Today’s drive for “Abortion Consensus” as a legislative and political strategy for the Prolife Movement can be traced back to a Knights of Columbus public relations ploy titled “The Moral Compass Project,” carried out by the Media, Research and Development team of the Knights under the leadership of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson between 2008 and 2010 and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion (MIPO), a polling and survey outfit located at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

The Case Against “ABORTION CONSENSUS”  – 

The Prolife Movement at the Crossroads 

By Randy Engel

[Note from the author: This article was originally part of a series appearing in The Catholic Inquisitor titled “Bishop James T. McHugh – The Forgotten Man in the McCarrick Equation,” which highlighted the role the Homosexual Movement played in undermining the Prolife Movement in the Catholic Church for more than five decades. CI editor Louie Verrecchio was gracious enough to enable me to extract this section from the series to meet the fall 2020 deadline for exposure of the fatal Abortion Consensus campaign currently being promoted and financed by the Knights of Columbus and the March for Life leadership.]     

Introduction 

For readers who are not acquainted with this writer’s prolife credentials as the founder and director of the U.S. Coalition for Life for almost half a century, I trust my abbreviated curriculum vitae found in the endnotes[i] will verify my right, indeed my duty, to speak out against the current campaign to change the grassroots Prolife Movement, which has always been an  ABOLISHIONIST MOVEMENT TO END ABORTION into a CONSENSUS MOVEMENT TO ACCOMODATE AND REGULATE PRENATAL KILLING. 

The Origins of the New “Abortion Consensus” Movement

Today’s drive for “Abortion Consensus” as a legislative and political strategy for the Prolife Movement can be traced back to a Knights of Columbus public relations ploy titled “The Moral Compass Project,” carried out by the Media, Research and Development team of the Knights under the leadership of Supreme Knight Carl Anderson between 2008 and 2010 and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion (MIPO), a polling and survey outfit located at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. 

Details of the Knight’s costly project are relayed in Anderson’s 2010 book Beyond A House Divided – The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street, and the Media.[ii]

It should be noted that although written by a prominent Catholic layman and funded by a Catholic organization, the book is not Catholic in any sense of the word and it reeks of the heresy of Americanism beginning with the first paragraph of the Foreword.[iii]

According to Anderson, Beyond A House Divided is designed “to contribute to the national conversation about what direction the country ought to take based not on a partisan political approach, but on a moral sense – and consensus- of the American people.”[iv] The issues upon which the book builds its consensus concepts are “religious and traditional values,” “freedom of religion,” “freedom of conscience,” “marketplace morality,” “restricted abortion” and “the future of marriage.”  

“Since this is a book about American values,” Anderson explains, “we have chosen for our definition of consensus one endorsed by the Founders of the country: a two-thirds majority, which is the number needed to override a veto or ratify a treaty.”[v]

To Kill or Not to Kill? – That Is the Question

Redefining What it Means to be “Prolife”                                                                         

In Chapter 5, titled “Beyond the Clash of Absolutes: Abortion,” Anderson explains how Consensus  works on the issue of abortion.  

Citing a 1995 Gallup poll which indicated that 51% of Americans identify themselves as “prolife” as compared to 42% who identified as “prochoice,” Anderson states that Americans are slowly moving toward the “prolife” position.[vi] Unfortunately, in order to justify that conclusion, Anderson must redefine what it means to be prolife. 

Thus, his definition of “prolife” includes Americans who support abortion 1) to save the life of the mother, 2) rape, incest and life of the mother 3) abortion “only” during the first three months of pregnancy, and 4) and support for more restrictions than Roe v. Wade allows (note: Roe v. Wade  permits abortion up until birth and slightly beyond (partial birth abortion and infanticide). Doing the math, this leaves approximately 13 to 14% of Americans in the “extreme anti-life camp who support Roe v. Wade without exception.[vii]

So, those persons, whom the early Prolife Movement defined as being “pro-abortion” or “anti-life, that is, anyone who denied the unborn child the right to life and due process of law for whatever reason, – have now been elevated to “prolife” status as long as they support some kind of abortion restrictions.  

In turn, those American prolifers who continue to harbor their original abolitionist prejudice against any and all deliberate killings of innocent unborn human beings – at any and all stages of development – whether conceived sexually or a-sexually –  are demoted and relegated by Anderson to the negative category of “absolutist.” Are solid prolife politicians who refuse to be snookered by “Consensus” then to be categorized as “absolutists” or worse yet, as pro-aborts for opposing and voting against Consensus? 

In the end, what Anderson has managed to do with his Consensus strategy is to put all true prolife Americans who are unwilling to approve of any and all abortions into the “extremist” category occupied by no-compromise pro-aborts.[viii]

Regarding the false “prolife” category of Americans who want abortion restricted “to only the first three months of a pregnancy,” Anderson notes that when the Knights of Columbus designed the Marist Poll Survey on Abortion, he and the Knights staff decided “to consider abortion in terms of the three gestational periods (trimesters)” of pregnancy.[ix] The poll showed that approximately eight out of every ten Americans “favor restrictions that would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy at most,” Anderson said. “We didn’t find a clash of absolutes but a consensus on what almost everyone sees as the most hopelessly divisive issue in America today,” Anderson concludes approvingly.[x]

Arguments Against “Limited Killing” 

First, are we to understand from the above statement by Supreme Knight Anderson that an unborn child is somehow at a greater advantage when being killed in the first trimester of pregnancy than when he is killed in the second or third trimester of pregnancy at which time he just might be born alive and permitted to live? Is he more or less dead when killed in the early stages or life than later? Why is killing an innocent human being at an earlier stage of development more acceptable than killing him three or six months later? 

Second, the vast majority of surgical and chemically-induced abortions carried out in the United States are carried out in the first trimester of pregnancy. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2016, 91% of all abortions were performed in the first trimester of pregnancy and 9% in the second and third trimester. So if we have one million surgical and chemical abortions a year, approximately 910,000 unborn children are killed in the first trimester of pregnancy and 11% or are carried out in the second and third trimesters.[xi]

Obviously, if human life is to be measured solely in utilitarian terms of numbers of human beings killed or saved, a position all true prolifers reject outright, why wouldn’t the Knights think it better to legally prohibit all first trimester surgical and chemically-induced abortions? That could save 910,000 unborn children out of a million. Also, having prohibited the mother from killing her baby in the first trimester might have the advantage of giving the mother second thoughts about aborting her child and possibly open the door for a live delivery.   

Again, if utilitarian ethics are the Knights’ only guideline, a well-drafted law prohibiting all first trimester abortions, that accurately and scientifically defined the biological beginning of all human beings created both sexually at fertilization [the fusion of sperm and oocyte]; or a-sexually in the laboratory or IVF clinics by cloning or other genetic engineering techniques, would save the lives of many millions more human beings every year.[xii]

But nowhere in the entire text does Anderson make any reference to the killing of the human embryo, the tiniest of our kin, by early abortifacient drugs[xiii] and devices[xiv] which are falsely promoted as “contraceptives,” or in IVF labs or human embryo research facilities.[xv]

Getting Back to Reality  

Anderson’s thinking that one can legally limit abortions to “only” the first trimester of pregnancy is pure fantasy since the Consensus position he proposes also embraces the common “exceptions” clauses found in many pro-abortion laws including life of the mother, rape and incest.[xvi]Abortion laws then would have to permit second and third trimester abortions in order to accommodate these “exceptions.”

