Friday, February 16, 2018

We asked, you answered: the politics of unfriending

Last week we asked our facebook fans: "Do you unfriend people who disagree with you about abortion? Why or why not?"

The overwhelming majority answered no. A few said they would unfriend a pro-choicer under specific circumstances. No one gave an unqualified yes.
Jennifer B.: No. For lots of reasons, including: (1) Those people are still my friends. If I can engage with them, even better, but I'm also interested in *why* they're pro-choice. (2) Turning Facebook into your own personal echo chamber doesn't make you better at arguing your points. (3) You don't change minds by trying to silence people. Unfriending them, to me, would make it seem like I'm afraid of what they might say.
John B.: Nope. They're the people I'm trying to reach.  
Maureen E.: I would have to unfriend my own husband.
Jane C.: I try not to unfriend people with different beliefs unless they are consistently unkind to me or my loved ones.
Jonathan S.: It would be dumb and insular to unfriend someone because they disagree with me on an issue; even an issue as important as the abortion issue. We won't change hearts and minds by ostracizing anyone who disagrees with us.
Scott C.: I have to a few. They just said things I found reprehensible. One told me that not only do men have no say, women have the right to keep it a secret from the fathers. Another nicknamed her baby “parasite” on some pregnancy tracking app.
Sarah G.: No. For the same reason I lift weights: Resistance makes me stronger. I could never fortify my arguments against abortion unless I had opposition. I can't defeat the enemy unless I know him. I can't gain allies if I can't talk to them into switching sides first.
Andy A.: I only unfriend/block stalkers and people who creep me out. I like keeping people who disagree with my ideology because it paves the way for good conversations and debates.
Owen E.: No, in the hope that keeping lines of communication open may lead to them changing their minds. Also knowing what your ideological opponents think and feel is good - both to understand their view and to humanize them.
Sean H.: I mean I used to be the guy I disagree with and I changed my mind, why block people?
Unprompted, a secondary theme quickly emerged...
Arkadiusz K.: Unfriending them is just like giving up. Usually they unfriend me.
Sarah T.: No. Never once have. But a lot of them have unfriended me. Including, recently, a friend I've know for over 30 years. My crime was posting a picture from an embryology textbook of a 20 week preborn baby in the womb on her status supporting late term abortion. My words were "this is what a baby/fetus looks like at 20 weeks. I oppose late term abortion." This was apparently enough to get me unfriended and blocked.
Joanna W.: Typically not, although I make an exception if they are behaving badly on my wall (name-calling, profanity, etc.) and won’t knock it off. I have been unfriended by many pro-choicers, though, and likely unfollowed by many more. 
Jason B.: Never had to. They usually unfriend me first.
Anna S.: I only unfriend people if they’re disrespectful. I make a point to follow groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood. I have been unfriended hella times, though.
Sharyn T.: No, but I've been unfriended and blocked before for opposing abortion (even if we agree on everything else.) 
Donna M.: No, but they've unfriended me. I lived.
If pro-lifers are keeping pro-choice friends in order to give them a new perspective on abortion, while pro-choicers are unfriending pro-lifers and retreating into an echo chamber, that could be a major factor in the success of the pro-life movement in the social media era.

Joshua M. commented: "Studies actually show that liberals are more likely to unfriend because of politics." He's right. We'll be the first to affirm that liberal/pro-choice and conservative/pro-life do not map over each other completely, but the anecdotal evidence above suggests that the unfriending pattern does carry over into the abortion debate.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Got a story to share? These two organizations want to hear it.

The pro-life movement has science and logic on its side, but that's not enough to persuade everyone; we mustn't discount the power of storytelling. Life-affirming stories have always played a crucial role, and today, I want to highlight two organizations that focus on this area.

(1) You may remember Pro-Life Champions as the organization that brought us the documentary film 40. Released in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2013, 40 includes interviews with Secular Pro-Life president Kelsey Hazzard and many others. Five years later, Pro-Life Champions has a new project: Shout Your Story, an online catalog of unplanned pregnancy stories offering hope to women in crisis. Unlike 40, Shout Your Story features shorter video clips that are easily shared on social media. If you'd like to contribute to Shout Your Story, contact them here.

(2) I just learned about Orange Socks when I stopped by March for Life Expo last month, and I'm so glad I did. Orange Socks is an incredible resource for parents whose children are diagnosed with serious genetic conditions. When diagnosis is made prenatally, parents face tremendous pressure to abort. As Orange Socks puts it: "Advice and guidance from medical professionals and internet searches can only go so far, and the information and images are often scary. The best source of information, to know what it’s really like to have a child with a disability or life-long condition, is from another parent who has a similar child."

Orange Socks collects those accounts of what it's really like, and organizes them by diagnosis so that parents can quickly find compassionate information about their child's condition—everything from ADNP Syndrome to ventriculomegaly! If you are the parent of a child with a disability, I encourage you to submit your story to Orange Socks here.

Finally, if you have a life-affirming story that doesn't quite fit either of the above, you are welcome to submit it to Secular Pro-Life! We are always accepting guest blog posts.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Are viruses "alive?"

