Group marches for rights of ‘pre-born women’

| Julie Asher | January 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

Students for Life of America begin leading the Women’s March on Washington Jan. 21. Courtesy SFLA

As the Women’s March on Washington began to head down Independence Avenue Jan. 21, its leading banners held unexpected messages: “We don’t need Planned Parenthood” and “Abortion betrays women.”

The banners led the march for only a short time; within minutes, other marchers had blocked them with their signs, chanting “my body, my choice” and even stole one of the banners. For Kristan Hawkins, however, those few minutes were enough.

“We changed the media narrative,” Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America and a parishioner of St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi, told The Catholic Spirit.

SFLA members positioned themselves at the front of the march hoping to grab the initial spotlight. Later, they stood along the march route with signs and a mega phone, hoping to reach marchers with their message that abortion hurts women, and that pro-life women’s voices were at the Women’s March, too.

An estimated crowd of 500,000 people marched in Washington the day following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, with millions more participating in cities across the nation and world, including in Minnesota. Tens of thousands marched in front of the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul and elsewhere in the state.

The pro-life organization was shut out of being an official sponsoring partner for the giant march, but the group’s leaders said nothing prevented them from taking part and marching on behalf of women exploited by abortion and for the rights of “pre-born women.”

Perspectives on the local marchIn St. Paul, an estimated 90,000 people marched in front of the State Capitol Jan. 21 in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. Among them were Catholic women who sought to show support for people often marginalized in society and to take a stand against President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, especially about women and immigrants. Meanwhile, other local Catholic women who believed in many of the national march’s guiding principles stayed home because of the pro-choice stance its leaders took the week before the event.

Students for Life of America officials said what was billed as an inclusive march ended up having a “radical abortion agenda” once Planned Parenthood signed on as a key partner in late December and “bulldozed” over pro-life groups that wanted to be partners.

“We were ignored. Our application [to be a partner] was ignored completely. Other pro-life groups were kicked out as partners,’’ said Michele Hendrickson, Eastern regional director of the Virginia-based Students for Life of America. “Pro-life is pro-woman. … What was originally portrayed as inclusive is excluding pro-life.”

Texas-based New Wave Feminists was initially accepted as a march sponsor, then rejected; its members still marched in Washington. Another group snubbed by march organizers was And Then There Were None, a nonprofit organization that helps abortion clinic workers leave the abortion industry.

March organizers said the purpose of the event was “to promote women’s equality and defend other marginalized groups.” Among many issues highlighted were immigration, education, equal pay, women’s health care and “reproductive rights.”

Hawkins told CNS that the abortion industry has “taken over any discussion of women’s rights.” “Pre-born women’s rights are human rights. Their voice counts, our voice counts,” she said.

New Wave Feminists leader Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa told CNS they were prepared for confrontation “and instead were supported by so many women.” “They kept coming up and telling us how glad they were that we were there and how, even though they didn’t necessarily agree on the abortion issue, they thought it was wrong that we were removed as partners,” she said.

The Students for Life group did not receive the same kind of welcome. A video posted later in the day to the organization’s Facebook page shows marchers taunting some of the pro-lifers and ripping up their signs.

The Catholic Spirit contributed to this story.

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