There are a lot of negative stereotypes about the pro-life movement. I could easily write a list of 20 or more. These five, though, are the ones I personally encounter most often, and in the most capital letters. You’ll probably find them familiar. If you don’t know how to argue against these, you should.
5. We’re all brainwashed.
Since they can’t seem to wrap their brains around how a person might make an intelligent, informed decision to oppose abortion, anti-lifers sometimes like to assume we have all been duped. I have been accused, via Facebook, Twitter, email, and comment, of having been brainwashed by the following people or organizations: the Republican Party, Christians, the Vatican, white men, television, the conservative media, Sarah Palin, and the devil. I am not making any of those up.
While I suppose there are those who were raised inside Vatican walls and never heard a dissenting opinion, the truth is that even kids brought up in homes with pro-life parents were probably exposed to pro-abortion ideology somewhere along the way. It may have even happened without their knowledge.
Let me give you an example: I loved the movie Dirty Dancing as a kid. I wasn’t allowed to watch it, but I managed to watch it almost constantly, starting at around age ten. A major plot line in that movie is a main character having an abortion. Everyone is super casual about it, although they never use the word “abortion.” The girl ends up getting hurt by the procedure, but the impression is that this is because the woman had to go to an unsafe doctor with “a dirty knife and a folding table.” Then a real doctor is called and the girl is okay and everyone dances some more. The impression I got as a kid was that abortion was a tragic and sexy thing that pretty girls sometimes had to get because they were so desirable and awesome.
I don’t remember hearing anything about abortion from my church or my mom or my friends. I only heard about it from TV and movies, and it was always portrayed in the same light: a sad but necessary thing that boyfriends should pay for while wearing sheepish expressions. I ended up pro-choice until age 27, when I made a decision, based on little or no Chinese water torture by any Popes or Palins, that abortion was wrong and must be ended.
The best way to combat this stereotype is to share your own story. Let anti-lifers know the sound, rational, scientific and ethical reasons on which you base your pro-life activism. And don’t let your kids watch Dirty Dancing.
4. We’re violent.
This is my least favorite myth because it’s the least true. The pro-life movement is by definition an outcry against a violent act.
Eight people have been killed in the United States by anti-abortion protesters. Last I heard, they had all been caught and punished. Fifty million babies have been killed — legally — by abortionists since 1973. Yet we’re the side that gets called violent. Fifty million to eight… Those are pretty dramatic numbers. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s safer to be an abortionist than an unborn baby. Somebody somewhere is probably going to quote that in outrage, never mind the fact that is statistically 100% true.
The pro-life movement as a whole continuously and widely condemns acts of violence, yet anyone who professes a pro-life viewpoint is subject to being called a “clinic bomber.” Eight people — out of hundreds of millions — do not represent the movement, especially when their actions have been decried countless times.
If someone accuses you of belonging to a violent movement, remind them that since Roe v. Wade, every year an average of 1.2 million unborn children have been killed in the U.S., versus an average of two-tenths of an abortionist. The numbers don’t lie.
3. We’re all religious, conservative, and old.
There’s nothing wrong with being religious, conservative, or old, but it’s a mischaracterization. I am a conservative Catholic in my early 30s now, but when I became pro-life, I was a liberal agnostic in my 20s. While many — probably most — pro-lifers believe in some sort of deity, or at least in the human soul, not all of them do. The arguments that made me pro-life were grounded in science, ethics, and human rights. They had nothing to do with religion.
The friend who changed my mind knew better than to use a religious argument with me; I would have stopped listening. I was already wary because she was Catholic. I guess I thought she would sprinkle holy water on me while I wasn’t looking. But she didn’t. She just answered my questions — I had a lot of them — and by the end of the conversation I was, quite against my will, pro-life. I have remained so ever since.
I was also not a conservative, and many — including the friend I mentioned — remain pro-life and liberal or Democrat. The atheist, liberal New Yorker writer Nat Hentoff, after “coming out” as pro-life, experienced a backlash of negativity from fellow writers, intellectuals, atheists, Jews, and Democrats, but he stayed pro-life and a “civil libertarian” for the rest of his career.
A lot of people, when they think of pro-life activists, think of little old ladies saying the rosary outside a clinic. God bless those little old ladies and the work they do, but the truth is the pro-life movement is becoming a youth movement. Despite the fact that society in general seems to get more secular and less conservative, more and more young people oppose abortion. There is no consensus as to why, but it may have something to do with advancing science and technology. We know far more about the unborn human today than we did when Roe v. Wade was decided.
