“I think it was harder to come out as pro-life than gay,” a man at a gay Pride event in Baltimore once told Jackie Malone, executive vice president of Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL). “Gay pro-lifers have been afraid to come out and say they’re pro-life because their chances of being ostracized by their community are very high,” said Malone.
Over the last ten years, PLAGAL—with a growing membership and volunteer base—has made inroads. “We don’t believe you have to be pro-choice to be a part of the gay community,” said Cecilia Brown, president of PLAGAL. Brown believes the gay community is becoming more diverse and gay pro-lifers are increasingly more visible.
A Green party member, Brown, who describes herself as far left on most issues, claims that it doesn’t bother her to be in the same pro-life camp as many on the right. “I can ignore their conservative flaws to work on the issue of life,” she joked.
In fact, Brown, argues that many on the right are not pro-life enough. By way of example, she cites President Bush’s advocacy for the death penalty, war and for cutting many social programs that help women choose life for their children. “Tell me what’s pro-life about that?” Brown commented.
“Sexual orientation is not ideology,” said Steve Cook, a board member of PLAGAL, and a proud Republican. “Just because a person is gay or bisexual doesn’t guarantee what their ideology is going to be. I have convictions that are conservative and liberal.”
Cook joined the pro-life movement during the Vietnam era when he was registered as a conscientious objector. Because he was taking a stand against soldiers killing children in Vietnam, Cook believed he should also take a stance against Americans killing their own children in the United States.
PLAGAL’s iconoclastic nature extends to the religious realm as well. “You don’t have to be a part of the religious right to be a part of the pro-life movement. We shattered that myth,” said Cook.
Though PLAGAL has no official religious stance, Brown, a Buddhist, said she gets along very well with the Christian right except for the fact they always want to convert her. “I tell them can’t we just stick to the issue at hand [the pro-life cause]?” Brown said. “I understand Christianity. I was a Christian. It’s just not my path.”
Feminist and Pro-Life
Malone, a homemaker in Pennsylvania, sees no inherent conflict in being feminist and pro-life because feminism is about advancing the rights of all women and that includes unborn women too. In fact, one-third of PLAGAL’s members are women, which is an interesting statistic when you consider that lesbians make up less than one-fourth of the gay population.
To be pro-women, Malone said, is to examine the reasons why women have abortions and then to address those problems, including giving hurting women more emotional and psychological support. “Abortion doesn’t solve those problems,” Malone said.
For Malone, pro-choice arguments that say a women has a right to do what she wants with her own body aren’t persuasive. “Because that other ‘thing’ inside them has a completely different genetic code,” she said. “It has a heartbeat at 10 days and detectable brain waves at 40 days. With all that, it’s hard to say it’s your body.”
“You don’t have to
be a part of the religious right to be a part of the pro-life movement. We shattered that myth.”
Maria Krasinski, a PLAGAL board member and health care worker, notes that the earliest feminist foremothers were Quaker women who were very much against abortion. “These women fought to make abortion illegal because they felt it was degrading to treat one’s unborn child like a piece of property,” said Krasinski. “They were also abolitionists. As far as they were concerned, the issue of abortion was one and the same with slavery.”
For the last two years, Krasinski has successfully brought her pro-life message, as a PLAGAL representative, to Boston Pride. But it hasn’t always been an easy road for PLAGAL in Boston. “Ten years ago, the PLAGAL [representatives] at Boston Pride found themselves surrounded by lesbians chanting for their blood,” Krasinski said. “They were going to be assaulted.” The police finally had to be called in to restore order.
Under Krasinski’s leadership, PLAGAL finally returned to Boston Pride in 2005. This past year, she says, they did brisk business handing out literature and signing up a lot of people.
Krasinski insists that the future looks bright for pro-lifers in the gay community. “It is no longer heresy for a gay person to be pro-life because the gays coming up now—thanks to PLAGAL—are prouder and more confident about being pro-life and gay than those that preceded them.”
Moreover, at the annual March for Life rally, Krasinski said, conservative pro-lifers are increasingly approaching them and saying that though they don’t agree with them on everything, they are happy PLAGAL is there.
Still Not Easy
Being pro-life and gay still isn’t without its horror stories. In 2002, at the annual March for Life Rally in Washington, D.C., two PLAGAL members were arrested for demonstrating without a permit.
According to Brown, their PLAGAL banner was destroyed when a member was dragged in it by police for refusing to hand it over. Brown and the other PLAGAL member were ultimately handcuffed and taken away. The March organizer, Nellie Gray “was the permit holder for the event and didn’t want PLAGAL marching in the event as open gays and lesbians,” said Brown.
In an open letter on March 19, 2002 to Gray, Brown wrote: “I want to convey to you my displeasure with your actions on January 22, 2002, in which you ordered the use of police force to deny open participation of a group of peaceful pro-life individuals who happen to be gay… How can PLAGAL convince pro-life individuals within the GLBT [Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender] community to become active within the pro-life cause when they hear about the actions that ‘traditional’ pro-lifers inflict on ‘non-traditional’ pro-lifers?”
Since 2002, PLAGAL has been permitted to march with their banners and posters in every March for Life rally. In response to our request for comment about PLAGAL, The National Right to Life Committee issued the following statement: “[We encourage] all persons who promote a respect for life through peaceful and legal means to be pro-life and to be part of the pro-life movement.”
Jackie Malone feels that PLAGAL’s ability to straddle these seemingly incompatible worlds is a tremendous asset. “As a gay pro-lifer, I can reach people that a conservative pro-lifer will never be able to touch,” she said. “At the same time, there will be people that they will be able to reach that I can’t. We’re all needed. We’re all necessary.”