I’ve been meaning to blog about this post for some time. I’ve just let other things get in the way.
JohnOnLife raises some very pertinent issues about pro-life strategy.
I said that “professional” pro-lifers (dedicated activists) are far likely to use religious argument than “amateur” ones. He says:
I hope she is right. But even if she is, it does not appear to have caused the pro-choice and pro-abortion activists to see pro-life arguments as secular. Typically they associate such remarks with a religious right. Of course, this alleged political grouping is an American phenomenon with no genuine Canadian equivalent, but the media seem to like it, so it gets repeated.
We don’t have to convince the pro-abortion activists. Most people are not so dogmatic about abortion that, left to themselves, they will not look at the other side of the coin. We cannot let the pro-aborts define the terms of the debate. We’ve been doing that for too long. I have found that the most effective way for arguing for fetal rights is to simply invoke commonly accepted values and use plain English, logic and good biological science. That’s not right or left. That’s not secular or religious. That’s just smart. People who are not already ideologically committed to the abortion-free-for-all ideology will give your position some consideration if you do this, and some even change their minds.
Don’t worry about the pro-abort activists. Worry about the average person. Those are the people we have to convince. And I do think it’s eminently possible to do this, by simply putting out our message and showing the inconsistencies of the other side. The biggest reason many people are not pro-life is that the pro-life side has not been given a fair hearing. It’s up to us pro-lifers—not the pro-abort elites—to produce that “fair hearing”.
Relying on political parties and political processes to achieve our objectives. It's my opinion, as humble as that is, that the institutions that most shape public opinion today are public education, the courts, and the media (both news and entertainment). Government is more likely to be influenced by these forces than to influence them in turn.
David Suzuki has had his environmental pulpit parked in the television studio since the mid-seventies. Al Gore had eight years to make statements as American vice-president, but it was via his Oscar-winning movie that he became a celebrity. The gay community has used the courts and public education to bring its message to younger society. Ralph Nader was vastly more influential in his consumer rights campaign in the 1960s and 1970s (remember Nader's Raiders?) writing books and making television appearances than he has been as a presidential candidate.
I think that relying on political parties and processes ONLY is a big mistake, and I’ve often argued that we need to create a pro-life culture—as in an artistic/entertainment/aesthetic culture. John is on the right path. If pro-lifers want to be successful, look at what other successful movements do—globally—and do the same thing.
Living at the margins of the media and sniping, rather than becoming mainstream media participants, Margaret Somerville and a few others being wonderful exceptions. Educating the media is a huge task that the pro-life movement, by and large, is not doing successfully. And by educating, I don't mean sending out press releases.
We will educate the mainstream media when we educate the masses. Much of the mainstream media, as it stands, is committed to a pro-abortion ideology. They sometimes try to be fair, but those moments are so few and far in between, that we can’t rely on the media. We have to make our own media, and get the word out ourselves. That also means doing a lot of research. I find that a lot of pro-lifers rely on the literature that’s created by pro-life groups. Nothing wrong with that. But we need to freshen our information often, and to uncover the realities of abortion. We need more people going to university medical libraries and doing research on the medical issues regarding abortion, or the sociology of abortion. We can’t just let our info get stale.
John also believes that the pro-life movement should “unhook itself” from the Catholic and Evangelical Churches.
I understand what he means when he says the close association with the churches reinforces the impression that the pro-life movement is all about pushing RC and evangelical morality.”
I believe that diversifying the pro-life movement would be a good idea. But the Christians in the movement cannot be the ones to do it.
The church base has been one of our strengths. It would be foolish to abandon our base and try to find support where support has not coalesced.
It’s up to the “alternative” pro-lifers to do their own organizing. They have to create their niche, and the mainstream pro-life movement should be ready to accept their assistance as allies.
“Where are the Muslims-for-Life? The atheists-, gays-, Jews-, Hindus-, socialists-, and feminists-for-life? Why this narrow focus? The pro-life arguments stand on their own merits, regardless of the denominational or political affiliations (or not) of the speakers.”
There is something that many people do not understand about the differences in attitude on abortion in the mainstream religions of the world.
