common ground with your group. On the issue of contraception, however, what is the position of Secular Pro-Life?
Snyder: Secular Pro-Life supports the use of contraception that prevents fertilization. We recognize that abstinence is the more effective way to prevent pregnancy, but we also recognize that relatively few people remain abstinent until marriage, that some people never get married, and that some married people have significant reasons to avoid pregnancy. We encourage the use of contraception for people who are sexually active and not prepared for pregnancy.
If your readers are interested, we elaborate more on our positions on contraception and other topics under the “Stances” tab on our website.
ZENIT: What do you think needs to happen for the pro-life movement to be even more effective?
Snyder: I think we pro-lifers should continually consider how we can make our messages and our movement more welcoming. In my experience, the pro-life movement is pretty well-equipped to welcome people with politically conservative leanings and with Christian religious views, and that’s good. I don’t think the movement is as oriented toward welcoming people of other backgrounds—religions, sexualities, races, political backgrounds, etc.—but I do think most people in the movement want to also be welcoming to everyone and just aren’t sure how to do it.
The pro-life movement will become more effective as more and more individual pro-lifers seek to learn how to relate to and include people of all types. I really enjoy working with SPL partially because SPL gives me a venue to meet those pro-lifers—the people eager to learn and grow and, in the process, expand the pro-life movement too.
Snyder will be at the West Coast Walk for Life again this year.
Secular Pro-Life: http://www.secularprolife.org