Dan Proft: Thank you for joining us on another edition of Against the Current coming to you live on top of the Skyline Club from Downtown Chicago; our guest this week is Emily Zender; she’s the Executive Director of Illinois Right to Life, which is housed in Downtown Chicago. Emily, thanks so much for being with us, appreciate it.
Emily Zender: Thank you for having me.
Dan Proft: So 43 years after Roe v. Wade. Where do you think the pro-life movement is today, particularly from the perspective of someone who enters about mid-point in that 43 year period?
Emily Zender: The pro-life movement has done an incredible job on keeping abortion on the front page. So for 43 years abortion has been talked about. The issue has never been set to rest. And what we’re seeing is in the past 4 years we’ve had more laws passed that are pro-life than ever before. We’ve seen a stronger generation that is pro-life, because my generation, we never had the option to live in a world without abortion. And we’ve seen it hurt our friends, we’ve seen our siblings missing, or hurt our mothers, and that affects us in a very personal way with 1/3 of our generation missing. So this generation is more pro-life than ever, and we are closer than we have ever been to ending abortion.
Dan Proft: But you have a generation on college campuses that is unable to distinguish between men and women. And so, if they’re unable to see gender, or at least they pretend to be, how are they able to understand that, as one of the tropes of the pro-life movement, that abortion hurts women?
Emily Zender: Well, they see that it hurts women because of their personal experiences and at Illinois Right to Life we receive phone calls from women who are looking for healing and help, and women share with us that they can’t use the dryer in the bathroom because it makes the same noise that the machine made during the abortion. They tell us that the perfume that the doctor wore, the song that they heard in the waiting room sparks nightmares for them. They have covered up the pain with alcohol abuse, drugs, and one said, “I stayed in an abusive relationship because I thought that I deserved it”. This pain is very real, and it is experienced by this generation, which is why they struggle on some social issues, but abortion is becoming a very important topic to them.
Dan Proft: Well, so why do we not hear their stories more often in, like you see, media and even online, where it’s kind of the wild-west? Why aren’t we hearing their stories? Is it fear, is it shame? Certainly, in a lot of circles, particularly in the left dominated legacy media, abortion isn’t just okay, it’s celebrated, so why do we not hear the stories that you’re talking about so much in terms of people saying “My experience wasn’t something to celebrate”?
Emily Zender: There are a lot of stories that are out, but we do need to see more making it into the mainstream media. Organizations like Silent No More is an organization of women across the United States who come to this organization for healing and then they go and they tell their stories; and they tell them in public at the March for Life in Washington DC and the media doesn’t cover that. They write articles and they don’t get published. So there is a group of women who are hurting and suffering from this, a large amount of women, that their voices are not being heard. But you can find them in certain areas, like Project Rachel, is the Catholic Church’s healing program; it’s the largest program in the country that helps women heal, and they have places where women go and they tell their stories, and the stories are heartbreaking. Illinois Right to Life, for 48 years, the stories that come to us are heartbreaking. But abortion is a very personal and delicate issue. And so, when we’re counseling women we don’t encourage them to rush out and tell everybody. We want to focus on the woman first and make sure she’s doing okay.
Dan Proft: Tactically, as again, a young person that’s entered this movement, recently, but has been involved for a number of years now; now he’s in the leadership position; what are your frustrations with the pro-life movement? One of the things I’ve seen over a kind of 20 years in politics, why the pro-life movement isn’t as effective as some other issue focused advocacy movements, like say gun-rights, for example, is it seems to be a bit defused, there seems to be sometimes a struggle for different pro-life organizations that have a different focus in this larger umbrella of advancing the notion of the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, where they’re siloed, and they’re not working even within your own sector, much less trying to broaden the reach to other sectors where there may be complementary interest. Is that a frustration, and if it’s not, some of the other frustrations you had that you’d be willing to voice.
