Towards a new strategy for prolifers

April 23, 2015
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Prolife media has been abuzz with the story of a pro-abortion blogger who posted a piece in which she openly admits that abortion kills a baby, but provocatively asks: "so bloody what?" The blogger is unfazed, and she still supports abortion.

Prolifers can find this perspective so horrific that it literally shocks them into silence. We are used to debating whether or not the baby is a living human person. We see that most pro-abortionists continue to deny that the fetus is a baby at all, and we tend to believe that pro-abortionists are sincere in their claim of ignorance. After all, it's unthinkable that civilized people would actually be okay with killing an innocent baby.

But what this blogger said should not be news. Rather, it should be a wake-up call. Prolifers need to switch tracks, and stop wasting so much of their time on trying to prove the humanity of the fetus. That avenue of debate is really just a red herring, and that is why proving our case will get us exactly nowhere.

The pro-abortion side naturally has trouble conceding the truth, and they hide behind euphemistic rhetoric. They prefer to pretend to others and even to themselves that the fetus is not yet a human person. Putting on this show helps them to continue to think well of themselves, since most people don't like to think of themselves as baby killers.

But deep down in the darkest interior of their hearts, most pro-abortion activists and even abortive mothers actually realize the truth. They are not surprised by the fact that they are ending the life of a living human baby. They already knew that.

Just look at the language that people (and not just mothers) use in their unguarded and happy moments. When women are expecting "wanted" babies, you won't hear them or their families and friends talking about "the tissue" in their wombs. No, it's always a "baby" right from the start.

And check out the popularity of and other similar sites, where pregnant women spend evenings reading up on the developmental milestones of their unborn babies. Within a couple of clicks, these women can find beautiful online images which show that even a very small fetus looks far more complex and baby-like than any 'clump of cells'. It is impossible to hide from the reality of the unborn baby's humanity.

Mothers are people too

There is so much emotion invested in the definition of a mother. We naturally tend to put mothers on a pedestal and think of them as selfless as loving, above all to their own babies. We find it not only abhorrent but inconcievable that mothers could knowingly kill their own babies.

As such, the default belief among prolifers, I believe, is that women who resort to abortion are victims who 'know not what they do'. This is true in some ways - these women may be the victims of broken or abusive relationships, of poverty, of few good options. Others are perhaps victims (to use the word loosely) of a worldview that overly prioritizes their own ambitions and desires to the point where they justify harming others to maintain 'control' over their lives.

But while abortive mothers may be victims in some ways, I believe that most of them are not the victims of ignorance. They still have a good understanding of what abortion entails.

The fact that there are 1.21 million abortions in the United States (and about 100,000 in Canada) each year shows us this, above all: that in the heart of the ordinary human person there lies the capacity to murder. Perhaps more terrifying still, this capacity lies even in the heart of the ordinary mother towards her own child. 

It's true that most people are not murderers. Most don't even contemplate murder. But this is not because they are incapable of it. They are kept in line by laws and punishments. Most people know that murdering someone else would destroy their own lives.

But 1.21 million murders a year - that is what happens when murder is permitted by law and comes without consequences (in fact, it is seen as a "right"). It doesn't take more than this to wake up the selfish inner monster in human beings. In such circumstances, we see a whole new side of human beings - a whole new side of mothers. Suddenly, millions of mothers are taking advantage of this "final solution" to the problems that their own unborn child's life causes them.

1.21 million abortions a year - that's quite the reality check about human nature, and about the concrete limits of a pregnant mother's love.

A new prolife strategy

Many more such quotes can be found here.
We still need to spend some of our time on trying to prove the humanity of the fetus, because the other side continues to allege the opposite.

But we should also realize that this argument doesn't have much persuasive power, even if we manage to produce all the proof that is needed to win on that count. The fact that abortion kills a real person is an open secret.

This piece recommends focusing instead on the harms of abortion:
"it may be a good idea to talk about the harm that abortion does to the mother. If a pro-choice person sees abortion as pitting the baby against the mother, it is often the baby who loses. But abortion does not only hurt babies; it hurts their mothers as well – along with fathers, siblings, grandparents, etc. It might also be a good time to talk about the services pro-lifers offer women – the pregnancy centers that help them in times of need, the healing retreats for post-abortion women, etc. "
The trouble is, harms are statistical, and like with every other parade of horrors (think of smoking, eating fast food, lack of exercise, and so on), most people consider themselves lucky. Women who seek abortions will continue to gamble that they will be the ones to escape the worst possible consequences.

