We are told that it's poor women. In Fact, the most at-risk group are The wealthiest, and then those at 200-300% of the Federal Poverty levels.
For quite some time we have been told that half or more of those getting abortions were poor women, beneath the Federal Poverty Level. It seems that this is not the case. In the online article, "Sex, Contraception, or Abortion: Explaining Class Gaps in Unintended Childbearing," published by the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, Richard Reeves and Joanna Venator show that women below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) who conceive unintentionally tend overall to keep their children. Wealthy women do not, but nor do those who are at 200 to 300% of the FPL. Check out the table below.
While there were more of these poor women, the great majority - 78% - carried their children to term. Sadly, 9% aborted. Not surprisingly, those at 400+ of the FPL, the wealthy, conceived less frequently, but, if they conceived, they aborted much more frequently: they were 32% of pregnant women who got an abortion, and only 52% carried to term. (The difference between those who aborted and those who carried to term - 16% - must reflect miscarriages.)
Who are these women? Here's a chart of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2017, which should correspond roughly to the FPL for the original study in 2013. These figures reflect total household income.
It is not poverty, per se, which inclines women to abort, but the complications to life -- work, the rearing of other children -- that another child represents. Likely in many cases, the woman is working. This fits with what many women report when asked about why they are seeking an abortion: they have obligations to others that are made more difficult by the addition of another child. Perhaps the loss of a job seems critical. Oddly, those with less money -- 100 - 300% of the FPL -- carry their children to term 75% of the time. And then those in the bracket above -- 300 - 400% of the FPL -- are more able as a group to handle the challenges, and so 86% carry to term. There's something about this group in the middle, among whom less than half carry to term.
What does this tell us? For one thing, generally speaking, it is not poverty that leads women to abort. The group that resorts to abortion is not poor. So any sentimentality about grinding poverty is off-base, and any attempt to "solve" the problem of abortion by throwing money at it is not going to help.
We don't know how many from this group are coming to pregnancy help centers. If they are, then staff at these centers have their work cut out for them. The commonest problem may be one of morale. Those in this group will not starve if another child is born, but they may have to make sacrifices that they find overwhelming. Their work and family arrangements may have to change in ways that they find drastic. (We know that about 60% of abortion patients have one child or more already.) They may feel that they will be falling behind financially with another child. Issues of morale are best addressed by the truths of faith: staff at the centers can remind these women that God cares for them, for their families, for their situations. It is true, and it may be crucial.
"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7).
God knows our future, and He has it in His hands. Our material situation may change, but the gift of another child, understood properly, is so much more significant to our lives than any material or social challenge we may face.
Vision for Life - Pittsburgh has been running Facebook ad campaigns for three years now. For most of that period, we were generating, on average, 11 calls a month to pregnancy medical centers -- not bad, when you consider that this was not an audience seeking abortions or pregnancy help.
The numbers began to drop last Spring, however, and I was looking at possible reasons why. The most obvious reason was that every young woman on Facebook had seen the ads -- "Don't choose alone" -- and the campaign was simply tired, faded. I read that videos and combined video/slideshow posts were actually much more successful in reaching and engaging viewers, so we have tried our hand at it. When I say "we," I mean a team of volunteers -- Carley Adams, Cassandra Adams, David Adams, David Bodin, Emily Bonessi, Katie Breckenridge, and myself. We have produced two videos. You can see the first video on YouTube.
Here's a graph showing the response so far: over 7,500 have seen the video, and there were 103 unique "link clicks," that is, 103 viewers "clicked through" to the Women's Choice Network website. That's more than 100 young people (70% women), who now know about a pregnancy medical center organization with offices in Oakland, Wexford, Monroeville and the North Side.