The fetus is a living human organism.

When I state this long-standing and (at least in the field of biology) undisputed fact, pro-choicers usually have one of three reactions:

Reaction 1: They argue the point based on ignorance of basic biology. “A single cell is not an organism.” “A zygote is no different than your skin cells—they’re both human.” "Human life doesn’t begin at fertilization; it began millions of years ago." (Here is our summary post dispelling these and other common pro-choice misconceptions.)

Reaction 2: They concede the point and get philosophical. “Sure, biologically the fetus is a ‘human being,’ but philosophically, morally, the fetus is not a person, i.e. a human of value who merits protection.” (Here are a few of our past posts about different concepts of personhood, and I highly recommend the Equal Rights Institute's Zoo Shooting analogy testing people’s intuitions regarding personhood.)

Reaction 3: They argue the point by getting philosophical. “There’s no consensus on what it means to be ‘alive.’ By some definitions advanced artificial intelligence is alive. Is the Earth ‘alive?’ What about viruses? Are viruses ‘alive’?”

In my opinion this third type of response is actually pretty interesting, in a way. It’s true that we don’t have one universal definition of “life” that applies to all fields of inquiry and accounts for all of our intuitions about what might be considered alive and what probably isn’t. Here is a great video by “Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell” exploring these questions:

The video explicitly addresses the conundrum of whether viruses are alive:
This is where viruses make everything more complicated. They are basically strings of RNA or DNA in a small hull and need cells to do something. We’re not sure if they count as living or dead, and still there are 225M cubic meters of viruses on Earth. They don’t seem to care what we think of them.
The video doesn’t offer a definitive answer, only (fascinating) questions to ponder. But in terms of the abortion debate, this response is hardly the “gotcha!” argument some pro-choice people seem to think it is.

The fetus is a living human organism just as you and I are living human organisms. If we can’t know whether living human organisms are “really” alive because of deeply philosophical questions about viruses and the earth and aliens and AI, then we can’t know if you and I are “really” alive. Just like the fetus, we too are organisms made up of living cells that are made up of non-living microscopic machines.

So, at least as far as I can see, the pro-choice person making this argument has two options:

A. Assert that because we have no universal philosophical definition for “life,” we can’t really know if any human anywhere is truly “alive.” This strange premise leads to two implications that undermine the pro-choice argument:
  1. We don’t have to know if a human is “alive” in order to assert that human’s rights. The pro-choice person is asserting the right to an abortion even though the same person doesn’t seem sure whether the women seeking abortion are “alive” (since the pro-choice person isn’t sure what “alive” means in the first place).
  2. Uncertainty about whether a human is “alive” is not justification for killing that human. The pro-choice person is not (we hope) arguing that it’s okay to kill anyone at any time since we don’t really know what “alive” means.
B. Explain why these questions about “life” are profound only when it comes to the fetus and irrelevant when it comes to born humans. I strongly suspect this route will just lead us back to Reaction 2 above, but if anyone knows of a different response, I’d be curious to hear it.

In any case, when I say that the fetus is a living human organism, I am not implying that biology has answered all of life’s mysteries. I’m explaining that—to the extent you and I are biologically “alive”—so is the fetus. This statement is not a pro-life belief; it’s a long-standing well-established biological fact, and in stating it pro-lifers aren’t “twisting science” any more than are the countless biology and embryology texts which have explained for decades that, as organisms, we humans begin as zygotes.

The pro-choice people who are firm in their stance don’t tend to have a problem with this concept, because they believe merely being a living biological human is not enough to merit human rights. That’s fine—that’s a worthy discussion which we’ve tackled before (see above links). But I’ve long suspected that many pro-choice people are not nearly so confident in their position. How fragile does your view have to be if it only works as long as we can't really know if anything at all is "alive"?

"Viruses may or may not be 'alive,' so abortion is probably fine I guess."

Monday, February 12, 2018

What's wrong with killing?

Suppose a cute toddler is playing in front of us, riding on a toy truck, laughing and having a great time. She may be my child, or she may be anyone’s child. And suppose I kill that toddler before your eyes. You will all be shocked, certainly.

What I want to dig into here is what exactly has shocked us. I would like to submit that we would not have been shocked if not for our expectations that the life of that conspicuously alive child would continue in the next moment – and the moment after that, and the moment after that. Our shock will, by definition, consist simply of emotion and a pre-logical sense of wrongdoing. Logical analysis will not constitute any important part of our initial experience. And yet that gut experience, though it does not include analysis, can be subjected to analysis. We are shocked by the violence and the gore, but the violence and the gore mean what they do to us because subconsciously we understand their consequences. Their consequences are that I have deprived that child of her future. I have deprived all of us, but above all the child, of the life she would have had. Underlying our sense of wrongdoing, this was the real wrong.

(Evolutionary psychology would explain our response as a successful adaptation. I think the two explanations are not inconsistent.)

