Progressive pro-life group holds first rally outside US Supreme Court

Terrisa Bukovinac speaks at a rally launching the The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising in Washington, D.C., Oct. 1, 2021. Terrisa Bukovinac speaks at a rally launching the The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising in Washington, D.C., Oct. 1, 2021. | Christine Rousselle/CNA

A new pro-life organization aimed at mobilizing progressives and those on the political left launched Friday at a rally outside the US Supreme Court.

The Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, or PAAU (pronounced "pow"), was created and is led by Terrisa Bukovinac, the founder and president of Pro-Life San Francisco and former president of Democrats For Life.

Speaking to CNA ahead of the organization’s Oct. 1 launch, Bukovinac said that the reasons for the name were threefold: She wanted to emphasize the progressive nature of the group, explicitly state that they are against abortion, and she wanted the name to be something that was easy to recall. 

“I wanted a great acronym, something that's easy to say, easy to look up, easy to remember, and I like the sound of that acronym,” she said. “Obviously we are a group of progressives, so we're activists. We're not just a club of people getting together to talk about pro-life issues.”

Bukovinac explained that her group is “an uprising of grassroots activists” who are “looking to organize blue cities across America” against abortion. She said she opted for the phrase “anti-abortion” in the group’s name, instead of “pro-life,” because “In more left-leaning circles, sometimes the phrase ‘pro-life’ has become a little meaningless.”

“They all consider themselves pro-life and pro-choice,” she said. “I wanted to state very clearly in the name that we are opposed to abortion. We are a single-issue organization.” 

While there are “lots of groups” within the progressive sphere that focus on other issues that left-leaning pro-life organizations also advocate for, Bukovinac said she wants PAAU “to be strictly about abortion and pregnancy-related issues as it relates to Democratic policy and progressive developments within the Democratic Party.”

The “establishment Democratic” wing of the party does not do much to influence overall party policy, she said. 

“The only groups that seem to make any difference to the DNC are progressive groups that operate outside of the establishment politics and force the Democratic Party to become more progressive,” she said. 

The existence of her “strictly progressive” group provides visibility and representation to people like Bukovinak, “who want to see a more progressive society, that want more government programs, that want more democratic socialism being pro-life.”

Otherwise, she said, “the DNC is never going to abandon this horrific, unjust relationship that they keep with the abortion-industrial complex.”

At the rally, Bukovinak said: "To be progressive you must step up for the marginalized, but the abortion-industrial complex twists all of that on its head. They’ll tell you that to be progressive you must advocate for mass acts of violence against children in the womb, who are utterly incapable of defending themselves. They’ll tell you that to be progressive you must ignore the voices of low income people, who are more anti-abortion than the wealthy, by huge margins."

Another goal of PAAU is to highlight the existence of pro-life activists who do not consider themselves religious or right-leaning, something Bukovinac said greatly impacted her activism when she was starting out. Bukovinac describes herself as an atheist. 

“I definitely had pro-life leanings. I knew that, but I did not feel comfortable as a non-religious person with very left leaning values, living in a city like San Francisco, expressing that in any way,” she told CNA. “Until I saw one day online back in, like, 2011, I think, a group called ‘Secular Pro-Life.’” 

“And I thought, ‘oh my gosh, there are other people like me out there,’” she said. She attended her first Walk for Life West Coast in 2014, and has been involved in pro-life leadership ever since. 

“And that's another reason why I say representation matters so much. And why I think it's so  important to launch this organization that is explicitly progressive.”

Bukovinac said at the rally that "They’ll tell you that to be progressive that you cannot, under any circumstances, advocate for the most marginalized among us. But we know that abortion is not progress, abortion is a regress, to the pseudo-morality of might makes right, and as progressives we will not stand for it. We are reclaiming progressivism for life. Wherever you find fake progressivism bought with blood money, we will be there, and we will be loud. It is time for a progressive anti-abortion uprising."

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