Marcella Tyler Ketelhut, a new member of Life Legal Board of Directors, graduated from U.C.L.A. in 1982 with a degree in Political Science/International Relations. She received her law degree from the Columbus School of Law, at the Catholic University of America, also graduating in the inaugural class of the Institute for Communications Law in 1985.
Mrs. Ketelhut worked for a number of years doing civil litigation, specializing in employment and labor law, including as in-house counsel for Blue Cross of California.
Mrs. Ketelhut left the practice of law to serve as the Executive Director for Rock for Life Ventura County, a non-profit focused on educating and empowering young people for the pro-life cause through conferences, concerts and speaking engagements. Rock for Life had the distinction of being the most active RFL chapter nationally; spreading to the Pepperdine campus to encompass all of Los Angeles.
Recently, Mrs. Ketelhut has taken on the role as Executive Director for Stand True West Coast, affiliated with Stand True, the youth arm of Priests for Life and Gospel of Life. Stand True West Coast will continue the tradition in Southern California of engaging youth with education and awareness through similar events as RFL.
Have you always been pro-life?
No, actually I was extraordinarily pro-abort most of my life, working for a number of liberal and pro-abort feminist organizations while at UCLA in the early 80’s. I even interned with a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C.
So what changed your mind?
When I got married in 1987, I was a pro-abort, feminist, fallen-away Catholic with serious pagan/New Age leanings. Sadly, having gone to a Catholic law school didn’t do anything to change my ridiculous views. My husband took a massive leap of faith in marrying me, as his convictions were not mine at all (he’s a cradle Catholic who lived his beliefs very clearly.) Had to be a Holy Spirit moment that drove this pristine former altar boy to give a ring to a lunatic Nancy Pelosi wanna-be!
You mention having gone to a Catholic law school?
Yes, I went to Catholic University Law School in Washington, D.C. where I was in the inaugural class of the Communications Law Institute. It was a great time to be in D.C., but sadly, my focus was on getting a high-paying legal job—and enjoying the great things that D.C. had to offer. When I returned to Los Angeles, I worked for a number of law firms doing primarily employment and labor law, and then went in-house for a major insurance company doing litigation. My focus has always been on litigation. It pretty much ate me alive.
So do you still practice law?
No, I went inactive to homeschool our daughter after trying to practice law from home. Yes, women can have it all—just not all at once!! As Sarah started high school we planted our vineyards, and after she went off to Pepperdine, Jeff and I started our own winery, and I do all the marketing for the winery. What I’d really love to do is start an Italian bakery.
So back to how you came to your pro-life convictions after being anti-life . . . was there an epiphany that brought you “into the light,” so to speak?
Yes. Once I delivered Sarah, that rocked my world. I was going to have a nanny watch her while I went off and clawed my way up the corporate ladder. The first time I held her, it changed everything. The woman who had previously made fun of stay at home moms became one. Yes, God had a laugh. Then, three years later, Sarah almost died from a rare illness. I was a marginal Catholic for the first few years of marriage—my sweet husband spent a lot of time on his knees. Our daughter came within hours of dying, and it was that that shocked me into reality. I read St. Augustine’s Confessions. That, and the gentle, persistent witness of my husband wrenched me back to the truth.
When did you get involved with the pro-life movement?
Our daughter actually got us involved—for her thirteenth birthday she asked to go to Washington, D.C. for the March for Life. Having lived through four D.C. winters, we attempted to dissuade her, which we ultimately did, but instead she had a party where the girls collected supplies for mothers and babies at the local pregnancy center. Right after that, I had a young woman from Rock for Life speak at our parish, and she asked Sarah to take over the chapter. Since she was under 18, I had to sign the contract on her behalf, and we began our first chapter of Rock for Life, and immediately jumped into the world of pro-life advocacy using rock music and shows as a way to bring the kids in, and then sharing a life-changing message, and introducing them to the great people from the local pregnancy centers, as we always included them prominently, immediately next to the merchandise booths.
How long did you work with the Rock for Life Chapter?
We led the local Ventura County chapter for about 7 years; and then when Sarah started at Pepperdine, she started the Los Angeles County chapter on campus. Last year, we joined forces with Stand True, and are now affiliated with Priests for Life and Gospel of Life.
What was the best part of Rock for Life?
Seeing a change in kids who had been indoctrinated into believing lies about abortion, Planned Parenthood, sexuality. All of a sudden they realize that they had been fed lies about these issues, come to a radically different worldview, and begin advocating themselves in their peer groups in spite of opposition. Ok, and I guess working with national rock tours was fun. Let me change that—interesting and challenging.
Why Life Legal now? What is the attraction of this, among many, many pro-life organizations?
Having been involved with the pro-life world for the past eight years, between the speaking, charitable events, rock and roll shows with a pro-life message, and 40 Days for Life campaigns and marches, it seemed right to get back to what I was trained to do—legal advocacy.
Why legal advocacy?
I was a corporate litigator for many years, but haven’t practiced law for the last twelve years, focusing more on the educational end of the pro-life spectrum. It is time to step it up because the pro-abortion lobby has a stranglehold on our current Administration, and because abortion seems to have become our national religion.
And Life Legal Defense Foundation figures into this, how?
Life Legal is poised, I believe, to become the true unifying voice in the life arena; something desperately needed if we are to take on the behemoth that is Planned Parenthood; the behemoth that is the abortion lobby.
What most draws you to Life Legal?
Obviously the in-the-trenches representation of clients whose rights would be trampled (and lives perhaps extinguished,) but for the involvement of the dedicated lawyers and the dedicated staff of Life Legal. But also, I see this organization taking a broader national role in being proactive in leading the truthful dialogue in the public square about the realities of abortion; the realities of euthanasia, the realities of IVF—in essence . . . all life issues.
How did you find out about Life Legal?
I was introduced to Life Legal by Priests for Life.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the pro-life movement now?
While the obvious answer could be the current Administration, I would have to say it would be the unity among pro-lifers. Planned Parenthood makes unholy alliances with those whom they have nothing in common. But they make alliances to steamroll who they perceive to be a common enemy—so when we as pro-lifers wake up and realize that the only way to fight this scourge is to unite in a distinct, branded, commonality—that’s when I think the tide will turn. There are so many great pro-life organizations with distinct missions—but there is no reason that we can’t harness that firepower into one common voice.
Anything you would like to add?
Yes. Even if you are the only person left standing in this whole world standing for truth, that’s what you have to do. It doesn’t matter that all around you whisper, or shout, that you are a fool, ignorant, wasting your time, evil, vile . . . no matter what the world throws at us—we know Whom we serve. And that’s good enough for me.
[This article was printed in Lifeline Vol. XXI, No. 1 (Spring 2012) Read in PDF.]