Kelsey Hazzard is the founder of Secular Pro-Life, a pro-life group for atheists, agnostics, and other “nones.” ” She was kind enough to let me interview her about the group and her pro-life activism.
Were you pro-life growing up? If not, what led you to adopting the pro-life position?
Abortion wasn’t something my family ever talked about, either for or against. I know some pro-life activists who’ve been out at abortion facility sidewalks since before they could crawl, but that’s not me. But my parents did equip me with good general values: sticking up for the little guy, that sort of thing. And those values led me quite naturally to become pro-life, once I was old enough to learn what abortion was.
What inspired you to start Secular Pro-Life?
I grew up in the Methodist church, which (fun fact) is officially a pro-choice denomination. Not that I ever heard any sermons extolling abortion; there was just silence on the issue. And then when I really first got involved in the pro-life movement, that’s when I was a college student at the University of Miami, a pretty secular campus all around, and all the projects the pro-life club was doing were secular as well. You know, prenatal development displays, diaper drives, things of that nature.
So when I went to the March for Life for the first time and saw crucifixes and rosaries and Catholicism everywhere, it was not at all what I’d expected. I still considered myself a Christian at the time– my religious leanings faded gradually over the course of several years– but even so, I felt like a fish out of water because I wasn’t Catholic or Evangelical. And I thought man, if this had been my first exposure to the pro-life movement, how would I have reacted?
I think it was after my second March for Life that I decided, you know, there really needs to be a group that takes an explicitly secular angle. I went home, whipped together a lame free website, and it was a case of build it and they will come. I wasn’t even old enough to drink yet. A lot’s changed!
What are some of the projects Secular Pro-Life is doing?
One of the projects I’m most proud of AbortionSafety.com. It’s a website for women considering abortion that helps them steer clear of places with a history of malpractice lawsuits and health code violations. And of course, there’s a discussion of general abortion risks and the resources available for parenting and adoption.
We do a lot of speaking engagements. Usually we speak on college campuses, but not always. My colleague Monica Snyder spoke at the last Walk for Life. Recently, I got to present to a pro-life teen leadership camp run by Louisiana Right to Life. That was a lot of fun.
There are more projects in the pipeline that I can’t talk about yet; keep your antennae up.
In your opinion, how can the pro-life movement reach out to atheists and agnostics?
We need to make it clear that abortion is a human rights abuse, not a religious issue. This isn’t about what’s sacred or what makes God cry. It’s about making sure that everyone has the chance to live, and making sure that families are given the resources they need to welcome their babies. The pro-life movement is definitely trending in this direction, which is great.
Be prepared and know that most atheists and agnostics come to the table with preconceived notions about you and about the cause in general. The abortion movement loves to perpetuate stereotypes. Often, just meeting a pro-lifer who doesn’t fit the expected caricature is enough to make someone revisit abortion itself. So don’t feel like you always need to be talking about abortion; just develop your natural friendships with people (of whatever faith or none), and smile when one day they exclaim “You’re pro-life?!?!” And of course, feel free to direct people to Secular Pro-Life.
In your opinion, how can the pro-life movement make atheists and agnostics who are pro-life feel more comfortable and accepted within the movement?
Just acknowledging our presence is a big first step. Too often, pro-lifers assume that fellow pro-lifers share their religious beliefs. Something as simple as saying “If you pray, please join me in prayer,” versus just jumping into a prayer, makes a difference. And of course, you need to be thoroughly educated in the secular reasons for opposing abortion. If you’re not confident about that, SPL’s website is a great place to start!
Untying abortion from other issues is another big one. Most secular people support LGBT rights, and as a matter of conscience will not join any group that discriminates against LGBT people. Last I checked gay marriage never killed an unborn child, so let’s set aside our differences on that and focus on stopping the killing.