Friday, October 15, 2010

40 Days, and bad tactics

One of the things I appreciate most about the 40 Days for Life campaign is that these dedicated volunteers are committed to a peaceful, prayerful, non-confrontational witness to the intrinsic value of each and every human life. Their presence thus becomes a powerful force against the evil of abortion, and many women have responded to this power of love and grace by choosing life for their unborn babies.

It should be acknowledged that not all pro-life activities show this same spirit of wisdom and prudence. After I wrote about crisis pregnancy centers, for instance, I received an email from a friend telling me about some such clinics that really do have deceptive practices, and which will actually lie to pregnant women to get them in the doors. Since it's moral theology 101 to know that you can't do evil so that good may result, and that it's never morally licit to lie, I can't help but think that this sort of thing is beyond stupid. If other crisis pregnancy centers suffer burdensome legislation because of the actions of a handful of idiots, then the idiots need to be rejected by the wider pro-life community.

With that in mind, here are five bad tactics pro-life activists should avoid:

1. Deceptive practices at crisis pregnancy centers. I should say, for the record, that the vast majority of these centers aren't deceptive at all. From the advertisements for abortion alternatives, to the signs proclaiming love for both mother and baby, to names like Mother and Unborn Baby Care, the legitimate CPCs go out of their way to be quite clearly not abortion clinics. Any clinic which deliberately tries to mislead women should not be considered a crisis pregnancy center at all, as far as I'm concerned--but I also insist that it isn't misleading women to let them see an ultrasound of their baby, or view images on a neutral site like the Endowment for Human Development to understand their baby's present stage of development.

2. The indiscriminate use of graphic abortion aftermath pictures. I am speaking here of the kind of images which can be seen at the Priests for Life site (warning--that link will take you to a page where you can click further links to see the pictures). To share such pictures as I just did (e.g., by telling you that you can go to a site and click on links on a page to see the images) is not indiscriminate. The Priests for Life site is also not indiscriminate--you can't see those images on their homepage, for example, but must be looking for them in a list of links.

Why have such pictures available at all? Because the truth about abortion includes the truth that a human being has been killed, and the images illustrate that in a way mere words can't. But why, then, avoid carrying those pictures in public protests, or otherwise making sure that people who don't want to view them must do so? I think this ends up being counterproductive, for many reasons which probably need a whole post. Suffice it to say that children, women suffering after abortion, and other sensitive souls ought only to see such pictures with sufficient warning (and, in the case of children, parental consent).

3. Circus-style protesting. This goes closely with number 2, above, in that some of the same groups which seem to carry giant-sized aborted baby posters also seem to go in for some of these theatrics. Such tactics include pushing strollers with red-paint splashed baby dolls inside, carrying signs or images of a "crucified baby," dressing as the grim reaper, or other such would-be creative endeavors. While some pro-life Americans seem to be attached to these things, I think it needs to be said: such theatrics are never an effective way of protesting. They are only an effective way for the camera crew filming the protest to ignore all of the "regular Joe" protesters and zero in on the guy with the death's head mask and the baby-doll in a noose, as a way of showing how unbalanced every pro-life American is (which fits the MSM template for these stories). These kinds of things do the pro-life movement more harm than good.

4. Endless vague boycotts. If I were to contemplate a donation to the Susan G. Komen fund, I'd be appreciative to know that the charity gives money to Planned Parenthood out of the donations they receive, because that is a deal-breaker for me; I'd have to look for a different cancer research organization to support with my donations. But when I receive breathless mailings from national pro-life agencies telling me that I can't shop at my local grocery store because their parent company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a multinational corporation the board of directors of which gives an annual charitable donation to a multifaceted charity which then funds some agencies which have ties to Planned Parenthood...well, I'm sorry, but you've lost me.

The sad truth--and this is a topic for a post of its own, too--is that almost nothing we buy in America today is free from the taint of abortion or other grave evils. The gasoline we put in our vehicles to drive to the store was paid for in blood; the non-food items we purchase were made by citizens of various dictatorships, toiling away for pennies a day in unsafe conditions; the food items we buy were produced (much of the time) via factory farming and near-totalitarian seed-ownership practices; and a great many of the companies we buy from fund, via their "charitable" outreaches, abortion, contraception, population control, anti-human environmentalism (as opposed to the stewardship model, which I support) and the like. Unless you can buy all your food directly from small farmers, and all your other goods from secondhand stores which do not fund various evils (good luck!), you're not going to be able to escape the unwanted ills of the market.

