An Interview with Kelsey Hazzard, Founder of Secular Pro-Life
PLM: Today we are very honored to have with us Kelsey Hazzard of an organization called Secular Pro-Life. Kelsey, Secular Pro-Life is a very interesting name for an organization. Can you tell us a little bit about how Secular Pro-Life started?
Kelsey Hazzard: Secular Pro-Life got started in 2009. At the time I was in my last year of college and I had been involved in some pro-life work as a college student. I went to the University of Miami and Miami is a pretty secular part of the country so we were always secular doing our college work.
Then when I came up to the March for Life that year in 2009, I was really surprised by the completely different demographic.
It was very Catholic and I realized that it was so different from what I was used to. And if the Catholic image is the first thing that someone would see they would have a completely wrong impression of what the pro-life movement is because the pro-life movement is so much more than that.
So that’s what started the idea for Secular Pro-Life. I was young and I didn’t know what I was doing, and I just put up a website. It was a “build it and they will come” kind of thing.
All of these people started coming out of the woodwork saying “I thought I was the only one” and things like that. We still get those kind of emails on a weekly basis. It’s a constant theme. Since then we’ve just been growing.
One of the things that we were doing early on was creating brochures because I noticed as a college student trying to work with the pro-life group that a lot of the literature that was available had religious aspects to it.
It would have some really good data on a particular topic that was useful to us, but then at the very end it would have a bible verse and that would make it unuseable for a large segment of the college population.
So one of the first things we did was to create secular literature, and that’s still up on our website and you can download it for free.
Since then we’ve expanded to doing a lot of other things. We’ve developed various projects which you can see on the website. One of my personal favorites is AbortionSafety.com which is a website that catalogues information about malpractice lawsuits and health code violations at abortion centers to warn women about what is going on and give them some alternatives to abortion.
We’ve developed a great Facebook group, and we have a blog that gives news and commentary every weekday. It’s just exploded in the last few years and I couldn’t be happier.
PLM: I think it’s very interesting. I would imagine that many religious people who are pro-life might be a little surprised and think that people who aren’t religious would almost by definition be prochoice. Obviously, you and your organization prove that’s not the case. So can you tell me what exactly is the Secular Pro-Life position towards abortion and what is the key difference between the secular position and the religious position?
Kelsey Hazzard: One thing that I have found in my years of pro-life advocacy is that it is very rare for someone to be pro-life for only one reason.
I have found that for most pro-life people, whatever their religious affiliation may be, it usually comes down to the same arguments.
It usually comes down to the “right to life” being a human right. The concept of a human right is that it doesn’t have to be earned. If a human right has to be earned then that defeats the entire purpose of declaring it a human right.
So the question then becomes “Why should we treat a particular class of humans, unborn humans, as not human for the purposes of human rights?”
I think the burden really is on those who support abortion. We have the scientific evidence that we are talking about a human individual. So why does this human individual not count?
And the rationales they’ve come up with frankly are not convincing. In particular, what troubles me is that a lot of the rationales they’ve come up with, if they were applied consistently, would threaten the rights of far more than just the unborn.
They talk about, for example, you have to be independent of another person’s body. Well, are conjoined twins people?
Or, for example, you have to be conscious. Well, is it OK to kill me while I’m sleeping, or in a coma?
It becomes non-sensical when you try to apply it consistently. But they don’t try to apply it consistently because they start from wanting to have abortion be OK. They want it to be OK because they believe that women will never succeed without it, which I find offensive as a woman but that’s another issue entirely. But they start from abortion must be OK then they try to come up with justifications for it, and they just don’t work.
PLM: In many countries around the world where secularism is common, what have you found to be the best strategies that can move a secular person from a pro-choice attitude over to a pro-life position?
Kelsey Hazzard: I think the first thing you have to do is counter the myth that all prolife people are religious because that has been a very deliberate strategy.
Look at the writings of Bernard Nathanson. He was at one time a pro-choice atheist who was an abortionist and who was one of the co-founders of what became NARAL. He later turned to the pro-life position as a result of viewing an ultrasound. He then came forward and started talking about some of the strategies that the early abortion movement had used, one of which was very deliberately to make it a religious issue.
The people behind NARAL wanted it to be Catholic priests versus the great enlightened abortion movement.
That was their framing of choice and they had the media behind them so it worked! And we still see the repercussions of that even today.
So the number one thing that you have to do is show demographically that you, a secular person, can be a pro-life person. We have to make that something that they can envision. And part of that really is a question of organization because as I said Secular Pro-Life has only been around since 2009 and so often people say “Oh, I thought I was the only pro-life atheist.”