About 40% of clients at pregnancy help centers come by word-of-mouth advertising. Jake Barr of iRapture and I are talking regularly about using Facebook to encourage friends to tell friends about local pregnancy medical centers -- in my case, Choices Pregnancy Services and Women's Choice Network. The hope is that people who like our Facebook pages ("Pittsburgh Choices," "Unexpected"), and people who are like those people, will be willing to say something if a friend says that she's pregnant, and she's thinking about abortion. This is a different audience than the pregnant woman herself, but I think it says all the right things to any woman in this age bracket.
We know that many women feel coerced or forced into abortion -- that they "have no choice." Ironically, it is Planned Parenthood and other abortion industry members that do their best to narrow choices down to abortion: they make money that way, and, no doubt for some counselors/sales people, it is part of justifying their own abortions, or their complicity in the killing. It is the pregnancy medical centers that truthfully describe all the options: raising a child oneself, placing a child for adoption, or aborting the child. Many women feel that they can't manage their situations with another child; often, it is not a matter of serious hardship, but of morale -- everyone around her is telling her to "get rid of it." A woman can be surprised to find out, for example, that she can continue to go to school and have a baby. "Coercion" can be subtle or unmistakable: the leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder. A woman's psychological state in a time of crisis is also a big factor in the question of coercion.
Here's our second video ad for Facebook. Carley and Cassandra, sisters, play best friends. What does a friend say when a woman says she's pregnant, and it's going to mess up her life?
An article on coerced abortion gives us a sense of what women are going through. "The problem of women feeling pressured into unwanted abortions is . . . acute in light of research into the risk of defective decision making in crisis situations.
"Experts on crisis counseling have found that those who are in a state of crisis are increasingly vulnerable to outside influences and have less trust in their own opinions and abilities to make the right decision. Such 'heightened psychological accessibility'can lead to a situation where parents, counselors, or others in authority can have enormous influence over a woman’s decision. 'A relatively minor force, acting for a relatively short time, can switch the whole balance from one side or to the other—to the side of mental health or to the side of ill health.' Persons in crisis 'are less in touch with reality . . . and more vulnerable to change than they are in non-crisis periods.' They often experience feelings of tiredness, lethargy, hopelessness, inadequacy, confusion, anxiety, and disorganization. Thus, they are more likely to stand back and let other people make their decisions for them, instead of protecting themselves from decisions that may not be in their best interests.
"A person who is upset and trapped in a crisis wants to reestablish stability, and is therefore very susceptible to any influence from others who claim to be able to solve the crisis, especially those who have status or authority. Thus, with a minimal effort on the part of a mental health professional, family member, minister, or male partner, an enormous amount of leverage may be exerted upon a woman who is in a crisis situation. This can be a dangerous situation for a woman who doesn’t really want an abortion but has others around her who push for it.
. . .
"What women experience as 'pressure' to abort may involve indirect but significant pressure such as withholding love, approval and personal or practical support from the woman unless she agrees to an abortion. Or it may be overt, as in abuse or an outright threat to abandon or expel the woman from her home if she does not abort her child. In many cases, the pressure is applied intentionally by others. In other cases, the “pressure” is not intended, but simply perceived by the woman. For instance, if her boyfriend exhibits an unenthusiastic response to the news that she is pregnant, she may see this as his way of telling her that he will not help to support her or their child."
The videos we have made may resonate with a well-to-do, educated audience. This is not the group who are having most of the abortions: abortion patients are more often poor, and disproportionately black. They are more likely to feel explicitly pressured to have an abortion. We will be looking to see if we can't produce materials that appeal to this audience as well. It will be a challenge to find the right actors, and the right scripts, and to keep the material upbeat enough that it will encourage women to call the pregnancy medical centers, and get past the Facebook censors (who really just care that people enjoy Facebook). Pray for our success, please.
How should Christians respond to Christian women who get pregnant outside of marriage?
The question no doubt sounds quaint to those who are not Christian, but it's a live issue for those who are. And it's important for those who care about abortion: Amy Scheuring of Women's Choice Network told me about a 2015 survey by CareNet that found that 70% of those who were having abortions were Christians, and 43% were attending church at least once a month at the time of their abortions.