What we can do is make it a priority to give to pro-life charitable agencies. What we can't do is spend hours attempting to buy morally pure goods. We don't have a system that makes that even remotely feasible right now; and, frankly, there are better ways to use our time to further the pro-life agenda.

5. Mistaking political action for pro-life action. I'm not talking, here, about voting for pro-life candidates; we should do that, and we should refuse to vote for those who don't share our values on this issue. I'm talking, instead, about getting too caught up in the fundraising, phone-banking, volunteering, leafleting, and other political activities on the grounds that getting people to vote for Republican Party candidates is exactly the same thing as pro-life action. Would that it were so! But it's not, and while the politically active among us should do whatever they want in regards to helping political candidates win elections, we should never conflate the two things, or think that getting pro-life candidates elected is all that needs to be done for a pro-life victory. We've had Republican majorities before, and they've largely failed to do anything on the national level to protect unborn life. It should be a rule of thumb that political expediency is more important to elected officials than any moral issue; it should further be expected that every politician's primary goal is to win elections and remain in power. The pro-life issue doesn't just take a back seat to party politics--it's always running behind the bus altogether.

Why talk about these things at all? Because when we waste our time in activities that don't really help the pro-life agenda in the long run, we lose the ability to focus our efforts on activities that do. 40 Days for Life is one such activity. Perhaps you could name others in the comment boxes.


Anonymous said...

Thank you! I reject, entirely, that a pro-life position is the exclusive territory of any political party. It makes me squeamish to think that the assignment of personhood - or the arbitrary, subjugative withholding of it - has been reduced to a mere matter of convenience. A supposedly Catholic legislator describes a baby as a "choice", while a pro-abortion DA might consider a fetus murdered along with her mother a victim - all for personal gain (if one considers election and notice as gain). The duplicity of the Devil knows no humility.

Personally, as vehemently (and potentially shrilly) pro-life as I am, I've never quite bought the necessity for the pictures of the slain as part of the public campaign - I guess because of my own conversion experience? I just have yet to meet a person who's heart was changed by the grimness. It reads too much like the desensitization tactics the culture of death has employed for so long. Yes, it's the wrenching result of the act, yet - I still think it's light that overcomes dark.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sound, and common sense ideas for conducting business in any arena, as well as consistently morally responsible.

Although I cannot agree on this stance purely because of what the Pope says, I can base my logical conclusions on the grounds that killing almost-born babies is not feasible for the goals or the good of a civilized culture, no matter the conditions or situations that pre-exist for a woman to think this is a decision without deeply moral repercussions.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Very well said. I might add that a large portion of the questionable "pro-life" tactics you reference here seems to be the work of the Protestant branches of the pro-life movement, or should I say, the pro-life branch of the Protestant movement? Either way, I have known some Catholics to do this sort of thing, and I consider the intimidation tactics of some Catholic prelates to border on treason, but in general, Catholics have a sense of decorum and order about the way to go about pro life work, and are less likely to think its OK to lie to women.

I also agree, again, that there is nothing deceptive about offering a woman a sonogram. If the sonogram changes her mind, she would have regretted the abortion eventually, and she shouldn't have one. That is her choice.

Rebecca in CA said...

I just have to comment on the boycott thing--there was a list going around of this year's businesses to boycott, and to my surprise and chagrin, Trader Joe's, where I usually shop, was on it. I wrote to TJ's and was fully prepared to give up shopping there, and through a few letters, discovered that TJ's does not support any charity on a corporate level but encourages each local store to donate to local charities. It turns out that TJ's connection to Planned Parenthood is this: One guy in a Vegas store donated to the local Planned Parenthood, and was quickly advised not to do so again as it is a controversial organization. When I wrote a polite to the folks with the list, asking for clarification, I received a response which was quite hostile, accusing me of not really being pro-life and just wanting to make excuses for shopping at a certain store. The letter stated that the reason for the boycott was that TJ's was on PP's list of that year's donors, and when the organization confronted TJ's in a letter, they received no response. I can only imagine what that initial letter was like, given their response to me, who am clearly on their side of the abortion issue. Anyway, I found the whole thing rather depressing--I so, so wish that pro-lifers would learn how to act intelligently.

