May 2, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – The woman at the front of the room is slender with long dark hair. Her large black eyes drop to her written speech and lift to engage her audience. “There are an estimated 60 million missing baby girls in Asia alone,” she says, her measured words recorded for YouTube. “For missing, read ‘dead’; we’re not going to find them. With hundreds of thousands of baby girls being aborted every year, the global figure [of missing girls] is an estimated 160 million.”
England’s Fiorella Nash has been muscled out of a Cambridge University fresher’s fair, shouted down by politicians and sneered at by the CEO of Britain’s largest abortion provider. But no matter how much people want her to, she won’t shut up about the right to life and the global plague of gendercide.
Nash, a young mother of four, was born in Italy to Maltese parents and brought up in Wiltshire, England. She studied at Cambridge University, where she was active in the student pro-life society and earned degrees in English and renaissance literature.
Well-known to Britain’s pro-life lobbies, Nash has also made a name for herself as a novelist. Under the name Fiorella de Maria, she has written six acclaimed novels and won her ancestral Malta’s National Book Prize. Her work usually examines questions of conscience, complicity, love and crime. Michael O’Brien (author of Father Elijah) says of Nash that she “shows us [in her work] that the suffering of one life can be the source of authenticity that brings life to another.”
Nash recently spoke to LifeSiteNews from her home about her fight against sex-selective abortion.
LifeSiteNews: Could you describe your campaign?
I am a pro-life feminist, and part of my work is to raise awareness about gendercide around the world. I give talks at universities and have a book coming out next year with Ignatius Press. It will explore — amongst other issues — sex-selective abortion.
LSN: Isn’t “pro-life feminist” an oxymoron?
A lot of people would say so — from both sides of the debate!
LSN: “Feminist” seems a tainted brand thanks to feminism’s slavish devotion to abortion at women’s expense.
True feminism — a movement that seeks equality and respect for women — is by definition pro-life. It’s only in the 1960s that feminism saw abortion as a right. The early feminists, like American Elizabeth Cady Stanton, would not recognize [contemporary feminism]. They talked about the right of the unborn to be born and how a society that compels a woman to destroy the life of her unborn child is a society that oppresses women.
Abortion is an act of violence, and it is becoming more fashionable to admit this. Violence, particularly violence against the vulnerable, has no place in a just society.
LSN: Admitting it is becoming more fashionable? That’s good news.
Sure. People like [pro-abortion] journalist Antonia Senior are saying, “If you’re prepared to die for a cause, you must be prepared to kill for it, too.” Pagan feminist Camille Paglia talks of abortion as an act of extermination but claims that slaughter and harvest have been part of the human experience for thousands of years.
LSN: Pro-choice-to-abort Paglia has been brutally honest about abortion. Is that admirable or scary?
Both. There is honesty to admitting the obvious. I have more respect for that than concealing the truth behind euphemism and endless distraction tactics or simply shooting the messenger. We’ve come a long way from “It’s just a bundle of cells.” But in other ways it is scary to have people say “Yeah, it’s killing, but who cares?”
LSN: As a messenger, you must get shot a lot.
While recording a Newsweek podcast recently, I came up against the head of the Women’s Equality Party, and she spent the entire debate employing every possible tactic to shut me up and dismiss what I had to say. It demonstrated everything that is wrong with the current climate within feminism.
WEP claims to want to listen to women, but only the right sort of women, with the right opinions and the right ideology. The rest [of us] are scum. It drives me crazy. For self-proclaimed feminists to claim to speak for women, and then to bully and silence women for having the temerity to disagree, is hypocritical in the extreme. We should be able to do better than this. For example, I was at a panel [with] Naomi Wolf, and we had a perfectly calm, mutually respectful discussion. It can be done.
LSN: What universities have you spoken at?
Cambridge, Loughborough, Portsmouth, St. Andrews, Stirling, Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Imperial, London.
LSN: You are a Cambridge graduate yourself. What is it like addressing the next generation?
Odd in a way because it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was arranging the [pro-life] talks! It’s encouraging that the student pro-life side seems to be growing. It’s much bigger and better organized nationwide than when I was a student. It’s partly because of social media.
LSN: Does the pro-life message face more or less opposition at British universities since you were a student?
I have noticed more frequently that my talks get flagged up by an inflammatory article in the student paper beforehand. The journalist won’t have a clue who I am or what I am going to be speaking about; they will just cherry-pick things they find on Google. But [the article] will set the tone for the whole evening. I always say that no opposition I have had to deal with as a professional campaigner has ever compared with the hostility of a university campus.
LSN: What have been your best and worst experiences on campus?
[Meeting] very impressive pro-life millennials keen to get out there and spread the word. They are working incredibly hard and very bravely in the teeth of horrible opposition. My worst experience to date was at [Scotland’s] Stirling University.
LSN: What happened?
The Gender Equality Society thought it would be really intelligent and constructive to protest a talk denouncing gendercide. Think about that one a minute. Most of them didn’t even bother to come to the talk or the Q&A, presumably because it might have been frightening to hear an alternative opinion or to engage in a public discussion. About seven of them descended on me afterwards. Apparently speaking to me one-to-one would have been far too frightening.
LSN: That seems cowardly.