Suppose I killed that child with a sudden blow from behind. She did not experience pain. She did not experience fear. Yet nevertheless what I did was wrong. Some would say that I frustrated the child’s desire to live, but in fact her desire to live was “cured” in the moment that it was frustrated, so that the child never actually experienced frustration. The frustration that those people (such as Peter Singer) claim to be crucial was in fact purely theoretical. My brutal act did not result in any frustration, will not result in any frustration, and could not result in any frustration. The real wrong was that I deprived the child of the life she would have had, her future.

Everyone agrees that to cause suffering is a form of harm, and if that harm is unnecessary, it is wrong to cause it. But if to cause suffering is wrong, then to deprive of pleasure, or the chance for pleasure, is also wrong. A “potentiality account” of the wrongness of killing is to be found in Indian philosophy, and has been developed in the West by Don Marquis.

As mentioned, we expected that the life of that conspicuously alive child would continue in the next moment (let’s call it moment A) and for many moments after that. I deprived that individual of all that living, thus irreparably harming her, with a blow struck at moment A minus 1. But how else could I have caused that same harm to that same individual – or let’s say, how else could I have caused that same harm and even more to that same individual?

Obviously I could have caused that same harm and even more to that same individual with a blow struck at moment A minus 2, or at moment A minus 3. I could have caused that same harm and even more with a blow struck just after the child’s birth.

And, just as obviously, I could have caused such harm with a blow struck at the individual before the individual’s birth. I could have caused such harm with a blow struck at the individual just after fertilization. Whether or not we call that individual a “person” or a “human being” is completely irrelevant. I would be very comfortable calling it a “thingamajig.” The point is, whatever we may call it, if we kill it we clearly deprive it.

When I kill the toddler playing with her toys, the deprivation of moment A is in the future only by a moment, and when I kill the zygote, the deprivation of moment A is in the future by a couple of years, but what difference does that make? The deprivation is farther removed in time, but would not the toddler killed while still a zygote have lived moment A, soon enough, just as intensely as the toddler killed while a toddler? Of course she would have.

At either moment of killing, I have deprived that same individual of moment A and of a long string of moments, typically about eighty years of moments. They would not all have been moments of joy, certainly. Some would have been moments of great pain. But some would have been moments of joy, and all would have been moments of moral training and search for meaning.

Could I also have caused such harm to that same individual earlier than fertilization? No. Because before fertilization there was no such individual. There was a sperm, and there was an egg. The maximum possible harm that I can do to a sperm is to deprive it of some moments of sperm life. (And the maximum possible harm that I can do to an egg is to deprive it of some moments of egg life.) I don’t think that we should kill a sperm just for the fun of killing it, but the moments that we deprive it of, in killing it, cannot be compared in value to the toddler’s moment A, B, etc.; so we can kill it for any utility of human beings, whereas there is very little that can justify depriving any individual of moments such as A and B.

A sperm is an individual biological entity for whom, as an individual entity, there is no expectation that it will ever experience a moment like moment A. An egg is an individual biological entity for whom, as an individual entity, there is no expectation that it will ever experience a moment like moment A.

Of course if I kill a particular egg or the particular healthy sperm that is ahead of the pack in racing toward the egg, I prevent our toddler from coming into existence and thus prevent her moment A, B, etc. from ever occurring. But have I harmed anyone, have I wronged anyone – and if so, whom? Our moral intuitions say that harms can be done only to actual individual entities, not to theoretical individual entities. I have only harmed a theoretical individual entity, not any actual individual entity. (That is, the only actual individual that I harmed was the sperm or the egg, and as mentioned it had little to lose, so the harm wasn’t great.) By killing the individual toddler, or that individual toddler while still a zygote, did I take away from her that moment she was going to have, riding on the truck and laughing? Yes. By killing a sperm or an egg, did I take away from any individual that moment riding on the truck and laughing? No, the individual we’re talking about, the individual who can be deprived of a moment on a toy truck, and of many more moments of pleasure and pain over the 75 years that follow that moment, never exists if the meeting of sperm and egg does not occur.

It is to be observed that those who argue “If killing zygotes is wrong, then killing sperms and eggs is also wrong” invariably think that it is not wrong to kill sperms and eggs. And yet they agree that we cannot kill toddlers, and as we have seen, the wrongness of killing toddlers cannot be explained by pain, fear, or desire to live. So they are left with no explanation as to what is wrong with killing a toddler.

Of course it is only moral intuitions that can ultimately determine a correct moral principle, so if someone says they really have a moral intuition that depriving a theoretical individual is as harmful to that individual as depriving an actual individual, we cannot completely disprove the correctness of that moral principle with rational argumentation. But everyone agrees that “we have to draw the line somewhere,” and before no other line except fertilization can a serious argument even be made that killing does not deprive an individual of moments like moment A – that the prevention of moment A is not major deprivation for the individual who is killed. (I know there are arguments about “psychological personhood” and about continuity, but I don’t find them to be philosophically serious, and they seem to be ad hoc theories designed only to justify abortion.)

[Today's guest post by Acyutananda is part of our paid blogging program.]