Emily Zender: I think the pro-life movement has done a great job of trying to overcome that kind of hurdle that you’ve talked about; the organizations across the country are working together much more efficiently, much more focused. I think the problem that it runs into is that abortion is so personal that a lot of passion gets involved. And so that can, at times, stand between this cohesive perfect unit, as the NRA, as you’ve mentioned. I think one of the frustrations for me with the pro-life movement is we need to focus more on adoption, and not just in the sense that we need to talk about it more, but we need to talk about it appropriately, we need to talk about it properly, and then we need to be out there adopting. There are children in foster homes who need loving homes, and we can’t sit here and say that “I’m pro-life and I believe that you shouldn’t chose abortion” if we’re not going to be there for those children who need those families. And I know incredible families who have adopted. I know some wonderful people, but we need more of them. It’s scary, but I think the pro-life movement needs to really step up more in the role of adoption.
Dan Proft: Yeah, as someone who is adopted I would certainly approve of that. I don’t know if my parents would still be proponents of adoption after 44 years of experience with me, but you know, you roll the dice with kids. The thing with adoption, how we talk about it, how we promote it. What is it that we’re not doing that we should be?
Emily Zender: We need to talk about adoption in the loving sense that it is. You don’t put a child up for adoption, you place a child in a loving home. And that’s what we see from our students when we’re talking to high school and college students; they say adoption is wonderful, they love their adopted friends, but then when they talk about it in a personal way, they would say “I would never place my child in an adoptive home”. So there’s kind of a disconnection where they say “I have to raise my child, adoption’s not an option for me”.
Dan Proft: Very much like when they say “I’m personally pro-life, I would never get an abortion”, while 1.5 million people are getting abortions; so somebody’s doing it.
Emily Zender: Yes, absolutely. So we need to let them know that it’s okay. It’s not anything negative. Just like I can be a great mom, but I can never replace a mom and a dad, or I’m just not ready to parent yet. Those are very real concerns. And saying “Let’s put this child with a home who can raise this child in a loving wonderful way, that I could do, to an extent, but couldn’t do as well as them”.
Dan Proft: What about to the hurdles to adopting in the state of Illinois and nationally? You hear about a lot of couples – I know couples that are in the pro-life movement that have looked overseas to adopt because of the struggles to wait through the bureaucracy to affined children that the birthmother wants to place them in a loving home, as you say, and we’ve seen the incidents of adoption decline as a result.
Emily Zender: Yeah, you know, to be frank, the government needs to get out of the way, because if a family wants to accept and love a child in their home and grow their family, then the government should be all for that, should support that. So we have made some strides in the past about making adoption more accessible for families, and let me be clear, we do a great job at adopting children who are newborn. It’s the children in the foster system that we need to focus more on, and those are the ones that the pro-life movement needs to really come and continue to adopt through the foster system as well.
Dan Proft: Is this an example where the pro-life movement and, frankly, the discussion of abortion and adoption and these related issues has matured over the past 40 years, or do you still find generally that people are – most people who don’t want to deal with it because it’s a difficult topic, it’s a personal topic – they just kind of cover themselves, depending on their perspective, by biting one of the two binary choices? It’s a woman’s body, it’s her right to do what she wants with it, end of story, or it’s child, and the child deserves protection, end of story, and those are my positions, I’m just going to wave that flag and that’s all I really have to say about it.
Emily Zender: Yeah. There’s so many different ways to be pro-life, and I think what this generation that is coming into the leadership positions now is really trying to bring to the conversation is that being pro-life is not just about being against abortion; it’s about being pro-life to the core and you are going to go out and lovingly support that abortion clinic worker that wants to come out of the abortion industry; it’s about loving those women who have had abortions, not condemning them, it’s about being there for people who are struggling with the decision of “Do I keep this child? Do I have an abortion?” So we’re really pushing that conversation to be much deeper than to be solely about abortion. I think that this is where it will continue to move, and also, it’s not just about the moment when she chooses life, or when she chooses the abortion; it’s about what happens afterwards as well, and the pro-life movement is becoming much better about saying “We need to support her through that pregnancy. We need to be able to be there for her, and we need to be able to let her know that she can do this after the pregnancy, not just right after”.
