The problem with the pro-life movement is the problem with any movement: the people who agree don’t really agree.
I tend to not focus on the divisions. I don’t care if someone is an incrementalist who favors baby steps towards ending abortion or an all-or-nothing, knock-down/drag-out abolitionist, if she thinks graphic images are awesome or not-so-awesome, if she considers herself a baby-saver or a woman-helper, if she favors tough legislation or the power of compassion, if she believes in shock-and-awe protests or a gentler approach. It doesn’t matter to me. I have my opinions, but rarely do I focus on these differences. I mean, why? We all have the same goal: an end to an abortion. Why argue with pro-lifers when the internet is crawling with pro-aborts for me to crush with logic and hilarious photo placement?
I recently posted a piece about graphic images and why I think they should be used only in specific instances, and very carefully. In it, I left it up to the readers to decide what they think about the subject, but I shared my opinion based on my own experience. The column sparked a bit of debate, which was not surprising. What is surprising – in fact, never fails to surprise me – is how quickly we can forget we’re on the same side.
I spend most of my blogging time skewering pro-abortion nincompoops. It’s fun and easy. But the reaction to my recent column has me thinking about our movement and what we can do to improve it. So while I’m on a roll, let me tell you two things I humbly believe will greatly help our cause:
I believe that the fight against abortion is ours to lose. I believe that the Truth ultimately prevails. The only way we will screw it up for ourselves is by not adhering to the principles that set us apart from the abortion advocates. We are supposed to be on the side of compassion and help; they may think they are, but we really are.
Are we going to convince the world we are the good guys if we stop acting like good guys? Does it matter if you win an argument with your pro-life friends if you act like a jerk doing it? I had a Facebook commenter tell me that my lack of wholehearted support for graphic images makes her wonder “what side” I’m on. It’s one thing to take off the gloves when arguing against abortion; it’s another to get ugly with your fellows.
I have seen people turn quite nasty and even hateful in their arguments with other pro-lifers. I let them know I don’t intend to participate in such an argument, and I remove from myself from it. I refuse to start an online, public in-fight when we share a common goal. It belittles the cause, and it belittles us as people.
I would urge you to remember who your friends are, and if you don’t think you can participate in a debate with a pro-lifer without getting angry, remove yourself from it. It can be difficult to swallow your pride and walk away, but it’s worth it to keep our cause from being dragged through the dirt.
Here’s the other thing: many former clinic workers have been elevated by the pro-life movement as heroes. I have no problem with this. In fact, some of them are friends of mine, and they are great people who have invaluable insight into the strategy and psyche of abortion advocacy. Though I never worked in a clinic, I am a convert myself. There is room for everyone in this movement, and the past should be held against no one who is sincerely repentant and working hard for the unborn. One of the great things about our philosophy is its endless capacity for forgiveness and love.
However, I attended a rally a few months ago at which three quarters of the speakers were former clinic workers, former pro-choice leaders, or post-abortive women. The other one quarter were organization heads and pastors.
This is troubling to me. It’s not because I don’t believe the work these people do is valid, and it’s not because I doubt their sincerity – I too am a convert, and I know I’m sincere. Like everyone else, I rejoice when a clinic worker or pro-choicer is converted, and rejoice again when he or she becomes an activist for life.
However, it disturbs me that we too often fail to laud the women who never worked in clinics, the women who never had abortions, the women who got pregnant and struggled to be good mothers, the women who gave their children up for adoption because they felt it was the right thing to do, or – imagine this – women who remained chaste so they wouldn’t get pregnant until they were married. I feel like we need to hear more from these people.
It’s easy to applaud the dramatic conversion and forget that back when our current heroines were working in clinics – and people like me were giving the finger to sidewalk counselors – there were terrified pregnant women making the difficult right choice, tireless pro-lifers volunteering for women and children, foster parents loving children, adoptive parents helping young women and their babies, and people of all ages getting made fun of for abstaining from sex. Their stories may not be as glitzy and newsworthy as the front-page 180, but without them there would have been no movement for the converts – including me - to turn to.
This is not just a pro-life issue, or even a societal issue; it’s human nature. We would rather watch “Teen Mom” than “Teen Studies Really Hard and Goes to Bed Early.” But if we can’t rise above our baser inclinations and elevate what is righteous, we are not going to set the right example.
I’m pretty much done preaching to the choir, and I’ll soon be back to making fun of Jezebel and calling Amy Poehler names, but please: let’s be the good guys. Let’s remember we’re all on the same side. And let’s think about lifting up alongside our converted heroines those who, unlike me, were strong enough and smart enough to make the right decision from the beginning.