There is little question that shame is a big driver of abortion. It is an even bigger motivator among people who go to church. So it seems that the best thing you could do to reduce abortions among Christians would be to tell them that there is no shame in having a baby. This was the common pro-life response to Maddi Runkles, the 18-year-old President of the Student Council and officer in the prestigious Key Club at her Christian high school, Heritage Academy. The student with a 4.0 GPA would be seven months pregnant when she walked across the platform to receive her diploma, and the school wasn't having it. Heritage requires its students to sign a pledge to avoid things like alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, and to abstain from sex. “When Maddi chose to breach that Bible standard, a discipline plan had to be established,” Principal Dave Hobbs said. So Maddi had a two-day suspension and was not permitted to receive her diploma publicly. (The young man involved was not a student, and so faced no public consequences, to my knowledge.)
“'The school has shown students that it would be easier to choose abortion than to choose life,' said Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America. 'Because she chose to carry her child and courageously made that decision, she’s been punished this entire semester for being pregnant, and that’s just wrong.'"
Ms. Hawkins is probably right, but we can see it from the school's point of view, too: this was not the story of "the woman taken in adultery" (John 8:1-11), who would have been stoned if her accusers had followed the Law of Moses rigorously. (The trap that His adversaries thought they were setting for Jesus was this: on the one hand, He could be accused of ignoring the Torah, the Jewish Law on adultery, if He didn't agree with her stoning, and, on the other hand, if He agreed, He would be going against the Roman law, as only they had the right to put anyone to death. Jesus avoids His adversaries' trap entirely by throwing the question back at them: "Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.") So where does this leave us? We are all sinners, it is true, but the school wasn't going to stone Maddi, and it had to maintain discipline. If it ignored its own rules, everyone would see that the administration wasn't serious about abstinence as the goal.
Pre-marital sex is a common phenomenon, in permissive and in rigorous times. In Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, Marvin Olasky estimates that about 30% of American colonial marriages were "shot-gun," that is, the young woman was pregnant and the bride's family forced the issue.) We must recognize the realities here: the God-given drive for sex is a good thing, but it can find its full expression only properly in marriage. Many of us will fail, but that is no reason to abandon the goal, for those who have "fallen" and those who have not. If discipline is necessary, it is still true that none of us is without sin: shame attaches to public things, but the most offensive things to God may be hidden in our hearts. There is no ground for us to pass judgment on others. And women today who don't succumb to shame and abort their babies are oftentimes the courageous and honorable ones.
We (Christians, churches) need to say loud and clear that a baby is no reason for shame. We can and should control our sexual behavior; that's the goal. If the discipline of those who fail is necessary for the sake of other young women and men, then let it be as discreet as possible, and only as obvious as necessary. (Remember Joseph, who, when he learned that Mary was pregnant, "not willing to make her a public example, resolved to put her away privately.") We Christians need to say publicly that, if any of us fails to be chaste, he or she can repent; there is forgiveness, and we can start again.
The mock-ups for ads here make similar points, as simply as we can in a few words, without sacrificing our Christian sexual ethic, our humility as sinners too, or our deep desire that women love the children they carry, no matter the situations in which they are conceived.
You may not know, but the shock troops from Planned Parenthood and their (paid) supporters have been out in force in Pittsburgh recently. Amy Scheuring, Executive Director of Women’s Choice Network, sums up what happened:
“On Monday [July 17], two young actors from the New York City area posed as a nervous client couple seeking a pregnancy test at our Monroeville location. These fake clients gave a convincing performance (complete with tears and hugs!) and our team lovingly served them according to our normal medical policies and procedures. But their visit was a “reconnaissance mission” fueled by an agenda to discredit our work. Grabbing literature on the way out the door, this young man and women were part of an orchestrated ambush that would unfold over the next 24 hours.