It’s interesting to note that nine years after he wrote Beyond A House Divided, Anderson was claiming that according to the latest Marist Poll, “By about three to one, Americans oppose abortion after 20 weeks.”[xvii] TWENTY WEEKS = FIVE MONTHS. What about abortion “only” in the first three months of pregnancy Anderson was talking about just a decade before?  

Americans it seem, under Anderson’s definition of  “prolife,” can still qualify as “prolifers” as long as they don’t promote “extremism” aka “abortion until birth” at which time, of course, we are dealing with infanticide, a step up from abortion.

One can only wonder if the issue was not abortion but euthanasia, whether Anderson would approve of the killing of only elderly persons over 75 or 80?

Lastly, as a Catholic, I was shocked to see that Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal service organization in the world, not only was willing to sell out the physical lives of millions of unborn children in our nation, but that he completely ignored the spiritual reality of the crime of abortion which, according to traditional Church teaching, deprives the unbaptized aborted child of the Beatific vision, but accords him a place of perfect natural happiness – the limbus infantium (children’s limbo).[xviii]

Indeed, when it comes to representing the correct position of the Catholic Church on abortion, Anderson does not even get that right. The Hill quoted Anderson on August 17, 2016 as stating, “The Catholic position  – that abortion takes a human life, is morally wrong, and should be substantially restricted — is not only backed up by science, it is now the public’s consensus by a wide margin.”[xix]

That is a false statement.

The true Catholic position on abortion is “The prohibition against the direct and intentional taking of innocent human life is universal and without exception.”[xx]

Anderson’s Strategy Fatal for the Unborn Child

According to Anderson, Americans want the debate on abortion to end, and we can help end the debate by agreeing to the ongoing consensus that open season on unborn children should be restricted to exceptions for rape, incest, and  life of the mother; and/or to the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. The chapter concludes: 

The idea that our country is divided on restricting abortion is a myth, and justification  for avoiding the issue on that basis no longer apply. The goals can be achieved. We must only find those in the courts, politics, and the media with the courage to move in that direction, and as a nation with a broad consensus, we must demand that they do so.[xxi]

The vast majority of the American people have a vision in which abortion is talked about in moral terms, where it is restricted – with broad support, with consensus achieved. They look forward to an America whose abortion laws are not the most radical in the Western world, whose debate is not stifled by appeals to a Supreme Court decision. The American people have moved beyond the abortion impasse. What is needed now is the right combination of political leadership and courage.[xxii]

Thus, Anderson makes it quite clear. He is neither an “absolutist” nor an “abolitionist.” God forbid! His goal for America is to have a nation where one can legally kill unborn children in moderation. 

Maybe the Supreme Knight can live with this strategy (as can the enemies of life including pro-abort politicians[xxiii] – but unborn children under the curate or in the test tube cannot.

Americans do not need consensus in favor of abortion at any time because the killing of innocent human beings, like slavery, admits of no modification. Period! End of Argument!

What Americans need is a healthy dose of Truth, even if that means continuing the war for LIFE for another 50 years. Anderson says, as a participant in the March for Life, he “speaks for the unborn and the American people.”[xxiv]

 I say he speaks neither for the unborn child nor for the Prolife Movement. 

Being defeated in the battle for life by God’s enemies is tragic enough. But being defeated by the enemy within – be they Catholic hierarchy, clergy, religious or prominent laymen like Carl Anderson, is an everlasting sorrow. These were my gut feelings as a veteran prolifer when I belatedly first read Supreme Knight Anderson’s endorsement of “Abortion Consensus” in his 2010 book, Beyond a House Divided earlier this year. 

However, it was not through Anderson’s book that I first learned of the Consensus strategy being implemented and seductively imposed on the Prolife Movement. Rather, this writer first learned about the campaign to promote Abortion Consensus accidently nine years later from the MARCH for LIFE website in November 2019 while looking for March information.

Knights Consensus Campaign Infects March for Life 

The long and friendly relationship between the Knights of Columbus and the March for Life goes back to the early days of the founding of the national march in Washington, D.C. to protest the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973. 

Knights around the nation, especially those located in the D.C. area have always supported the March for Life as it was established under Nellie Gray and the six founders of the March for Life.[xxv]

The political rationale for the March for Life has always been the securing of a mandatory Constitutional Human Life Amendment declaring the unborn child at every stage of biological development to be a human being and a “person” under the law.

The precepts of the March for Life were enshrined by March founder Nellie Gray in the “Life Principles.” Although the scientific language used in the “Life Principles” needs to be updated, and made inclusive so that human beings created asexually are given the same protection as human beings created sexually, the “Life Principles” by and large do reflect the traditional philosophical foundations upon which the  Prolife Movement was founded.[xxvi]

But the original National March for Life organization as it was created in the fall of 1973 is no longer in existence, and the “Life Principles” have long been forgotten by the new March for Life leadership.  

The remainder of this series will document how the March for Life came to endorse the Consensus campaign beginning with some pertinent information on President Jeanne Monahan Mancini who took over the organization after the death of Nellie Gray on August 13, 2012.

A Profile of  MFL Leader Jeanne Mancini[xxvii]

In a short biographical blip for The Washington Post, Jeanne Monahan Mancini says she came from “a bit leftward leading Catholic family,” but unlike her siblings she turned out to be “a little more quote-unquote religious.”[xxviii] 

Mancini received her BA in Psychology from James Madison University in Virginia and her Masters of Theological Studies from the Pontifical Pope John II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. in 2002.[xxix]  

After graduation from the Pope John II Institute, Mancini secured a job as former Associate Director of the Cardinal Maida Institute located in the St. John Center for Youth and Family, a prominent promoter of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body,[xxx] for the Archdiocese of Detroit in Plymouth, Mich. (2002- 2006).

From there, she accepted a position as Abstinence Advisor to the U.S. Agency for International Development (2006-2008) and  later, to the USDHHS (2008-2009). 

In 2009, Mancini was hired by the Protestant Evangelical Family Research Council (a division of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family), in Washington, D.C., where she became Director for the Center for Human Dignity.

Mancini Joins the MFL Board 

In the spring or summer of 2012, March founder Nellie Gray offered Mancini a seat on the March for Life Board of Directors. Mancini explained her initial skepticism about joining the Board in a 2018 interview with Crux writer, Christopher White, who writes, “The board she [Mancini] thought was ‘old school in its thinking and operations,’ and she felt ‘conflicted and ambivalent,’ about joining their ranks.”[xxxi] In retrospect, Mancini never should have been appointed to the Board of Directors whose first obligation is to support the founding mission of the organization, that is, to  END abortion not to regulate the killing of unborn children. 