Dan Proft: And part of that is maybe raising the profile – although it’s a bit of a double-edge sword because of the other side, and targeting for discrediting and so forth, but raising the profile as crisis pregnancy centers and other organizations that actually do the work that you’re talking about that provide resources for women who have a pregnancy that presents challenges to them in terms of “How am I going to do this? I don’t have a support network, I don’t have a family that can help me, I’m kind of on my own, the father has left, so I need clothes, I need diapers, I need shelter, I need a job, all of those things, and this is where Crisis Pregnancy Centers have intervened, and there’s dozens throughout the state of Illinois.
Emily Zender: There’re actually over 100 in Illinois, and I have to say that the people that work at Pregnancy Resource Centers are some of the most loving, supportive and helpful people.
Dan Proft: Is that also – you know, we get into how we frame things – I say Crisis Pregnancy Centers, CPC, which maybe is an old construct; you said Pregnancy Resource Centers; and is that maybe the language that we need to be careful too. This could be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a crisis. That connotes different things, and a Pregnancy Resource Centers says “Hey, there’re all these resources here for you to help you; that’s what we’re here, to help you, not pass judgment on you on one way or another”.
Emily Zender: Exactly. We don’t want to project onto that woman that you should be in a crisis to come here. What it is, is it’s a resource for women whether you have decided in a complete bringing of your conscience that you’re not going to have an abortion. If you’re in a pregnancy, you need support. That’s what these Pregnancy Resource Centers are for. And I think that the other side, the pro-abortion side, does a huge injustice to women by attacking Pregnancy Resource Centers, because if a woman decides to chose life, then what’s planned-parenthood able to offer her? And that’s where these Pregnancy Resource Centers come into play. And if they really support women then they should be trumpeting through the rooftops the great work of these Pregnancy Resource Centers.
Dan Proft: And that’s an important distinction, because you just mentioned earlier, we’re talking about the Pregnancy Resource Centers for women that choose to have their children, but for women who have had an abortion there’s also a pro-life play; there’re pro-life resources devoted there, and also people perhaps forget the Norma McCorvey – Roe, in Roe v. Wade, went from being a plaintiff in the case to being a pro-life activist, so she had a little bit of an epiphany in her life as well. People’s opinions can change, imagine that; particularly through experience. And so, the pro-life movement perhaps seen as – I think Pope John Paul II essentially made this reference – as a hospital to help repair people who have been hurt by abortion and perhaps bad choices in life – which we all make – rather than as just a movement that is passing judgment saying you’re good or you’re bad, or this was good and this was bad, and that’s all we have to say on the topic. Those are very different things, and it seems that there’s a bit of education that needs to happen writ large so that people understand the distinction, and, frankly, what one side is doing versus planned-parenthood and their ilk are doing.
Emily Zender: I have to say that that is such an important piece, is that we have to love in our words, in our actions, and the way that we talk about this has such a bit impact. When I give talks, it always blows me away that people will come up to me afterwards and pull me aside and privately tell me things that they haven’t told their family or their closest friends or maybe no one. And they share these heart wrenching stories saying “I had a late term abortion” and they cry, on the spot, right there. It’s because when you talk and when you show women that they deserve love and they deserve to feel whole again after that abortion, then that’s when we can welcome them and pull them into the movement. It’s not by sitting here, saying that “You had an abortion, you should be ashamed of it”. No, it’s by telling them that “We know this hurt you, and you can come talk to us about it”.
Dan Proft: Speaking of dealing with shibboleth associated with all of these issues, you know, it’s a woman’s body; as a man, I have nothing to say about it and I have really no role to play, other than holding up my end, if it’s my child. What do you say to that kind of - I kind of refer to this as the cop out argument for men – dinkish pseudo-feminism where I’m so enlightened, I’m not going to pass judgment on a woman’s choice, so I’m just going to retreat and pretend that nothing that is done with respect to life has an impact on me, or I have any responsibility in that space.