“On Tuesday afternoon our North Side Center staff observed a group of protesters blocking our entrance and storefront. The group was led by Lizz Winstead, a nationally known comedienne and activist. A camera crew and observer were filming the event. About 10 people dressed in medical scrubs chanted slogans included 'God hates fake clinics' and 'CPCs hurt women.' Our first response was to email our prayer partners to pray for us. Then the police were notified and the officers cleared the entrance so that our scheduled clients could enter. Early in the protest, the fake client couple was called upon to recount their experience. That’s when we realized the full impact of this smear campaign. The false accusations that followed were almost too numerous to count.”
Reaching over the heads of the noise-makers, to the people
You can read more and see the remarkable exchange at the end of the demonstration, where a father of a child appears out of the blue and tells the demonstrators that this little boy would not be here if Women’s Choice Network had not been there for him and his partner, here. Reality met falsity, and the simple truth was seen.
This protest is part of a national campaign (possibly funded by tax-payer-supported Planned Parenthood) to discredit pregnancy medical centers and help centers. You can see their online pitch here.
So far, the abortion activists have not generated much "buzz." Lizz Winstead, the comedienne who put her rant against the North Side’s Women’s Choice Network site on Facebook, pushes a series of lies and smears. WCN has competent, certified professionals on staff. Their sonograms are read by a physician. They don’t lie. They don’t judge. Their reading materials are approved by a physician for accuracy. Etc., etc.
Did you know that a sampling of over 20 Pennsylvanian abortion mills shows women give them, on average, 3.3 out of 5 stars on Google Places, while pregnancy centers in the State receive an average rating of 4.2 stars. (Thanks for that bit of information, Betty McDowell, of Heartbeat International!)
So what do we do? We can ignore Lizz and company. We can get on Facebook and politely and gently correct their mistakes. (For example, we can point out to others commenting, under the post of her ranting, that Women’s Choice Network gets no government funding. None.) If we know the centers first hand at all, we can look them up on Google, Yelp!, and Facebook, and say good things about them. Reviews encourage women to trust the trustworthy.
We can do even more. With advertising on Facebook, we can reach over the heads of those protesting for abortion, to the large majority of women and men who are in the middle, who don’t know what they think, but who appreciate people trying to help people. And that’s what the pregnancy medical centers here in Pittsburgh do. Our ad on the upper left goes over the heads of the pro-choice crowd, and will have been seen by about 25,000 young women in Allegheny County several times by the end of this month.
"Lack of public awareness of the [centers] . . . is a huge barrier"
A survey was conducted of 1,000 women and 300 men in 2014 on the perception of pregnancy help centers. It found that 51 percent of women respondents who knew someone who had been to a center had a “very positive” experience of the centers, and 39 percent had a “somewhat positive” experience. This is a very good result for this kind of survey. The same survey found that “lack of public awareness of the P[regnancy] H[elp] [C]enters and their networks is a huge barrier to increased public cooperation and support.” “The historic limits on the ability of PHCs to advertise their services and reach potential clients at the earliest possible decision point [regarding abortion] remain little changed since 1997.”
We're changing things here in Allegheny County. Despite the protesters and the abortion promoters, Vision for Life’s advertising is reaching over the heads of the noise-makers to the people, to those who may be thinking about abortion, and to their friends and family. Women are changing their minds, and they are grateful. Babies are being born. Who can object to that? Really?
Some time ago I remember reading about a study of women who had been refused abortions, and had gone on to bear their children. It was fascinating. A significant proportion did not even remember seeking an abortion. You would think that, if they had been frustrated in their search for an abortion, they would have been angry about it, and remember; most of us do remember the situations where we didn't get what we want, and it was serious. Yet they had forgotten entirely. They were happy with their babies, and that's all there was to it.
Amy Scheuring, of Women's Choice Network, observed that one client completely mis-remembered how things had gone when she came to them. There had been a high level of drama -- raised voices and lots of tension -- as this young woman wrestled with the decision whether to have an abortion or a baby. When this girl recounted the story later, however, it was as though abortion had never really been an option. What?!