Nevertheless, Mancini did join the Board, and shortly after Gray’s death she became the first paid (later six-digit) President of the March for Life,[xxxii] and immediately began the reorganization and restructuring of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, which would quickly grow into a million-dollar operation, with assets over $1 million and over a half-dozen full time staff members. 

Tom McClosky, formerly with the Family Research Council, was hired as the March’s chief lobbyist on Capitol Hill and President of the March’s “sister organization,” March for Life Action with a similar six-figure salary.[xxxiii]

In a separate 2017 interview, White noted that some MFL critics believed that Nellie Gray’s leadership was “too Catholic and conservative,” and that Mancini was determined to “transform the March to a more inclusive event – open to people of all faiths and no faith and to folks of all political persuasions.”[xxxiv] Mancini stated that she was into “building bridges” and increasing the presence of Evangelicals and African Americans. Kelly Rosati of Focus on the Family was one of Mancini’s early additions to the MFL Board.

In a panel discussion on abortion held at Georgetown University hosted in part by the Knights of Columbus in October 2018, Mancini said that religious anti-abortion language damages the Prolife Movement and that she prefers a secular approach that promotes abortion as a “social justice” issue.[xxxv]

Mancini Promotes Feminist Themes  

Since Mancini took over the March for Life, feminist themes have come to dominate the March. Indeed, the entire direction and emphasis of the March has clearly shifted from abortion as a crime against the unborn child to abortion as predominantly a “woman’s issue.”  

The major theme of the annual 2020 National March for Life was clearly feminist inspired – “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman” with the event tied to the women’s suffrage movement for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.[xxxvi]

According to Mancini:

Because of the cause of ‘reproductive rights,’ approximately 30 million females are missing in the United States today – future Olympic athletes, scientists, doctors, artists, teachers, sisters, mothers, daughters, lawmakers, and maybe even a President. Women deserve the truth about this issue. Abortion is profoundly anti-woman. Choosing life is empowering, not taking the life of your precious little one.[xxxvii]

But, what about the 30 million male children who have been aborted? Are they to be considered chopped liver?

In the March for Life YouTube video titled March for Life 2020 | Life Empowers, a young feminist twerp instructs her impressionable female audience, “Let us always keep in our remembrance the bravery of our founding feminists. They birthed the 19th Amendment. Friends, they were our real life heroines…  In 1920, they got the vote, but it was just the beginning…”

Really? The beginning of what? 

As the remarkable Jewess, Miss Ray Frank, who opposed suffrage observed, “They [suffragists] say, too, that all the men consider them good for is to take care of their children. I have often wondered when the suffragists were going to talk about the rights of children instead of their own.”[xxxviii]

In fact, that time never came. Neither the early suffragist leaders after the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, nor their heirs ever went on to initiate or join the national campaign to criminalize abortion led by prolife physicians or introduced and supported legislation to guarantee the right-to-life of unborn children. That duty fell to Prolife Movement forty years later. 

The unvarnished truth is that the early Feminist Movement was laden with significant anti-life baggage including eugenics, neo-Malthusianism, female homosexuality (lesbianism), socialism, racism, birth control, and yes, even violence and anti-Catholicism which made the suffrage/women’s rights issue a divisive one not only among Catholics, but also among Protestants and Jews, men and women alike. 

It is said that the early suffragists set modern feminism on its path. And that, unfortunately, is true.  For an extended treatment of the antilife aspects of the early feminist movement in the U.S., Canada, and the UK, see extended endnote thirty-nine.[xxxix]

However, Mancini’s endorsement of early suffragist leaders as “prolife” is only a secondary and minor annoyance and embarrassment when compared to the March for Life’s ongoing campaign to promote Consensus. 

Is “CONSENSUS” Official MFL Policy? Yes

The following text is taken from the  MFL Media Center Release titled “March for Life Action Launches 2016 Ad Campaign Revealing Pro-Life Position is National Consensus” by Bethany Peck, MFL Director of Grassroots and Digital Strategy, with an embargo date of Sept. 22, 2016. 

Candidates Promising to Expand Abortion are Out-of-Touch with American Voters

Washington, DC On Thursday, March for Life Action will launch a major public awareness campaign highlighting the overwhelming pro-life consensus most Americans share on the issue of abortion. The campaign will be supported by a new ad, “Consensus,” which is the first of its kind for March for Life Action and highlights the reality that pro-life policies are reflective of mainstream America, and are winning positions for candidates running for office.

Based on a 2016 Knights of Columbus Marist Poll that surveyed Americans on their beliefs about abortion, the ad reveals that the extreme position of abortion-on-demand up until birth held by the abortion advocates and many pro-choice politicians, is out of touch with the American public. [Note the use of the word “extreme” to this sentence. In fact, all abortions are “extreme,” no matter when, where, how or why they are carried out.]

The first phase of the campaign will run Thursday through Monday, leading into the Presidential debate, and will include digital and television outreach. Targeting Columbus, OH; Dayton, OH; Pittsburgh, PA; Scranton, PA; Richmond, VA and the District of Columbia, the ad will run during major network programs including: Madame Secretary, Today Show, CBS This Morning, 60 Minutes and other significant programs. [Original video available at https://marchforlife.org/consensus-ad-campaign/; The complete text is found in endnote forty.[xl]]

… With this ad, we encourage Americans to take a deeper look at their candidates. Politicians who claim to be ‘pro-choice,’ essentially advocate for abortion-on-demand up until the time of birth, paid for by your taxpayer dollars.  This radical position is out of touch with the large majority of Americans,”said Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life.“With an overwhelming majority of Americans in favor of substantial restrictions on abortion, it’s time for politicians to change the fact that current U.S. law does not reflect the hearts and minds of its own people regarding life.

Without using actors, the ad features six women from different political and professional backgrounds.  “As we state in the ad, it’s time for OUR voices to be heard and the extremism on this issue to end,” said Mancini.

In 2016, the March for Life “educational commercial campaign “Consensus” was viewed over 900,000 times on YouTube and over 1.6 million times on TV during September and October.[xli]

The public relations firm that the March for Life Board hired to create and promote the Consensus campaign was the well-known Republican firm of Shirley & Banister. Craig Shirley is the President and CEO and Diana Banister is VP and partner, with offices in Alexandria, Virginia. 

As it turns out, Diana Banister also serves on the March for Life Board of Directors. According to IRS 990 records for 2016, the year Consensus was launched, Banister received $48,015 for her “public relation services,” presumably for the Consensus campaign. 

One of its most important clients of Shirley and Banister, at least in connection with this article is  the Federalist Society (FS) founded by Leonard L. Leo, President Trump’s go-to man for selecting candidates for Supreme Court vacancies. Leo, like Carl Anderson, has strong ties to Opus Dei. Most importantly, The Federalist, the official publication of the Federalist Society has been pushing Abortion Consensus since 2016.[xlii]

The current public relations firm for the March for Life is Creative Response Concepts (CRC) of Falls Church, Virginia.[xliii] As of 2018, one of CRC’s top clients is also the Federalist Society headed by Leonard Leo, mentioned above in connection with the public relations firm of Shirley and Banister.  Media inquiries coming into the March for Life are handled by CRC employees Matille Thebolt and Emily Degnan. 

