For years, the pro-choice media has tried to soil the brand of the pro-life movement by referring to us as “anti-abortion.” The ironic thing is too often we are the ones tarnishing our own brand, and the belligerent media’s tactic is actually the way to fix it.
The term “pro-life” has developed a branding issue. This is simple to prove: Put a big group of people in a room and ask what they think the term means in its entirety. One may say it means we must engage in opposing war, or fighting homelessness, or advocating for immigrants. Someone may even throw in climate change.
The term has lost meaning as people have tried to argue that anything that can be defined as contributing to a good life is “pro-life.” But the harsh truth is that at the heart of the pro-life movement is unified opposition to abortion alone.
By nature, human beings do not like to talk about dismembering fetuses. It’s not natural; it’s ugly, and we shy away from it. Abortion loyalists wrap their radical support for abortion in words like women’s rights, empowerment, choice and health care.
Just look at Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran’s obvious discomfort as she tries to defend her bill allowing abortion during birth. If it’s not radical to kill a full-term baby as it’s actively being born, then I’m really not sure what is. Perhaps Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, would know since he recently advocated for killing infants: “If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Even on my side of the issue, the ugliness of abortion’s reality sometimes means that pro-life advocates cloud their mission with other issues, trying to show how reasonable and well-rounded we are, recoiling from the charge that we are “single issue” voters.
Many other issues are important and deserve attention. Everyone’s on board with ending homelessness. But central to a pro-life conversation is what can we do for women and pre-born infants targeted by abortion vendors. Non-abortion issues do not belong under the umbrella term “pro-life.”
The worthiness of other issues for engagement will rally people to engage, and that’s a good thing. There are people who have dedicated their entire lives to ending homelessness, poverty or bullying.
But for those of us focused on protecting women and their infants in the womb, a loss of focus on our goals is a victory for the pro-choice side as we are ineffective in achieving defined goals. More isn’t better. I imagine a little applause session at the beginning of every Planned Parenthood, NARAL and Stop the Patriarchy meeting when they successfully confuse us about what we’re fighting for and change the conversation from what is truly at stake.
When I worked directly with college students, we would do pro-life displays on campus and be met with responses like, “Why are you out here talking about this instead of feeding the hungry?”
Pretending that all pro-life advocates have to be fully invested in every single social justice issue in our society is unrealistic and generally insulting. Abortion has wiped out more than 60 million people since 1973. It’s a violent act against a huge group of innocent people. It’s big enough to deserve its own movement. How the pro-choice side managed to make us feel bad or ashamed for being anti-abortion is masterful manipulation.
The more we add to the term “pro-life,” the weaker it gets. If we spread ourselves too thin, our impact shrinks. If we try to do too many things, each effort will end up mediocre. If we are paralyzed to engage until we have consensus on all issues, we will never move forward. And the pre-born lives in danger do not deserve that.
On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade this year, I was at an event specifically organized to commemorate the tragedy of abortion. I settled in, expecting to refuel my emotional energy tanks on a sad day, and got something a bit different.
A Christian speaker took the stand and preceded to chastise the audience, saying, “I come from a big family so I’m pro-life. You stand outside abortion clinics to try to save lives, but are you standing outside of schools with bullying problems?” He continued with a litany of other societal challenges. Now, I’d heard this speaker before. As a Christian leader, he is obligated by doctrine to be opposed to abortion, yet he seemed terrified to say so without sandwiching his pro-life views with a largely unrelated agenda of all-of-the-above.
So yes, the pro-life brand has a problem, created in part by a lack of courage to simply stand strong for women and their pre-born children, without equivocation. We have been made to feel ashamed of our focus on the horrors of abortion and the suffering of women who have endured it. Yet with the sense the Roe v. Wade may fall soon, we’ve reached a critical juncture in the pro-life movement. We have a chance to restore a culture of life, state by state, demanding a commitment of our members to unite together against abortion and put aside our difference on other issues.
This juncture begs the question: Are you all in?
• Brenna Lewis is a staff writer and former regional coordinator of Kentucky and Tennessee for the Students for Life of America.