Recently, we ran a Facebook ad for Choices Pregnancy Services of Coraopolis (just outside the City of Pittsburgh) on Choices' Facebook page. It invited women who had been clients of Choices to write stories about how they came to Choices, what they were facing in their lives, how they were treated, and how they decided to have their babies.
The ad had the obvious audience, but it had other ones, too: women who were thinking about having an abortion, and people who didn't know what they thought about pregnancy help centers, or thought that pregnancy help centers treat women badly. Pregnancy help centers do a lot of good, but it's not widely recognized.
So, as advertising, I don't think it was a complete loss when we got no responses. Yep: zero. Perhaps no woman who used Choices services saw the ad: 7,100 is not a lot of women in an area like ours. Or, perhaps the few women who had their babies because of Choices and saw the ad had forgotten entirely the role that Choices played in their lives. That would be no surprise.
"Dissociation" is the psychological process by which a person puts distance between himself and something unpleasant that he has experienced. We see it with sexual abuse victims, who may have an "out-of-body" experience while the abuse is taking place, and cannot remember the abuse itself afterwards. There is something deeply unnatural about abortion, and it is no surprise that some women "put it out of their minds" afterwards. There is often a hardening of their hearts afterwards, however. They can't look at babies without irritation, they are more remote from those close to them, and so forth.
Many of the fiercest pro-choice people appear to care too much. They don't seem to be defending an abstract right, but what they have done themselves; if they let up in their cool anger about "pro-lifers" for a second, the facade might collapse. Some women can't hide from the past, and they are broken up by what they have done. Thank God that there are ministries where they can, and often do, find forgiveness and healing! (Broken Vessels and Rachel's Vineyard are two in our area.)
So our advertising was an experiment which failed overall. Still we have learned something. It has confirmed something more general that I have thought for a while: no one likes to think about abortion.
Heartbeat International, an organization providing resources and support to over 1,200 pregnancy help centers in the U.S., and many, many more overseas, reports that it had its highest number of monthly contacts with its Option Line service in May: 30,000! Thousands of women across America last month contacted Option Line. They were put in touch with local pregnancy help centers, where they could get the information and moral support they need to have their babies. April was also a record month for Option Line. We are on a roll!
Locally, our advertising work for Women's Choice Network is having an impact, too. Amy Scheuring, Executive Director, reports that their outcome numbers from the beginning of the year to May 13 were up 45% over the previous year! 45% more visits, pregnancy tests, sonograms, and STD tests. They had 416 new clients, and 116 lives saved from abortion (documented so far)! She credits much of this growth to our advertising.
When we began, 3 out of 4 babies in Allegheny County were born; 1 was aborted. In 2015, the last year for which we have statistics, 4 out of 5 babies were born. Now we are going for 5 out of 6.
We are also working with Choices Pregnancy Services of Coraopolis. Apart from our Google advertising work with them, we will be advertising on Facebook in the next couple of months, inviting women to submit stories of how Choices has helped them. The best story will make a woman $150; the runners-up will get $100 and $50. The ads themselves will tell many women, by implication, about how good Choices is for women facing an unwanted pregnancy, and also provide stories that can be used (with proper hiding of identities) for advertising purposes.
Our older Facebook campaign ("Don't choose alone") needs a re-fresh, and Joelle Sykes a Board member, and her husband Bruce are working on a new theme: "Make It Your Choice." Many women feel that they have "no choice" but get an abortion. We can help them get to the help centers, where they can make a decision without pressure, but with the offer of moral and practical support. Abortion is not "empowering," but doing the right thing, even when it's hard, is!
In my last post, I made the argument that the difference between the number of residents of Allegheny County who had abortions, and the number of abortions performed in the County -- 2,935 more abortions than those performed on residents in 2015 -- could be explained if the excess were students from the County and beyond, giving their home counties or states as their residences.