All this leads to the question – “Considering how costly these Washington, D.C. beltway firms are, why does the March for Life need a full-time public relations firm when it has a full-time President and staff?

Is The MFL Still Supporting Consensus? Yes

The March for Life is still promoting Consensus, especially among the young.

On its official website, on comments directed specifically at “Students and Graduates,” we read:

When you actually get past the labels of pro-life and pro-choice, which can be very politically charged, there is actually a very strong consensus for life in our country. Eight out of ten Americans believe that there should be strong legal protections for the unborn and that abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy, at least.

That should be extremely encouraging in regards to the future of pro-life legislation and growing a culture of life in America. Conversations are an incredibly significant way for everyone to invite dialogue about the truth of the unborn and to stay involved in the pro-life mission.[xliv]

Looking back, at the MFL Rally in January 2020, some prolifers may remember that speaker Elisa Martinez of the New Mexico Alliance for Life stated: “At the end of the day, Americans are pro-life and want to see limits, not just on late term abortions, but also the vast majority-of Americans- -70% – – want to see abortion limited to the first trimester.[xlv]

This could not have been a coincidence.

The above 2016 MFL press release makes it clear that MFL’s official policy of  “Consensus” is identical to the “Consensus” policy promoted by Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson in his 2010 book Beyond A House Divided.[xlvi] Again, is this a coincidence? This time the answer is, No! 

In order to fully understand the motivating factors behind the March for Life adoption and implementation of Consensus, it’s necessary to return to the Knights of Columbus leadership and the influence they exerted on the March for Life. 

The Knights Financial Investment in the MFL 

Consider the fact that in 2011, the annual budget for the MFL was only $314,155. In 2012, the year that Nellie Gray, the founder and President of the March for Life died, the budget was $462,071. Except to maintain the MFL and cover the major expense of the January 22nd national march, neither Nellie nor any MFL Board member ever drew a regular salary from the organization.

In 2013, after Knight Kelly had assumed the Chair of the MFL and Mancini had replaced Nellie Gray as President , the budget grew to an astounding $1,439,109 to provide for the MFL’s digital media campaign, Mancini’s salary, and the new office space and staff that had been hired to run the organization year-round. In 2014, the MFL budget dipped to $532,150, but returned to the over million dollar level thereafter: (2015 – $1,179,161; (2016 – $1,188,972); (2017- 1,708,094)  and (2018 – 1,614,069). 

In 2016, the year March for Life ACTION was created, and the Consensus media campaign was conducted, the Knights contributed $850,000 to the March for Life which must have included most, if not all, of the expenses for the Consensus media blitz, plus money for MFLA’s new lobbying expenses and salary ($102,000) for Tom McClosky. This was $350,000 over the usual $500,000 to $578,000 that the Knights had  been contributing annually to the organization since – but not before – Nellie  Gray died.   

 Knights Control MFL Board of Directors 

If the term “control” appears to be too “conspiratorial,” consider the fact that, at the latest, by 2013 all of the four major offices of the March for Life Board of Directors –  Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer were held by highly-placed Knights of Columbus members: 

  • Knight Peter Kelly[xlvii](Deputy Supreme Knight) chairs the MFL Board.                                                                      
  • Knight Thomas J. Harrington, (Senior Policy Director of the Knights) is Vice Chair. 
  • Knight Timothy Msaccocia ( Washington D.C. Metro Area Senior Policy Director of the Knights) is the Secretary of the MFL.
  • Knight Donald R. Kehoe (Assistant Supreme Secretary of the Knights) is Treasurer of the MFL. 

Thus, within two years of Nellie Gray’s death, the Knights had stacked the Board of Directors’ offices with their own members and thus grabbed the upper hand on the future direction of the March for Life. 

Having managed at least three prolife non-profits in my career, I can claim with absolute certitude that all members of the Board of Directors of any public trust, aka, a non-profit, tax-deductible organization, must first and foremost be loyal and faithful to the organization’s mission. Public donors to the organization have a right to expect that their contributions will be used to advance that mission. Further, they must always act in the best interests of the organization, and in a manner consistent with the goals of the organization. And finally, they  must exercise vigil oversight over all  the organization’s operations including the avoidance of conflicts of interest and take an active role in the organizational and financial planning of the organization.

However, it appears that since Nellie Gray’s death in 2012, the new March for Life Board including all its Knight officers has acted in opposition to the above precepts.  

ABORTION CONSENSUS = ENDLESS ABORTIONS 

Clearly, the Consensus policy as instituted and implemented by the leadership of the Knights of Columbus,  and accepted and promoted by the Board of Directors  of the March for Life dominated by the same Knights of Columbus leadership, DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS THE LIFE PRINCIPLES LONG ASSOCIATED WITH THE MARCH FOR LIFE.  

In its Mission statement found in its GuideStar Profile we read: “The mission of the March for Life is to promote the beauty and dignity of every human life by working TO END ABORTION (caps added) – uniting, educating, and mobilizing pro-life people in the public square… “[xlviii] But the Consensus policy which the Board of Directors approved and Mancini has carried out, will NOT END abortions, but will lead to ENDLESS abortions in our nation 

Further, there appears to be a serious conflict of interest among the Knights serving on the March for Life Board. By law, non-profit Board members are volunteers and therefore draw no salary. But the Knights serving on the Board have split loyalties because they receive their salaries from the Knights and take their marching orders from the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, who happens to be the major architect of the Consensus campaign. 

True, they don’t take in the $2 million plus salary their boss rakes in annually, but we do know that March for Life Chair Kelly’s salary from the Knights exceeds $500, 000 a year. Thus, when push comes to shove, it’s unlikely that any of these Knight officials are going to abandon the Consensus ship on their own, and rejoin the prolife ship that Nellie Gray navigated for more than 38 years, and whose name is still synonymous with the March for Life. 

Further Complications of Consensus 

The tragedy of Consensus is even more deadly and compounded when one realizes that under the leadership of newly structured dual entity of the March for Life/March for Life Action,  plans are being laid not only to continue to organize and promote the annual January 22nd March for Life in Washington, D.C., a laudable task, but to assume the leadership of the Prolife Movement, State by State as well as the direction of federal abortion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and ultimately the Supreme Court’s future actions with regard to Roe V. Wade. 

March for Life Action is the official lobbying arm of the March for Life. But what will it be lobbying and advocating for? Consensus? 

Prior to the Covid-19 forced shutdown, the March for Life was planning spring state-wide marches which were subsequently canceled and replaced by various internet/webinar events moderated by lobbyist Tom McClusky using a program format designed by the MFL with select panel members chosen by the MFL. Fund-raising and self-promotion figure heavily in these presentations. 

