Earlier this month, I wrote an essay about my frustration with the pro-life movement, namely that their leading organizations appeared to be silent toward the treatment of asylum seekers at the border. I wondered, where was the advocacy for the voiceless — this time, not for the unborn but for the children living and dying in detention centers?
I hadn’t heard a peep from the Pro-Life Action League. The National Right to Life appeared mum on the topic of the children sick and dying in detention centers. The American Life League, a Catholic pro-life organization that claims to be “dedicated to protecting the intrinsic human rights of all people born and pre-born” appears to be totally undedicated to protecting babies of asylum seekers.
Anti-abortion groups have historically stepped into the political fray to protest legislation or other measures to widen abortion access. So where was their political outrage for children lacking access to a toothbrush or a shower? Where were the pro-life activists when the family separation policies were in full effect?
Naturally, I had seen the messages of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) about what needed to be done to protect vulnerable children and their families. I am also aware of the broad humanitarian work by Catholic Charities. But neither of these organizations are singularly pro-life. They advocate for many causes. That is, neither exists solely for the cause of defending life. I wanted to hear what those who are just as loud about decrying abortion were saying and doing about the border crisis.
By the time my essay calling out pro-life silence was published, though, it was clear much was happening under the banner of pro-life. My social media and inbox were filling to the brim with roaring dissent. Some pro-lifers came in peace. Some came with pitchforks. There were plenty of pro-lifers with boots on the ground, they said, rallying to help the plight of the asylum seekers in any way that they could.
It seems that many pro-lifers were emboldened by a non-partisan call to action, as this message from the USCCB states: “Congress has a duty to provide additional funding to address the needs of children in federal custody…It is possible and necessary to care for the safety of migrant children and the security of our citizens. By putting aside partisan interests, a nation as great as ours is able to do both.”
Put aside party, say the Cardinals. And I believe the Cardinals in this instance are somewhat right. Usually our two-party political system is at its most dextrous when it works toward compromise, seeking the best solution to effect the greatest good. While Congress conducts hearings and our President tweets heartless dismissals about the detention centers, though, asylum seekers are suffering and lacking the most basic of supplies and support.
“I’m tired of politicians blaming each other and not coming up with a solution,” said Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director turned founder of And Then There Were None, an anti-abortion organization, that recently visited a humanitarian respite center in McAllen, Texas to donate supplies.
“I was standing in the respite center, thinking about what these mothers must have gone through seeking asylum — doing it ‘the right way’ — the way they’re told to do it on a path to citizenship and it seems like they’re being punished by being separated from their children. I am frustrated that people defend that. How can you defend that?”
Johnson said she believes more conservative voices are needed to call out wrong policies at the border.
“I’m not going to pretend like there aren’t a lot of Republicans who say they’re fine with people coming here legally — and then when they come, their words toward these people are disgusting. They can’t have it both ways.”
However, Johnson said she believes most pro-lifers are “supportive and thankful for this work” Johnson and her agency are doing to provide humanitarian relief at the border.
Destiny Herndon-de la Rosa, who leads New Wave Feminists, a non-profit whose moniker is “Badass. Prolife. Feminists.”, collaborated with Johnson’s agency in this recent effort.
At the time that my original piece was written, though, their work was not yet on my radar. The day it was published was the same weekend in which the volunteers made their delivery. And what a delivery they made. Johnson and Herndon-de la Rosa said they maxed out two Amazon wish lists and filled up a UHaul before a Houston-based volunteer donated his 18-wheeler to their cause, called #Bottles2theborder.
Reached by phone, Herndon-de la Rosa said she had made the same voyage in December 2018 to bring toiletries to a respite humanitarian center in McAllen, Texas run by Sr. Norma Pimentel. At that time, Herndon-de la Rosa said the center was overwhelmed and undersupplied, welcoming 800 new visitors per day, brought by ICE after their detainment. When Herndon-de la Rosa returned home, she knew she needed to enlist more help to make another such delivery. Herndon-de la Rosa was able to obtain sponsorship from more than 50 pro-life organizations to raise $133,000 toward supplies like formula, diapers, and other toiletries.
“I’m one person, the only employee of my organization which is rag tag team, and we were able to do something kinda big,” said Herndon-de la Rosa of #Bottles2theBorder, “The more time we complain on the internet, the less time we spend doing to create a culture of life. I think people would rather talk,” she said.
Without political action, though, the overcrowding and maltreatment in the detention centers will likely persist. When asked what she thought of the gridlock that is keeping children in cages, Herndon-de la Rosa said, “This idea of ‘Making America Great Again’ by dehumanizing people is not the way to make America great. I believe in America. We are all immigrants. We have to do better. If our politicians are not going to do it, we have to be the ones doing it,” she said.
A website has been set up to provide a way for those wanting to support the humanitarian relief of #Bottles2theBorder.