On Friday, we joined a pre-conference coffeehouse meetup organized by New Wave Feminists; they shared their plans to start local chapters and engage in new charitable projects, like delivering supplies to immigrant shelters in Texas and offering new clothes to rape survivors whose clothing is confiscated as evidence. The conference kicked off that evening with dinner and a speech by Michele Sterlace-Accorci of Feminists Choosing Life of New York, who provided an excellent introduction to Erika Bachiochi's pro-life feminist scholarship.
Saturday brought many worthwhile presentations. A panel of physicians spoke on women's health issues. Interestingly, abortion was not their primary focus; for this audience, the risks of abortion are well-known. Instead, they spoke about how modern medicine has largely failed to take women's menstrual symptoms seriously, find root causes, and treat them appropriately. Pro-life women's health groups have an opportunity to do better and build trust with patients, giving them holistic care at every stage of their lives.
A panel on abortion regret and healing featured Christian women who are working within their faith traditions to improve churches' responses to pregnancy outside of marriage. One woman explained that she aborted—twice—after seeing her congregation act judgmentally toward another unwed pregnant woman. Another shared that her mother pressured her into an abortion in the interest of avoiding embarrassment at church. These attitudes must change if we are going to achieve an abortion-free society.
At the Secular Pro-Life exhibit booth, we recruited over 60 volunteers for the launch of a new project (stay tuned!) and had countless delightful conversations. One Catholic woman told us that her favorite response to the "keep your rosaries off my ovaries" nonsense is to say "Ewwww, I don't want to get my rosaries dirty!" I can't recommend that as part of a productive dialogue, but I appreciated her sense of humor!
My favorite presentation on Sunday came from Morgan Hill of the National Safe Haven Alliance. When she was a newborn, she was abandoned in a dumpster and left for dead. Thankfully, she was discovered and given necessary medical care. She is now an advocate for Safe Haven laws, which allow scared mothers to drop off their unharmed newborns at fire stations and hospitals, no questions asked. Every U.S. state has a Safe Haven law, and over 4,000 babies have been safely surrendered. The National Safe Haven Alliance operates a hotline (1-888-510-BABY) that supports mothers in crisis; they focus on finding other solutions, such as parenting, temporary care programs, and adoption, and offer Safe Haven as the last resort. One woman called the hotline after scheduling a late-term abortion. After she was reassured that the Safe Haven law would allow her to remain anonymous, she cancelled the appointment and gave her baby life!
Former Planned Parenthood manager Abby Johnson closed out the conference with a call for pro-life organizations to begin the task of societal reform within their own houses, by ensuring that their staff have paid parental leave. Planned Parenthood is notoriously bad at this, and we must lead by example. In Abby's words: "We can't afford NOT to do it." Abby also cited the conference's ASL interpreters and other accessibility measures as leading by example.
If you're sad you missed out on this year's conference, I have good news for you! Tickets are already available for the 2020 Pro-Life Women's Conference, to be held in Indianapolis.