The statistics above confirm this. On the left are counties in the western part of PA (just west of Harrisburg) and the number of students that are enrolled in the colleges in those counties. On the right are the abortions recorded for 2015 for the same counties. One sees immediately that there is no correspondence between the number of students and the number of abortions. So, for example, Centre County (State College) has over 47,000 students, but only 127 abortions to residents. Contrast this with Westmoreland County, with 12,000 students, but 432 abortions to residents, or Fayette County, with 800 students and 196 abortions.
How many of these students in the western half of PA are coming to Pittsburgh for abortions? It's something of a guessing game, but we can make some assumptions. Women among the over-47,000 students at State College who are seeking abortions are probably going to Harrisburg. The majority of student abortion-seekers in Westmoreland, Butler, Washington and Beaver, Lawrence, and Indiana counties likely are coming to Pittsburgh.
It is a safe assumption that higher numbers of students means higher numbers of abortions. It would make sense, then, for us who want to reach these women before they make a decision they may well regret, to reach the women in those counties and at those institutions with advertising, and direct them to the local pregnancy help centers.
Vision for Life - Pittsburgh is aiming to bring down abortion numbers for residents of Allegheny County. (In 2015, 4 out of 5 unborn children of residents were born; 1 was aborted. Now, we are going for 5 out of 6!) As I noted in my last blog post, the number of abortions to non-residents of Allegheny County actually declined faster from 2010 to 2015 than the number of abortions to residents. If we were to advertise in these other counties with high numbers of students, we might help bring down those non-resident numbers even further and faster.
The second-highest number of abortions performed in Pennsylvania are done within Allegheny County, but the numbers are going down. (Philadelphia County has the highest number, and is responsible for 40 percent of PA's abortions -- but that's another horror story.) Residents of Allegheny County, however, are only part of the County's total. For example, in 2015 residents had 3,384 abortions, but the abortion centers here -- Planned Parenthood, Allegheny Reproductive Services, Magee Womens Hospital -- performed another 2,935 abortions on women from elsewhere. Some would be women living in or near Pittsburgh, who would declare their residence to be another county or state. Some would be women coming from surrounding counties, and even from Ohio or West Virginia.
There has been a slight change in proportions, too: in 2010, abortions to non-residents were 48 .3 percent of the total; by 2015, they had dropped to 46.4 percent.
We might think that the drop in non-resident abortions reflected fewer abortions performed on women who live in the counties surrounding Allegheny County: Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland. This is not so: the reduction for abortion numbers for these counties from 2010 to 2015 was only 252, a 15.3 percent difference, smaller than that of Allegheny County's 17 percent. It is probably the case that we would find the same result if we looked at counties even further afield.
So what group is it that lives close enough to Pittsburgh that some would come here for abortions, but its members do not technically reside in the county? Students are the most likely one. They live temporarily in Allegheny County or in neighboring college counties, and they would declare to the abortionists that they were from another county or state. This would be reported to the PA Department of Health, and we see the results in the Annual Abortion Reports.
Our friends at Women's Choice Network, Choices Pregnancy Services, the Pregnancy Resource Center of the South Hills, Alpha-Omega Pregnancy Center in Slippery Rock, and all the other centers near colleges and universities, should keep up their excellent outreach and advertising to this demographic, and perhaps the annual numbers of abortions performed in Allegheny County will continue their downward trend.
A column from 2013 on China's horrendous abortion numbers.
Note: This blog entry was changed May 21 to show the correct numbers of abortions in China annually, and corrected calculations for the U.S.
When people learn that we in America have about 1 million abortions a year, they are often horrified. The truth is, our numbers are small compared to China's. China's population in 2015 was 1.371 billion, and Chinese had about 23 million abortions the same year, that is, an abortion number equal to about 1.7% of its population. If we were to match that, we would have to have well over 5 million abortions, instead of the million or so that we have every year. Abortion must be the leading cause of intended death in human history, beating all wars.
The beginning of industrial-scale abortion was the development of suction curretage in Communist Russia in the early 1920s. Abortionists everywhere could set up a series of women in one room after another, zip into the first and do their awful work for ten minutes, and then go to the next room, and so forth, and make a killing in the figurative sense, too. This has been the pattern here in the States, too, with abortionists occasionally flying from city to city to do their dirty work.
