The fight for the unborn has attracted a host of individuals, some clamoring for rights, others protesting peacefully all deeply respecting the sanctity of life. There are Catholics and Protestants, lawmakers, activists and counselors.
And then, there’s Cindy Diggs.
As the youngest child of former Congressman Charlie Diggs, founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Cindy spent her childhood trying out her conservative ideas on parents that were “liberal politically.”
They divorced when Cindy was 4, but a constant stream of adult friends and conversation around her mother’s dinner table kept Cindy’s growing mind eagerly engaged. She read Time and Business Week in order to join in the dialogue and credits her father with introducing her to ‘The McLaughlin Group’ while in middle school. It didn’t take long before Cindy found herself identifying with conservatives.
“I remember when I was in the 2nd grade, Reagan was being re-elected,” she recalled. “We had a list of the different states we had to take home on election night and check off who won. And I remember I always liked Reagan. That kind of bothered my mom.”
Then in 1988, at the age of 11, Cindy sat down with her mother in their Washington D.C. home to watch the political conventions on TV. By the end of the conventions she was a self-proclaimed Republican.
“I made myself a little button out of construction paper,” she said. “I remember watching [the convention] and agreeing. I couldn’t fully articulate why but I definitely identified with the [Republicans].”
Cindy admits it took several years to work out the inconsistencies with her beliefs. For instance, even though she personally felt she would never have an abortion, she did not think other women should be deprived of that right. At 13, she volunteered twice a week at the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) headquarters, opening their mail. Reading letters from both supporters and opponents of abortion proved to be a life changing experience.
“It caused me to realize that there was something more at stake” than a choice, she recalled. “It kind of opened my eyes. We had people sending us rocks in the mail and excrement and pictures of dead babies, letters and all kinds of stuff. This was the first time that I was exposed to people who felt very strongly, either one side or the other.”
Cindy stopped volunteering after a few weeks in order to work through her views on abortion, coming to the realization a year later that it was, in fact, murder. It was not a decision she would simply make. Rather, it was a decision that would make her.
A college internship at The Leadership Institute in Arlington, Va. whet her appetite for a job in the public policy arena. And although Cindy never aspired to work on Capitol Hill, that all changed two years ago when she met Congressman Joe Pitts, a Republican from Pennsylvania committed to pro-life issues with an opening for a staff assistant. Cindy took the job and eventually worked her way up to legislative assistant, where she currently deals with issues affecting the family and the sanctity of life.
“I wasonly interested in working for somebody who was willing to take the lead on this issue,” Cindy said of her alliance with Pitts, “because I think that this is a battle and we need people who are willing to move the ball down the field, not just people who are willing to wear the team jersey.”
“The idea that we have legalized murder for the unborn is as untenable today as slavery was 100 years ago,” she said.
Calling abortion one of the great crises of our time, Cindy added, “I’m interested in working for somebody that wants to be used like a William Wilberforce-type person and I think Congressman Pitts is like that. There’s too much work to be done. We can’t afford to have people who know what’s true standing on the sidelines.”
Congressman Pitts did everything but stand on the sidelines last week when he led a crusade on the House floor to oppose a bankruptcy bill that included a provision targeting pro-life protesters.
“We are condemning peaceful, innocent people who have a conscience to protest just to try to save the life of an unborn to a life of financial ruin,” Pitts said while addressing members of Congress.
The measure to even consider the bill was soundly defeated by a vote of 243 to 172. But those close to the issue knew that behind Pitts, Cindy had also poured her heart and soul into the pro-life victory.
“She worked very tirelessly from July until last week in strategy, in putting together whip lists (a vote count), contacting experts and keeping members of Congress informed,” said John Cusey of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus. “She was a very key component of what happened last week.”
While she’s “very thankful” the abortion-protest provision was unsuccessful, there is so much that Cindy wants to see accomplished, such as pulling together a coalition to pass pro-life legislation and helping others think through the life issue.
Thoughtful and strategic, this young woman who cut her teeth on political ideas and once made Republican buttons out of construction paper sees her own pronounced role in the pro-life fight to “be used to move forward a legislative agenda that will help to roll back some of the gains that the pro-abortion movement has been able to make.”