The piece also says that prolifers need to rebut some other arguments that are at the foundations of legal abortion. Among these:

"The unborn baby is not an aggressor against the mother."

While this is a tough one to argue, it seems like probably the most important point of all.

Just like the blogger at oogenhand, many pro-abortion people believe exactly this: "Yes, the baby is an aggressor, yes, the baby is an intruder." It is a twisted and terrible way of seeing things, but it does have some internal logic. Women who feel trapped into a corner by a pregnancy that threatens to take their lives out of their control can indeed start to think of the unborn baby as an aggressor that is co-opting their bodies and lives. 

It won't help to point out that the baby's existence is 'their fault' (that they participated in making it), since they already feel regret about their 'mistake'.

I also think it's useless to point out that pregnancies are "natural" in a female body, unless we also make the case that what is 'natural' should somehow trump the mother's concerns. After all, we modify nature in so many other ways. So why should nature get its way here? 

This whole argument is all about control, and about how the unborn baby is throwing the mothers' lives into a massive curve ball. They way they see it, why should they be "forced" to carry the baby for nine months if they can 'get their bodies back' sooner? What gives the baby a 'right' to 'take over' their bodies? 

The prolife answer to this question is the foundational brick for the entire prolife case. If we fail to resolve this question sufficiently, I don't think we can win the case. 

What's more, our answer needs to make sense to people from a non-Christian background, including those who are atheist. For instance, it won't help to argue that life is "sacred" if we are talking to nonbelievers. However, it is still possible to say that human life is so incredibly "precious" that it is not disposable.

The future of the prolife argument

We do need to keep trying, and inroads will continue to be made. But if we strip away our Christian understanding of life as God's creation and of the murder of innocents as always evil, there may be no argument that has the magic power to change secular minds, especially those lost in a consumerist, hedonist, me-first mentality. 

After all, convincing people merely with words is a very tall order. It's really hard to change people's minds on any temptation. Just look at the fight against over-eating and obesity, or the war on smoking and other harmful substances and activities. 

Notice how laws, regulations and other concrete policies are often used alongside words in order to 'encourage' desirable alterations in our behaviour. We pull french fries out of school cafeterias. McDonald's stopped offering "supersized" meals. Here in Canada, smoking is being banned from public spaces and cigarettes are being hidden from view behind store counters. Drugs are illegal. Soliciting prostitution is illegal. Why? Because words alone are often not enough. People tend to be disappointingly weak when faced with temptations. 

The loudest arguments are often made with something other than words: seeing young women take on the prolife cause; witnessing the pain of a post-abortive friend; or even, as we are encountering with some newly prolife nurses and abortion providers, seeing a fully-formed aborted baby. Emotions often make a stronger case than our words.

This is, I believe, why the ultrasound machines are saving so many babies. The mothers who see their own babies on ultrasound are not actually becoming convinced that the baby is a real person. Rather, they are forming an emotional connection with their babies for the first time, and it is this spark of newly-ignited love that saves the babies' lives.

Stoking the fire of love

So perhaps, prolifers need to focus their strategy in the direction of love. We need to get the mother to a mental place where she wants to work together with the baby, not necessarily out of moral obligation to its humanity (since that moral imperative doesn't seem to reduce her assessment of the baby as an aggressor) but out of genuine affection.

As early as possible, we need to build up the emotional connection that she has with her child. The flame of the mother's love will protect the child's life more than any other measure or logical argument. Love engenders a willing self-sacrifice.

It's hard to do this when speaking to groups - this kind of thing is best done one-on-one. Pregnancy crisis centers are surely already doing this kind of work.

As far as talking in public, one idea along those lines may be to use more emotive language that identifies the relationship that the mother has with her child.  Instead of using the neutral word "baby", which emphasizes its autonomous existence as distinct from the mother (and which she might even interpret negatively, as she associates this autonomy with aggression), maybe we should try more often to use the words "your son or daughter". This kind of language encourages the mother to see identify the baby as a partner in a relationship of love. 

The same approach could also be used with fathers and extended family. They too should be encouraged to see the unborn child as a member of their family, and be led towards protecting the baby through their emotional interest in it.

To put this tall order into 11 words: we need to make every unwanted baby into a wanted baby.

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