After back-to-back, massive demonstrations—each led by women—placed the issue of abortion at the forefront of American discourse this month, both sides are left to ponder how to engage the culture on such a highly contentious topic.
This year, inspiration is coming from an unlikely source: Hollywood.
Two female stars, Jeannie Gaffigan and Patricia Heaton, are making ripples with the way they boldly and graciously defend their views on abortion. Both stress respect and concern for all as an integral part of their approach in making life-affirming arguments. And both women speak from family-based platforms to make their case.
Jeannie and Jim Gaffigan have become one of Hollywood’s most beloved couples and have made their focus on family an integral part of their brand. They’ve managed to build a very pro-family platform in the most mainstream of media outlets. The New York Times called Jeannie “the quiet powerhouse” behind her husband’s clean and family-friendly success in comedy. The New Yorker’s “At Home With the Gaffigans” was a warm and positive portrayal of their domestic life, and their decision to cancel their comedy series to focus on being better parents to their five children was widely hailed in the secular press.
No one doubts that their pro-life convictions are very much shaped by their experience in raising five precious lives they call their own. The way Jeanie in particular publicly and positively lives out her role as wife and mom in addition to being a genius comedy writer lends her a certain credibility when she engages the culture on issues of life, faith, and family.
Her Twitter page often includes references to her Catholic faith and inclusive sentiments stressing the compatibility of being pro-life and pro-family with concern for the marginalized. For example, her tweet on the day of the Women’s March broke with the tone of her female peers in Hollywood:
"BREAKING NEWS: You can be #ProLife & still care about the poor, disenfranchised & disabled people."
Patricia Heaton similarly splits with her Hollywood counterparts on the life issue and does so in a magnanimous way, having recently been labeled a “gracious ambassador for life” by The Federalist. Like Gaffigan, Heaton is unafraid to engage on the topic on Twitter, but unlike so many of her fellow stars, Heaton does so with a certain “gentleness,” as The Federalist put it. “Speaking for the unborn in Hollywood—an environment that literally eats you alive if you don’t conform—is truly remarkable,” the article notes about Heaton.
The actress, who has been dubbed “America’s Mom,” is a mom in real-life, and no doubt that shapes the way she engages the culture. She even authored an essay collection on being a mom in Hollywood, appearing on the cover in red carpet attire, wearing rubber gloves and holding a kitchen utensil.
Those of us who believe all life is sacred speak often about the need to impact the culture in order to advance our cause. Moms have a particularly special platform from which to speak in that they can empathize with the struggles of motherhood, as well as a pregnant woman’s very real need for a loving partner that is committed for life, and the resources to raise a child. And is there any greater cultural influence in today’s increasingly secularized world than Hollywood?
Arguably two of the most influential celebrity figures in the growing movement to affirm life, Jeannie Gaffigan and Patricia Heaton are examples of successful women who joyfully embrace their roles as mothers and speak out on contentious issues with compassion and inclusiveness.
They help keep the “affirming” in the vision of a life-affirming culture that so many strive for.