Jeanne Marie Hathway
Today thousands of people, Christian and atheist, republicans and democrats, young and old March for those who can’t defend themselves. We march for babies who were never given the chance at life. For older men and women who are told that they are a burden and that they should choose to end their lives. For those with mental disabilities who are marginalized in societies and even aborted for the “inconvenience” that they will become. We march to give a voice to the voiceless. Jeanne Marie Hathway is one of those people who give the marginalized a voice. Who speaks up at injustice and rallies people behind her.
I met Jeanne Marie last year when I thought I was going to be a theology major. We had a very difficult theology class together and I was so intimidated by her intelligence and grace that I felt myself falling into the pitfall of comparison. But, then I heard her speech at the March for Life last year. She spoke of a pro-life feminism – a feminism that calls for greater health care for women and drives out fear and shame. It was a feminism that Jesus Himself would stand by and I knew in that moment I had to let go of the jealousy and pursue a friendship with her.I know feminism is a hard word for so many of us. It has been corrupted by poor decisions and women who have been hurt but we have to see it as Jeanne Marie sees it, “Feminism is the worldview that fearlessly and radically challenges structures that harm the equality of women. It’s the great reorientation of society to the rational order, which recognizes woman as the peak of creation and orders all institutions to bend in due deference to her.” The first feminists were pro-life. The first feminists loved men and saw their goodness. The first feminists knew their dignity as women. “If your feminism excludes, if it disenfranchises, if it fears—it’s no feminism at all. There’s a lot of fear in the pro-life—and, sadly, even the Catholic—community about this particular F-word. Fear is the opposite of charity, the chief virtue of our faith. We can’t let fear of feminism’s mistakes keep us from embracing it wholeheartedly. Fear also belies mistrust in the Creator.”
A name like Jeanne Marie demands respect and exudes beauty and when I heard the story of how she was named, and how it related to the pro-life movement, I couldn’t believe it. “People always ask me about my name—it doesn’t sound like it looks; not Jeanne like “blue jean,” but “Jeanne” rhymes with “dawn.” (I always compare it to “parmesan cheese” or “genre.”) The short answer is, no, I don’t speak French—it’s a family name.” She was named after her aunt Jeanne who got pregnant while battling lymphoma, “She chose to put her son’s life before her own. She sacrificed her life to save him; she is, to me, the ultimate example of female strength. Sharing her name, I’ve grown up in this birthright of standing for life.” Her aunt inspires her every day to continue fighting what she died to protect. Her aunt taught her love and strength and true femininity and now she is a living example of how this love for life can change the world.
The pro-life movement isn’t just something that Jeanne Marie is passionate about when it’s easy or when she is surrounded by people who agree with her. She is pro-life in every way, at all times, “Being pro-life means seeing without a single exception, the dignity of all human beings. Zero qualifications. This means seeing the humanity—the unique, unrepeatable miracle—of the individual in the womb, in the nursing home, at the border, on death row, in Planned Parenthood with nowhere else to go. There are no exceptions to the value of human life. Our life-giving Lord created each one of us! We are His hands and feet, the stewards of His creation. Are we serving as He asks us to?”
What I love most about her approach to the pro-life movement is the language that she uses and the cause that she fights for. She speaks in a way that even the most pro-choice women would struggle to disagree with, “When it comes to disagreements, the most important thing I’ve learned is that the disagreements are actually extremely few and far between. Equal pay, maternity leave, improved sex education, higher standards of treatment for women, the eradication of a sexual assault culture, higher quality women’s healthcare—these are things people all over the spectrum agree with.” She has been marching for as long as she can remember and the pro-life movement is practically in her blood. She has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of both sides, “It’s more important to listen than to talk. The person you disagree has valid concerns, many of which you may have never thought of before. You will change more hearts with love, kindness, and consistency than with logic.”
At the end of the day, she is fighting for a movement that empowers women and drives out fear. She is fighting for actual change in our government and our culture surrounding life. She knows that it isn’t enough to just talk about injustice and hope it is going to change all by itself. “All human life is valuable, dignified, and worthy of human rights. We live in a society that disenfranchises women so habitually that we’ve pitted mothers against their own children.” We can’t allow a culture of fear to permeate our culture when we have the ability to make a difference. “A pregnant mother does not have a “choice” when she’s living in poverty—like 75% of women who have abortions—and working for a company that doesn’t provide maternity leave. It’s not a “choice” if her partner and family coerce or threaten her. It’s not a “choice” if she’ll be kicked out of school for being pregnant. No woman wants an abortion, so why aren’t we doing everything in our power to ensure she never has to get one?”I leave every conversation with Jeanne Marie not only feeling inspired but also affirmed in my femininity knowing that she truly cares for every single person she is fighting for. Jeanne Marie is the kind of feminist and pro-life activist that we should all be. She has inspired me to be fearless in the face of disagreements and compassionate to those who don’t know any better. She truly is an amazing woman and I just know she is going to change the world one day.