Five Lessons for Pro-Lifers from the Women’s March

Whether you are participating in legislative efforts, sidewalk advocacy, volunteering at a Pregnancy Resource Center, or leading a Students for Life group, you should be talking about your pro-life work. Pro-lifers need to talk more about what we are doing for the movement because building awareness is half the battle of grassroots mobilization efforts. Successful social change comes from recruiting those who agree and reaching out to those who disagree.

Let’s take a look at how pro-choice people discuss their activism. I am going to use the Women’s March of January 2017 as a case study for how we as pro-life advocates can improve our own messaging by examining the March’s approach and identifying what we can learn from it. The second Women’s March took place this year on January 20th, but, for the sake of simplicity, I am only going to reference the first march in this post. The march this year was less clear and consistent in its messaging, so it isn’t as useful a case study.

Women’s March in Washington in January, 2017.
Photo credit: Roya Ann Miller

When the Women’s March took place last year, it was discussed all over social media, news sites, and in our communities: the kind of buzz that every social protest hopes to create. People talked about why they were going, how they planned on getting there, and what their experience was like after they came back from either the national or local march. If activism sparks discussion, it is a sign that the activism achieved some level of success. These marches were not just public demonstrations which took place on one day and were over the next. The people participating talked about it openly before, during, and after with anyone that they could reach.

Here are my takeaways after closely studying the success and shortcomings of the pro-choice movement’s participation in the Women’s March:

Four Practical Tips for Responding to the Burning Fertility Clinic

A pro-choice argument in the form of a series of arrogant tweets recently went viral. You would think that with all that bravado, there would have been something new or interesting, but, no, it was just the same argument that has been around for decades. Disappointing as the argument was, I did find it interesting that, the last time I experienced this argument on a college campus, the person making the argument had a similar aggressive tone.

For some reason, pro-choice people tend to think this argument demolishes the pro-life view, so it’s important to be ready to respond to it efficiently (meaning you need to focus on just a couple of disanalogies, not all of them) and persuasively (meaning you need to convince them that you aren’t just weaseling out of a problem with your view).

Timothy Brahm responding to the burning fertility clinic argument.

Tim talks with Ann (mostly obscured) with two pro-life volunteers watching.
Photo credit: Justice For All. Used with permission.

Here’s what I did at a Justice For All outreach at UCLA in May of 2016. (You can find much of what I did in Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen’s book Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, which I highly recommend. Robert George also wrote this excellent article recently.)

Ann: So if life begins at conception, what would you do if you were in a burning fertility clinic and you had to choose between saving a born baby and ten frozen embryos?

Tim: That’s a great question and I’m happy to answer it, but it’s a good example of the principle that it’s easier to ask a hard question than it is to answer it. Are you willing to give me a few minutes to answer, or are you just trying to trap me?

Five Takeaways from the New Undercover Video from Center for Medical Progress

The new Center for Medical Progress video shows a conversation between two undercover journalists and an abortion practitioner, Dr. DeShawn Taylor. Dr. Taylor is the former medical director for Planned Parenthood Arizona. Here are the most important points to note from this video.

#1: Dr. Taylor strongly implies that she will kill a born infant that survives an abortion if she thinks she can get away with it

This is the most damning point in the entire video.

From 6:10 in the video:

Buyer: Do you [use] dig[oxin to kill the fetus]?

Dr. Taylor: Yeah.

Buyer: Starting when?

Dr. Taylor: Uh, 20 weeks.

Buyer: Starting at 20 weeks.

Dr. Taylor: Mhm, yeah.

Buyer: Because that’s the other thing, because dig[oxin] ruins the integrity of the specimen.

Dr. Taylor: Oh, I mean, so the thing is, it’s really, and then that’s really an issue because in Arizona, if the fetus comes out with any signs of life, we’re supposed to transport it. To the hospital.

Buyer: At any gestational age?

Dr. Taylor: Any gestational age. Yeah, yeah.

Buyer: Is there any standard procedure for verifying signs of life?