While it’s true that most traditional religions—Eastern and Western—condemn the act of the abortion, to my knowledge, Christianity is the only mainstream religion that asserts the equality of the unborn child. This is an important difference. We’re not a movement against a sin. People still often conceive of the pro-life movement in those terms, and in my estimation it’s been a huge albatross. We are a human rights struggle. We are a movement that defends humanity’s most vulnerable people.
Not all sins have to be criminalized. And if you combine that with non-belief in the equality of the unborn child, that definitively explains why people of other religions are largely absent from the pro-life movement in Canada.
There are also cultural factors that explain why non-Christians do not engage in the pro-life movement. Besides the fact that there is no locus for them to begin involvement, in many cultures, political activism is shunned. Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists come from immigrant communities, and in their estimation, they have other things to worry about.
One must also make a distinction between fetal rights and creating a “culture of life” or a “civilization of love” as Pope John Paul II said. Most fetal rights activists want it. But many do not. They’re not interested in fighting against contraception, pre-marital sex, gay marriage, divorce and other social ills. The pro-life movement has a particular worldview. Fetal rights propnents do not necessarily share the same view. Pro-lifers want not only to promote fetal rights (which is first and foremost) but a whole culture of life.
And many pro-life feminists, gays, atheists and socialists do not. It’s an entirely different culture. This is why they have to do their own organizing. Because the pro-life view, and the non-pro-life view are like water and oil. Pro-lifers believe that the root of abortion is the anti-culture-of-life mentality. Others have a different view. Many left-wing pro-lifers will see oppression of women, or poverty, or greed as the root of widespread and legal abortion. Contraception, pre-marital sex, etc are irrelevant in their view.
We need all these people in the struggle for fetal rights, but we need many streams of activity. I don’t think the Christian and non-Christians streams of the fetal rights movement can really gel. It doesn’t mean that non-Christian streams are illegitimate, only that we have to do things differently.
John also writes:
My second observation is that the pro-life movement displays a "remnant" mentality. What do I mean by this? Remnant is often associated with something left over, like cloth. But it also refers to a small surviving group of people. The Bible, for instance, distinguishes between Israel as a nation of people or an ethnic group, and the spiritual (or remnant) Israel made up of true believers.
Remnants are a minority who are not necessarily appreciated by the majority. They have to fight for recognition, feel misunderstood and unappreciated, and can develop either a pessimistic and defeatist attitude, or a smug, "We're the only ones who know", mentality. Seldom do they seem to know how to fight it out in the big leagues, as it were.
I think this is the attitude of the over-50 crowd, of amateur pro-lifers. I feel that the younger generation is better prepared and more optimistic. I am certain that there will eventually be fetal rights legislation in this country. I see the momentum moving in that direction. Sure, the feminists are shrieking now. But that’s all they have: emotion and hysteria. The reality is that there has been no debate on the status of the fetus, and he will be acknowledged because most people recognize that at some point in gestation, a fetus truly is a human being, and deserves more recognition than that of a clump of tissue. Just like communism imploded under the weight of its own fictions and inconsistencies, the pro-abortion ideology will do the same. It can’t even admit that the fetus and mother are distinct entities. It’s so obvious to anyone who’s ever had an ultrasound that eventually that fiction will be eliminated, just like other past fictions have been eliminated in the name of justice. We just have to persevere, fine tune our strategy and get more people involved.
My advice is twofold. First, lighten up. The cause is right. And it is becoming more and more persuasive. Live and write and speak and argue as if that were true. I get tired of the pessimism, the remnant rhetoric, the lack of gratitude for the advances that have been made.
Well said. We’re on the road to winning, folks. We still have a long, long road ahead. But the tide is starting to turn. But you know, the people who most need this advice are probably not reading this. They tend to be the older generation. I find them to be out of touch.
Secondly, smarten up. We need to be cultivating more Dr. Somervilles. What is our strategy for taking our rightful place in the universities, the media, the curriculum departments of educational bodies, government, school boards, medical bodies, and so on?
Another point to be made: we don’t have to “place” our people in these institutions, we can also convert those who are in those institutions.
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