Emily Zender: I can say, that’s completely out of line, because first of all, it’s in a man’s nature to care for and to protect women and children. He shouldn’t by any means reject that or say “I’m not going to even think about that”. It should be encouraged. Secondly, the most heart wrenching phone call we get to Illinois Right to Life is when it’s a young man who says it’s my child that’s being aborted; my girlfriend’s having an abortion, tell me what I can do, and I’ll just say, “There’s nothing, there’s nothing legally that you can do”. And one gentleman, he was 19 and he was pro-choice up until that morning when he found out it was his baby about to be aborted. So suddenly, when it becomes personal, it doesn’t always become a man’s issue, because if it is in fact a child, and science says it is, then that man should be doing everything he can to protect the life of that unborn child. And women who have abortions, the studies show, women tell, in our experience, that it hurts them. So I could never recommend abortion for one of my friends, just like men should never recommend abortion for someone they love, because the hurt and pain that it’s going to cost them.
Dan Proft: So, as you think about the baby boomers exiting the stage and genexers like me and younger generations like you, what are the new challenges that you are facing as you go around, particularly talking to high school students in terms of understanding, or even paying any attention to this issue, because on the political discourse, on both sides, frankly, maybe with the exception of what happened since those Planned Parenthood undercover videos which we’ll get to in a second, but we’re all supposed to not talk about the social issues. It’s all just about dollars and cents, it’s about the economy. The two are completely disconnected and nobody used to have any social agenda or position on social issues, because people recoil from them and so there’s not a national discourse on the topic.
Emily Zender: I think what we have to be really careful is that we don’t get caught up in this, “Well, that’s just my opinion, but for you it may be different”. That’s not an appropriate stance to have on really important issues in society. So that’s what I think is going to be a struggle for this generation, especially for the next generation coming in, is that really saying, “No, it’s okay to offend people. If me saying abortion is wrong and it murders the unborn child, and it hurts women”, then we should have the confidence to be able to say that.
Dan Proft: But you’re running into a headwind with the moral agnosticism that exists. We see it from the redefinition of marriage and the family to now the bathroom policy; that’s a lot to unwind and to rewind, isn’t it?
Emily Zender: It is, but the thing that we go back to is science, and all the science supports the pro-life movement. And it’s supportive of our values, it’s supported of the unborn child, the woman, feminism supports the pro-life side. All of these things support pro-life, so we shouldn’t have any reservations sitting back and saying, “No, this is right. This is not just my opinion, this is right”.
Dan Proft: And so, in a society that is less and less church going, you’re suggesting that it’s not faith that’s going to bring us back, it’s science, or it’s a combination of the two, or it’s different messaging to different audiences.
Emily Zender: I think, no matter what the audience is, it’s always science because, as faithful Christians and Catholics, they will say all truth points to God; so science points to God. But when you look at science, it answers every question; every single pro-choice argument that is presented, science can argue.
Dan Proft: How does science answer the question, does life begin at conception?
Emily Zender: It is undisputed in the medical community that it is. Life begins at conception, so you can pick up any textbook and it will say, over and over again, that life begins at conception. That at fertilization, that’s when life begins.
Dan Proft: And so, when you have these talks to high school students or to younger people, in their late teens and early 20s, what are the questions they’re asking, what is the pushback they’re giving?
Emily Zender: They want to know that if it’s a woman’s body, how can I tell a woman what to do with her body? And that’s pretty the typical question that we get. A lot of them too, we find, don’t understand the science of the unborn child at the moment. So at 3 weeks, the heart is beating, at 16 weeks, the child can hiccup in the womb, 20 weeks, the child can feel the pain of being dismembered by the abortion. They don’t know any of this, and it actually shocks their teachers. It’s kind of funny to see them say, “Oh, we had no idea”. But as they start to understand that, then we go back and talk about, well, is it a woman’s body? Well, if it is a woman’s body, then we have to say that a woman, when she’s pregnant has two heads and two noses and four arms, and that kind of gets to the ridiculousness of teaching that it is a woman’s body. So those are a lot of the questions from high school students, the typical ones that you hear Planned Parenthood saying over and over again.
Dan Proft: And so, how important, speaking of revelatory moments, how important have the undercover videos that were produced – captured is a better way to put it – by the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress, the 11 videos they released over the last year, kind of presenting what Planned Parenthood says in their own words, what Planned Parenthood does, versus what federal and state law requires in terms of regulating abortion. How important have those videos been in changing the conversation and changing perception, particularly as you go down the age demographic scale?
