When Milwaukie resident Heather Wakem was a teenager, she volunteered as a Planned Parenthood telephone fundraiser. She came from a staunchly Democratic family, after all, and working for the pro-choice cause was only natural.
“One of the things I appreciate about the Democratic Party is a reverence for science and fact,” Wakem says. “With a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body, I agree with them. I think women should have sexual autonomy, along with easy and free access to contraception.”
Yet Wakem has diverged from the typical liberal path in one crucial way since high school: though she is still a proud Democrat, she now believes that preborn children are valuable community members and should be treated accordingly.
“It’s a fact that at conception, a separate and completely unique set of DNA is created — and I believe that creation is important and worth protecting,” she says.
The seismic shift came when Wakem, a police officer for the city of Tigard, became pregnant in college. “I knew that when I was pregnant, I was carrying a separate human life inside of me,” she says, despite her party’s insistence to the contrary.
Friends encouraged her to end her child’s life at a local abortion clinic. Though support for abortion rights was standard among her set, their immediate expectation of abortion “shocked” Wakem. And when she tragically miscarried, “the feeling and realization stayed with me that while a woman is pregnant, the life inside of her is separate and [the baby’s] own.”
Wakem is one of an estimated 21 million pro-life Democrats in America, according to Secular Pro-Life. It’s an often-overlooked group, the nonprofit says, kept quiet by fear of criticism or ostracism.
Indeed, Wakem does not personally know a single fellow pro-life Democrat. She takes heart, however, in realizing that others like her exist. “It makes me feel like less of a ‘traitor’ to my party.”
To that end, Wakem financially supports pro-life organizations like Live Action and March for Life. And though she is not religious, Wakem gives to local churches with proven track records of helping women in crisis pregnancies. It’s a tangible way to support “womb to tomb” pro-life culture, she says, and not just perpetuate generic “pro-pregnancy” beliefs that never act.
Wakem is also applying to be on the King City Planning Commission. As a growing suburb, Wakem says, she wants to ensure “that the development of [King City’s] new areas and improvement of our established area are inclusive to people of different physical abilities…Caring for people in all stages of life and circumstances is what makes me pro-life.”
Oregon Right to Life is proud to welcome and work with people of every political stripe in our continuous fight for a truly pro-life culture.