In November 2020, this writer contacted veteran prolifers and the prolife leaders of national groups to find out their position on Consensus as being promoted by the March for Life and the Knights of Columbus. All were clueless as to (1) the meaning of Consensus (2) its implication for the unborn child and the Prolife Movement and (3) the fact that the Knights of Columbus and March for Life were promoting Consensus. Most were in a state of shock when they were informed of the realities of Consensus as a “prolife” policy/ strategy. I trust that readers who are being exposed to “Consensus” for the first time, will share that shock and publicly reject the Consensus policy outright. 

What is the Consensus Endgame?

In my concluding commentary on the Knights of Columbus/March for Life debacle over Consensus, I’d like to ask out loud the most important question of this article?  – What’s the ABORTION CONSENSUS ENDGAME?  

As I see it, whatever its original intention, the predictable overall effect of the promotion and financing of the Consensus strategy by the Knights of Columbus and the March for Life and their supporters, will be to  lethally soften  the underbelly of the Prolife Movement  so as to make abortion in the United States, under a variety of circumstances,  both legal and respectable.  

We in the Prolife Movement has been fighting abortion for almost 50  years, but I’d rather continue to fight for another 50 years or however long it takes to erase this plague from our nation than capitulate to antilife forces  from both within and without the Prolife Movement. 

I say, “Down With Consensus! Up with a Constitutional Human Life Amendment.” 

What say you?   

The End

Postscript – This is the first major salvo against the promotion and financing of  Abortion Consensus by the U.S. Coalition for Life. If the reader is not as yet on the USCL mailing list send your e-mail address to randy.engel@uscl.info. Written comments can be sent to USCL, Box 315, Export, Pa 15632.

The USCL is already working on updating a mandatory Constitutional Human Life Amendment . We need to shift the emphasis of the Prolife Movement back to focusing on the universal protection of UNBORN CHILDREN.

The USCL will continue to follow-up on organizations, media outlets etc. who are opposing Abortion Consensus and those supporting Abortion Consensus, and to report on responses from the March for Life and Knights of Columbus leadership in connection with Consensus. 


[i] In the mid-1960s, investigative reporter Randy Engel developed an intense interest in pro-life issues including population control programs of classroom sex instruction,  contraception, sterilization, abortion and abortifacients, eugenics, euthanasia, and fetal experimentation,  putting her on the ground floor of the emerging Pro-Life Movement. In 1972, she founded the U.S. Coalition for Life in Pittsburgh, Penn., an international pro-life research and investigative agency, and began editing the USCL’s official publication, the Pro-Life Reporter. Her four-year study on the eugenic policies and programs of the March of Dimes titled “Who Will Defend Michael?” quickly put the USCL on the map as the finest pro-life research agency in the U.S. In 1976, Randy Engel co-founded the International Foundation for Genetic Research, popularly known as The Michael Fund, with Dr. Jerome Lejeune in Paris, to defend the right to life of handicapped children in utero and to fund truly therapeutic research in the field of Down syndrome under the direction of Dr. Lejeune and later under Dr. Paddy-Jim Baggot. Her investigative findings documenting the rise of the federal government’s anti-life programs at home and abroad served as the basis for her testimony before Congressional hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Randy Engel’s groundbreaking investigative findings related to US/AID abortion and sterilization programs in Latin and South America, Asia and Africa were instrumental in bringing about major pro-life changes in the Agency for International Development’s foreign assistance programs. Many of her original research publications for the USCL including “A March of Dimes Primer – the A-Z of Eugenic Abortion,” and “The Pathfinder Fund – A Study of US/AID Anti-Life Funding” have become pro-life classics and continue to enjoy wide circulation. In 1995, the veteran pro-life researcher exposed the long-standing eugenic abortion record of Dr. Henry Foster, President Bill Clinton’s nominee for U.S. Surgeon General, resulting in the Senate’s failure to approve the nomination. Almost 50 years after its founding, the U.S. Coalition for Life continues to be dynamic prolife voice for the unborn child in the U.S. and abroad.

[ii] Carl Anderson, Beyond A House Divided – The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street, and the Media, Doubleday, NY, 2010, p.7-8. 

[iii] See Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Longinqua on Catholicism in the United States, January 6, 1895, and his later letter to liberal U.S. Cardinal James Gibbons, written on January 2, 1899, titled Testem benevolentiae nostrae, in opposition to American liberalism and pluralism which undermine the doctrines and morals of the Catholic Church. 

[iv] Anderson, Beyond A House Divided, p.9.

[v] Ibid., p. 10.

[vi] Ibid., p.80. 

[vii] Ibid., pp. 82-84. 

[viii] Ibid., p. 82.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid., p. 84.

[xi] See https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/abortion.htm. Note: During the first year of Ireland’s liberalized legal killing of the unborn child there were 6,666 abortions – 95% of which were carried out in the first trimester – 124 carried out in the second and third trimester for eugenic reasons and life/health of the mother. See https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/6666-abortions-performed-in-ireland-last-year-after-repeal-of-pro-life-law-17489. For the reasons that women obtain abortions [98.3% are “elective” see http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/abreasons.html.

[xii] According to my prolife colleague Dr. Dianne Irving, the IVF industry has partnered up with ART (Artificial Reproductive Technologies, e.g., cloning and other genetically engineered techniques, to create  hundreds of thousands of new living human embryos, most of whom are used in destructive research protocols. They also use “donated” sexually reproduced human embryos derived from their infertile clients. This mass destruction of newly  created human beings in “clinics” and research labs, needs to be legally prohibited. See:

https://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage01.pdfhttp://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_82whathumanembryo1.htmlhttps://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=2131&context=lnqhttps://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=8541.

[xiii] The use of the abortion pill Mifeprex, approved by the FDA in 2000, has increased 400% between 2001and 2017, and is responsible for the death of millions of unborn children.

[xiv] The IUD has been known as an abortifacient device since the early days of birth control advocate Marie Stopes of the UK at the turn of the 20th century.

[xv] Human embryonic life commences with fertilization which normally takes place in the ampulla of the uterine tube, not the uterus or the womb. Any drug or device which interferes with the development of the new human embryo [Plan B, IUDs] is an abortifacient not a “contraceptive.” See http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage02.pdfhttp://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage03.pdfhttp://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage04.pdfhttp://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage05.pdf.

[xvi] In a Sept. 7, 2020 article published by The Federalist, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson states that “The Knights of Columbus and Marist released their annual public opinion poll this week, showing that 70 percent of Americans want significant restrictions on abortion, such as limiting it to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, allowing it only in cases of rape and incest or to save the mother’s life, or altogether prohibiting abortion.” His statement verifies the fact that “Consensus” includes the well-known exceptions as well a three or five month killing limit. 

[xvii] Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, “The Silent Democratic Majority on Abortion,” May 2, 2019 issued by the Knights of Columbus media office. 

[xviii] See the views of St. Thomas Aquinas in conflict with St. Augustine on the question of limbo at https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09256a.htm

[xix] See  https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/291652-catholic-politicians-should-follow-conscience-and-consensus-on#:~:text=The%20Catholic%20position%20%E2%80%93%20that%20abortion%20takes%20a,Cuomo%E2%80%99s%20idea%20is%20now%20bankrupt%20in%20another%20way.

