A few years ago, I asked a liberal, pro-choice friend—a man with a J.D. from a top law school and a good career—what he thought motivated pro-lifers to invest so much energy in fighting abortion. “Slut shaming,” he responded with a self-assured air, without the slightest pause.
I was incredulous. How, after decades of messaging—and an annual march on the capitol—could otherwise intelligent pro-choice Americans think such absurd, unsubstantiated things about pro-lifers? Several years removed from that verbal exchange, I think I know at least part of the answer: the power of stories that persuade millions of Americans that abortion should be an indisputable right for all women.
Since Dobbs, liberal corporate legacy media is running as many stories as possible on the indignities suffered by women across the United States who have had difficulty procuring an abortion. “Women’s health, and even their lives are at stake because of abortion restrictions!” they declare. Actor and director John Turturro published a long opinion piece in the Washington Post last year about how his grandmother’s botched pre-Roe abortion caused tremendous harm not only to her but also to her children, five of whom were placed in orphanages.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Of course, those already inclined toward the pro-choice camp view such pro-choice tales as invaluable rhetorical ammunition to prove the dangers of abortion restrictions. And, presumably, some undecided Americans hear such stories—which often involve great suffering and sometimes even death—and are persuaded that however much distaste they feel toward abortion, surely it’s better than the alternative. “This woman died because of an abortion ban. Americans fear they could be next,” was the headline of a July 2022 NBC News article. Those already inclined toward the pro-choice camp view such pro-choice tales as invaluable rhetorical ammunition to prove the dangers of abortion restrictions. Tweet This
This is why Abby Johnson and Tyler Rowley’s new book Life to the Full: True Stories That Reveal the Dignity of Every Human Life is so important. With more than twenty stories of those who have experienced or witnessed an abortion—or demonstrated moral courage in refusing one when medical professionals urgently encouraged one—Johnson and Rowley have done a great service for the pro-life cause. For what we require—especially given the possibility that upcoming elections could be a referendum on various state-level pro-life initiatives—are stories that will help Americans understand the truly gruesome, abhorrent character of abortion.
“After reading Life to the Full, you will feel uncomfortable, and this is exactly what, I believe, God wants,” writes former pro-choice advocate Dr. Meg Meeker in the foreword. Rowley begins his preface by noting that the founder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), Bernard Nathanson, became a pro-life advocate and eventually entered the Catholic Church. These are stories the pro-choice movement definitely does not want you to hear.
This is also why the pro-choice movement is so opposed to mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant women. “One of the most important tools in the abortion fight is the ultrasound,” notes Rowley. “It conveys a story, however brief, of a child’s life. Just one blip of a heartbeat—one glimpse of the body on the screen—and it’s suddenly impossible to avoid an encounter with the truth.” Indeed, according to pregnancy center reports across the country, most abortion-minded women will choose life after seeing or hearing an ultrasound. And, Rowley poignantly notes, fifty years of legalized abortion means there are sixty-three million stories that have never been told.
The now famous Abby Johnson of course offers a powerful story of her own in this regard. Ms. Johnson worked in the abortion industry for almost a decade, helping many women kill their children. “We needed to publish a book that convinces people abortion is always wrong in every circumstance, and that life is always the right choice,” she writes.
The stories are indeed compelling. There is Suzanne Guy, whose doctor warned her that, if carried to term, her baby would have no kidneys. The doctor said that abortion was necessary immediately. Ms. Guy rejected the doctor’s advice and delivered the baby via C-section at twenty-six weeks. Her daughter is now an adult with no “chromosomal abnormality,” as doctors had predicted.
There are many and varied stories: Reverend Dean Gavaris tells the story of a pregnant incarcerated woman whom the ACLU aggressively pushed to abort her child. Lacey Buchanan describes medical staff who had nothing but sorrow over the birth of her child whom they believed was likely to die after birth—he’s now eleven and reads Braille. Joy Villa relates that a nurse at a pregnancy clinic pressed her to have an abortion. “You’re too young to have children. This is the best choice for you,” the nurse told Villa.
Toni McFadden, who had an abortion as a teenager, relates that the nurse at the clinic never told her that by the time she aborted her child, she could know the baby’s sex, eye color, skin tone, and height. Rebekah Hagan tells a harrowing tale about how, less than twenty-four hours after taking the mifepristone abortion drug, she decided she wanted to keep her baby. Planned Parenthood staff accused her of being misguided, and they warned her that her child would have severe fetal anomalies. Nevertheless, after progesterone treatment to save the baby, Hagan, ten years ago, gave birth to a perfectly healthy little boy.
I could go on, but you should just buy the book. Or better yet, purchase a copy for your most open-minded pro-choice friend, the one who might actually crack open its spine, read a few stories, and realize how terrible abortion truly is. These are the kinds of stories that should be better known: women who aborted their babies and suffered terrible regret; women who were exhorted to abort but refused; people in the industry who came to realize how truly wicked and dehumanizing it really is.
This isn’t about slut-shaming. This isn’t even about shaming. It’s about life. Protecting, preserving, and celebrating it—or mourning it when it is taken, prematurely, by those deceived into thinking abortion is about freedom and happiness. As Life to the Full indicates, abortion is about quite the opposite.