The Wrong “Choice”

Pro-lifers are rebuffed in New York

Wednesday night in his convention speech, Michael Reagan said he was lucky because his parents and his birth parents had something in common: They were "pro-life" and "pro-adoption."

This statement went over big in Madison Square Garden, where the majority of those in the Republican "big tent" share his views on abortion. But, elsewhere in New York State, pro-life and pro-adoption views don^t always get such a warm welcome.

The other evening, in her address to the convention, Laura Bush pointed out that some things take a long time in this country. She reminded delegates that women had earned the right to vote only 84 years ago.

The historic victory of women^s suffrage was commemorated just a few days earlier at a county office building in Westchester, just north of New York City. On August 26, a group called the Women’s Equality Day Reformed Committee gathered to celebrate the 84th anniversary of women^s suffrage.

The "reformed" part of the group’s name came in when the organizers used the commemoration of the 19th Amendment to honor pro-life women. What’s the connection between women earning the vote and anti-abortion causes? Well, for one thing, the women who originally fought for the right to vote were pro-life.

The women present at last week^s event, many identifying themselves as “feminists for life,” quoted the foremothers of the feminist movement.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: “It is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”

Susan B. Anthony: “Guilty? Yes. No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh, thrice guilty is he who...drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime.”

Alice Paul, author of the original Equal Rights Amendment: “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”

These founders of the feminist movement had some major problems with abortion. They saw it not as a liberating right but as the horrendous consequence of the disenfranchisement of women.

The contemporary pro-lifers delivering this message at the building in White Plains that houses the County Board of Legislators made folks there nervous. The "reformed" group was shown to a conference room rather than the rotunda area, a stately and traditional gathering place outside the legislative chambers — the place the group had originally been told it could meet. Suddenly, it seems, meeting in the rotunda was a fire and security hazard.

As armed guards stood outside the peaceful meeting, the keynote speaker, Elizabeth Rex, described a battle she is currently waging against the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. As founder and president of the Children First Foundation, a group that advocates safe havens for women and adoption as a choice, Rex asked the DMV to issue custom license plates for her foundation. The plates, similar to plates offered motorists in eleven other states, have a pro-life message and promote adoption. The New York DMV refused her request on the grounds that the message is "patently offensive." Pro-choice drivers might not like seeing a drawing of two smiling children with the words "Choose Life" and "SafeHavens-Adoption.org," since that^s not the choice they would want people to make.

When Rex pressed the DMV after acquiescing to requested changes, the department shut down indefinitely its entire custom-plate program. Now any non-profit group seeking to have a custom plate benefiting their organization will not be able to do so.

In other places, such as Florida and Connecticut, the choice of this custom plate by 60,000 motorists who don^t find it offensive has brought in over 3 million dollars to fund maternity homes and crisis pregnancy centers.

Luckily, these other states agree with Michael Reagan^s adoptive parents and his birth parents: Alternatives to abortion are not "patently offensive" choices.

Susan Konig, a journalist, has just written a book, Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (And Other Lies I Tell My Children), which will be published in Spring 2005.