Emily Zender: I think the country was really shocked by it, because the fact that going back to the science of the child in the womb, Planned Parenthood would tell you it’s just a blob of tissue. But what these videos did is they made if very real. That if you can sell unborn babies’ brains, if you can sell their body parts, their arms, their livers, their hearts, if you can sell these things, it’s not a blob of tissue. And so it brought it into so much of a reality for many people that we saw a huge influx of people posting on social media in response to these videos, that “Thank you for opening my eyes, I’m now pro-life”. Illinois Right to Life saw an influx that volunteers; people just want to go out and do something. It really motivated people. We saw people wanting to choose adoption rather than abortion. And then we have some people come to us and say, “I’m hurting from an abortion. I had no idea that that’s what they did to my baby”, and they were quite upset about it.
Dan Proft: Well, it’s interesting, it was what Daleiden said; all of this was sparked by asking himself a simple question; “What do they do with the aborted babies?” Why doesn’t anybody follow the trail and look what happens? So he got some people together and went undercover as a journalist and found out what happened, and the dots that he connects, which is always a challenge, is they’re trafficking baby body parts because they’re valuable, and they’re valuable because they’re human. Pretty linear argument and a pretty difficult one, so I think this is why the scales fell from so many eyes and you can’t unsee what you saw in those videos.
Emily Zender: No, how can you go back to saying it’s just a blob of tissue when you have on-tape your own staff saying, “Oh, let me get the heart for you”. You can’t go back. So they’ve lost one of their biggest talking points.
Dan Proft: And so the strategy then is to just limit the amount of arenas in which pro-lifers can speak, right? This is very much like the totalitarianism we see on campus; we are not going to entertain opposing view-points to the leftist orthodox view, or the secular humanist orthodoxy. And so, I wonder what your experience has been in terms of presenting both sides at the high school or the collegial level, or even just in the general public arena of presenting the Planned Parenthood viewpoint juxtaposed directly to the pro-life viewpoint and having a discussion about all the issues we’re talking about.
Emily Zender: For years, we used to have debates both sides…
Dan Proft: I remember when I was in college we had the Roadshow with Sarah Weddington and Phyllis Schlafly; they would speak at college campuses that came into Northwestern, and they would speak everywhere. You don’t see anything like that happening on college campuses these days.
Emily Zender: The most recent time I was asked to come speak at a college, and they said, “We want you to debate somebody from the other side”, and I said, “Okay, great, sounds fun”. Then they come back to me and say “Do you have any suggestions?”, and I list off the usual suspects and they said “None of them will agree to it”. So it’s really about controlling messaging now for Planned Parenthood. They have very specific talking points that they want to stick to, and if you debate with me – they’re afraid to debate me – if they debate it, then science wins. They don’t have that response for when they’re challenged. I think the media really does a fair amount of Planned Parenthood’s work for them and perpetuating their messaging enough so they don’t have to go to these schools.
Dan Proft: And this is kind of the Alinkian tactic, right? Make the majority feel like their viewpoint is the minority’s, an insular minority, so they’re afraid to speak out, they’re afraid to press the envelope, and Gallup polling as recently as March; a majority of Americans who want abortion to be illegal in most instances. Maybe they don’t confront it from a completely intellectually consistent perspective, but they come from a, this is something that I know is not a good thing, maybe there are extreme cases where I know I would undertake saying it’s okay, but viscerally, generally, this is not something I want to support, it’s not something I want to celebrate, it’s not something I want to see as a feature of our culture; but if you just watched the television coverage, the Old Legacy media coverage of the David Daleiden videos and the whole [countertop? 00:27:03] with Planned Parenthood, you wouldn’t think that at all. You would think, “If I’m watching this, I must be the only one in America who thinks what I think”.
Emily Zender: And even with all that, the country grows more pro-life. And when you break it down too and talk to people about what happens in abortions, then they become even more uncomfortable with it. So we’re going to continue to see the pro-life side grow, as education continues to reach out to people who are maybe on the fence, may think that in cases of rape or in cases of the mother’s life, or health that they should allow abortion, but when you understand what happens in abortion, people reject it soundly. And it’s shocking to me how many people don’t know.
