Time to Change Pro-Life Tactics?

Over the last forty years, the pro-life movement has had its ups and downs. Since the Supreme Court made abortion a so-called “right” in 1973, the number of legal abortions skyrocketed from around 700,000 at that time to 1.6 million in 1990. Recent statistics however show young people are more pro-life than ever, and across the country states (in addition to Members of Congress) are advancing strong pro-life legislation.

One such state is Mississippi. On April 16, the state’s new governor signed legislation that “requires all physicians at abortion clinics in Mississippi to be board-certified OB-GYN and to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.” This is both a victory and a “teachable moment” for the pro-life movement.

What is so significant is that the pro-life legislation passed in Mississippi (and similarly in Virginia) was made as fool proof as possible from the demonizing tactics of the left. The pro-life movement should emulate these successful principles and move away from those that are not working. For example, ultrasound legislation can be deemed as guilting mothers into not aborting their children or invading personal privacy. However, it is more difficult to argue against raising the standards of medical clinics so that women have a more sterile and professional environment. Yes, the left will still attack these standards, as the owner of the abortion clinic in Mississippi has, but the inherent controversy and liklihood of total defeat will be far less.

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There are four other things pro-lifers should keep in mind that are tangentially related to the lesson Mississippi has provided, and which are directly related to converting a culture that is largely indifferent regarding abortion:

  • Stop using Biblical arguments to debate abortion. After attending the 2010 March for Life, I do not think using religious arguments will persuade either self-described Christians who agree with abortion or non-Christians who agree with abortion. The science of life is in our favor, and we should emphasize this. This is not meant as a denigration or repudiation of religious work or prayer done to protect life – I am a strong Catholic participating in prayer protests before abortion clinics – but a practical recognition of living in a pluralistic society with many people who do not possess a Christian-based belief in the sanctity of unborn life.
  • Do a better job of educating people about the responsiblilty that comes with sexual activity and explain better the help and care that can be provided so women will not feel as though abortion is their best or only option. I supported Indiana governor Mitch Daniel’s position of reforming and shrinking the federal welfare state as it is a critical piece in taking away incentives to act irresponsibly.
  • Shock and awe have their place, as does presenting difficult truths, but indiscriminately throwing up images of dead babies and similar tactics as employed by Randall Terry will cause most people to simply turn and look in the other direction. Again, the majority of Americans are pro-choice, pro-abortion, or indifferent to the debate and just want it to go away. Used correctly, the shock and awe strategy can be effective, but often less so than engaging in a strong, purposeful, respectful discussion.
  • Stop making abortion about women vs. children. Both are victims. Every time a pro-life activist blames a woman for having an abortion, that activist should in the same breath blame the men who get women pregnant and then either abandon them or encourage them to abort the child.  We should make the battle about protecting women and unborn children from the abortion centers whose livelihood depends on the murder of children.The unfortunate fact is that we live in a nation where abortion is legal, and much of the public either favors it or is neutral on the debate. Undue focus on the women involved makes it even easier for supporters of abortion to successfully claim a false “war on women,” which makes creating a culture of life that much harder.

The pro-life movement is gaining ground, and the desperation of the pro-abortion left after the temporary decision by Komen to defund Planned Parenthood is indicative of this. However, if we continue to make the kinds of tactical errors disucssed here, millions of babies will die before America becomes a culture of life instead of a culture of death. The pro-life movement must adapt its strategies appropriately, and soon, in order to protect as many mothers and unborn children as possible.


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