Trigger warning for those who have experienced sexual trauma.
We have a motto at Justice For All trainings: “DBW. Don’t Be Weird.” We certainly don’t believe that all pro-lifers act weirdly, but most of us have seen well-meaning pro-life people do things that appear odd (at best) to the world around us. If we want to make an impact on how people think, we should avoid being off-putting, or weird, when possible.
One of my colleagues at Students for Life of America recently asked me for an example of pro-lifers doing things that appear weird to our society. The first thing that came to mind was something that my brother Timothy and I call FTV: “Fetus Tunnel Vision.”
fetus tunnel vision
1. the inability to see and/or acknowledge human rights injustices without equating or comparing them to abortion.
I’ll give you a common example, and then make four arguments that pro-lifers should avoid FTV.
I’ll never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. Unless you’re pretty young, you remember that day too. Our nation watched in horror as dozens of people jumped from the burning towers, knowing they would die when they hit the ground. We watched in horror as two skyscrapers collapsed on themselves with thousands of people inside, while the news stations frequently cut over to shots of the Pentagon with a huge hole in the side and a crashed plane in Pennsylvania.
Put simply, 9/11 is one of the most unforgettable acts of violence we’ve seen live on TV.
Yet, every time September 11 rolls around, I watch dozens of well-meaning pro-life people post Facebook statuses like this:
“2,977 people died on 9/11. 3,300 babies are killed every day in abortion facilities. Why does everyone get so upset about the former and not the latter?”
#1: You won’t persuade a lot of people to become pro-life while comparing every single instance of multiple people dying to abortion.
People won’t take your moral views seriously if it seems like your moral compass is broken. They won’t have a reason to believe your moral compass is properly functioning if you are unable to authentically acknowledge the horror of other mass killings.
Pro-choice people look at the 9/11 Facebook status above and think, “Of course we get so upset about 2,977 people dying! And we should! It was horrific! And we watched it on the news! Why can’t you see how horrible 9/11 is?”
Don’t miss this point: I’ve (almost) never heard a pro-life person actually say that we shouldn’t mourn those other tragedies. But what they say comes across to many people as devaluing one tragedy to elevate the one issue they care most about. I think some pro-life individuals just need help expressing the grief they already feel about other human rights violations.
#2: Other human rights injustices matter too.
Just like some people need to finally realize how unjust abortion is, we need to be able to acknowledge the injustice of rape, human trafficking, and incidents of mass killings like 9/11.
Sometimes the problem is that pro-lifers see the injustice of abortion just fine. What they often lack is a sufficient understanding of just how horrible atrocities like human trafficking are.
In 2012, I spent several weeks researching the issue of sex slavery for a campus outreach designed to generate dialogue among the student body about apathy regarding social injustice.
Through that experience, I realized that it’s one thing to know sex slavery exists and it must be bad, but it’s another thing to watch an interview of a survivor describing the hell of her experience.
It’s one thing to know women are probably enslaved in your city, but it’s another thing to know that they are probably being held by kidnappers who are pocketing the money made, beating them into submission on a regular basis, threatening the lives of their family members to prevent them from escaping, and that they are sometimes raped 6-10 times a night.
We need to be able to grieve and even weep over human rights injustices that are going on right around us, including those injustices that are not abortion, because the victims of rape, sex slavery and events like 9/11 are people too. We effectively dehumanize these people if we ignore those things or upon hearing about them, we immediately do an “abortion juke.”
#3: Comparing every instance of mass killing to abortion is rude.
Imagine what it would be like to have lost a husband on September 11. Every time the anniversary comes around when the nation should be commemorating your husband’s death, you see people comparing it to the social issue they most care about. It’s just wrong. Thousands of people died, and we need to appropriately observe that fact without constantly attempting to turn the focus to abortion.
#4: Thoughtful pro-choice people will see that you’re begging the question.
The central issue of the abortion debate is whether or not the unborn have the same value as born human beings like those who died on 9/11. If you’re talking to a solely pro-life audience whom already believes the premise that the unborn are valuable human beings, you’re not begging the question. However, if you’re talking to a mixed audience and you want pro-choice people to reconsider the issue of abortion, this isn’t going to do the trick. For your statement to make any sense you must be assuming that the unborn are valuable human beings, precisely the thing you should be trying to demonstrate with reasonable arguments.
Somebody could respond, “But Josh, I don’t have pro-choice Facebook friends, so when I post a comparison to abortion on 9/11, I’m not trying to persuade pro-choice people of anything. I’m just trying to help my apathetic friends to see the horror of abortion.”
My concern is that when we talk to each other, we set habits that affect the way people think about things. I don’t want to train pro-life people to hear about a big tragedy and immediately think, “That’s not as bad as abortion.” I want pro-life people to have a proper amount of grief about all human rights injustices.
Does that mean we need to split our time between fighting every human rights injustice? No. That wouldn’t be very effective. We need people focusing on abortion. We also need people focusing on ending sex slavery. Those are two different issues with different causes and necessary responses.
What I’m arguing here is that we need to be able to see how horrible non-abortion injustices are, and respond appropriately. Doing this publicly will also have a side benefit of helping pro-choice people see that we’re normal human beings who oppose injustice. Then we can gain the opportunity to show abortion to be the injustice it is.
For more on this topic, you can watch me lead a discussion about a meme that a friend and colleague of mine distributed right after the Aurora movie theater massacre.
The post “4 reasons pro-lifers need to stop doing this” originally appeared at JoshBrahm.com. Click here to subscribe via email and get exclusive access to a FREE MP3 of Josh Brahm’s speech, ”Nine Faulty Pro-Life Arguments and Tactics.”
Question: Do you think you’ve ever experienced “Fetus Tunnel Vision?” Should you avoid it, or is it justified? What are some other examples of pro-life people doing things that may seem weird to others?