It is not surprising that societies founded on materialism should be so callous towards human beings. (The Communist philosophy is hostile to the notion of any power beyond the "dialectic of history," so individuals are of value only if they advance that dialectic by being on "the right side of history.") Or, to put it another way, it is remarkable how humanizing the Christian religion has been in the Western world (and still is).
Even we Christians, however, are tempted to despair when we read these mind-numbing numbers. We are tempted to say to ourselves, "What is saving one life, when so many, many die?"
Against these monolithic horrors, however, we can only cling to the truth that God sees everything, that he does not give up on humanity, as despicable as we may be in some instances. Jesus says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:29-30). God's care for us as individuals is the basis of our care for others. If others treat people like cattle, that is not our way.
We know that every intentional killing of an innocent human being is an offence to God and humankind. Why doesn't God stop the killing? Perhaps he will. He can exercise judgment on nations in history, and he may yet judge the Chinese for their mass destruction of the image of God -- we don't know.
He has given each of us this tremendous freedom, which we can abuse. We can take some consolation from the fact that each of us, including the abortionists, must appear before "the awesome judgment seat of Christ." And we can be chastened by the same thought, for we, too, are sinners in need of His mercy.
When we engage in pro-life activism or try to reach people with a pro-life message, who are we talking to?
About 20 to 25 percent of the population is pro-life. About 20 to 25 percent is "pro-choice" or pro-abortion. The rest are in the middle. They don't want to think about the issue. When they are polled, they give inconsistent answers, often depending on how the question is put.
Who should we try to talk to? The people who disagree with us are often simply irrational. Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood couldn't answer the question of when human life begins. Oftentimes these people are reduced to shouting, or to repeating ad hominem mantras, insulting us as bigots, women-haters, "fetus-fetishists," and so forth. One might think that people so passionate would be great pro-life advocates, but that's usually not the case. Too often they are wounded people, who have difficulty making an argument, controlling their tempers, or seeing any good in their adversaries. We are living in a time of tribalism, where loyalty to people or general positions trumps any kind of reflection. We wish the folks on the other side well, but there's not much we can do for them except to be as kind as we can to them personally, and pray for them.
So if we want to change minds and influence people, we need to address those who are in the middle, who are reflexively "pro-life" or "pro-choice" perhaps, but couldn't tell you why, beyond a slogan. Last fall, charges were filed against an Anglican priest for offering to pray for women who were entering an abortion clinic. What was interesting to me was that he became active in the pro-life movement because of the videos of Planned Parenthood executives talking about the sale of parts of babies' bodies.
"Last year, Life Legal clients David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress released videos of their undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood. At the time, Father Linton’s wife was pregnant with their third child.
'The combination of seeing abortion victims sorted through for parts and my wife being pregnant destroyed me,' Linton said. 'She organized a protest and I’ve been in front of the clinic every Friday since.'"
This is our audience: people who are inclined to be pro-life, but may not have given abortion much thought. Who are the people inclined to do something , anything, about abortion? Christians, by and large.
If we want to change public opinion in a way that results in action, then, we should address our outreach to Christian churches that may be middle-of-the-road. The Pew organization, with its polls of religion and society, could probably tell us which ones those are. (I haven't looked yet.) If we want to convert people to action, then that's where we should start.
Chris Humphrey has been involved in pro-life activity of one kind or another since the late 1970s, when he first looked at the subject of abortion in seminary in Canada. He has an undergraduate degree in English (University of Toronto), and M.A. and Ph.D. in religious studies (McGill). He has had a varied career as a pastor, chaplain in a psychiatric hospital, editor of academic and instructional publications, semi-professional photographer, and home renovator. He is a husband of over 40 years to Edith (a Professor of New Testament), father to three girls, and grandfather to twelve grandchildren. He lives and works in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh.