Monica Harrington is a former technology executive with deep experience in the nonprofit sector.
In her words:
I’m a businesswoman, a social activist, and a non-profit volunteer who has always appreciated the many people who fought for my right and the right of other women to make our own reproductive decisions.
I’m also the eighth-born from a very Catholic family – Mom was head of the Altar Society; Dad volunteered with many Catholic organizations and taught law at the local Catholic university. Although Mom had eight children, she was quietly pro-choice because she knew women who died from botched abortions. In her younger years, Mom lived the consequences of a cultural upbringing that equates contraception to sin. In the first twelve years of her marriage, she was pregnant ten times.
By the time she died in her 90s, Mom’s life’s experiences had changed her beliefs and informed mine. Mom died believing strongly in contraception, in the right of women to make their own lives on an equal basis with men, and in abortion as a fundamental right, indispensible to a society that seeks to treat its citizens fairly and compassionately.
I am my mother’s daughter.
To me, it’s clear a woman cannot have economic freedom or social equality without having the right to decide when or how many children to have. We’ve seen time and time again that it’s women who suffer most when politicians or religious extremists impose their own rigid view of morality.
One of my siblings lost a best friend after that friend, newly pregnant, was diagnosed with cancer and the doctors at the Catholic hospital she entered refused to consider an abortion or to do chemo. This happened after Roe v. Wade and it taught me that we all need to be super vigilant when religious leaders say they have our best interests at heart even as they make decisions that put our lives at risk.
When my sister Fran was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2006, another sister and I became her health care advocates, accompanying her on all of her doctors’ visits in San Francisco and Seattle. After the prognosis became terminal, Fran was deeply comforted by the idea that because of the Death with Dignity Law in Oregon, the state we all grew up in and where our mother still lived, she could make her own end-of-life choices. Ultimately, she chose to die at home under hospice care. I was with Fran for the last week of her life, guided through the journey by a wonderful hospice nurse, and sleeping by my sister’s side each night.
I never intended to become an activist on these issues, but when the medical system I used in Seattle announced that it was “affiliating” with a Catholic system back in 2011, I became alarmed. I started to learn more and network with other concerned advocates, cowrote an op-ed that was published in the Seattle Times, heard more stories that alarmed me, and began reaching out to friends and fellow advocates. Through CatholicWatch, I hope to share what I continue to learn.