Pro Life Credentials? One Catholic Activist’s Story

by Tara Simons

When people demand to see my credentials for being pro-life, my instinct is to ignore them. No one should have to prove to anyone else that they are worthy of the title. I also suspect that no amount of pro-life activism will satisfy them. But here is my story anyway.

A few weeks into my freshman year of college, a guy I had a crush on told me he was going to a pro-life meeting and asked if I wanted to come. I said sure, probably owing more to my crush than any real interest I had in the issue. When we got there, I saw the pictures — the ones that people complain about. I stood there horrified and incredulous. I simply couldn’t believe that this was happening everyday and no one was trying to stop it. How could this be justified, let alone legal, let alone considered a person’s right? I determined then and there that I had to get involved.

And involved I became. Slowly at first — I attended meetings, read the literature, wrote an op-ed piece, watched films. The guy who brought me that night, never came back to another meeting, nor did his friends. With a few exceptions, the group was dominated by women. Smart women. Strong women. Not the stereotypes circulated about pro-life people.

We wallpapered our campus with signs and held literature tables in the dining halls. We put on speakers, debated constantly, and personally reached out to other groups. We were screamed at, insulted, spit on, but we held our ground and invited our detractors to come to our meetings and talk to us about the issue. Some did. Most didn’t. But we tried.

We spread our activism beyond the confines of our campus, attending the annual Marches for Life in D.C. and the conferences that preceded them. We volunteered at a local crisis pregnancy center, did sidewalk counseling, and got involved in rescues at clinics.

My first rescue was with Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, at the Planned Parenthood headquarters in NYC. I was on winter break and I remember being given an old woolen army blanket to take with me as protection against the frozen city streets we would be lying on. We chanted and prayed and sang, and even chatted with the police officers who surrounded us with barricades. As people were arrested and carried off to jail, the rest of us would fill in the empty spaces. Eventually, as with every rescue, enough protestors were arrested to clog up the system, and the rest of us were left behind to keep up the protest until closing.

We participated in other rescues through the years, even staging the first-ever all-women-rescue. We gave radio interviews and wrote articles, and were even asked to attend a TV talk show.

On the political front, I registered as a Republican the first chance I got and voted for every self-proclaimed pro-life candidate I could. I interned with the Republicans in the NJ State Assembly and attended Young Republican events on and off campus. I even worked on a Republican political campaign.

I eventually was in the leadership of our pro-life group. While some of our members were arrested and spent the greater part of the school year in jail, I continued carrying out our mission on campus, growing our numbers and lobbying for university funding. A handful of us kept the conversation going at a school of over 50,000 students. Our numbers were small, but our resolve to stop the attack against life was rock solid. Pro-life was my life in college.

Post-graduation, I carried the pro-life torch wherever I went, happy to engage in discussions about the evils of abortion and euthanasia, even convincing a boyfriend along the way of the merits of my position.

When I entered graduate school at the Franciscan University of Steubenville to study theology, I found myself for the first time surrounded by people who shared my pro-life point of view. At FUS, I focused on studying Church teaching and deepening my faith.

From Steubenville, OH, I went to Berkeley, CA to do my doctoral studies at the Graduate Theological Union with the Western Province Dominicans, I witnessed to the pro-life cause to people from all walks of life and different religious traditions.

Eventually, I headed north to Seattle to marry and start a family of my own. I worked for my parish as the Director of Faith Formation and Evangelization, until I decided to stay home with my children full-time. To make ends meet, I helped care for other people’s kids. I ran a preschool for 4 years, until my own children aged out of it, and then dedicated myself to home-schooling them full-time. I continue to teach at my parish when I can. I attend the annual March for Life in Olympia and teach my children about God’s love for every person and the preciousness of every life. I’m currently involved with the American Solidarity Party in Washington State, trying to find an alternative to a two-party system that has ignored people who want to live out the Church’s admonition to not be single-issue voters.

My role in the pro-life movement has changed over the years, according to my state in life. As I have continued to study Church teaching, my understanding of what it means to be pro-life has broadened. My husband and I support various Catholic charities that help not only those who are struggling with unplanned pregnancies, but those that serve the homeless and provide refuge for people experiencing other crises in their lives.

I offer my story here as a way of dispelling the myth that people who are a part of the New Pro-Life Movement are somehow not really pro-life. It’s a ludicrous accusation, of course, but that is the level of attack we are up against. When people can’t win arguments, they devolve into ad hominem attacks. It’s sad, but predictable.

The New Pro Life Movement isn’t looking for a fight with other pro-life groups. We support the dignity of human life from conception through natural death, and we feel it is time for a new way forward that embraces everyone who is fighting for our cause. As Jesus Himself said: “Whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:50).

We believe that we have been betrayed by the leadership of the traditional pro-life movement, who have come to embrace an arch-conservative ideology over and above the whole-life ethic. They have ceased to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church on a wide variety of issues, like war, economics, climate change, the death penalty, the role of government in the common good, etc.. In doing so, they are holding hostage the goods of society from those who most desperately need them, until their personal political agenda has been achieved. In the meantime, they are sacrificing the quality and dignity of life of millions of innocent people.

We believe we can do better. People are needlessly suffering and dying, and we want you to join us in making a real difference in bringing about a true culture of life.