A Life Worth Fighting For
November 1, 2017
“They come up to women and tell them they’re going to hell after they’ve had an abortion. All they do is jeer and bully women who are in a vulnerable state.”
This is what my mother told me the first time we passed the Planned Parenthood on the corner of 4th and H street and noticed the protesters. I was 12 years old and hardly knew a thing about being pro-life or pro-choice, however, this statement stuck with me. Growing up in liberal, forward-thinking Marin, too many of us, pro-life protestors seem like ghosts of a past in which women were less free. There have been countless times that I’ve passed the “defenders of the unborn” and had a friend say something along the lines of “don’t they have something better to do with their time?”
Daphne Massucco believes that this is, in fact, the best way she could be spending her Monday afternoon. I meet her as the other protesters begin to pray, so we walk off to somewhere quieter so as not to disturb them. “People ask, ‘isn’t there something better you could be doing?’ and outside of church it just feels like you’re on the frontline for the unborn—which just feels like the right thing to do,” she says.
Massucco is upfront about her faith playing a role in her pro-life stance. She joined her parents, who are both Christian and pro-life, in protest about a dozen years ago and she has raised her own children to be pro-life as well. However, Massucco lacks the irrational, bible-thumping, sentiment we all too often assign to pro-life protestors. Instead, she is empathetic, altruistic, and rational. Her reasoning for her pro-life beliefs is simple and understandable: “I just believe that it’s a human life. That it’s a defenseless little baby in the womb that deserves protection,” she says as she holds a sign with a picture of a tiny newborn.
While many believe that pro-life protestors scorn and shame women going in for an abortion, Massucco assures me that this is not the case: “The basic thing we’re doing here is praying; we almost never approach anyone or talk to women coming and going. Once in a while someone seems conflicted like they’re looking for an alternative, so we’ll give them the information of a free prenatal clinic not far away,” she says. Peaceful praying and protesting is the vast majority of what pro-life protestors do in Marin. Sadly though, many people don’t realize that this is the case and as a result, they scrutinize the protesters as they pass by.
Massucco has been met with shouts, glares, countless middle fingers, and the occasional egg thrown her way. In one extreme case, a car nearly hit her as she walked across the street, sign in hand, to check on a homeless woman lying on the ground. Despite all the backlash she faces, Massucco maintains a positive attitude surrounding the whole situation. “There are people who are willing to sacrifice being yelled at because we believe it’s a life worth defending,” she says when referring to her posse of protesters.
Surprisingly enough, Massucco is aware that Planned Parenthood is not the great evil of our time, the way some pro-lifers seem to think. However, she thinks of herself as an ethical consumer and for that reason, she does not support Planned Parenthood despite the other services they provide. “I’m sure they do some good but they are mainly an abortion provider…I’m careful not to support anything that might go to the killing of innocent life,” she says. When I ask her where she’d recommend a teenager like me get birth control instead, she hands me a plethora of pamphlets. Among some of them are the information of free clinics, abortion rehabilitation centers, the journey of a fetus across a pregnancy, and a shelter for new mothers.
Massucco is practical and well informed in her pro-life stance. There are very few answers that she lacks. Even when I bring up the case of rape or incest, her beliefs do not falter at all. “I think that would be an extremely difficult situation, but I think when you figure out is this a human life or is this not a human life, is life worth defending or is it not, then you have to ask, is the solution to this tragedy to kill the innocent victim here?” she says. Her empathetic yet unwavering nature makes me realize that abortion is not just something Massucco is connected to through affiliation; it’s something she has thought about and pondered over her whole life that has formed the person that she is today.
Praying and protesting is not all that Massucco does in her free time. She is aware that women who choose to keep their babies often require a great amount of help from the community around them. Frustrated by the misconception that pro-lifers only care about babies inside the womb she says, “people ask, ‘why aren’t you out there doing something for the babies?’, and I don’t know anyone who donates more time, talent, and money to these causes than pro-life people. They’re exhausted from trying to help out.” And by “they’re” Massucco means that she is as well.
Her time is spent divided between her pro-life protesting and helping the babies who have been born and are in need of assistance. She and her group of protesters spend their time volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul, a shelter for new mothers, and also often buy clothes, diapers, and cribs for the babies. Massucco’s love of babies extends to both the born and the unborn. Her sympathy and kindness towards the mothers who keep their babies are due in part to the fact that she understands how they must divert a huge amount of their energy and time towards caring for their children.
In fact, Massucco knows better than most, just how much time and work and untimely pregnancy can be. Being a single mom for four years of her son’s life made her all the more compassionate to both new mothers and women who undergo abortions. “Is it hard?” she says “ It’s so hard I can’t even calculate. But when people keep their baby, the high percentage of the time, they’re so very grateful that they did. It’s just about the most amazing thing you can go through but it’s not easy being a single mom.You definitely need help, and that’s something we try to do.” As someone who once needed help to care for her child, Massucco is not naive about the work it takes to raise a child under unexpected circumstances.
As we wrap up our interview, I glance towards the small line of protesters quietly praying a few feet away from us. I can’t help but feel respect for these men and women who are so devoted to a cause that they believe is worthy of their time. “I think you guys are really peaceful,” I say as I start putting away my things. “Well we better be!” exclaims Massucco, “We aren’t going to change any hearts and minds if we’re not”.