Dan Proft: Or don’t want to be confronted with it. This is the ignorance is bliss argument. If I don’t have to deal with something that’s uncomfortable, I don’t have to do the difficult thing of making a moral determination on something, then I’m not complicit. But then that’s why those videos are so important. Now that I see what’s happening, now I can’t pretend to not know anymore what’s happening. So now you’re kind of pressing me, to some extent, to pick a side.
Emily Zender: And the nation is picking the pro-life movement.
Dan Proft: And so where does the pro-life movement go from here, because one of the things is, and this has been a problem for intellectual conservatism in general, if they shut you out, you allow yourself to be shut out through pre-k to post-secondary educational institutions, well, these are the forthcoming generations. And so if they’re not hearing varied view-points, if they’ve not been presented with the evidence that we’ve been kicking around, then it gets very difficult to get to them when they’re young adults or beyond and start to pivot them back to reconsideration of their views.
Emily Zender: It’s absolutely true, and that’s what the Illinois Right to Life is here to do. We have a new educational program coming out that will focus on allowing people to tell their stories so that you’ll hear more about those women who have had abortions and how it’s hurt them. So you’ll hear about those women who are in an unplanned situation and they chose life. Or Abby Johnson, who was a clinic manager…
Dan Proft: Planned Parenthood clinic.
Emily Zender: She started off with Planned Parenthood as a college student, wanting to help women and years later she realized that was the exact opposite of what Planned Parenthood did. And so what these videos will do, they will allow them to share personally and very intimately with these students the realities of abortion and how it has affected their lives. And so this program will allow teachers to fill in, to their own curriculum, exactly where they need it, and to create that discussion and that dialogue so that they can be challenged. In the high school level, where they should be getting both sides, or they should be presented with facts and science so they could develop their own opinions.
Dan Proft: How important is it for the pro-life movement to be more political? I think the pro-life movement – from my experience – is a lot less political than people would think it is, in terms of participating in electoral politics, or pressuring politicians on these issues. And you saw what David Daleiden’s video did, it forced, not by lobbying pressure, but by the presentation of the facts, it forced politicians from all the candidates and both sides of the aisles of the presidential race, to governors and state legislators to deal with this issue, because of the public funding of Planned Parenthood. And is this something that we should continue to do? Is what Planned Parenthood’s doing illegal? Is it a violation of the law? Should we investigate these organizations at the state level? It forced them to have to do that because of public outcry of what was seen. But should the pro-life movement, can the pro-life movement be more political when it comes to advocacy on these issues to build on what the Center for Medical Progress did with those videos?
Emily Zender: We are very good at helping women when they’re abortion-bound, when they’re heading to the clinic. We’re very good at educating, trying to get these facts out. But what we do really need to focus on as well is the political aspect, as you mentioned. We have great groups, like the Susan B. Anthony List – they won 15 out of their 20 races in the last cycle – really holding congressional leaders, if you’re going to say you’re pro-life, you’re going to vote like it. And it had a huge impact, as you can see now, with congressional investigations in Planned Parenthood, but here at the local level, to you, people need to realize that we propose bills in the General Assembly and they don’t get heard in committee. They don’t even get that far. We need to be more active. We need to come out and put more pro-life people into positions of authority.
Dan Proft: And also, not just so they should press the red button when they should press red, and green when they should press green, but actually articulate voices for the sanctity of life the way, let’s say, Henry Hyde was when he was a member of congress. You don’t see that as much. You still see a lot of republicans anymore, mainly, because there’re so many handful of democrats – Dan Lipinski comes in mind – that are pro-life, because they have to hue the orthodoxy of the left, which is increasingly intolerant of that kind of diversity of opinion. But in the center-right you don’t see a lot of erstwhile pro-life candidates or politicians willing to talk about it. They’re willing to check the box, but they’re not willing to talk about, they’re not willing to make the arguments, they’re not willing to provide the texture that you’re providing. And just pressing the button doesn’t really advance the argument or change minds, persuade anybody.