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Science/Philosophy Distinction

Last year I read and reviewed Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by abortionist Willie Parker (you can read my review of the book here). I posted my review on Goodreads and it actually garnered me more nasty responses than my reviews on Amazon, which surprised me somewhat. I gave a pretty thorough explanation for why his book doesn't add anything to the discussion on the moral argument over abortion. One thing in particular I mentioned was that the scientific evidence shows that human life begins at fertilization, yet Parker relies on pseudo-philosophical claims, as well as making himself out to be the only authority anyone needs, and passes them off as scientific claims. One of the commenters who responded to my review, who goes by Anna, wrote the following:
I read "Life's Work" and found it an entertaining biography and inspirational. I admire anyone who can overcome their fundamentalist religious upbringing and come into the 21st Century, where women are no longer under the boots of clergy or men. 

Re: "embryologists are, and they consistently agree, without significant controversy, that human life begins at fertilization.": You must not have had a graduate level biology class. Your statement is totally false. For example, the most world renowned embryologist, Dr. Lewis Wolpert, is pro-choice:

“What I’m concerned with is how you develop. I know that you all think about it perpetually that you come from one single cell of a fertilized egg. I don’t want to get involved in religion but that is not a human being. I’ve spoken to these eggs many times and they make it quite clear … they are not a human being.”--Dr. Lewis Wolpert, developmental and evolutionary biologist, author of "Principles of Development" and “Triumph of the Embryo”

“I’m also confident that the freshly fertilized zygote is not human, either. There’s more to being human than bearing a cell with the right collection of genes.”--Dr. Paul Myers, developmental biologist

Developmental biologists view reproduction as a cycle, not a starting point with fertilization:

“The idea that "life begins at conception" is not a scientific one. Since the disproof of 'spontaneous generation' (1668-1859), we have known that life only derives from life. Life arose billions of years ago and has continued since as a cycle. Assigning a beginning to a cycle (like the year) is arbitrary.”--Dr. Robert Wyman, neurobiologist 
This comment illustrates why all pro-life people need to be aware of the difference between a scientific claim and a philosophical claim, because random commenters and even scientists will confuses these two types of claims, such as what is going on here.

Of course, it's difficult to give a short definition of what a scientific claim is. But we can understand a scientific claim to mean something akin to an observation about the physical world. Science can only investigate physical reality. So any claim that tries to explain or investigate a non-physical aspect of reality is not a scientific claim. The scientific method is a physical method that allows us to investigate certain aspects of the universe. As it is a physical method, it can only investigate physical things. Any claims made about ethics or metaphysics is stepping outside the bounds of science. A claim that cutting a tree down will kill it is a scientific claim -- a claim that it is wrong to cut down a tree is an ethical claim, not a scientific one, even if it is a scientist who is making that claim. So saying that the field of embryology, as embryologists are the relevant experts, has a consensus that human life begins at fertilization is significant. Pointing out that there are pro-choice embryologists is not, because being pro-choice is about making an ethical claim. So an embryologist who tries to claim that abortion is wrong or right is stepping outside his field of expertise to make this claim. He may or may not be right, but he is not a relevant authority any longer.

Now let's look at Anna's comment. Her first paragraph implies the oft-repeated claim that being pro-life is a religious position held by neanderthals who never made it into the 21st century. This is, of course, complete hogwash that isn't worth time responding to. This is Cathy Newman-level bad engagement with your interlocutors' position.

Her second paragraph is interesting, in that she calls Lewis Wolpert an embryologist, and yet after quoting him refers to him as a developmental and evolutionary biologist. The latter is, of course, correct. Doctor Wolpert is a developmental biologist, not an embryologist. This means that he's not an expert on embryology and is not a counterexample to the claim that embryologists are in agreement that human life begins at fertilization.

But this quote doesn't say anything interesting. I would imagine Dr. Wolpert makes a more intelligent case elsewhere (Anna doesn't even source the claim, just alludes to two books that he's written, so I can't check the quote for accuracy). Doctor Wolpert makes the same mistake as Anna does, assuming the idea that life begins at fertilization is a religious claim as opposed to a scientific one. Then he says something bizarre in which, having never read the quote in context, I can only assume he's being condescending toward pro-life people. I doubt he's making a serious argument with his flippancy, which makes it all the more bizarre that Anna would quote it. It certainly doesn't make her case.

The quote from Paul Meyers (also a developmental biologist) more adequately expresses what I'm trying to relay here. Doctor Meyers is making a philosophical claim, that there is more to being human than bearing a cell with a right collection of genes. But that's exactly what you need if we're speaking biologically. If you can't tell what species something belongs to just by looking at it, you can take a blood sample and determine its species by its unique DNA. Of course, philosophically speaking, there's a lot more to being a human than simply having human DNA. Humans are also the kinds of things that can engage in rational thought, have relationships, hold religious and philosophical views, etc. Humans are more than the sum of their parts. But their parts are important in determining what, exactly, they are.

