5 Myths About Pro-Lifers, And How To Refute Them

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.

Okay, I admit it. The devil made me pro-life.

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.

Sorry, Patrick.

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.

The "products of conception."

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).

Can you be pro-life and pro-death penalty? Yes. Can you be pro-life and support the war in Iraq? Yes. Can you be pro-life and eat meat? Yes.

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.”

Apparently "slut-shaming" is a real thing that people are against. This was taken at the SlutWalk Toronto.... Yeeeeah.

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.

  • NG

    Great post, Kristen. I really appreciate your spirit. I do have one criticism though (I’m firmly pro-life btw). I think you downplay here, to some degree, the violence that a certain segment of the pro-life movement is prone to. It’s a good argument, when a person brings up the murder of doctors and others, to compare the numbers (50 million to 8), but the violence people are referring to includes other things as well (assault, attempted murder, arson, vandalism, etc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-abortion_violence).

    The more I read about the movement (I’m relatively unfamiliar with the inner goings-on, though again I am pro-life) the more I think that the violent and aggressive element is probably closer to the fringes, but it’s still nonetheless a part of it, and we should come to terms with it and/or be prepared to answer the pro-choicers when they bring it up.

    (This is not to say I don’t understand much of the violent reaction. I don’t condone it, but I do understand it. Terrible injustice is going to provoke reactions of all kinds.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    Just a note; saying “Make promiscuous girls feel bad about themselves.”

    Calling girls promiscuous is a gendered slur designed to make women who have sex feel bad. Therefore it is slut shaming. 

    Can I ask what you think about curbing the behaviour of so called ‘promiscuous’ men? 

    • Yikes

      I don’t oppose abortion for the sake of curbing promiscuous behaviour.  I oppose it because it demonstrably kills a human being.  I fully support holding both men and women responsible for their actions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    The ‘choice’ is dislodging a cell, zygote, embryo or foetus, depending on how far along it is. 

    Perhaps if more people were for factual sex education, free contraception, free healthcare, free welfare, adoption reform and stem cell research (to help eliminate progressive diseases), there would be less abortion. But hey, why go for prevention when you can ruin women’s lives? The latter is much easier. 

    • Yikes

      The ‘choice’ is starving, dismembering, poisoning, or chemically burning a human to death, depending on how far along it is.


      The evidence available suggests that the things you listed can only reduce abortion by a very limited extent, if at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    ‘Pro-lifers use facts and real statistics’. Not often. Perhaps some pro lifers do, but I’ve seen plenty peddle lies, about abortion effects, adoption stats, child poverty, contraception (i.e. contraception is an abortifacent, contraception causes AIDs). 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    Pro choice people aren’t ‘pro-abortion’. We’re pro contraception, pro prevention, pro-women’s rights, which includes having a safety net if things go wrong, which they inevitably will. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    If you had, you’d know that the baby was a result of date rape. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    “Well, at least you’re admitting your bias, and the fact that you are entrenched in your beliefs even when confronted by mountains of evidence that you are wrong.”
    Can you see the irony in saying this?

    • Yikes

      It would be ironic iff she had said something similar herself (that she would never change her mind in light of any type of evidence).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    I believe grown living human beings are more important than potential human beings. 

    • Yikes

      What’s a potential human being?  Whatever it is, I do hope that it’s friendly.

      How big does a human being have to grow for you to consider it important?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    No one wants to be ‘anti-life’ either, but pro choicers are routinely accused of so being. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    Rather than praying, perhaps you could do something practical to make it easier for women to carry babies to term?

    • Yikes

      You mean like running and volunteering at crisis pregnancy centres?  Last I checked, pro-lifers do both.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    I’m afraid you’re wrong – please see the NHS’s website for a factual description of what chemical birth control does. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    The word ‘promiscuous’ is a slut shaming word. 

    • Yikes

      I was paraphrasing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    Victims are not legally on trial. Via media, communities and juries, they most definitely are. There’s an assumption in society that the majority of rapes are false accusations – a ‘fact’ not borne out by actual crime statistics. The majority of rapes go unreported because rape victims are frequently harrassed, disbelieved, ignored, asked if ‘they’re sure’ etc. 

    also, pretty sure ‘slut-shaming’ refers to a whole gamut of behaviours, from blaming rape victims for their rape, to hating women for having sex, to hating women who dress in a way you regard as ‘too revealing’ – which for certain far right Christian groups, can mean having your hair uncovered. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509047388 Helen Gallagher

    Perhaps the OP was talking about things like the Hyde Amendment, where rape was ‘redefined’ so that date rape, statutory rape and incest were declared as not rape, so that women affected by these kinds of RAPE could not obtain an abortion. 

    • Yikes

      You really think the definition of rape is dependent on whether one can obtain a taxpayer funded abortion?  That would imply that doing the right thing and removing the exceptions would be equivalent to abolishing the legal definition of rape.  I think this is ridiculous and insulting to rape victims.

  • Relock77219

    Question #1:
    Could you please define “pro-life”?  This term appears to have multiple meanings.

  • Relock77219

    Hello Kristen-
    Could you please define “pro-life” for me?  Thank you.

  • Eliza McGuire

    You can not be pro life and pro death penalty or pro life and pro war. Being pro life means doing your utmost to protect life in every situation. With regards to being for the death penalty and pro life we do not have the right to take life and if pro life, you should not support those who take lives, or wish death upon someone, no matter what they have done.
    Irish – American Pro Lifer, anti death penalty, anti war