We see that again and again by connecting these people with one another that that really is the key step because then they feel more empowered to be public about the fact that they’re pro-life because they know they’re not the only ones.
PLM: In that hesitation to speak out that you mentioned, is it because typically if a secular pro-life person started talking with someone about pro-life issues, that they would be afraid that they would be immediately labeled religious?
Kelsey Hazzard: Yes. I think that’s a big part of the hesitation to talk about it. What we’ve seen from Gallup polling is that about 1 in 5 non-religious Americans will call themselves pro-life.
PLM: That’s an interesting statistic. I would have guessed it would be lower than that. But to me 1 in 5 is a good start, don’t you think?
Kelsey Hazzard: It is a good start. It’s still far lower than the American population at large, but again that is the result of a deliberate strategy that’s been going on for decades so it really shouldn’t surprise us.
I don’t think the pro-life movement has really combatted that strategy. Probably they just felt that atheists are too small a fraction of the population. But it is important, particularly when we’re looking at the younger generation.
I’m 25.” When you look at the generation of 18-29 year olds they are both the most pro-life generation since Roe v. Wade, and the least religious.
We see those results very consistently. So the pro-life movement needs to acknowledge that reality and start making a deliberate effort to reach out to secular people.
And that’s the purpose of Secular Pro-Life and the pro-life movement has welcomed our approach with some exceptions but I think overall pro-life people really do support what we’re doing even if they are personally religious.
PLM: I know your organization has been around only a few years but what kind of activities have you found so far to be most effective in reaching out to that fairly large population of secular folks in the United States, and do you do anything outside the United States?
Kelsey Hazzard: First of all most of what we do is web-based and we’ve done a lot of work reaching out to people on social media and our Facebook page is now over 3,700.
Besides the work we’ve been doing online developing various websites and publications we do go out in the field.
We’ve spoken at various universities. Student pro-life groups love to have us because young people on college campuses realize probably better than anyone the value of a secular approach.
So that’s one of the big things we’ve been doing and in the coming months and years we’re certainly hoping to expand, hoping to do some webinars and things of that nature.
PLM: Are you all volunteer based right now?
Kelsey Hazzard: Yes. All of this is done without any paid staff. We have a shoestring budget and it’s mostly young people, young professionals, students, and graduate students who are giving their time to make this work. And given that, I think what we have been able to accomplish is pretty impressive.
PLM: I agree. It is impressive. For people interested in supporting your organization how can they do that?
Kelsey Hazzard: Our website is secularprolife.org, no hyphens, just one word. And you can find us on Facebook and on Twitter. We’d love to hear from you and we’re really easy to get in touch with and I’d be happy to answer any questions. If you have questions for me, my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
PLM: If someone is interested in supporting you financially by donating can they do that through your website?
Kelsey Hazzard: Yes, they can.
PLM: That’s fantastic. Kelsey, I appreciate your time today. It’s been very informative.
I think what your organization is doing will be new information to a lot of people in the pro-life movement, but I think you’re going to get a lot of support from most of those people. We’re very excited about what you’re doing and wish you the best of luck.
About Secular Pro-Life
The Mission of Secular Pro-Life is to end elective abortion. *We work toward this goal through:
Secularism. SPL seeks to increase the inclusiveness of the overall pro-life movement by creating space for pro-life atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other secularists. We also seek to provide pro-lifers of any religious or spiritual beliefs–or none at all–with the secular, pro-life perspective. We encourage all pro-lifers to understand the secular pro-life perspective so our movement can engage people using shared bases of understanding.
Support. SPL seeks to decrease elective abortion by decreasing unplanned and unsupported pregnancies. We advocate for increased adoption support, paid maternity leave, resources for pregnant college students, and other measures to help women in crisis pregnancies.
Education. SPL seeks to decrease elective abortion by increasing common knowledge of fetal development, abortion risks, and abortion alternatives. We support comprehensive sexual education, informed consent provisions, and increased access to ultrasound technology.
Legal Restrictions. SPL supports efforts to decrease elective abortion through incremental legislation. These include parental consent, waiting periods, health & safety regulations, and restrictions on late term abortions. SPL envisions the pro-life movement unified in our common goals, regardless of religious differences. We envision a world in which elective abortion is unthinkable and unwanted, in which women have and embrace control over whether they carry a pregnancy by controlling whether they conceive at all, and in which society fully supports pregnant women, expectant parents and families, and children already born.
*While SPL considers every abortion a tragedy, we recognize that abortion is sometimes medically necessary. We do not oppose abortion in situations where the mother’s life is in danger and early delivery is not possible. We also do not take a specific stance on the rape exception, leaving the discussion open amongst our members.
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