Emily Zender: We’re seeing, congressionally and nationally, better talking points, better ability to be able to articulate why abortion is hurtful to our nation, and we’re seeing it be really much better about that. We still have a long way to go, but we’re getting there. And that’s in large, partly, because people are being able to understand the education better. Here, locally, we still have a long ways to go. We have some incredible political leaders down there who not only press the red button, but they can articulate it very well. But we have to, as citizens, make sure that our political leaders are educated on the issues. I mean, I would be curious to know how many members of the General Assembly that no Planned Parenthood in Illinois is licensed by the state, nor has received a health and sanitary inspection since 1999. That’s really important to the health of the citizens of Illinois and to just the governing purpose.
Dan Proft: They perform medical procedures, there’s no other type of medical facility that would be allowed to operate the way Planned Parenthood operates.
Emily Zender: They insert surgical tools into a woman’s body and they’ve never received a sanitary inspection as far back as 16 years. These are the kind of things that our members of the General Assembly and our governors need to understand. That can’t be done just with an organization like Illinois Rights. That belongs to the people and their district to continuously keeping their legislative leaders up to date.
Dan Proft: What about pro-life activists? Are those people that believe this issue’s important, even vote on this issue? But their participation, what should that look like in 2016 and going forward?
Emily Zender: For political leaders or for citizens?
Dan Proft: No, just rank and file members of the pro-life movement. The kind of people that show up to your events and volunteer for the activities that Illinois Right to Life does, that have no aspirations to run for office, but want to do something to materially benefit this position and the respect for life, but may be doing so by just attending a march for life, and that just doesn’t cut it.
Emily Zender: The best thing that anyone can do is go to Illinois Right to Life website and learn, and arm yourself with the facts – we have medical journals, we have statistics, all those things – and then go sit down with your representatives, with your senators, with anyone in the leadership position, your mayors, your aldermen, everyone, and sit there and just talk to them. And do it in a loving and respectful way. You don’t want to go in and have them uncomfortable. You want to sit there and you want to talk to them one on one and share with them the reality of it. Because it was on the help of somebody that was not professed to be pro-life, but is a political leader in Illinois, that got the abortion clinics inspected for the first time they were being inspected in an average of once every 9 years. And this was outrageous to a legislator who is not necessarily pro-life. And he was the one who really started that ball moving to get them inspected. These are issues that, it doesn’t matter if you’re pro-life or pro-choice, we can all agree on, like health inspections and taking care of women, and then there are issues that they need to be educated on, even if they are going to vote the other way. They need to understand that things like Planned Parenthood, they have 17 clinics here, but there are 670 other clinics that women can receive healthcare from. That Planned Parenthood only serves 2.3% of women in Illinois. These are things that every legislator needs to understand, so when they’re talking about Planned Parenthood being essential to woman’s health, they know it’s not actually true.
Dan Proft: What prompted you to get involved in the pro-life movement, and then to rise through the ranks to be a leader in the pro-life movement now? Was it an event, or… why do you do what you do?
Emily Zender: I had a bunch of friends who were going to this thing called the March for Life in Washington DC, and it sounded like fun and I wanted to go. So I went with them and that’s when my eyes were really opened to “Oh my Gosh, there were 300,000 people here”. I wanted to learn more about the issue.
Dan Proft: Or 5,000, as reported by the mainstream news.
Emily Zender: 5,000, so it’s growing. That was quite a few years ago.
Dan Proft: Well, you have to discount by a factor of 50 in terms of how the media covers it, but yes.
Emily Zender: But there were hundreds of thousands of people, and I had never heard of that before, so that really got me very interested in what was going on, and when I got back I participated in an Indiana Right to Life writing contest. And what that did is it forced me to go into research and to learn about it on my own, and I started stumbling on all these facts, and I was just blown away. And that’s when I realized I was learning about Anne Frank and World War II and Nazi Germany, and I could not stop the parallels in my head that I saw between the two – the dehumanization of the person. And that really sparks my inner passion for the pro-life movement.
Dan Proft: Alright, she’s Emily Zender; she’s the Executive Director of Illinois Right to Life, and you’re going to be hearing and seeing a lot from Emily Zender in the years to come, as well as for Illinois Right to Life as a leader in the forefront of the pro-life movement in the 21st century. Emily, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it.
Emily Zender: Thank you! It’s been an honor to be here.