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.