John Oliver is a tremendously talented comedian. Unfortunately he’s also an abortion extremist and he has no intellectual honesty. Recently on his HBO show Last Week Tonight, Oliver set his sights on Crisis Pregnancy Centers. He painted a very bleak, and very inaccurate, picture of CPCs. He suggested that they’re full of nasty, dishonest people that just want to control women. Here is a breakdown of his biggest lies, spin, and deception.
#1: Oliver flagrantly, and knowingly, takes Abby Johnson out of context
This segment features two quotations from pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, speaking at a 2012 conference for Heartbeat International (it’s also worth noting that Oliver exclusively refers to her as a pro-life activist and never mentions the fact that she is also a former director of a Planned Parenthood). I interviewed Abby after Oliver’s hit piece came out, and she explained that Oliver’s producer reached out to her via email while they were writing their segment. He told her they were writing a piece on Crisis Pregnancy Centers and that he had some quotations from her that they wanted to use but that he wanted to talk to her first. Abby said he was extremely friendly on the phone and that he came off like he was listening to what she was saying. He asked her to give him context for the quotations they were using, which is particularly damning because they still used both quotations completely out of context.
Oliver sets up the first quotation by saying:
Way too often, women are being actively misled while trying to access healthcare. And CPCs seem happy to have women confuse them for abortion clinics. Just listen to Abby Johnson, an anti-abortion activist addressing a conference for one of the largest CPC organizations.
Then he gives the Abby Johnson quotation:
We want to appear neutral on the outside, The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic. Okay? Those are the best clients that could ever walk in your door or call your center–the ones that think you provide abortions.
But Abby wasn’t talking about actively misleading clinics. Abby told Oliver’s producer that she has never encouraged a center to lie about what they do. Pro-life advocates think that lives are on the line so of course we’ll do everything we can while remaining moral to try to get the abortion-minded woman into the center. She has options other than abortion and we have good reason to believe abortion facilities won’t fairly present those options to her. Let’s focus on Planned Parenthood for a moment because they are the largest provider of abortions and we have the most data about them.
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.
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:
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).
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?
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.
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.