Dr. Taylor: Well the thing is, I mean the key is, you need to pay attention to who’s in the room, right? And like, you know, because the thing is the law states that you’re not supposed to do any maneuvers after the fact to try to cause [fetal] demise. So it’s really tricky. It’s really tricky so, most of the time we do dig, and it usually works. And then we don’t have to worry about that because Arizona state law says if any, if there’s signs of life, then we’re supposed to transport them. To the hospital.

Defenders of Dr. Taylor will be quick to point out that she never actually said she has ever killed born infants that survive abortion, which is true. The question is, what else could that implication mean? Dr. Taylor’s response to whether there’s a standard procedure for verifying signs of life of a child outside the womb is to point out that it depends on who is in the room. Why would your response to a born child outside the womb change depending on who is in the room? The only plausible explanation is that it depends on whether you can get away with breaking the law.

Choosing Unity: The Pro-Life Movement after November 8th

Yesterday I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my closest childhood friends. Our conversation quickly turned to the election because he and his wife have been agonizing over what to do with their votes. These are very godly, very pro-life people. They take this decision seriously and are still trying to figure what to do. My guess is that they will probably begrudgingly vote for Trump, and I won’t.

And that’s okay. We will still love each other after the election.

The question I’ve been concerned about lately is: can pro-life people do the same with their friends and colleagues who make different voting decisions next month? Or will the pro-life movement face an unprecedented and catastrophic level of division?

I told my friend yesterday, “I just want this election to be over. We’re all sick of it. But here’s my hope for what happens next: I hope that all of the people who have agonized over this decision can come together afterward, even though some of their friends also agonized over the decision and made a different choice.”

This election has been a uniquely divisive one. It’s probably the toughest election pro-life advocates have ever had to deal with. We are all doing our best in an awful situation.

I’m not saying both sides are right. On the question of whether to vote for Trump, there is an actual right decision and an actual wrong decision, but it is admittedly very difficult to determine which decision is right. I definitely have an opinion, but I believe reasonable and virtuous people can disagree.

Why Pro-Life Advocates Are Not Responsible for the Planned Parenthood Shooting

Many pro-choice people have responded to the recent shooting by blaming pro-life advocates. In this article I show why such claims are completely unjustified by analyzing culpability and what it means to incite violence.

Photo credit: Colorado Springs Police Department

Photo credit: Colorado Springs Police Department

Last Friday a 57-year old armed man named Robert Lewis Dear walked into a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs and opened fire. He barricaded himself inside for hours, and before surrendering himself to police he killed three people and wounded nine more.

Ben Domenech at The Federalist summarized many of the weird things that have already come out about Dear:

As is so often the case in these circumstances, Dear is described by neighbors as an odd loner, who avoided eye contact and spoke unintelligibly. In South Carolina, his previous residence, he had been arrested after hiding in the bushes and peeping into his neighbor’s house. He shot a neighbor’s dog with a pellet gun and threatened him with bodily harm. In Colorado, he lived off the grid in a trailer, on a five-acre plot of land he apparently purchased for $6,000 in 2014. This followed a series of cabins and trailers — without electricity or running water — that he stayed in after his divorce in 2000.

Dear has no history of affiliation with the Republican Party or pro-life groups or politicians.

While we don’t yet know very many details about his initial questioning by police, it was leaked that he said something about “no more baby parts” at some point. This is a clear reference to the Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) undercover videos that have provided evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally sells body parts from the babies they kill in abortion. Planned Parenthood and others are claiming or implying that pro-life advocates are partially to blame for the shooting because we have been saying that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.

Are pro-life advocates culpable for the shooting? By culpable I don’t mean “the only person to blame,” or even “the primary person to blame.” I also don’t mean “ought to be legally prosecuted.” By culpable I mean “morally blameworthy for their actions.” Whether pro-life advocates are culpable for the recent shooting depends entirely on what it means to incite violence. While I will not answer every possible question about what circumstances could make one culpable, I will argue that there are two extreme ways of thinking about culpability that we should avoid. I will also argue that the right way to determine if a statement incites violence is to examine the statement, not merely whether or not it was credited for violence.

Let’s start by examining four fictional cases.