[Editor’s Note: Catherine Glenn Foster is the President and CEO of Americans United for Life, America’s original national pro-life organization. Under Foster’s leadership, AUL has sought to pursue a mother-child strategy that looks at the interests and vulnerabilities of both, protecting them from abortion industry abuses. She has testified before and advised the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Select Investigative Panel and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and other federal and state bodies and representatives. She spoke to Charles Camosy.]
Camosy: Exciting times for Americans United for Life! I was so glad to recently see your new headquarters in D.C. and meet your top-notch staff. What are one or two of your main priorities as an organization right now?
Foster: And Americans United for Life is approaching our 50th anniversary! We were founded in 1971, two years prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous decision in Roe v. Wade, when seven men wiped out life-affirming law and policy across the country with its invented abortion-rights framework.
When we were founded, the American landscape with respect to the human right to life was much different than it is today—in that the threats to human life were fewer. As our science and medicine has advanced, so has our capacity to dehumanize. We are often too willing to adapt our ethics and moral sensibilities, and that’s true whether the issue is how best to respond to an unexpected human life in pregnancy, how to care for a patient as a physician, or how to navigate issues as we age.
Since returning to Americans United for Life in 2017, I’ve been honored to lead our team in reinforcing this historic institution and equipping it to serve as a permanent part of America’s pro-life infrastructure. Fifty years ago, the issue of the human right to life was limited in many respects to abortion. Today, the threats to life are vast, and we have realized that America will always need Americans United for Life and other groups ready to offer practical, life-affirming solutions for those who feel they have no choice but the tragedies of abortion, euthanasia, or suicide.
Americans United for Life was here before Roe, and we will be here long after Roe—providing Americans real choice and life-affirming solutions.
In the shorter term, we’re continuing to provide a sane, hopeful, and fact-based perspective on life issues to Americans in this already-raucous presidential election cycle.
One of several things I’ve admired about you is that you are unafraid to identify personally as a pro-life feminist. I know from personal experience the one-two punch that can invite from “both sides” of the abortion debate. What does that particular identity mean to you?
I’ve encountered pushback because I’m willing to describe myself as a pro-life feminist, no doubt. But I’m proud to call myself a feminist, because I believe a feminist is simply one who pursues the equal dignity of women and men—and I’m unwilling to abandon that word to others I know to be hostile toward authentic human dignity.
It’s a scandal that there are men and women who believe that the intentional killing of human persons—even the intentional targeting of baby girls for abortion—should be lawful. What’s even worse is that women-leaders of organizations like Planned Parenthood would call themselves feminists while actively defending Planned Parenthood’s right to target girls for killing through sex-selective abortion. And that’s literally what Planned Parenthood argued to the U.S. Supreme Court in attacking Indiana’s anti-discrimination law, by the way.
I don’t believe every woman or man needs to think of themselves as a feminist or accept my view of feminism in order to be pro-life. But we should be ready to welcome pro-life feminists, and we should encourage more women who think of themselves as feminists but who aren’t yet convinced about the human right to life to come alongside us in the work of offering more women real choice. And we can do that by pursuing what you’ve written about in Resisting Throwaway Culture as a “culture of encounter.”
If we all think exactly the same way in America, then we really can’t say this is a diverse nation. And to reverse Roe and create an authentic culture of life, we need a robust and diverse pro-life movement.
Perhaps especially in light of that identity, I wonder what you think of the claim that President Trump is the most pro-life president in our history?
There’s no question that President Donald Trump is delivering substantial pro-life victories. And his transformation of the judiciary through his work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the potential to ensure judges properly interpret the Constitution for decades to come. However, the majority of President Trump’s pro-life achievements have come by means of executive order or other administrative action. And all those achievements can be reversed when, inevitably, another president with different views enters office.
While we have not seen permanent victories for life, in many respects that’s not his failure, but the Congress’s failure. We cannot forget the disaster that was the House of Representatives’ total failure to defund Planned Parenthood when they had the chance to deliver an historic and life-affirming legislative victory for the American people. We cannot afford to squander those opportunities to deliver permanent legislative achievements that support the human right to life.
But in the long run, I suspect President Trump’s pro-life bona fides will be judged by whether the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe.
AUL commissioned a poll earlier this year with YouGov in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Reproductive Health Act, and the poll found that 68 percent of pro-choice Americans oppose late-term abortion being lawful. If that’s the case, why are states like New York and Virginia moving in such an extremist direction? Why do you think that we’ve been unable to make late-term abortion a bipartisan issue?
America’s pro-life movement has been awakening the consciences of women and men for generations, but particularly in recent years as science and medicine have made it impossible to honestly suggest that human life begins anytime other than the moment of sperm-egg fusion at conception.
What we’re seeing is an increasingly bipartisan sense that abortion is what it is—dehumanizing and extremist.
At the same time, we know that politics too often tends to resemble a sort of ideological blood sport. And in New York and Virginia, extremist leaders there realized that the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to reverse Roe sooner or later. And they want nothing to change when that happens, regardless of America’s consensus against late-term abortion. So they’re moving to enshrine our present extremism against human life into their state laws.
The silver lining? If you’re a pro-life New Yorker or Virginian, there is no better time to become engaged on the state level and repeal these absurd laws.
What are some of the social policies and cultural habits that we need to advance in order to create a culture of life across the spectrum of life issues? And, concretely, how can we help mothers and fathers respond to unexpected pregnancy in a life-affirming way?
I mentioned your book, Resisting Throwaway Culture—I think seeing more Americans encountering your ideas thoughtfully would be a great place to start.
But it’s also true that the “culture of encounter” you speak about already exists in so many ways. There are thousands of life-affirming, often volunteer-led pregnancy resource clinics across America that offer women and men—mothers and fathers—life-affirming responses to unexpected pregnancy every single day. America’s pro-life clinics outnumber abortion clinics three to one. And every one of these centers needs our support, and every one of these centers will need to be strengthened to become a permanent part of their communities. There will always be mothers and fathers navigating unexpected pregnancy, and these men and women will need our love and support in making the choice for life. This is why “pro-life” will be a phrase that never disappears from the American vocabulary.
In terms of our policies and habits, we have to start thinking of ourselves as agents of love and responsiveness in our own lives, in our own families, in our own communities. We should only look to politics when all else fails. Our politics has failed us, but for most of us, the most important work we can do—aside from supporting the work of organizations like Americans United for Life and its peers—is ensure that we are prepared to respond in a life-affirming way in our own lives to the people who will need the love.
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