[xx] See https://www.nytimes.com/1974/03/08/archives/4-cardinals-urge-us-abortion-ban-but-they-refuse-to-endorse.html.

[xxi] Anderson, Beyond A House Divided, p. 95.

[xxii] Ibid. 

[xxiii] See Alexandra DeSanctis, “Democrats On Abortion: “Safe, Legal and Unlimited,” National Review, November 7, 2019, at https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/11/25/democrats-on-abortion-safe-legal-and-unlimited/

[xxiv] Carl Anderson, “Waiting for a Moderate Democrat on Abortion,” The Wall Street Journal,” January 21, 2020 at https://www.wsj.com/articles/waiting-for-a-moderate-democrat-on-abortion-11579651418.

[xxv] The six co-founding members are Eileen Vogel, Bill Devlin, Lou Gardner, Margaret Jacocks, John Mawn, and Mary Ann Pierce. 

[xxvi] “The Life Principles,” unfortunately  do not specifically include unborn human beings created asexually. This specific omission needs to be corrected and the scientific language of the edict brought up to date. For details see  Professor Dianne N. Irving’s article ”March for Life 2016’s”Life Principles” Continue to Use False Science,” at  

http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_231lifeprinciples.html.

For an excellent interview on the Life Principles by Nellie Gray see https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/march-for-life-founder-nellie-grey-rightly-warned-of-dangerous-compromising. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the original “ Life Principles” of the March for Life, they are reproduced below. The shaded areas indicate language that needs to be modified along the scientific lines suggested by Dr. Dianne Irving in the above article to include children created asexually:

  • We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all human beings are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which is the right to life, and Therefore
  • The right to life of each human being shall be preserved and protected by every human being in the society and by the society as a whole, and
  • The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected from that human being’s biological beginning when the Father’s sperm fertilizes the Mother’s ovum, and
  • The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected from the biological beginning throughout the natural continuum of that human being’s life by all available ordinary means and reasonable efforts, and
  • The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected at each stage of the life continuum to the same extent as at each and every other stage regardless of state of health or condition of dependency, and
  • The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected to the same extent as the life of each and every other human being regardless of state of health or condition of dependency, and
  • When there is any doubt that there exists a human being’s life to preserve and protect, such doubt shall be resolved In favor of the existence of a human being, and
  • When two or more human beings are in a situation in which their lives are mutually endangered, all available ordinary means and reasonable efforts shall be used to preserve and protect the life of each and every human being so endangered:
  • WHEREFORE, Pursuant To These Principles, we recommend and urge the adoption of a Mandatory HUMAN LIFE AMENDMENT to the Constitution of the United States of America.

[xxvii] See https://abortion.procon.org/source-biographies/jeanne-mancini/.

[xxviii] See https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/lifestyle/activists/?utm_term=.5905fa71d75e.

[xxix] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_A._Anderson and                   http://www.kofc.org/en/news/releases/new-deputy-supreme-knight-appointed.html. The John Paul II Institute that was created and sustained by Opus Dei is of particular interest to this series as Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, a high ranking member of Opus was the founding Vice President and first Dean of the Pope John II Institute in the U.S., and Deputy Knight. Chair of the March for Life, Peter Kelly, also obtained his Masters in Theology from the Pope John Paul II Institute. An extended documented series by this writer on Opus Dei’s takeover of the Knights of Columbus multi-billion dollar empire will be released in 2021.  

[xxx] See http://www.newengelpublishing.com/products/Theology-of-the-Body.html.

[xxxi] Christopher White, “March for Life president seeks big tent approach to pro-life cause,” Crux, January 12, 2018.

[xxxii] IRS 990 recent tax returns show the following salaries earned by Mancini: 2016 $82, 362; 2017 $100,362; and 2018  $124,884. The Knights of Columbus contribute $500,000 plus annually to keep the inflated March bureaucracy afloat. 

[xxxiii] IRS 990 returns on McClusky’s salary – 2016 $102,000;  2018 $120,000. On September 20, 2016, March for Life Action [501 c 4] was created as a sister organization to the March for Life. It is the lobbying arm of the March for Life designed to promote public policies in Congress and State legislatures like Consensus. 

[xxxiv] Christophe White [currently with the National Catholic Reporter], “Director of March for Life wants to make it more inclusive,” Crux, January 26, 2017. Available at https://cruxnow.com/interviews/2017/01/director-march-life-wants-make-inclusive/.

[xxxv] Natalie Ise, “MFL President promotes Use of Secular language in Pro-Life Movement,” Oct.10, 2018, at https://thehoya.com/march-life-president-promotes-use-secular-language-anti-abortion-movement/. See also endnote 18.

[xxxvi] The 2020 March for Life was headed by the Opus Dei all-girls school Oakcrest in Vienna,Virginia.CRC

[xxxvii] See https://abortion.procon.org/source-biographies/jeanne-mancini/.

[xxxviii] See https://jwa.org/media/article-about-ray-franks-opposition-to-suffrage.

[xxxix] So as not to detract from the main theme of the crime of CONSENSUS, the author has placed the arguments against the early feminist movement, and specifically against Mancini’s heroine, feminist leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in this section of the endnotes. 

In October 2019, Jeanne Mancini and Brandi Swindell, founder and CEO of Stanton Healthcare did an op-ed piece on the theme of the upcoming March for the Washington Examiner which was posted on the MFL web site on October 18, 2019. The editorial piece reads in part:

The coming election year marks the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote. It was a long-fought battle led by courageous women who saw an injustice and fought to correct it in spite of public opinion.                                                                                                                                                                             In addition to issues affecting women, many of these early suffragists first became advocates for the abolition of slavery and were ahead of their time condemning the violence of abortion and infanticide.                                                                                        The heroic example of these women has inspired the March for Life to choose the theme “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman” for the 47th annual March for Life. Throughout the year, the March for Life will highlight the pro-life views of the suffragists and the way in which the pro-life movement is the true heir of these earliest feminists (bold added).  Just as the suffragists peacefully advocated for women’s equality — and made great progress — pro-life advocates peacefully advocate for equality for the unborn.                                                                                        Together, those that make up the pro-life movement strive to complete the work of the suffragists by laboring to ensure every human life is treated with dignity and, as [suffragist Elizabeth Cady] Stanton writes, endeavoring to “end this wholesale suffering and murder of helpless children.”                                                                                 Thanks to the early feminist suffragists we have put the time when women were denied the right to vote behind us. One day, we hope to put behind us this time where the most innocent and vulnerable are denied the right to live. It is time to expose abortion as a grave injustice that marginalizes and devalues women, and that steals the lives of their children. See https://marchforlife.org/jeanne-mancini-brandi-swindell-op-ed-on-2020-march-for-life-theme/. The MFL cover features a grandmotherly caricature of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Engel’s response to Mancini’s claim that the early Suffragist Movement was “prolife,” and the Prolife Movement is an heir of  the early feminists is as follows: 

First of all, the Prolife Movement is not and never was “the true heir of these earliest feminists.” Mancini’s flat out endorsement of the early Feminist Movement aka Women’s Rights’ Movement is a cruel hoax.                                      The majority of founders of the Prolife Movement in the mid-1960s and 70’s, including the March for Life founders, were volunteer Catholic men and women, mostly devoted mothers and fathers of families whose entire motivation was the defense of unborn children and the enactment of laws that would outlaw the crime of surgical and chemical abortion and the destruction of the tiniest of human beings created asexually in the laboratory. They were not feminists nor feminist sympathizers. [One of the exceptions to the rule, is Pat Goltz of Feminists for Life, who was and remains a champion of life amidst the overwhelming numbers of anti-life, pro-abortion feminists who characterize the Women’s Liberation Movement.]