The final quote from Robert Wyman (a neurobiologist) makes the most bizarre claim I've ever seen a pro-choice person make. Life doesn't begin at fertilization, they claim, it began billions of years ago. And that is somehow supposed to show that we can't know when an individual human life begins. Not only in this argument simply wrong (I did not exist in the Jurassic period; there was a definite beginning to my existence), but it proves way too much. If we can't tell when human life begins because human life began billions of years ago, then Dr. Wyman can't prove that he is a human. Perhaps life doesn't begin until you're 80 years old. If we're to take Dr. Wyman's argument seriously, then you can't tell when anyone's life begins. This is clearly absurd, as is this argument.

These are just a few examples of people who not only make bad arguments, but confuse philosophical claims with scientific ones. It's true that embryologists are in constant agreement with this, but in case you encounter the occasional person who tries to refute this claim, knowing this basic distinction will be helpful as you attempt to show the person where he has gone wrong.

[Today's guest post by Clinton Wilcox is part of our paid blogging program.]

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

We asked, you answered: creative ways to contribute to the cause of life

Last week, we asked our facebook followers: "If a pro-lifer has little disposable income and lives in a remote or rural area (assume no nearby CPCs, abortion clinics, or pro-life-related events), what are some ways he or she could still contribute to pro-life work?" Here are some of our favorite answers. (You can read all of them here.)

Katherine L.: Compile a list of the nearest pro-life resources in the area that would be helpful for a mother considering abortion (throw in some online resources, too). Then send that resource list to every church in your area, as well as any local clubs, and go post it around at laundromats, libraries, or any community bulletin boards you can find.

Karen T.: Start a support network among her/his neighbors. Include non-traditional support such as emergency babysitting, car mechanics, home maintenance. Traditionally, rural areas hang together in the tough times. Use that motivation for pro-life efforts

Francesca P.: Live the movement and love all. Support those in your community (however small) who are struggling. Celebrate life in all stages, and be joyful. Reach out to individuals who may be hurting due to poverty, physical or mental illness, unplanned pregnancies, abusive relationships, or ANYTHING. The opportunities might not be fun or glamorous — they may be thankless and difficult — but still a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Pamela M.: Get involved in foster care — become foster parents or support those who are foster parents. Organize a drive — diapers, formula, wipes, etc. for the rural health department (if there isn't a different organization that would benefit more).

Erin G.: I live in a rural area and have zero dollars to donate. I drive an hour or so downtown to the Planned Parenthood to protest. And almost every county has a Right to Life chapter. If yours doesn't, start one! Ask friends, family and like minded people to get involved. You could write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. There's a lot of different ways. At the VERY least, you could use social media to speak for those who can't speak for themselves. I see a lot of pictures of cats, food and dumb jokes on facebook, but almost no one I know says anything about 3,000 innocent babies being killed every day.

Anita B.: Start a new-mom donation closet and make some flyers to post at local high schools and WIC offices. Ask friends and churches to donate diapers and maternity clothes and baby stuff for any mom in need.

Maria M.: Volunteering for pro-life politicians/candidates. A lot of campaigning stuff can be done by phone.

Beth W.: Mail flyers from "And Then There Were None" to an abortion clinic. This is an organization which provides assistance to abortion workers who want out.

Julia E.: Write columns/blog posts.
  • Editor's note: Secular Pro-Life is always looking for guest bloggers! More info here.
Meredith K.: Offer the spare bedroom as a place for pregnant women to stay if they need it.
  • Editor's note: I have done this and highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Students for Life leadership fellowship applications now open

It's that time of year, when I rave about the Wilberforce Fellowship and Stevens Fellowship offered through Students for Life of America (SFLA) and encourage you to apply.

The Wilberforce Fellowship brings together a select group of pro-life college students—who are already leaders of their campus organizations—and trains them to take their leadership skills to the next level, with an eye toward the possibility of full-time pro-life advocacy. The program kicks off with a weekend in the D.C. area (on SFLA's dime), and the friendships formed there are the stuff of legend. Each Wilberforce Fellow is paired with a mentor, and there are also regular readings and phone conferences throughout the year. The Stevens Fellowship is similar, but serves high school students.

I'm intimately familiar with the program: I was one of the inaugural Wilberforce Fellows, 2010-2011 class, and I later served as a mentor. (For those who are curious, my mentor was Dan McConchie, who was then an Americans United for Life attorney and is currently a state legislator. My mentee was Maria Oswalt, a University of Alabama graphic design student, who interned with Rehumanize International and just started a position with a pro-life organization in Ireland.) [EDIT: Maria informs she hasn't started yet, and is currently in Ireland as a tourist. We regret the error.] I've also given a presentation to the Stevens Fellows.

I owe so much to the solid advice, personal connections, and confidence-building encouragement I received through the Wilberforce Fellowship. I cannot recommend this program enough. If you qualify, what are you waiting for? The application deadline is April 1.

Learn more about the Wilberforce Fellowship

Learn more about the Stevens Fellowship

Monday, February 5, 2018

Kindness for Lobsters and Humans

Switzerland has recently banned the practice of boiling lobsters alive, on the grounds that they might feel pain. And while we can easily accuse Switzerland of hypocrisy for being preoccupied with lobsters after they've deemed it okay to kill innocent humans through abortion and euthanasia, let's not be dismissive.
Fetal development at 20 weeks

No one really knows if crustaceans can perceive pain because their bodies are so different from ours. But there is a possibility that being placed in boiling water will make them suffer. And based on that Swiss lawmakers have decided to spare lobsters their eventual pain – which is how it should be. Just because lobsters can't communicate what they feel (if anything) doesn't mean it's okay to do to them whatever big powerful humans want.

