On January 25, 2014, pro-lifers will assemble in San Francisco for the 10th annual Walk for Life West Coast. As the walk has grown it has attracted a diverse group of supporters. The radical nature of the abortion issue is capable of uniting those diverse groups. One such group is Secular Pro-Life. Like many religious groups, Secular Pro-Life brings rigorous scientific analysis (a recent post was entitled “Don’t impose your science on me!”) to the question, but unlike religious groups they can’t be automatically disregarded by those claiming to see an inherent opposition between religion and science.
On January 29, 2013, Monica Lynn Snyder of Secular Pro-Life posted about her experience at the Walk for Life West Coast:
“This is my 6th Walk for Life West Coast. The first time I attended was only the 2nd year they had the walk. The organizers of the walk explained they wanted to demonstrate that even in one of the most left-wing areas of the country there is a strong pro-life presence. It’s a brilliant idea….While setting our banner up, a man from the rally crossed the street to tell us that we are very welcome to join the rally, regardless of belief system. It was incredibly sweet.”
This year, organizers of the Walk for Life West Coast invited Ms. Snyder to be one of the speakers at the 10th Anniversary Walk for Life West Coast, and she graciously accepted. CalCatholic had a chance to interview Ms. Snyder and to learn about Secular Pro-Life.
How did you reach an anti-abortion position?
I’ve been anti -abortion as long as I can remember. My parents are passionately pro-life, and when I was a kid, being pro-life went without saying, the same way holding any of my parents ’ positions went without saying. As I got older and started to evaluate different issues for myself, my views inevitably diverged from those of my parents on some topics. Abortion wasn’t one of those topics. Learning more about abortion has given me a more nuanced perspective than I once had, but it has remained a distinctly pro-life perspective the entire time.
Once you did reach that position, how did you become involved in pro-life work?
Actually, I got involved largely because of Facebook. In late 2006, I uploaded some pictures from the 2006 Walk for Life to a pro-life Facebook group. Pro-life and pro-choice people began arguing in the comments sections under the photos, and I quickly got absorbed in the arguments too.
Those arguments were my first exposure to the abortion debate as an adult; they were also the beginning of nearly two years of discussing abortion online almost every day. During that time I came to a much better understanding of the pro-life and pro-choice positions. I also became good friends with several pro-life activists, including Kelsey Hazzard, the president of Secular Pro-Life (SPL). As an agnostic, I found SPL very appealing. Kelsey invited me to help her out here and there, and thus began my transition from online debates to a more active role in the pro-life movement.
Can you tell us about the origins of Secular Pro-Life?
SPL began in 2009, when Kelsey had the idea to form a group for nonreligious pro-lifers. At first it was a small Facebook page with maybe 100 or so members, including a “leadership board” consisting of Kelsey, me, and a dozen or so of the more passionate supporters. We would brainstorm about projects for the group and how to encourage other pro-life secularists to join us. Over time our membership grew, with more people helping us expand SPL ’s presence. We now have a few thousand people following our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/secularprolife).
I ’d like to point out that SPL is an all-volunteer organization, and we owe everything we’ve done so far to the time and resources donated by our members. We’ve had volunteers write guest blog posts, represent us at conferences and walks, and help us put together SPL projects. For example, SPL runs Abortionsafety.com, a website dedicated to tracking abortion malpractice lawsuits and other danger signs from particular clinics. We were able to create Abortionsafety.com because volunteers across the country went to their local courthouses and located the lawsuits and other documents that demonstrate clinic problems. So we are very grateful for the people who help us make these things happen.
We have seen members of Secular Pro-Life at the walk a number of times. Have you attended before, and if so how many times? What has your experience of the walk been?
I began attending the walk in 2006 .I believe this year’s walk will be my 7th time. At first I walked on my own, but in 2010 I began walking as an SPL representative. I’ve enjoyed the walk each time. I really appreciate how the walk organizers strongly encourage a peaceful tone, and I ’m moved by the increasing numbers the Walk draws each year. I also find the pro-choice counter-protesters fascinating. I try to take as many photos as possible of both pro-life and pro-choice signs so I can look them over and juxtapose them afterward. Most of the time I think the two sides talk right past one another, and I’m very interested in trying to understand why that happens and whether that can change.
Although you are a member of Secular Pro-Life, that does not necessarily preclude one’s being a religious person. Do you have any religious beliefs? And to sort of expand on that, if you don’t have religious beliefs, can you describe your philosophical orientation?
You are absolutely correct —SPL has many religious supporters who prefer to use secular anti-abortion arguments. However, I am not religious: I ’m an agnostic. I don’t believe we can know whether a supernatural world exists, and meanwhile I have not seen evidence in my life to suggest that it does.
Where do you live? Are you married? Any kids?
I lived in the Bay area for eight years, five of which were in San Francisco. I live further north now. I am not married and I don’t have kids. I don’t even have pets! I do have a really wonderful boyfriend, though. :)
What do you see as the particular benefits that Secular Pro Life brings to the abortion debate?
Speaking as a secular person, I think it’s wonderful that there’s a space for pro–life secularists to come together. Before SPL formed, it was trickier trying to work within the pro-life movement. There’s a strong correlation between being pro -life and being religious, and so pro-lifers are used to discussing their position in shared religious terms. That works fine when everyone in the discussion has a shared basis of belief, but, for example, if the discussion centers on how the soul enters at conception, and I don’t believe in a soul, it’s pretty alienating.
It ’s good for religious pro -lifers to be able to talk about their pro-life position in terms of their shared faith, and likewise it ’s good for non -religious pro-lifers to be able to talk about their pro-life position in secular terms. SPL creates an environment where that can (and does) happen.
I expect nearly all pro-lifers would like to see everyone take the pro-life position. That’s much more likely to happen when we make the pro-life movement accessible to a wider variety of demographics. Polls show that the country as a whole —and the younger generations in particular —are increasingly nonreligious; if we want the pro-life movement to continue to grow, it’s important that we’re able to explain our position in a way that’s accessible to this growing part of the population.
For more information about the Walk, visit: https://www.walkforlifewc.com/