Secondly, and perhaps more to the point, the early Feminist Movement represented only a single voting block not all women. Nor was the Movement simply about the “right to vote. Prior to 1920, 18 states permitted women a vote, but the right was dependent upon where she lived, her race, and her citizenship status. For an interesting discussion of myths surrounding the Women’s Suffrage Movement including “The Myth of Seneca Falls,” see https://time.com/5879346/19th-amendment-facts-myths/.

Pope Pius XI, in his great encyclical on marriage and the family, Casti Connubii released on December 31, 1930, ten years after the 19th Amendment was passed, warns against the dangers of so-called “women’s emancipation,” which was the foundational premise of the early suffrage movement. Within the context of “the chaste honor existing between man and wife, the due subjection of wife to husband, and the true love which binds both parties,” Pius XI writes:

(74) The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected. This emancipation in their ideas must be threefold, in the ruling of the domestic society, in the administration of family affairs and in the rearing of the children. It must be social, economic, physiological: – physiological, that is to say, the woman is to be freed at her own good pleasure from the burdensome duties properly belonging to a wife as companion and mother (We have already said that this is not an emancipation but a crime); social, inasmuch as the wife being freed from the cares of children and family, should, to the neglect of these, be able to follow her own bent and devote herself to business and even public affairs; finally economic, whereby the woman even without the knowledge and against the wish of her husband may be at liberty to conduct and administer her own affairs, giving her attention chiefly to these rather than to children, husband and family.

75. This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man.

76. This equality of rights which is so much exaggerated and distorted, must indeed be recognized in those rights which belong to the dignity of the human soul and which are proper to the marriage contract and inseparably bound up with wedlock. In such things undoubtedly both parties enjoy the same rights and are bound by the same obligations; in other things there must be a certain inequality and due accommodation, which is demanded by the good of the family and the right ordering and unity and stability of home life.

77. As, however, the social and economic conditions of the married woman must in some way be altered on account of the changes in social intercourse, it is part of the office of the public authority to adapt the civil rights of the wife to modern needs and requirements, keeping in view what the natural disposition and temperament of the female sex, good morality, and the welfare of the family demands, and provided always that the essential order of the domestic society remain intact, founded as it is on something higher than human authority and wisdom, namely on the authority and wisdom of God, and so not changeable by public laws or at the pleasure of private individuals.

Pope Pius XII continues along similar lines to remind Catholics that “this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself”… and reduces the women, as amongst the pagans, to the “the mere instrument of man.” While Pius XI did not oppose the civil rights of women, he reminded the Catholic laity of the importance of keeping “the essential order of the domestic society [remain] intact, founded as it is on something higher than human authority and wisdom, namely on the authority and wisdom of God, and so not changeable by public laws or at the pleasure of private individuals.” This was, obviously, not the kind of language that the suffragists leaders, escapees from “the prison of the patriarchy” wanted to hear. See  https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/07/charlotte-perkins-gilman-yellow-wallpaper-strangeness-classic-short-story-exhibition.

Also, many early suffragist leaders in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, were attracted  to eugenics and neo-Malthusianism as a foundation for Margaret Sanger’s Woman and the New Race (Maxwell Reprint Company, NY, 1920). They were concerned about what they believed to be a deterioration of the race, and looked to the principles of eugenics to breed a superior race. Chief among these feminists were Canadian Nellie McClung, a champion of the involuntary sterilization of the unfit and “mentally-deficient” and utopian feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a Sangerite and advocate of “the right to die,” and who suicided at the age of 75. Gilman was not only a proponent of suicide and voluntary euthanasia but also non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Both eugenic sterilization and euthanasia were and are condemned by the Catholic Church. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_McClung and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Perkins_Gilman.

In her  October 18, 2019 op-ed piece with Brandi Swindell cited above, Mancini claims that the suffragists “peacefully advocated for women’s equality.” Ironically, one paragraph later, Mancini mentions in a favorable light, the United Kingdom’s Suffrage Movement. However, the better informed feminist historian Fern Riddell connects the U.K. movement  to a feminist “terrorist” cell that operated out of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union  in pre-WWI Britain, and  carried out a national bombing and arson campaign the likes of which have never been seen before or experienced since. Suffragette Katherina Maria Schafer, later known by her stage name, Kitty Marion (1871-1944), who carried out these acts of terrorism under cover of darkness to gain the vote, eventually fled to the United States where she joined Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control/Neo-Malthusian Movement. As Riddell notes, the suffragettes were not all “paragons of virtue.” See Fern Riddell, Death in Ten Minutes – Kitty Marion: Activist. Arsonist. Suffragette,  Quercus, London, 2018.

Ironically, among the feminist “heroines” Mancini has been pushing as a pro-life role model for the MFL audience which includes a large number of young and impressionable girls and young women, is the early suffragist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902). 

In her op-ed tribute to Stanton that is still posted on the March for Life website, Mancini cites Stanton’s leadership role in the July 1848 Woman’s Rights Seneca Falls Convention as a turning point in the history of the female suffrage campaign. For a more accurate view of the historical significance of the Seneca Falls Conference see Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898, University of North Carolina Press, 2017. Unfortunately, Mancini forgets to mention Stanton’s other “accomplishments,” including the suffragists’ role in popularizing the feminist campaign for “voluntary motherhood,”  that helped usher in the Sangerite Movement in the United States. Stanton was a practitioner of “planned parenthood” her 7th child being “unplanned.”  

As part of their anti-patriarchal platform and opposition to “compulsory maternity,” the early suffragists held that a woman had the natural right to ownership and control over her own body-self, and that “it was the right of the wife to unilaterally refuse her husband.” Stanton lectured women privately and apart from their husbands, on the Sangerite gospel of fewer children and happy and healthier maternity. “… womanhood is the primal fact, wifehood and motherhood its incidents… must the heyday of our existence be wholly devoted to the one animal function of bearing children? Shall there be no limit to this but woman’s capacity to endure the fearful strain on her life?” Stanton complained to a reporter. See Linda Gordon, “Voluntary Motherhood: The Beginnings of Feminist Birth Control Ideas in the United States at https://www.jstor.org/stable/1566477?seq=1.