If someone tells you all pro-lifers are middle-aged white Christian Republicans, tell them they’re wrong — even if you are a middle-aged white Christian Republican. I have known pro-lifers of every age, color, religion, and political persuasion. If you don’t, try to get to know some. They’re everywhere! Check out Secular Pro-Life, Pagans for Life, or Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League. They may have a perspective you haven’t considered, which will help build your arsenal of pro-life knowledge and arguments, and make your parties more interesting.
2. We’re hypocrites if we oppose abortion but don’t oppose (fill in the blank).
You can’t compare these things to abortion. You can’t compare anything to abortion, except certain instances of euthanasia, which by the way are also covered under the pro-life umbrella.
Abortion is child murder. It’s the intentional killing of an innocent human being. And when I say “innocent,” I mean it in the most literal sense. I don’t mean “innocent” of murder, shoplifting, or appearing on “Jersey Shore,” though all of these are undeniably bad things. I mean completely innocent. The unborn child has never harmed a living soul. He did not cause his own existence. He did not ask to be conceived. He is brought to life and, in an abortion, he is killed, most often for the same reason he was conceived: because his mother made a choice.
No act compares to abortion in its heinousness. So don’t let anyone tell you that you must oppose the death penalty, or war, or meat if you are pro-life. Explain the difference between incidental death and intentional. Explain to them the difference between a cow and a human. Explain to them the difference between a convicted criminal and an unborn baby.
1. We have an ulterior motive.
This is the most common argument you will hear, and it honestly doesn’t even deserve the term “argument.” It is a non-argument. An argument would be, “Abortion is okay because the fetus isn’t human,” or “Abortion is okay because the unborn deserve no rights.” Those are arguments. They’re wrong, but they’re arguments. Instead, I am often accused of pretending to be against abortion when what I really want to do is one of the following:
Take all human rights away from women.
Stop everyone from having sex.
Encourage child abuse.
Make promiscuous girls feel bad about themselves.
And so on. So instead of saying, “Abortion should be legal because….,” the presenter of this “argument” says, “Well, you just want to enforce your Puritanical sexual values.” Or, “You just want people to have babies they can’t afford.” And so on.
Look. I’m gonna take this opportunity to come out with it: I am secretly okay with abortion. I honestly don’t mind if women go into clinics and pay doctors to suck their children out of them. What I’m really after, what I’ve really wanted all along, is to engage in “slut-shaming.”
This is my favorite non-argument ever. Written by “freelance journalist and stand-up comic” Amanda Grimes (whose graduate thesis was on “gender and stand-up comedy”), this blog made me literally wipe tears of laughter from my eyes. So she’s got the comedy part down! According to Grimes, pro-lifers aren’t really interested in saving lives. What they secretly want to do — wait for it — is make slutty girls feel bad about themselves. You heard me. The ulterior motive behind the pro-life movement, according to Andrea Grimes, is “slut-shaming.”
Ms. Grimes, if by “slut-shaming” you mean encouraging young women to behave in ways that will result in less pain for themselves, their children, and society, it is certainly on my list of reasons for opposing abortion. However, I hate to break it to you, reason number one is that I am actually nutso enough to believe in the sanctity of every human life. Sorry to disappoint. Now get back to that groundbreaking, totally relevant thesis!
By the way, for the record, you know what changed Grimes’s mind about abortion? I’ll let her say it in her own words:
Well, I got off my religious high horse and on to a sex life I enjoyed and found fulfilling.
That is… profound, isn’t it? She went to college, lost her virginity, and found out sex was fun! So then she discarded all the morals her parents went to the trouble to teach her, and “went right the f*** out” and got on birth control, which, as it often does, led her to going right the eff out and feeling okay about abortion. “I believe wanting to take that choice away from others is deeply about shame and punishment and judgment, and not about righteousness and love.”
Guess what, Grimes? Just because you believe something about us doesn’t make it true.
So apparently, Ms. Grimes did not believe in the sanctity of life. She was merely having fun “slut-shaming.” But just because she didn’t have strong, factual, righteous, loving reasons for opposing abortion doesn’t mean that’s the case for you, or me, or any other pro-lifer.
Don’t let anyone assign you intentions that aren’t yours. We are pro-life because we care for women and their children. We are pro-life because we believe in human rights. Don’t give an inch when it comes to your reasons for opposing abortion.
If you engage in any kind of pro-life activism you are going to encounter resistance. Not all of it will be honest, pleasant, or fair. If they haven’t yet, people are going to assume things about you and assign you traits and beliefs that don’t belong to you. (We’ll get to the name calling in another article.)
Learn to politely, rationally, tell them why they’re wrong, and bring the issue back to what it’s really about: the reprehensible act of abortion, what it truly is, and why we have to stop it.