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Feminist pro-life activist dies at 49.

The death of "pro-life, eco-feminist" activist Mary Crane Derr took her friends by surprise. Derr, 49, suffered from chronic health problems and became ill in India, where she was doing a poetry reading. She died Nov. 30 after returning to her Chicago home. She is survived by her husband, Jonathan; her daughter, Sarah; and a grandson.

Derr, also an animal rights activist, counselor and poet, was among the leadership of numerous groups that support a consistent ethic of life, including Consistent Life and Feminists for Life.

"Perhaps no one was more responsible than Mary for revealing our rich pro-life feminist history," Feminists for Life said in a tribute, which recalled how at a 1998 forum Derr talked about her own pregnancy as a university student and told the audience, "Once you are pregnant you are changed no matter what you choose. Counselors should ask the woman: 'What would be the best outcome for you and your child?'--then help her achieve that dream."

Rachel MacNair, vice president of Consistent Life and former president of Feminists for Life, noted Den "was an expert on dialogue with pro-choice activists."

In a 2009 interview with NCR, Derr described herself as an "eco-advocate, vegetarian, inner-city organic community gardener and caretaker of adopted guinea pigs." She told NCR that eco-feminism "has made visible the many interconnections between the oppression of women and the destruction of other-than-human creatures and whole ecosystems. Like animals, like anyone or anything looked upon as 'nature,' women are treated as less-than-sentient, as not having innate value or rights of any kind. So are children, whether born or unborn. Sometimes it has been said that they 'have no souls.'

"So our culture massively fails all these sentient, inherently valuable, rights-bearing beings. One tragic and wholly unnecessary result is that millions of pregnant women are backed into corners where abortion appears the only or the least bad choice. Yet both sides of the abortion debate speak in individualistic terms only. This obscures the underlying causes of abortion and hinders the quest for solutions."

When asked if someone could be pro-choice and an eco-feminist, she replied, "I am loath to turn around and disqualify someone else as an eco-feminist because they have a different position from mine on abortion.

"Now, I myself believe that eco-feminism is the most complete, the best it can be, if it includes a genuinely pro-life approach to abortion. Otherwise I wouldn't risk the drubbing that sometimes follows when one expresses such a thing.

"At the same time, I realize that eco-feminists who identify as pro-choice are not the selfish, evil people that some anti-abortionists take them for. They too are struggling to find a way to make peace among men, women and the earth, and they too are concerned about the suffering of women and children. ... If ecological consciousness is about anything, it's about empathy. And that means empathy for people on the other side of the abortion divide."

[Patrick O'Neill is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C.]

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Title Annotation:NATION; Mary Crane Derr
Author:O'Neill, Patrick
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 15, 2013
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