Limiting "women's issues" to a woman's potential to be a mother – as well as trying to deny that potential – does not empower women, a panel told members of Congress and their staff Tuesday.

Rather, "women's issues" extend across the range of all issues facing society, panelists said June 17 at "Women Know Best" on Capitol Hill.

Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life, told CNA June 18 that political slogans claiming opposition to abortion is akin to a war on women is "messaging that does a real disservice, especially to young women."

In this approach, she said, a woman is "defined maybe too much by her reproductive capabilities," and not by other aspects of her personhood.

The potential to be a mother, she said, "is a huge part of what it means to be a woman, but it's not the only part."

Monahan had spoken at "Women Know Best" along with Mercedes Schlapp, co-founder of Cove Strategies and a political commentator; Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of pro-life lobby Susan B. Anthony List; former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.); and Carly Fiorina, chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation and a former technology executive.

Fiorina, who gave a keynote address, urged attendees to "share an empathic, personal and optimistic message" on life, saying women who are pro-life and who hold other positions thought of as politically conservative should "stand up and say what they believe and why."

She stressed that "science is proving to us everyday that life starts at conception," even though legislation in the U.S. has yet to recognize this biological fact.

She emphasized the need to "get the problem solved" and to take "one step in protecting the unborn" by supporting bans on late-term abortions after 5 months of pregnancy.

Despite these challenges, Fiorina said, she is "optimistic, because I have great faith in other people and their potential."

"The message and the messenger are equally important," Schlapp emphasized, saying that women "need to continue to be strong advocates for the unborn and defend our religious liberties."

"Part of the challenge is articulating a pro-life message in a personal way that makes sense, is simple, and can connect," she stressed, saying that pro-life advocates should work through a "step by step process" in creating "real change in favor of the pro-life movement."

Monahan emphasized that a message that embraces life is a "very beautiful thing" and allows "women to most completely flourish."

In contrast, she added, "to pretend that a women's capacity to bear children is insignificant is not empowering to women," particularly when abortion causes harm to society, to children, and to women themselves.   

Instead, she told the audience that "all issues are women's issues."
"We don't leave out any part of her: that's part of the whole person," Monahan said.