On June 3, 2019, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley gave the keynote address at Susan B. Anthony List’s 12th annual Campaign for Life Gala at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. In her remarks she called out the false feminism of extremists who support abortion on demand through birth and even infanticide and offered encouragement to pro-life advocates. A transcript follows.
Transcript of the Hon. Nikki Haley’s speech
SBA List Campaign for Life Gala, June 3, 2019
Thank you so much. Thank you Marjorie for your commitment, strength, and heart. You are an inspiration to so many. We all appreciate your efforts.
And thank you to everyone in this room. I am so grateful to you — not just for being here tonight but for showing up and fighting every single day. Each of you is doing something extraordinary. You are saving lives. So thank you.
The pro-life movement is a noble cause. It’s also a thankless cause. That’s because the people you are fighting for aren’t in a position to thank you. They are the voiceless ones. We are their voice. There is little recognition in this struggle, little glory. In fact, the opposite is typically true. Many, if not all of you, have endured more than your fair share of name-calling and abuse.
Especially in this town…
There is an old Talmudic saying which has been repurposed countless times. It goes something like this: Whoever destroys a single life has destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life has saved the whole world.
Think about the magnitude of that for a moment. Every new life has limitless potential. Each baby saved today could grow up to become a doctor, a teacher, a first responder… even a public official! When you save one life, you set an entire universe in motion. That’s what brings all of us together. That’s what Susan B. Anthony List is all about. So, I say this without an ounce of exaggeration: You are doing God’s work and making our world a better place.
I stand here tonight as a wearer of many hats.
Ambassador… governor… daughter… military wife… mother… and the biggest Clemson Tiger fan ever! You think I’m joking…I’m not…
All of these titles are part of my identity. All of these experiences have shaped my values and my connection to the world. They are indispensable to my story, and they’re the reason I stand before you tonight.
Many of you know I am married to my incredible, super cool husband, Michael. He is a combat veteran and a Major in the South Carolina National Guard. He is truly a saint and being married to me you know he has to be exceedingly understanding.
But many don’t know that Michael and his four siblings spent several years in foster care. Foster care can be amazing, but it was not kind to Michael and his siblings. It was unkind.
Luckily, when Michael was five, he and his younger sister were adopted by a kind, loving couple who couldn’t have children of their own.
I often think about what would have happened if Michael hadn’t been so lucky…if his biological mother had chosen a different path…if his adoptive parents hadn’t been so compassionate…
In politics, people assume that if you’re Republican you’re pro-life, because that’s what the party tells you to be. I’m pro-life, because I get the chance to spend every day with my husband knowing that I am blessed.
Many of you also might not know that Michael and I struggled to have a family of our own. We are blessed to be the parents to two smart, thoughtful, occasionally challenging children, but that path was not an easy one for us.
Like so many other couples and families, we struggled for many years, riding a roller coaster of false hopes and painful disappointment. Throughout the slog of doctor visits and invasive tests, I had days that tested my faith and my resolve. But when I held our daughter in my arms for the first time, I felt what countless parents feel: that nothing could be more perfect and right in the world.
These experiences – the good and the bad – solidified for me what I had long known intellectually – that each and every life is a gift from God. That so many loving families want more than anything to raise and love a child. I can’t stomach the idea that we wouldn’t do everything in our power to protect and nurture those lives.
As governor of South Carolina, I was proud to sign legislation that banned late-term abortions, protecting babies from the point in their development when they are capable of feeling pain.
Many people praised this action, but many others criticized it.
The most strident attacks came from my fellow women. You’ve heard it all before: Pro-life women are traitors to their gender. If we truly care about women’s rights, we would support abortion rights.
Women are expected to support choice – simply because we are women.
That’s just wrong. We all have to be true to ourselves and to others.
Unfortunately, many on the left use the abortion debate to divide women and demand conformity. They do this in the name of feminism.
But that is not real feminism. The idea that women must adhere to a particular set of values is one of the most anti-women ideas in today’s culture. It is a rejection of the ideas of equality and tolerance that the women’s movement is supposed to be about.
