I’ll admit I was a little nervous when Terrisa invited me to the Californians for Life Summit. Despite being pro-life for several years, I didn’t feel comfortable attending pro-life events. In 2016, I went to OneLife LA with a secular friend who was pro-choice but open to learning more. I invited her to the event with hopes that she would see a welcoming, productive movement. At the event, we were surrounded by literature about political topics not related to abortion and signs that read “RESPECT GOD’S LAW” and “REPENT” in bold, red letters. One women angrily interrogated us when I told her that we don’t pray. What I thought would be a great opportunity to show my friend an inviting, loving community ended up being an apology for the uncomfortable treatment by my fellow pro-lifers.
Fast forward to last Saturday and I am now at the Summit three hours away from my warm bed about to introduce myself to a group of statewide pro-life leaders. As I rehearsed what I was going to say, I got the idea to introduce myself as a former pro-choicer.
It was a great idea, because it encouraged the start of important dialogue. People approached me to ask what made me change my mind. The focus of the majority of the conversations were about how we can create a more comprehensive movement and naturally they wanted input from non-traditional pro-lifers. Many of these groups were enthusiastic to share new projects aimed at diversifying their message.
The interactions were mostly positive, but demonstrated that there was still progress to be made. One PRC director talked to me about how important it is to have a welcoming community. I felt that we were reaching an understanding, so I asked if non-Christians were allowed to volunteer at her center. She responded, “no, because we do things in a way that Christ would and atheists cannot replicate that,” I was running out of time, but this would have been a perfect opportunity to explain ways in which we can assist pregnancy centers that do not interfere with their mission. How many other atheists like me have skills to contribute but are dismissed because we can’t do things “the Christ way”? I thought about this particular conversation on the drive home and wondered if anyone has ever previously asked her that question.
Overall, I was taken by surprise with the amount of gratitude that people had for us several secularists at the event. I got so many hugs, handshakes, and even shared tears with some of the guests. I strongly encourage all nonconventional pro-lifers to go out there and share your ideas. Leaders in the community want to hear from us and learn from us. The larger our presence, the more revolutionary our impact will be.
I was thanked for being so open-minded, but what is considered to be tolerant is just common sense to me. I’ll admit I had preconceived notions prior to attending, and I’m sure that there were opinions about my blue hair and piercings long before I said anything. Stereotypes get shattered when you have real conversations. Breaking down misconceptions, even of each other, is lifesaving work in action.