Oh, yeah. They needed me to be comprehensively outnumbered for their personal safety or something. The sad thing was that a couple of them were perfectly pleasant and keen to have a discussion, but the rest just wanted to shout me down and impose their own agendas.
LSN: Why did they think that ganging up on a visiting speaker seven-to-one was morally right?
There is such a climate of intellectual intolerance on universities and beyond that it really would not have occurred to a group like that, that they put themselves in the wrong by behaving like that. It’s an old-fashioned form of dogmatism dressed up as a modern idea: this is the right way, and you inhabit the outer darkness and need to be kept away from our university in case you pollute the pure minds of the young.
LSN: Can you cobble together their arguments?
No, because there wasn’t one. It was just spouting: it’s not a life until it’s born, it’s all about my right to control my body, child abuse, some children are unwanted, so let’s exterminate them all beforehand to solve the problem, etc. Apparently they were overheard saying later that I had made their heads hurt, and they couldn’t understand how people could think like me.
LSN: With facts.
The sad thing is that if they had had bothered to engage with the actual subject of my talk [the tens of millions of babies murdered in utero for being girls], we would have had a lot of common ground. But I don’t think that was ever the plan.
LSN: The plan being to shut you up.
Yes, and to prove their own moral superiority or something.
LSN: Were you scared?
I was anxious beforehand because I knew that a protest was planned, but it’s a bit like going into battle, I suppose. As soon as you’re in the thick of it, any nerves melt away. I just find experiences like that so emotionally draining. The hate in the room is so palpable you can almost touch it. The fact that it’s under the veil of human rights and justice is particularly vile. It’s the horror of the perceived good.
LSN: What do you mean by that?
A perceived good can be harder to confront because it does not appear overly evil. It’s dressed up in good intentions and positive ideas: empowerment, freedom, compassion, all sorts of objectively good things. But in the end [“a woman’s right to choose”] boils down to society allowing and encouraging the killing of the innocent.
LSN: Is there a relationship between your work as a campaigner against gendercide and your work as a novelist?
I have never written about gendercide per se in my novels because I feel strongly that novels should not be used as campaigning tools or propaganda pieces. Nothing kills creativity more perfectly than the overwhelming urge to preach. However, my novels do explore themes such as the value of life, human dignity, and the status of women.
LSN: Can you take the Christianity out of a Christian when she does art?
No, absolutely not. I think that if you are a Christian, your faith should permeate every aspect of your life and so it will permeate your writing effortlessly. There is a difference between writing within the Catholic moral universe and setting out to write Catholic propaganda.
LSN: Your most recent novel [under the name Fiorella de Maria], a Father Gabriel mystery, is about a life issue dear to the reading public’s heart: murder.
Yes, indeed! Murder mysteries are enduringly popular. Everyone likes trying to solve a mystery, and I think readers are drawn to the conflicts and human passions involved in a murder whilst also retaining a strong sense that ending a life is a horrific act that needs to be brought to justice.
LSN: It’s curious: Agatha Christie was very disapproving of murder, including euthanasia, but she seems to have winked at suicide as a gentlemanly way of avoiding disgrace.
That’s interesting because, by comparison, Chesterton and Conan Doyle are very disapproving of suicide. Father Brown prevents a killer from ending his life even though he will hang, and Sherlock Holmes persuades a woman who is suffering desperately not to kill herself.
LSN: Another contrast: some passers-by told 40 Days for Life volunteers that they should be ashamed of making poor women who have had abortions feel badly. The idea seems to be that abortion is an inevitable misfortune for which women cannot be held morally accountable. Given the public’s longing for justice for even fictional victims, what do you make of this?
I can understand why people don't want to overwhelm a person with guilt, and one has to be sensitive about this. Given how many abortions happen, I always assume when I give a talk that there will be someone in the audience who has been through abortion.
But in the end, this is an incredibly patronizing attitude. It presupposes that a woman is in some way incapable and can’t be held responsible for her own actions. That’s the approach you would take to a child or a person who lacks mental capacity. The idea that women need to be protected from the reality of their own actions is ludicrous.
Abortion has shades of Victorian melodrama about it: the hapless woman in need of rescue by an abortion doctor who skilfully shields her from the gory reality. Women can do better than that. They deserve better than that.
LSN: On the other hand, do you think there is a conspiracy of silence over how awful abortion is for women? A crisis hotline volunteer told me she had spoken to dozens of women who regretted their abortions, but I never see such stories in the mainstream press.
Some stories do slip into the press, but women who regret their abortions are given a very hard time. It’s implied that they were already mentally ill [before the abortion], or that a pro-life background makes them feel that way, or that they are attention-seekers. Women who regret their abortions are incredibly dangerous to the abortion industry, which is why so many dirty tactics are used to silence them. But it also goes back to the Victorian melodrama: women are supposed to be rescued from their own bodies. [Nash adds ironically:] Turning on the [abortion] industry like that is so ungrateful!
I would like to see groups like Silent No More become a lot more vocal about their abortion experiences. If this battle is going to be won, it will be won by women, supported by men.
Nash’s latest novel, 'The Sleeping Witness: A Father Gabriel Mystery' by Fiorella de Maria, is available through Ignatius Press or Amazon.