Sanger herself,  held that “Birth control was a fundamental part of the history of women’s emancipation. She noted that  the concept of “voluntary motherhood” espoused by the suffragists was the first political claim that control over reproduction and sexual activity was a woman’s right. See her views on “voluntary motherhood” in Woman and the New Race.

According to feminist writer Linda Gordon, on the question of abortion, Stanton “sympathized with women who had abortions, and used the abortion problem as an example of women’s victimization by laws made without their consent.”[xxxix] On the rare occasions when Stanton did speak out against infanticide and abortion, her condemnation was always within the context that it was “forced maternity, not out of legal marriage but within it,” that was at the bottom of these outrages. For a debate over whether or not Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were “anti-abortion,” see  https://susanbanthonyhouse.org/blog/misrepresenting-susan-b-anthony-on-abortion/.

As early feminist leaders were against “compulsory maternity,” many, especially in the leadership, were also against “compulsory heterosexuality.” The feminist circle to which Stanton and her closest friend Susan B. Anthony, a Unitarian, were intimately attached was riddled with  practitioners of Sapphism (lesbianism) – “surpassing the love of men.” The Unitarian (1825) Universalists (1793) have a historic commitment to working for women’s rights and “reproductive health and justice” including “safe and legal access to abortion services.”  

 Female homosexuality permitted suffragists to devote more time to social causes and career advancement. See feminist historian Diane Atkinson’s book Rise Up Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes, Bloomsbury, London, 2018, for a list of prominent early lesbian suffragettes in the UK including Ethel Smyth, and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen and her partner Kathleen Lynn who were part of a network of lesbians living in Dublin—which included Helen Molony, Louie Bennett, and Elizabeth O’Farrell, who met through the suffrage movement. For early  U.S. suffragists who lived openly with female partners in “romantic relationships or “Boston marriages,”  see https://www.them.us/story/queer-suffragist-history and https://www.womensvote100.org/the-suff-buffs-blog/2020/6/9/the-very-queer-history-of-the-suffrage-movement

For the record, it was the latter, having an occupation outside the home,  that in the end, became the greatest single inducement to the practice of contraception by the feminists (who heretofore associated contraception with illicit sex and prostitution) and their modern day heirs who would later demand abortion rights for “faulty or omitted contraception.”  

This writer could go on to describe Stanton’s connections to Fabian socialism, and her diatribes against organized Christianity, specifically the Catholic Church, in her interpretation of Sacred Scripture  titled, The Woman’s Bible – A Classic Feminist Perspective (Dover Publications, NY, 1895, 1898), but that would only be gilding the lily. The March for Life and MFL Action web sites needs to be cleaned up and refocused on the Life Principles and a Constitutional Human Life Amendment along with State Human Life bills. 

 Still, just in case there is still some question as  to the wisdom of promoting Elizabeth Cady Stanton as a “prolife” mentor and heroine on the March for Life website, I offer the following two quote taken from The Woman’s Bible Stanton edited:

When women understand that governments and religions are human inventions; that Bibles, prayer-books, catechisms, and encyclical letters are all emanations from the brains of man, they will no longer be oppressed by the injunctions that come to them with the divine authority of *Thus sayeth the Lord.*”  and “The real difficulty in woman’s case is that the whole foundation of the Christian religion rests on her temptation and man’s fall, hence the necessity of a Redeemer and a plan of salvation. As the chief cause of this dire calamity, woman’s degradation and subordination  were made a necessity. If however, we accept Darwinian theory, that the race has been a gradual growth from the lower to the higher form of life, and that the story of the fall is a myth, we can exonerate the snake, emancipate the woman, and reconstruct a more rational religion for the nineteenth century, and thus escape all the perplexities of the Jewish mythology as of no more importance than those of the Greek, Persian and Egyptian.  

All in all, , the Prolife Movement has nothing to apologize for when it comes to helping pregnant women, aka “mothers,” (a term which both Mancini and Carl Anderson have difficulty using when discussing abortion). It was predominantly Catholic prolife women and men, not feminists, who started emergency pregnancy services for pregnant women in need. Our true prolife heroines and heroes include Louise Summerhill founder of Birthright (1968) and Dr. John Hillabrand and Lore Maier, cofounders of Alternatives to Abortion International (1971), later renamed Heartbeat International, years before Mancini was born. 

[xl] Complete text on “Consensus” video. 

Woman 1: America has consensus.

Woman 2: Consensus.

Woman 3: 8 in 10 Americans agree.

Woman 4: Abortion should have real legal limits.

Woman 3: Real legal limits.

Woman 1: Even 6 out of 10 pro-choice Americans agree

Woman 4: That abortion should happen only during the first three months of pregnancy[bold added].

Woman 5: At most.

Woman 6: At most.

Woman 1: That’s consensus.

Woman 3: That’s consensus.

Woman 4: But it’s not the law?!

Woman 1: Why?

Woman 6: Why?

Woman 2: Pro-choice politicians.

Woman 4: Politicians.

Woman 3: Many of them want abortion legal right up until birth.

Woman 4: Right up until birth.

Woman 1: Only about 1 out of 10 Americans support this extreme position. [Graphics]

Woman 3: And these pro-choice politicians listen to them, not us.

Woman 5: Not us.

Woman 4: Not us.

Woman 6: Now they want us to pay for abortion.

Woman 2: OUR tax dollars.

Woman 1: Almost 2/3rds of us say NO. [Graphics]

Woman 4: No way.

Woman 3: It’s time for this extremism to end.

Woman 1: It’s time for OUR voices to be heard.

Woman 2: It’s time for politicians to stop working for the pro-abortion lobby.

Woman 5: And join the national consensus. [End Board]

[xli] See https://marchforlife.org/our%20impact/.

[xlii] See https://thefederalist.com/2016/10/07/80-percent-americans-support-limiting-abortion-first-trimester/. Note: Leo serves on the Board of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., Opus’s meeting ground for influential politicians in Congress and the White House. In 2012, Leo joined the Boards of two other Opus front organizations, Catholic Voices and the Catholic Association Foundation. In the above article, March for Life President Mancini urged Americans to support Consensus, aka, limiting abortion to the first trimester of pregnancy, which she described as being a mainstream prolife policy.

[xliii] CRC is the agency of record for the National Organization for Marriage.

[xliv] https://marchforlife.org/advice-pro-life-students-graduates/.

[xlv] See https://www.c-span.org/video/?468482-1/president-trump-address-march-life-rally&vod=

[xlvi] In a Religious News Service article dated August 2, 2016, Carl Anderson, one of the influential lay Catholics in the U.S. and Rome, stated that “It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing,” which is quite different from his promotion of Consensus that would legalize abortion for the first trimester of pregnancy when more than 90% of surgical abortions occur. 

[xlvii] For the record, Knight Chair Peter Kelly, as well as Supreme Knight Carl Anderson are Consultants to the USCCB Secretariat of Prolife Activities, an ill omen for the Prolife Movement. 

[xlviii] See https://www.guidestar.org/profile/52-1231772.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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