Meanwhile, 46 U.S.A. senators have just voted in favor of keeping abortion legal after 5 months of gestation, when multiple medical doctors think fetuses may be able to feel pain. Because that possibility (which was enough for the lobster-friendly lawmakers) is not important enough for the big powerful politicians committed to ensuring access to abortion. Because they want to believe it doesn't hurt anybody. This is why the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was met with such strong opposition and failed to pass: it makes people think about the atrocity of abortion. It can make them care. What laws like this one and the ban on boiling lobsters do is create a society where a helpless creature has to be considered with a little bit of kindness.

Kindness for the weak sounds like something we should strive for, doesn't it? I myself can't make laws (and never had any contact with lobsters). But here is my writer's contribution: a poem about what it might mean to be a boiled lobster. Or an aborted human.

We can't ask lobsters if they feel pain

It's not screaming, they say, when there are
no vocal cords to scream with.

But sometimes when we can't hear anything
it's because we are the kind of planet
where death sounds don't travel very far.

Every creature's death sounds differently.
A lobster's is air escaping a body
that has never learned how to shrink.
Like plants, lobsters always keep growing.

This is not supposed to be relevant.

It's just that someone's crustacean is
another one's human – or was it the other
way around? Yet we can't put aquatic animals
and humans in the same sentence.
We'll say this is what our bodies will do

and with her body someone might
choose to boil a lobster.
Because no one knows if lobsters really feel
pain when they die, just because they can live
for almost as long as we do, getting bigger
and bigger,

like trees. Like diligent bodybuilders.
They only stop growing when you kill them.

[Today's guest post by Alexandra Moldoveanu is part of our paid blogging program. Alexandra is a pro-life poet who writes and promotes literature on abortion and other human rights issues at She is the "wanted" sister of an aborted Romanian and the niece of many other aborted Romanians.]

Friday, February 2, 2018

Supporting women with unplanned pregnancies: can we find common ground with the pro-choice side?

(Shop artist Alisha Vernon on Etsy.)

A few weeks ago the New York Times ran "The Women the Abortion War Leaves Out," a refreshingly objective op-ed about the high costs of motherhood that drive many to choose abortion. Author Michelle Oberman, a law professor and self-described feminist from California, wanted to better understand the goals of the American pro-life movement, so she decided to go to crisis pregnancy center in Oklahoma--Birth Choice--and interview the women who run it.

Despite her initial nervousness, Oberman found that the ladies who run Birth Choice were more than willing to show her their work. She said the Birth Choice employees spoke with "deep compassion" about the women they serve, many of whom are grappling with unplanned pregnancies in dire circumstances, including:
  • Violent partners 
  • Living out of a car 
  • Children lost to foster care 
  • Mental illness 
  • Addiction 
  • Undocumented status and unable to speak English 
Birth Choice works hard to support these women, offering services such as pregnancy tests, registration with Oklahoma's Medicaid, weekly meetings with case workers, counseling, drug abuse treatment, and vocational training. For women with particularly trying circumstances, Birth Choice also has Rose Home, a shelter which can house up to five pregnant women and up to 13 children at a time.

As Oberman learned of all Birth Choice does for these women, she realized, as she puts it, that the abortion debate involves us "[hurling] rhetoric about choice and life, while remaining distracted from the reality that so many women have far too little of either."
The rhetoric of “choice” and “life” encourages us to see a pregnant woman as if she’s balancing a scale, with abortion on one side and motherhood on the other. Which will she choose? Tilt her one way and she might get to finish high school or college, gaining time to plan for the child she wants. Tipped another way, she might become a mother or allow a childless couple to adopt.
The women living at Rose Home reveal the shallowness of that metaphor.
Women face the surprise of an unplanned pregnancy as if on train tracks, with a locomotive barreling toward them. The only variation lies in how many other trains are coming from other directions. Homelessness, violence, addiction and the biggest of all: poverty.
I don’t mean to suggest money is the only factor that shapes many women’s response to an unplanned pregnancy, but let’s be clear about how much it matters. One of the largest research studies on the question of why women choose abortion surveyed about 1,200 abortion patients and found 73 percent said they could not afford a baby at the time.
Oberman is describing the part of the abortion debate that should be common ground for the pro-choicers who want to support and liberate women and the pro-lifers who want to protect fetal life. As we have said many times over, many women get abortions precisely because they feel they don't have a choice, and that should be a problem for activists on both sides of the debate. The pro-choice side is quick to point out the many ways unplanned pregnancy can devastate a woman's life, but if the implication is that she is choosing abortion because of these external reasons--and not because she specifically doesn't want children--these are precisely the situations when even pro-choicers should see abortion as a travesty, not a panacea. If most women choose abortion because they feel they have to, then it's backwards and even a bit grotesque to model abortion as women's liberation. As the stats Oberman quoted suggest, for most women abortion is the result of fear, not freedom.

