Twenty-three year-old Katie Walker is part of the new generation of young pro-life activists who sees her work as part of the great continuity of centuries of human rights development in the western world. As the full-time public relations director for American Life League (ALL), Katie says that one of the “most striking” aspects of her work is the Personhood Movement, a major focus of ALL, and one that is reframing the issue for the public.
“We need to start looking at the pro-life movement as a human rights movement as an extension of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s,” Katie told LifeSiteNews.com in an interview Thursday.
“Anyone who has had an extended debate with a pro-abortion proponent knows that they recognise that the being in the womb is human. They know it’s a baby, but they don’t think it’s a person with the same dignity and equality and worth as you or I.”
Human rights, she said, is the “direction of the pro-life movement.” She named William Wilberforce, the heroes of the Civil Rights movement and the heroes of the abolitionist movement as the models for the new wave of pro-life activism.
“When you’re discussing this and you’re getting down to brass tacks with pro-aborts, and you’re in any kind of hard-core debate, it always comes down to the baby in the womb is not a human person because of either age, dependency level or location. These criteria have been used to justify slavery and all kinds of human rights abuses through the last couple of thousand years.
“If you look back historically, it is the same movement and the parallels are undeniable.”
Pro-life leaders need to shift their focus to present their position as one of a defence of human rights. With pro-abortion advocates, this “takes away their ammunition.”
“And you can see lights starting to go off in their heads. It’s a beautiful frame of reference to start the debate off with something that they can understand.”
Communicating the pro-life message in terms of personhood, she said, gives the pro-life movement a huge tactical advantage, one that creates a mental detour around many people’s stereotypes and emotional blockages. American Life League has launched a series of “personhood initiatives” in eight states with “dozens more” expected. They are, she said, “talking to people person-to-person, changing hearts and minds one at a time.”
The petitioners ask, “Do you believe that all human beings should be considered persons under the law?” This shifts the focus away from the standard pro-life rhetoric that can derail a discussion, she said. “So, one by one, it’s completely getting under their radar and is engaging people in a way they’ve never been engaged before.”
Having been involved in the pro-life movement for most of her life, one of Katie’s earliest memories is of participating in side-walk prayer vigils outside an abortion facility. “I was one of those kids who very easily could have been aborted,” she said. As a single unwed mother, her mother “was definitely a candidate for abortion.”
“One of my first memories is of protesting in front of a Planned Parenthood, standing next to my cousin in a stroller, and they told me that they kill babies at Planned Parenthood. So we’re next to my cousin, and someone comes up to us – in retrospect it was probably a pro-lifer – but I threw myself over the stroller: ‘Don’t hurt my cousin!'”
As a major in journalism in college who was active in her campus pro-life group, Katie had her first experience of anti-pro-life prejudice from academia at the age of 19. At a time when she was set to become editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper at Northern Kentucky University, she covered the formation of a “pro-life faculty group.” But when a feminist professor on campus “destroyed and vandalised” the group’s first display and Walker was interviewed on Fox news, she was summarily sacked from the paper.
“They called me into the editor-in-chief’s office and said, ‘Sayonara. You are too much of a hot-button and biased.’ Because I was the president of the pro-life group I was fired from the campus paper which essentially called a halt to my journalistic ambitions.”
Walker refocused her energies into expanding her pro-life activities to the state level and ended up with American Life League in Washington, attracted by their “uncompromising, no-nonsense” approach.
Her Washington experience has taught her the value of keeping in contact with the grass roots pro-life activists. “I think there’s a temptation when you’re working for the pro-life movement and you’re doing this 50, 60 hours a week to disconnect from the grass roots who are out on those sidewalks every day, day in and day out,” she said.
“Here in DC the movement is challenging and vigorous and there are lots of problems, and lots of things we need to work on and I think one of the biggest things is to remember those people in the Midwest who are fighting that fight every day on the ground.”
She names the Scheidlers of Chicago’s Pro-Life Action League who “day in and day out are standing in front of the Aurora Planned Parenthood and pounding the pavement in Chicago, fighting the fight for each one of those women who are going into those abortion mills and each one of those babies.”