While many activists are making the case against abortion this week for the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States, four female voices especially stand out. They are: Marjorie Dannenfelser, Abby Johnson, Penny Nance and Charmaine Yoest.
Dannenfelser – who is one of the original organizers of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group whose purpose is to elect pro-life candidates, serves as the president of Susan B. Anthony List. The group was named in honor of one of the first women to effectively lobby for the right of women to vote and who had called abortion "child murder."
Dannenfelser was born and raised in Greenville, N.C., in an Episcopalian home but later converted to Catholicism. Early in her teen years she admitted to supporting a woman's "right to choose" and even being named the "pro-choice chair" for the College Republicans at Duke University. According to a 2010 interview in The Washington Post, she had what she described as a "go-to" line when men challenged her abortion stance: "When you become a woman, come back and talk to me."
But her conversion began after a dispute one summer in 1986 between conservative and libertarian "Republican" roommates over an inappropriate video, which caused her to begin a gradual conversion to the Catholic Church and her present pro-life views. She also credits a male Democratic friend, Chris Currie, for helping to change her view on abortion, describing Currie as "the best apologist I've ever met, before or since."
SBA List, along with its political action committee, has helped elect over 90 pro-life candidates to the U.S. House of Representatives and 12 to the U.S. Senate. However, Dannenfelser and others have now turned their attention to what may be their biggest challenge: trying to defund the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, of all its taxpayer funding.
Dannenfelser is married to former congressional staffer Martin Dannenfelser and the couple has five children.
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If Texas native Abby Johnson is ever attacked for her pro-life stance, her detractors cannot accuse her of not having first-hand knowledge of the abortion process. The reason is simple: for eight years Johnson was a Planned Parenthood employee, even holding the position of clinic director.
Johnson became increasingly disturbed by what she saw at the clinic. Although the abortion-rights organization claims it exist to provide overall healthcare services for underprivileged women, Johnson was convinced its number one priority was to perform abortions.
After being asked to assist with an ultrasound-guided abortion and having to watch "in horror" as a 13-week-old baby fought and lost its life, Johnson realized she had seen enough. "I had never seen an abortion happen on an ultrasound," Johnson said in a 2009 interview. "My job during the procedure was to hold the probe on the woman's abdomen. I could see the whole profile of the baby 13-week head to foot. I could see the whole side profile. I could see the probe. I could see the baby try to move away from the probe."
"I just thought, 'What am I doing?'" she said. "And then I thought, 'Never again.'"
Johnson, who is the author of unPlanned, travels across the globe sharing her story, educating the public on pro-life issues, advocating for the unborn, and reaching out to abortion clinic staff who still work in the industry.
She resides in Texas and is married with one child.
Born in Tennessee to a Christian minister, Nance heads up the powerful D.C. lobbying group, Concerned Women for America. Originally founded by Beverly LaHaye in 1979, CWA touts itself as the nation's largest public policy women's organization devoted to biblical principles.
In addition to defending the sanctity of human life, CWA also advocates for pro-family issues, including education, religious liberty, national sovereignty and anti-pornography issues. But Nance is not only a leading female conservative, but is also included in major gatherings and conversations among the elder statesmen of conservatism when they gather throughout the country to discuss major issues or campaigns.
Nance is not afraid to take on the Republican Party when she believes it is not standing up for pro-family causes, especially pro-life issues. In a column that appeared in CP a week after the November 2012 elections, she stood firm on the need for the GOP to embrace the pro-life movement.
"And finally, we will leave you if you [Republican Party] betray us. Yes, I said it – and I mean it. Life is not negotiable. The unborn are not political pawns. Abortion is a human rights issue, and we will stand down no more than the abolitionist would have conceded his just cause. If the establishment works to favor pro-abortion candidates, then about 51 percent of their voters who identify as either Catholic or Evangelical will simply stay home or find another party."
Michelle Smith, a CWA volunteer in Texas, says Nance is one of the more powerful communicators on behalf of the unborn and is making a mark for herself and her organization. "Penny is the face of the next generation of young conservative woman," Smith told The Christian Post. "She radiates what patriotism means. She loves her Lord, her husband, her children and her country. Concerned Women for America is so blessed with her leadership. She fights tirelessly for our faith and the cause of conservatism."
Prior to accepting the top position at CWA, Nance was a special advisor to the Federal Communications Commission where she advised the chairman on media and social issues such as broadcast indecency.
Nance, a graduate of Liberty University, is married to Will Nance, whom she met while working with Charles Colson at Prison Fellowship Ministries. They have two children.
Americans United for Life's Charmaine Yoest began her career working in the Reagan White House before transitioning to an advisory role in Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2008 GOP presidential campaign. She is also the co-author of Mother in the Middle, which takes a closer look at the nation's childcare policy.
Yoest, who has a PhD in politics from the University of Virginia, has worked at several pro-family organizations including, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council. One of Yoest's more significant accomplishments occurred this past year when she temporarily was able to have the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure end its contributions to Planned Parenthood.
Her group's 2011 report titled, "The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood," led to a congressional probe by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In a 2012 interview with The Washington Post, she said one of her most memorable moments working in the pro-life arena occurred when she received the news that Komen had decided to stop contributing to PP.
"I have to say, it was some of the best news of my entire life," Yoest said in the interview discussing the Komen decision. However, the victory was short-lived when the group was pressed to reinstate the funding by congressional Democrats and other pro-abortion activists.
Like the many others involved in hand-to-hand combat in the pro-life arena, Yoest is not discouraged even though President Obama – who supports abortion on demand – won re-election in November.
"We are really energized right now," she said in her interview.
Yoest and her husband, Jack, have five children.