As a pro-life, female governor, I was blessed with a unique platform, and I made every effort to use it appropriately. Not to lob attacks at people who disagreed with me, not to diminish the other side, but to reframe the debate. To explain that being pro-life is not about being for or against women. It is about being for a baby’s right to live – the most basic right there is.
As U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, I was privileged to travel to many corners of the globe. I saw many wonderful things. But I also saw some horrible things that I cannot unsee. I heard stories that linger in my memory.
In Syrian refugee camps, I saw what happened when the war criminal Bashar Assad used chemical weapons to murder and maim innocent children.
In South Sudan, I sat with crying mothers who told me their horror stories about how soldiers took their babies from their arms and threw them into fires.
In the Congo, I talked to boys who had been captured at young, vulnerable ages into the horrible life of child-soldiers.
In Venezuela, on the Simon Bolivar Bridge, I watched parents and children walk for hours each way in the blazing sun to get the only meal they would eat that day, given to them by the Catholic Church just on the other side of the border in Colombia. There are starving children digging through trash cans looking for food.
I have seen places where life has been incredibly cheapened, and it will always haunt me.
All across the globe, I have spoken with mothers and fathers who would risk everything just to have a chance at life for themselves and their children.
These people are suffering because of war, dictatorship, disease, and abject poverty. They are a devastating reminder of the evil that exists in the world.
It is the reason we should all step back and remember to be grateful, because on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America. A place where life is valued and protected.
And yet, today, in this country, our leaders debate whether a baby born after a failed abortion has a right to live.
Let that sink in for a minute. It is something you might hear about in other parts of the world or something out of a horror movie. Not here. Not in America.
In so many other aspects, human life is a priority in our country. Think of the lengths we go to defend the rights of the accused in our criminal justice system so people don’t unjustly have their freedom taken away. Think of the lengths our military goes to prevent civilian casualties in war, often risking our own soldiers’ lives to do it. Think of the resources our medical system expends to prolong the life of the terminally ill. Respect for human life is who we are as Americans. It is right there in the Declaration of Independence. You can’t have liberty and the pursuit of happiness without the right to life.
That’s why Susan B. Anthony List’s work is so important. You understand we need laws – and lawmakers – who will protect the right to life. To ensure those in Washington share our values, you have activated a nationwide network of more than 700,000 Americans ready to educate our fellow citizens on pro-life issues. You work tirelessly to support pro-life candidates, especially women, and advocate for policies that save lives.
I am an optimist. Our national history makes it easy to be an optimist.
We often toss around words like “liberty” and “freedom” without appreciating how groundbreaking they were 250 years ago. When the colonies declared their independence, it was a bold experiment – the likes of which the world had never seen. The odds were not in their favor. War, famine, disease, discord — any number of disasters could have destroyed the revolution in its infancy. And yet, here we are today, the most powerful and generous country in human history.
America cannot escape her exceptionalism. The values that gave birth to our nation live in all of us. They live in the spirit of this country, and they cannot be snuffed out.
In her last speech before her death in 1906, Susan B. Anthony declared: “Failure is not an option.” She was right then. And she is right today.
We Americans have a wonderful way of living up to our destiny. The citizens of this country are good-hearted, generous, and brave. For all of our problems and all of our sins, we are blessed to live in the greatest country in the world. Even when we falter, we rise up. Even when we veer, we find our way. Take heart and remember: No matter the struggle, no matter the lows, life will prevail.
Some people are afraid to talk about the pro-life cause, because it’s too personal, too uncomfortable.
Well, of course it’s personal. What can be more personal than the right to live?
If we want to make a difference in the world, we have to embrace the personal and the uncomfortable.
Even though I am a private citizen now, I know I’m too young to stop fighting.
I’m loud and proud and will always fight for the things I believe in.
Like Margaret Thatcher said, “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”
Tonight, I’d like to encourage all of you to continue the good fight, continue making history, and continue saving precious lives.
The most important thing I did as Governor and at the United Nations was use the power of my voice to make a difference. When we refuse to sit on the sidelines — when we refuse to be followers against our consciences — we can quite literally change the world.
I will always encourage people to use the power of their voices on behalf of freedom, justice, and life. Because you can’t truly stand for America if you don’t stand for ALL Americans, including the babies who don’t yet have a voice.
Thank you, and God bless.