Lindsey Horvath is pro-choice. This may not be surprising, considering Horvath was recently re-elected to the City Council of West Hollywood, one of Southern California’s most liberal cities which declared itself pro-choice nearly 30 years ago.
What is surprising is that Horvath grew up with a Catholic upbringing, attending religious schools for most of her young life and in college at the University of Notre Dame. Despite religious views and support of abortion seemingly at odds in common political rhetoric, the councilmember said she is pro-choice because of her faith, not in spite of it.
The councilmember believes life begins at conception and that abortion is the termination of a life, views that more commonly align with those who are pro-life.
Horvath also believes the world is a better place when women have safe and legal access to abortion. She said in an interview she does not want to live in a world where abortion is illegal and only available to the rich, while the poor are left to go about the procedure in unsafe ways.
She said her Catholic values have guided her in her life and throughout her public service.
“Because of my Catholic upbringing, when I see people being mistreated, it’s impossible for me to unsee it,” Horvath said.
Horvath grew up on the East side of Cleveland, where she attended Catholic school until she was 15. When her dad took a job in Las Vegas, her family moved to Nevada. She left religious schooling for a few years, before returning to the Midwest to attend one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation.
A political science and gender studies double major, Horvath became heavily involved with organizations on campus that dealt with issues affecting women. She helped produce “The Vagina Monologues,” which Horvath said was no easy feat given the university’s conservative Catholic nature.
Horvath said she also helped create a Gay-Straight Alliance and championed the addition of language in the university’s non-discrimination policy for faculty and staff regarding sexual orientation.
Since then, she has evolved into a leader on women’s issues, serving as a Global Coordinator for One Billion Rising, a campaign to end rape and sexual assault against women, and as a member of the West Hollywood Women’s Advisory Board.
While being a voice on women’s and sexual orientation issues seemed like a no-brainer to her, Horvath said her stance on abortion has been an evolution.
She remembers going to the right to life mass with her mother as a young child and asking, “Why would anyone want to kill babies?”
In high school, she had a close friend who had an abortion. Horvath described it as “the worst kept secret” at school. Instead of feeling angry or resentful that her friend had an abortion, Horvath said she felt horrible for her. Seeing her friend deal with the guilt and shame that came with the procedure is something Horvath still distinctly remembers two decades later.
When Horvath moved to West Hollywood, she began meeting people who had positive experiences with the procedure. She said she met women who explained to her what having access to abortion meant to them.
Between the experience she had with her high school friend and the stories she heard from community members, Horvath came to realize she wrongly believed that women who had abortions have no regard for life nor personal morals. Instead, she learned that the decision to have an abortion is complex, but the procedure ultimately benefits them.
Horvath said the issue of abortion is one of the hardest conversations she has to have with her family. Her faith and values have been the root of all she’s done for women’s issues, and they continue to guide her today on her stance on abortion and as she serves as a city leader.
Horvath first joined the West Hollywood City Council in 2009, when she was appointed after the death of a councilmember. She lost her election bid to stay on the council in 2011. Horvath said losing was a difficult experience for her and it wasn’t an easy decision to re-run.
“I did it because I wanted to be of service to my community,” Horvath said.
She won her seat back in 2015 and was elected mayor by her fellow councilmembers.
In May 2019, shortly after winning re-election for a second term with the largest number of votes, Horvath initiated a resolution denouncing legislation passed in Georgia and other states limiting access to abortion. The next day, Horvath and fellow councilmember Lauren Meister led a conference and rally in West Hollywood for National Day of Action to #StopTheBans.
As a Catholic, Horvath said she doesn’t think it is her role to tell women what to do with their bodies.
“I think we’re not called to tell people what to do; we’re called to show people how to live,” Horvath said.
Horvath has also come to realize that being religious and being pro-choice are not mutually exclusive in practice, only in rhetoric.
The seemingly inseparable connection between religious views and a pro-life stance on abortion may come from the white, Protestant population; three in four of these people believed abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, according to a 2019 Pew Research survey. Alternatively, only 42% of Catholics believed the same.
However, 77% of all people believe Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case guaranteeing a women’s right to an abortion, should not be overturned. Horvath argues that many of these people must hold Christian values as she does, yet still choose to support a woman’s right to an abortion.
Horvath’s views were also influenced when she attended an event hosted by the Women’s Reproductive Rights Project. The keynote speaker was Sarah Weddington, the attorney who represented “Jane Roe” in the Roe v. Wade case.
“That’s when I began to understand in legal terms what I believe morally and what I hope to live out as an example in life versus what needs to be a law,” Horvath said.
Ultimately, Horvath’s stance on abortion is shaped by her desire to be of service to her community.
“‘Helping the least among us’ has been a mantra instilled in me from a very young age,” Horvath said.
This story was reported and written through a journalism course on politics and government affairs reporting, and edited by USC Annenberg Professor Christina Bellantoni. Annenberg Media student editors reviewed the story and published it per newsroom guidelines.
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