Can A Group Be Pro-Life And Anti-War? Progressive March Grapples With Ancillary Ideologies

May 31, 2017

Pittsburgh organizers of an anti-war event have removed a pro-life group from co-sponsorship, after receiving a number of public complaints. The demonstration is still scheduled to proceed in July.

Organizers of The Pittsburgh March Against War said they want to focus on the impact of profit-driven violence.

“And also draw attention to the way that parts of the military industrial complex are rooted in Pittsburgh. Make clear connections to the people who are profiting from this global warfare,” said Gabriel McMorland, incoming director of the Thomas Merton Center, one of about a dozen organizing groups.

He said last week, that coalition took a vote, “and the collective decision of all the groups involved in planning, was that Rehumanize International was not a good fit for this action.”

Pittsburgh-based Rehumanize International subscribes to a “complete life ethic” and opposes what they see as violence in all forms, including abortion and war.

At January's Women's March on D.C., Bethany Harris holds signs reading "Hey Trump! Torture is not pro-life" and "Hey Trump! The death penalty is not pro-life."
Credit Rehumanize International

McMorland said the Thomas Merton Center does work with other pro-life organizations, but that Rehumanize International centers the issue, and people said they wouldn’t attend the anti-war event because Rehumanize does so-called sidewalk advocacy, working to disuade pregnant women seeking abortions outside of health clinics.

The Facebook event page was deleted last week. Although McMorland said it was done accidentally by another group.

Executive Director of Rehumanize International Aimee Murphy said her organization doesn’t focus on the sidewalk work, but does emphasize education and outreach. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 31,818 abortions in 2015. Health department officials said the number of abortions in the state has decreased since 1980.

Murphy said she told other organizers she did want to focus on the anti-war message, but often has trouble working with both progressive and conservative groups, since their values don’t perfectly align.

She said she believes her messaging can be effective in appealing to conservatives, and broadening the anti-war movement.

“We’re not afraid to call them out and say 'nukes are not pro-life,' 'war is not pro-life' and we’re using this language that I think a lot of conservative people can relate to,” Murphy said.

Murphy said her organization is more than willing to work with groups who disagree with them on ancillary issues. McMorland said so does the Thomas Merton Center.

“People often point to conservative or right wing agendas and say, 'look how disciplined they are, look how good they are at being in step with each other.' And I think one of the real purposes or values of having a progressive movement is that we can ask each other questions and we don’t have to agree on everything," he said.

Remaining organizers include Veterans for Peace, the Democratic Socialists of America – Pittsburgh, and WILPF Pittsburgh.

The March Against War has a new Facebook page. It’s scheduled for July 1, starting at 1 p.m. at Schenley plaza.

Aimee Murphy said her organization will still be attending.