MightyMighty said...

I too think that the "dead baby dolls in stroller" exhibitions are counter-productive. It almost feels like dark humor, and it gives the public the image of a pro-lifer covering a baby doll in red paint and parading a fake corpse around. Sounds very loving....?

On the other hand, I do believe in the pictures of aborted babies being shown on busy streets and whatnot.

When the American soldiers came into Nazi Germany, they made the local Germans go into the camps and view the bodies piled up like cordwood. They took pictures. They used those pictures to demonstrate the horror of Nazism to people who might otherwise have been allowed to think, "It wasn't that bad really. So much hysteria over a few dead Jews." Many of the Germans were shocked and awakened to the evil they had supported.

Today there are NO images of aborted babies anywhere in the mainstream media, no matter who is talking about life issues. No pro-abort is going to seek out evidence of their own malice.

I have a family member who maintains that "it is a clump of cells", even through late in the pregnancy. She's seen fetal development pictures, but I think she would be horrified to see the results of an abortion.

You can look at a picture of a peaceful 10-week old fetus and think "I'm pro-choice. Cute fetus," and never really need to think, "I specifically support this one being dismembered."

But to see the corpse of a human being that you called a choice, especially if your commitment to the "pro-choice movement" is passive, and entirely the result of brainwashing in school, it's possible that the photos of that "choice" could be enough to make the issue clear.

Abortion is a dirty, messy, horrible matter, and nobody in a culture like ours gets to be exempt from it. We all live near clinics and hospitals that are killing humans every day, and mostly, we do nothing about it. Most of us don't even make sure that our doctor is not also an abortionist. We don't call our hospital and say "this is unacceptable, I'm going elsewhere."

We are the Germans, and the sign-holders are trying to walk us through the camps.

I understand the argument that positivity will win people over, and light will illuminate darkness, etc. However, we are dealing with people who speak two languages. "Fetus" is for "choices" and "Baby" is for "When I'm going to keep it." If you show them fetal development pictures, they see it through the second lens. If you show them abortion pictures, they have to use grown-up words to compute what they are seeing. The pro-abort side only has a couple of tired euphemisms, like 'choice'; they're oddly lacking in nice ways of saying "dismembered arms and legs." Maybe the pro-aborts seeing the signs will think, "Wait, 'choices' don't have arms and legs that bleed."

Just because the truth is horrifying doesn't make sharing it bad. Abortion is a truth that is best demonstrated with photos, because we have lost the language war to "choice" and "terminate."

Most pro-aborts you encounter have the logic and reasoning capacity of a bag of popcorn. It's ALL relative. You can never gain an inch in the argument, because then they switch topics, and then they're busy and they have to go. Plant seeds while you can, but the ground is not very fertile.

And of course, above all, pray. The more involved you get in pro-life work, the more you realize that we are in Our Lady's hands, and we cannot fight this fight without her Son.

Anonymous said...

MightyMighty - my problem with the Holocaust (WWII) argument for showing graphic photos is that while we've all seen those photos, the desensitization that has occurred in more recent culture prevents photos of murdered innocents from being shocking.

Yes, knowledge, including photos, led to the defeat of evil in the concentration camps, Praise God, but what of Rwanda and Bosnia and Darfour? Genocide thrives, in spite of photographic evidence. And I think it's naive to think that anyone who's of the age of majority hasn't seen the graphic pictures of aborted babies, but abortion hasn't stopped. It's just another form of pornography, ultimately - it insists that the user either become desensitized to it, or look away to preserve his own innocence. I'm not saying it isn't a necessary tool in the larger issue, I'm saying giant posters depicting murdered dignity only serve to continue to murder dignity. I don't have recent evidence to convince me otherwise.

freddy said...

I really like how clear and organized this post is. These are things that often get talked about piece-meal, but it's really great to see such a well-explained list.

The only thing I'd add is the actions of some *individual* pro-lifers (1) to neglect their own families/selves in persuit of pro-life activities, and (2) constantly berate other pro-life families for "not doing enough."