How Can Pro-Life Advocates Reach More People on Abortion?

Opinion   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 27, 2011   |   3:08PM   |   Washington, DC

Two pro-life advocates have ideas on how the pro-life movement can reach more people with the pro-life perspective and encourage them to oppose abortions.

Joe Carter, who writes at the blog First Things, says the pro-life movement has a real opportunity to attract people who are less polemic on abortion — who believe it should be legal but support limits on abortion and generally believe abortion is a bad thing.

Recognizing that the abortion-on-demand position is becoming politically unpopular, many abortion-rights moderates are becoming increasingly more vocal about finding a middle path—at least rhetorically. The shift has been occurring for more than a decade, but it became more noticeable after the 2004 presidential campaign. By 2008 the solidly pro-abortion candidate Hillary Clinton felt comfortable arguing, “There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances.”

It became clear that a significant shift in abortion politics had occurred when the leading contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination was willing to admit, albeit indirectly, that the ideal number of abortions is zero.

A year later, in a meeting at the Vatican, President Obama told Pope Benedict that he was committed to reducing the number of abortions in the United States. Despite being the most pro-abortion president in the history of America, Obama felt the need at least to pretend that he shares the abortion-reduction agenda. While it is not a substantive change in policy, it is notable that Obama felt the need to side with the moderates—at least rhetorically—over the more absolutist supporters of abortion. Even the president can sense the public’s shifting attitude away from abortion-on-demand.

This moderation of language is a welcome change, and those of us in the pro-life camp should use this as an opportunity to encourage pro-choice advocates who are serious about reducing the number of abortions in America. But we must also remember our primary goal is not to make abortion illegal but to make it—like slavery, female genital mutilation, and other moral horrors—unthinkable.

We are, of course, far from reaching that goal. Currently, the only aspect of the issue that is “unthinkable” is the idea that people should take responsibility for their sexual behavior. For those who blame society for not allowing them to have consequence-free sex, abortion will always be needed as a backup plan.

However, there are still a few moderate pro-choice Americans who believe in both personal responsibility and that a fetus has some moral worth. We should press these moderate pro-choicers to explain how many abortions would be too many. See the rest of Carter’s blog.

Meanwhile, Jewels Green, a former abortion facility worker, knows something about converting to the pro-life position — something she has done herself. She maintains that the moment that drove her to the pro-life position was when she was involved in a discussion of an abortion on a baby with Down Syndrome.

Well, then she went on to describe a woman in her surrogacy support group who underwent prenatal genetic testing on the tiny, helpless, not-genetically-related, innocent baby growing in her body (I think you can guess where this is going.) Down syndrome. I followed the daily posts with increasing horror as she related the story of this surrogate mother who accepted “payment of her contract in full” to abort rather than to carry this baby to term and give birth. One among us pleaded with our friend to tell her about Reece’s Rainbow, that if the genetic parents didn’t want their child, he or she could have a chance of finding an adoptive home through this amazing organization that helps match children with Down syndrome with loving families, and in many cases helps defray the costs of adoption. Nope.

This was my Ah-HA moment: This woman was paid to kill the child. And she did. This is murder. Abortion is murder. I cried. I cried for that (now dead) baby. Then I cried for all of the little cold souls in the IVF freezers around the world. Then, only then, could I cry for all of the babies murdered at the clinic where I worked for so long. How many tissue boxes my small counseling office went through and I walked that pregnant mother back to the procedure room and smiled as I held the door open for her to enter the chamber of death. “You’ll be alright, I’ll come visit you in the recovery room.” My God. What had I done? No, I did not pull the trigger; but I cleaned the gun, readied the ammunition, and loaded it. Sure as the guilt of the killer himself, I was sure of my own guilt as well. The wave of remorse and regret was overwhelming. I prayed. I prayed for peace for the babies. I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for the strength to become a better person.

All of this played out against the backdrop of a very different public view of the pro-life movement. Gone were the days of outright intimidation and harassment; replaced by a peaceful, prayerful presence outside the clinic doors peopled by compassionate souls ready and willing to assist pregnant mothers in practical, useful, and lasting ways. Only by continuing to offer truth, solace, hope, help, and love to the troubled and misguided can we ever hope to end abortion. Only by continuing to speak the truth about the horror and brutality of abortion can we hope to change minds. One heart, one soul, one mother, one child at a time.

Green and Carter both recognize that a shift in thinking about abortion and about pro-life people is necessary to move the ball down the road in terms of creating a society that respect the life of unborn children. But while Carter focuses on reaching the “mushy middle,” Green’s conversion story shows how even the most strongly pro-abortion person could wind up agreeing with the pro-life case against abortion.

Ultimately, the pro-life community must continue to patiently educate and persuade everyone who will listen about the worth and dignity of human beings — before and after birth.