‘Not okay’ to join with an ‘anti-feminist/anti-choice organization’
An autism group reversed its decision to allow a campus pro-life group to participate in its event after facing criticism from an autism activist who supports abortion rights.
Wolf Pack for Life at Loyola University New Orleans got the green light from the Autism Self Advocacy Network to host a vigil for the annual Disability Community Day of Mourning, which memorializes “disabled people murdered by their family members or caregivers.”
The network explicitly told the student club that its pro-life stance wasn’t a problem, Wolf Pack for Life leader Sophie Trist wrote in a blog post last month for Rehumanize International, a progressive nonprofit that opposes “all forms of aggressive violence against human beings.”
After the club started advertising the March 1 vigil on Facebook, however, it drew the attention of the Facebook page Trans Autistica, run by a self-identified female activist who is “anti-capitalism, anti-racism, pro-feminism and pro-autism-and-neurodiversity.”
Trans Autistica called on its followers to tell the network it is “not okay” to join with an “anti-feminist/anti-choice organization” for the memorial.
A few hours later, Trist noticed that the network had removed itself from Wolf Pack for Life’s vigil page on Facebook. Asked for an explanation, the network told Trist to stop using its name in association with Wolf Pack for Life’s event.
Trans Autistica celebrated the network’s removal of Wolf Pack for Life as an official host but sought “a genuine apology” as well.
The College Fix asked Trans Autistica to respond to Trist’s account of the dispute, why the activist opposes pro-life participation in the memorial and whether pro-life views inherently conflict with disability rights activism.
The activist said the subject was “really triggering for me.” She is “a leftist, not okay with the pro-life movement in any form or fashion and I like my privacy,” declining to further comment.
Unlike many student pro-life clubs, Wolf Pack for Life is not conventionally conservative. It describes itself in the same terms as Rehumanize International – a “consistent life ethic” group that opposes abortion, assisted suicide, ableism and capital punishment.
Trist (below) told The Fix her group has “tried to work with many non-pro-life groups, with varying degrees of success.”
One of its successes was co-sponsoring a 2018 fundraiser with the Jesuit university’s LGBTQ organization “for those living with HIV/AIDS, and no one objected to our presence there,” Trist said.
Pro-life organizations have previously been removed as partners at events dominated by abortion-rights supporters following publicity about their participation. The highest profile example is the Women’s March, which removed New Wave Feminists from its list of partners.
Pro-life views ‘drawing a lot of negative attention to your event’
The network took note of Wolf Pack for Life’s pro-life stance when it responded to Trist’s application to serve as a “vigil coordinator,” she wrote in the blog post.
The program coordinator noted that “you work on a lot of issues including abortion, assisted suicide, etc., some of which we also work on,” and asked Trist to clarify that “your vigil will just focus on the issue of murder by caregivers.”
She confirmed that was the lone focus, “and ASAN made no further mention of WPFL’s views,” Trist wrote. Trans Autistica wasted little time going after the network for partnering with what it called a “forced-birth” organization, she said. (The Fix has not been able to find this specific quote attributed to Trans Autistica.)
The annual day of mourning “has nothing to do with abortion, but they chose to make it about abortion,” Trist continued in the blog post.
“Rather than focusing on our common belief that filicide is abhorrent and disabled lives are worth protecting, this page chose the path of intolerance and divisiveness,” she wrote. “They told us that because we are pro-life, we are not welcome in the disability rights movement.”
Trist shared the email she received from ASAN in response to her query about dropping Wolf Pack for Life as a vigil site.
“We appreciate all the work you have put in to the vigil,” the email reads. “Unfortunately, as you probably saw, listing the vigil as a co-hosted event caused people to view it as ASAN holding positions that we don’t actually have”:
That was drawing a lot of negative attention to your event, and distracting from the issue of filicide, so we removed ourselves as co hosts and will not be able to list you as an official vigil site. We ask that you not use our name on the event page or other event materials, if you go forward with the event. We do appreciate that you want to call attention to the issue of violence against people with disabilities.
ASAN gave a more detailed explanation to another critic of its initial decision to partner with Wolf Pack for Life, according to a screenshot the user posted.
“I totally understand the concern,” the unidentified writer said. “This group [Wolf Pack for Life] was never an organizational partner – vigil sites are run by volunteers, who often do not come from organizations we work with”:
ASAN believes in everyone’s right to health care, and that includes the right to a safe abortion; this has always been our organizational position. But we got strong community feedback that allowing the group to host a vigil could create the appearance of a broader partnership. That would be harmful and not a message we want to send, so we removed them as vigil hosts. Thank you for getting in touch with us and helping us do better.
ASAN has not responded to Fix emails Feb. 21 and March 2 seeking its response to Trist’s account of the situation.
The response email confirms that ASAN “had no problem with us being pro-life when we signed up, but as soon as they received complaints, they caved to pressure and listened to a few angry voices rather than working toward a more harmonious world where every disabled life is valued,” Trist wrote in the post.
She said she was “deeply grieved and disappointed” with ASAN, whose response shows that it “clearly does not value all disabled lives equally.” Trist denounced the “cancel culture” represented by ASAN’s response, calling it an “ideological purity test” that forecloses “opportunities to gain new perspectives and build coalitions to work for change.”
Wolf Pack for Life ended up scheduling its vigil for the following day, March 2, “because we will not allow other activists’ divisive rhetoric to silence our message,” Trist wrote. She said people of all views on abortion were “welcome to join us.”
Women’s Resource Center spurns them, too
Beyond its success with the HIV/AIDS fundraiser, Wolf Pack for Life’s efforts to build bridges with other organizations have mostly fallen short, Trist told The Fix.
It reached out to the university’s Women’s Resource Center “on at least 3 separate occasions” for events on adoption and human trafficking survivors.
“All 3 times we reached out, the WRC declined to work with us, as they are nominally neutral on the abortion issue and believe that working with us would make it look like they supported our position on that issue,” she said.
It also gave free tickets to the College Democrats and other pro-choice organizations to last fall’s Rehumanize International conference, which Wolf Pack for Life hosted at Loyola.
The conference dealt with many issues of interest to progressives, from “capital punishment to slavery reparations to immigrant justice to unjust war and torture.” While the pro-choice attendees initially seemed receptive, “they only attended one of the keynote speeches and were escorted out for protesting disruptively,” Trist said.
While Trans Autistica declined to speak with The Fix in detail about the dispute, the activist has not let go of the issue.
She published a post Feb. 22 noting Trist’s blog post: “so i guess i’m getting ‘called out’ by pro-lifers.” The same day, Trans Autistica started a fundraiser for the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, noting she is “still waiting on that apology” from ASAN:
[D]isabled people are disproportionately impacted by anti-choice legislation, organising, harrassment [sic] and rhetoric. The forced-birthing organisation ASAN elected to partner with for Disability Day of Mourning literally had pictures of the group gathering outside a planned parenthood for protest on their event page.
[Y]ou cannot be a disability advocate and oppose the rights of disabled people to bodily autonomy and self-determination, and we -will not- allow anti-choice conservatives to co-opt our movements for their own agendas
As of March 5, the fundraiser has yet to raise any funds.
IMAGE: Wolf Pack for Life/Facebook, Rehumanize International screenshot