Pro-choicers and pro-lifers can hopefully agree that women who don't actually want abortions shouldn't feel pressured, economically or otherwise, into getting abortions. Broadly speaking, from the pro-choice view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because that pressure takes away their agency over a life-changing and fundamentally important, intimate decision. From the pro-life view, it is wrong for women to be pressured into abortion because they are being pressured to destroy innocent human beings. Both sides can recognize that this decision can have grave consequences (emotionally, psychologically, socially) for the woman; the pro-life side also recognizes the decision has grave consequences for the fetus. So while the two sides should be able to come to a similar conclusion--we want a society in which women never feel pressured to abort--the thought processes that lead us there mean coerced abortion is where our common ground ends.

This distinction is crucial and often misunderstood. A few years ago I did a brief interview for The Friendly Atheist podcast to discuss the secular pro-life posistion and what it's like for us secularists to work with a predominantly Christian movement. I emphasized that SPL cares about education and resources for women as methods of decreasing abortion, and the hosts asked me if that's where SPL's advocacy ends. I know we would be much more palatable to the pro-choice side if we advocated for decreasing abortions in every way except legally, but it would be dishonest to suggest that is SPL's full position. So I explained that no, we do not end at education and resources; we also believe that abortion should generally be illegal and we support some legislative efforts to that end. I explained that for many pro-lifers, education and resources--even if they prevented nearly all abortions--would still not be enough, because killing innocent human beings should be illegal in itself, as a baseline position.

I can't count how many times the pro-choice side has misunderstood this basic pro-life premise. They often assume no one truly cares about fetal life and then try to understand pro-life efforts from that flawed lens. Even Oberman, who I believe wishes to be objective and fair in her descriptions, misunderstands pro-life motivation in her op-ed when she claims that pro-life laws aimed at closing abortion clinics are "designed to drive up the costs of abortion." We aren't trying to close clinics to make abortion more expensive; we are trying to close clinics to make abortion impossible, because abortion kills innocent human beings. (It's also worth noting that Oberman seems to believe the pro-lifers trying to close clinics are distinct from the pro-lifers trying to support women facing unplanned pregnancies. I'm not sure there's such a bright line there.)

But even as the two sides sharply disagree about the legality of abortion, we can agree that we should decrease abortion by increasing support for women facing unplanned pregnancies. (And given Live Action's recent work demonstrating that, contrary to common assertions, Planned Parenthood rarely provides prenatal care, it's more obvious than ever how much work we have ahead of us.) If you believe the best way to support these women is through government-run programs such as WIC or Medicaid, fight for those. If you believe the best way to do it is through private charitable efforts such as the work of CPCs like Birth Choice, contribute to those. I care less about how you think we should increase support and more about whether you are working to make it happen.

More reading:
7 things pro-lifers wish our pro-choice friends understood about us.
So I met some sidewalk counselors.
In-depth interview with a millennial sidewalk counselor.
In-depth interview: Kristi Burkhart, Executive Director, Pregnancy Care Center

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In-depth interview with a millennial sidewalk counselor.

Interviewer’s note: People who aren’t involved in the pro-life movement—and even some within it—tend to believe that those who stand outside abortion clinics are there to shame and terrify vulnerable abortion-minded women. But what I’ve witnessed has been quite the opposite: the people who wait outside of abortion clinics (referred to within our movement as “sidewalk counselors”) are selfless, compassionate people trying to help the women who go to clinics because they feel they don’t have a choice.

We already know that most women seek abortion due to economic and social pressure. Both study after study as well as countless personal stories confirm that many women choose abortion because they believe they don’t have the resources to care for a child. Sidewalk counselors work to connect these women to the resources they need. This work transforms—and literally saves—lives.

As a secularist, I do not share the beliefs of Evie Schwartzbauer, the sidewalk counselor I have interviewed here. But I can’t help but be impressed and humbled by the way Evie’s faith clearly inspires, uplifts, and sustains her as she does this physically and emotionally draining work. It’s my impression there are relatively few secular sidewalk counselors. I suspect this is partially because most sidewalk counseling organizations are heavily religious, so it may seem like an awkward fit for an atheist or agnostic. But I also wonder what, in the absence of faith, the secular sidewalk counselor would draw on to do this kind of immediate and intimate work for an extended period of time.

(Evie asked me to emphasize that secular sidewalk counselors are very welcome and indeed could be particularly helpful in many contexts.)

