June 24, 25th, and 26th of 2016, the first annual Pro-Life Women's Conference was held in Dallas, Texas. The conference was the vision of Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director, now pro-life and an advocate for abortion workers. Her organization, And Then There Were None, helps provider abortion clinic workers with a way out, and financial, legal, emotional, and spiritual support as they leave the industry. The three-day conference's goal was to provide women with a place to come together and help reclaim the narrative of what empowerment, justice, equality, and even feminism can do to support the pro-life position, and women in unplanned pregnancies.
The conference buzzed with excitement the entire weekend and women with many different stories and experiences shared the ways they are helping out in the movement. Feminism, advocacy (both on the sidewalk and digitally), religious, secular, and even a Spanish language series of presentations were available throughout the weekend. Many who attended the conference were from Texas, but there were a decent amount of representatives from pregnancy centers and organizations across the United States. I got to attend the conference thanks to the generosity of PLAGAL members and I helped educate and inform people attending the conference about our organization at the table we set up. From the website for PLAGAL:
PLAGAL strives to promote a respect for life within the gay community and encourage gay and lesbian participation [in] the pro-life cause. Membership includes women and men of various sexual orientations, political affiliations, and geographic locations -- all committed to raising awareness of the pro-life ethic as consistent with the gay and lesbian struggle for human rights.I wasn't sure what to expect from the atendees as we set up the PLAGAL table in the Marsalis Hall. Would there be shock or hostility? Curiosity or dismissal? What I realized about the weekend after I hugged my friends goodbye was the following:
- We were well received. People were genuinely curious about our organization's existence and after only having talked with them briefly about who we are, they eagerly took a brochure and expressed that they were happy we were there.
- We are desperately needed. As great as it is to have twenty pro-life Christian organizations represented and out helping the cause, we fill a gap that those organizations just can't. We say, regardless of your religion or sexual identity/orientation, you are welcome to stand with us (not saying some religious groups would not be welcoming). However you are, whoever you are, if you are for mothers and babies, you belong here. This is the type of unity that gets BIG things done, and frankly, the pro-life side seriously needs to embrace this message. We are the messengers and voices for those who might otherwise feel less than welcome.
- We still have a ways to go. I hate to say it, but the conference was lacking racial and ethnic diversity. Obviously there were some Latina women present for the Spanish presentations and conference overall, but there were only a few black women present. I saw maybe one Asian girl, and I don't know if anyone besides atheists and Christians were represented as far as religions go. [Editor's note: Secular Pro-Life had a pagan volunteer.] While I realize our main goal is to stop abortion, I can't help but wonder where the women from these backgrounds are, and why aren't they coming to this conference? How can we help them more as fellow advocates?
- I thought most people who were gay are liberal and support abortion. Why do we even exist? Similar queries were often posed by people who walked by our table and stopped to talk and take a brochure. Who we are, why we exist as a group, and why we are an essential part of the pro-life movement, are sometimes things that don't come across a computer screen. As a representative of PLAGAL, I tried to express the importance of solidarity, camaraderie, and openness to working with people who are different to the people who came to talk to us. I tried to say, with my words and my heart, that we need to work together, embrace new ideas, and respond with love to not only pregnant women in crisis, but to those who want to take up the mantle of the cause.
- We need YOU. You may have been hurt before in the past by an organization not wanting to accept you as a volunteer or feeling like you couldn't be involved in some way. Please don't let that stop you from trying again. Use your gifts! Your talent, passion, and caring spirit are what we need to reach everyone! “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” -Theodore Roosevelt.
The 2017 Pro-life Women's Conference will be held in Orlando, Florida on June 23-25. Check out their Facebook page for more information regarding the conference and hotel selection.