Disagree With a Pro-Lifer’s Strategy? Don’t Compare Them to Planned Parenthood

Authors note: There are two updates at the bottom of this post for clarity and accuracy.

I need to vent a little. I just read a statement from Rep. André Jacque who is pushing a personhood amendment in Wisconsin that frustrated me, and it’s not the first time I’ve seen this kind of thing. I believe that a common talking point that grassroots pro-life people on both sides of the incrementalism/personhood debate both use needs to be retired.

State Representative André Jacque

State Representative André Jacque

State Representative André Jacque proposed personhood amendment in Wisconsin two weeks ago. Predictably, it has caused a lot of debate among the pro-life community in Wisconsin, because the people that are usually referred to as “incrementalists” are concerned that this bill will get nothing accomplished at best, and harm the pro-life movement at worst by adding significant case law against us. (Hint: if you support personhood legislation and you don’t know what stare decisis is or the huge role it played in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, you probably ought to look into that before supporting personhood bills while the majority of the Supreme Court is in favor of keeping abortion legal.)

Wisconsin Right to Life and NRLC attorney James Bopp have both expressed concern about the personhood amendment for pragmatic reasons, and Rep. Jacque’s response was this:

“Quite frankly, it’s kind of odd to see them on the same side as Planned Parenthood and NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League, on a piece of legislation.”

I am so sick of seeing pro-life people that have strategic objections to personhood legislation because they want to see abortion made illegal as quickly as possible compared to Planned Parenthood and NARAL, who are trying to keep abortion legal for as long as possible.

To be clear, while I have seen several leaders from the personhood movement compare incrementalists to Planned Parenthood, I have yet to see a pro-life leader from the incrementalist side do the same. (If you can find an example, please post it in the comments and I will correct the record.) I have seen several grassroots pro-lifers on the incrementalist side compare the personhood movement with Planned Parenthood. My arguments address the same talking point, whether it’s made by a leader or a grassroots activist on either side of this debate.

Ironically, both sides sometimes say the same thing about each other. When an incrementalist opposes a personhood bill for pragmatic reasons, the personhood people say, “well, I see that the incrementalists are on the same side as Planned Parenthood on this one.” But when the personhood people oppose an incrementalist bill because it doesn’t protect all babies in one fell swoop, the incrementalists say, “well, I see that the personhood people are on the same side as Planned Parenthood on this one.”

It’s just empty, foolish rhetoric. Whether the personhood camp has the right legal strategy or whether it’s the incrementalist camp does, somebody is right. Both strategies cannot be equally effective, and most likely both strategies are mutually exclusive. That’s why the pro-lifers that shrug their shoulders and say, “let’s do both and stop arguing about it,” are mistaken. If one camp is actually right, it logically follows that the opposite pro-life strategy is probably harmful, either by attempting to challenge Roe before we have a favorable Supreme Court, or by passing legislation that allegedly dehumanizes the unborn babies that are not protected by them.

It’s time for pro-lifers, regardless of which legal strategy they believe is best, to give up on this lazy, thoughtless retort of comparing the other side to Planned Parenthood or abortionists. Trust me, incrementalists. I know some of the personhood leaders personally. I also know some former and current Planned Parenthood workers personally. They are nothing alike. The same goes with the incrementalists. You want to know what’s so different between incrementalists and Planned Parenthood? The former is trying to use the same legal strategy William Wilberforce used to end the English slave trade in an effort to end all abortions as quickly as possible. Planned Parenthood is working full-time to fight every pro-life bill tooth and nail while their organization kills more than 300,000 unborn human beings every year.

Yeah, they’re not the same.

Updated 7/25 at 2:53 PM: Rewrote the second sentence to clarify that I’m frustrated with Rep. Jacque’s statement, not LifeSiteNews for reporting it. Changed the statement that WRTL and James Bopp “opposed” the amendment to “expressed concern,” which is more accurate. Added a paragraph detailing that I’ve seen personhood leaders make this argument, but only grassroots activists on the incrementalism side respond in kind.

Updated 7/26 at 8:05 PM: I had a pleasant conversation with Representative Jacque this afternoon. He seems like not only a nice guy, but also a pro-life lawmaker who has effectively worked with all three Wisconsin pro-life organizations in the past. I believe his statement about the oddity of Wisconsin Right to Life being on the same side as Planned Parenthood on his piece of legislation was a poor choice of words on his part. When asked about WRTL not supporting his amendment in a recent WISN television appearance, Jacque made a much better comment about WRTL being concerned about the cost of the amendment. I wish he had done the same in his comment that appears to have first been printed in a Journal Sentinel article. Since the way he’s quoted in this piece is accurate, I stand by my arguments. But the point isn’t about Representative Jacque. The point is for ANY pro-lifer who refers to the other side of a pro-life strategy debate and compares them with Planned Parenthood or notes that they are on the “same side as Planned Parenthood on that strategy.” I’m thankful for Representative Jacque’s passion for the unborn, and I wish all lawmakers cared as much about this issue as he does.

President

Josh Brahm is the President of Equal Rights Institute, an organization that trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly and argue persuasively.

Josh uses speaking, writing and campus outreach to emphasize practical dialogue tips, pro-life philosophy, and relational apologetics.

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