No Shades of Gray
A life of dedication to life.

Nellie Gray in 2009


The March for Life is a living picture of pro-life Americans standing together to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Together, once a year, we remember those whose lives have been lost to abortion. We recommit ourselves to empower every woman to choose life and welcome every child into our communities, across the nation, and throughout the world.

Nellie Gray was a truly amazing woman. She brought her experience as a World War II Women’s Army Corps corporal and attorney to bear on the entire pro-life movement. The March — and Nellie’s personal example — motivated, energized, and inspired generations of life-affirming leaders and local activists. On the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we will march for legal protection of the rights of unborn children and we will thank God for the life of Nellie Gray.

— Melinda Delahoyde is president of Care Net.


When, in the fullness of time, a definitive history of the pro-life movement is written, Nelly Gray will be remembered as its mother and the guardian of its message. Like every good mother, she planned faithfully for the annual return of her extended family. Everyone was welcome at the March for Life, and it showed. Unspoiled by institutional and political rivalries, the March has become the only real, and completely “inclusive,” annual convention the pro-life movement has ever known.

Less well-known is Nellie Gray’s influence on the pro-life message. For Nellie, there was only one message, and it was embodied in the “Paramount Human Life Amendment”: The paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, health, or condition of dependency. That message was like a beacon in the darkness, a constant point from which others working in the field could take their bearings. And, like the mother-to-the-movement she was, Nellie did not hesitate to remind us in a very public way when she thought that we had veered dangerously off-course.

I learned that the hard way back in 1991, when we organized one of the best debates ever held at any law school between pro-life and pro-abortion litigators and legal scholars. Nellie threatened a demonstration! “How can you give them a podium?” she demanded. Catholic University officials nearly fainted. After hours of impassioned argument, she relented, but only after we managed to convince her that the next generation of pro-life lawyers needs to hear other side’s legal and philosophical experts firsthand, and to watch our experts take their arguments apart — decisively. But she had made her point: No compromises. Nellie, we miss you. R.I.P., and pray that God will inspire a worthy successor.

— Robert A. Destro is professor of law and director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law and Religion at the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America.

Nellie Gray will never see the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that prompted her to lead millions of people over the years to march for life in Washington, D.C. — or the overturning of that decision, which was her most cherished dream. That torch is now with a new generation, a generation that has never known a day without legal abortion, many of whom miss the siblings they never knew. That torch also burns steadily in the hearts of millions of with women who were told that abortion was essential to freedom, only to learn abortion was a enormous burden and a terrible loss. We now know that abortion has been a failed experiment on women. The first feminists knew what we had to relearn: Women deserve better and every child has a right to life. March forth.

— Serrin Foster is executive director of Feminists for Life.