If there are any secularists with sidewalk counseling experience who would be interested in being interviewed, please contact us at

How did you get started sidewalk counseling? What draws you to the sidewalk compared to other types of pro-life work?
I’ve always been pro-life, but for a long time my activism consisted of voting and Facebook debates. I didn’t even know what sidewalk counseling is. In September 2013, I became a part-time administrative assistant for Pro-Life Action Ministries (PLAM), and it’s understood that everyone who works for the organization does sidewalk counseling. Once I learned what that entails, I was eager to try. I had converted to Catholicism and learned about apologetics around the same time I started working for PLAM, and that combination of factors was powerful. When I saw the reality of the situation and learned I could really save lives, my spark of interest in pro-life work was ignited into a true passion. I’m involved in other pro-life work such as art and design projects (when they come up), but sidewalk counseling is my consistent and regular commitment. I can no longer not sidewalk counsel; I know that if I don’t show up, there may be no one else to tell these women that they don’t have to get abortions. No one will be there to let them know there is free help and that they are strong enough to be mothers right now. I feel a strong sense of duty and responsibility to this work and to these women. Sidewalk counseling is direct action—the very last minute help in the pro-life movement.

What does your work entail? Describe an average day of sidewalk counseling.
I get up early. Right now it’s winter in Minnesota, so I put on many layers: 5-6 layers of pants, 3 socks, 5-6 layers on top, and scarf, hat, and mittens. Today I wore only two pairs of socks and forgot my scarf, and I noticed the difference. It was 2 degrees out.

Meet Evie.

I drive ten minutes or so to the clinic. On the way I rehearse what I may say. On certain days such as holidays I try to relate my message to the holiday’s theme.

The clinic has a fence to stifle us, but PLAM owns the property right next door. They turned a house into a beautiful chapel with a crucifix outside, a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and what we call our “freedom stand,” which is a structure that lets us stand higher than the fence so we have better access to the clients.

The fence dividing the clinic parking lot (left) from the PLAM chapel (right).

When I arrive I park and grab my handbag with my sidewalk counseling literature in it and I go to the sidewalk. I used to put out signs, but I haven’t noticed a difference on the days I forgot them, so I’ve stopped using them. One less thing to do.

I start out in prayer with the rosary. For Catholics, each day has a certain set of mysteries to meditate on. Tuesday is a day to meditate on the Sorrowful mysteries of Christ, and I find it very helpful to think about the sufferings of the Passion of Christ while I’m suffering in the cold and ridicule of others. I know that He suffered too for a good cause: to save souls.

I pray until a car arrives. I try to talk to the people, and when they go inside I go back to praying the rosary. I wait for other cars to pull up. I’ve been counseling long enough that I recognize the slower cars of people looking lost, with a young woman in the car. As the client’s car pulls into the parking lot I offer my literature with my hand out and say something like, “Good morning! I have some information for you!” I hope they roll down their window and accept the literature. If they do, it gives me the longest amount of time to talk with them. If they pull in and park, they are more likely to walk into the clinic and be convinced of their decision regardless of what I say.

I try to let the Holy Spirit take over and guide what I will say. There have been times I’ve genuinely felt the Holy Spirit speak through me, using words and phrases I don’t ever say. But I usually say something such as, “Good morning! If you’re pregnant, congratulations! It’s a shame if no one told you yet, but your baby is a gift. I want you to know that there is free help across the street—anything you could possibly need! Whatever is bringing you here today, we can help you solve your problems nonviolently. You are strong enough to be a mom right now, and we can help you through this! Look at your ultrasound and see your baby girl or boy.”

The clinic is open three weekdays and Saturdays. There are usually 2-5 clients per day, more on Saturdays. In three years of sidewalk counseling, I have helped change the minds of about a dozen women and thus saved the lives of a dozen innocent children (that I know of). Most days, though, I have no luck. I have many heartbreaking conversations with friends, boyfriends, and husbands who are willing to talk with me and who did not want these abortions but were unable to convince their friends or significant others.

What are the most difficult aspects of this work, and how do you handle those?
You would think the angry clients would be the most difficult. I have had people try to run me over and threaten to beat me up. I’ve had nasty threats, cursing, middle fingers, and people tearing up my literature.

But actually it’s more difficult finding the motivation to get up early and stand in the cold and get ridiculed every week. But as Christians we hope that this earth is not our home and we believe that God sees all of our suffering. We take comfort in scripture such as the beatitudes, which say “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” We can offer up our sufferings and have more merit in our prayers.

And the most difficult aspect is twofold:

1) It is especially heart wrenching facing the ugly reality of abortion every week when I struggle with infertility. I’ve been married six years and have never been pregnant. I watch woman after woman throw away a gift I would give anything for. And I’m not alone. I have a friend on an adoption waiting list with an organization that specifically works with women who were considering abortion. He has been waiting four years so far, and there are 11 more couples on the waiting list. There are no babies to adopt and instead they are being aborted. It’s devastating.

2) It is very hard to see someone I know get an abortion. The hardest was seeing a young girl who I taught in her 8th grade confirmation class a few years ago. She knew who I was and acted casual, but I was shocked. She went through with the abortion; it was so agonizing. Seeing her afterward at a church festival was also very sad.

Do you hand out literature? If so, what is it about?
Yes, we have several brochures. The brochure I hand out most is titled “We’re Here For You.” If I talk to someone who is open to leaving the clinic, I give her the brochure which lists all Minnesota pregnancy centers as well as other pro-life organizations that help with resources for pregnancy, adoption, difficult diagnoses, housing, and so forth. If I counsel outside a Planned Parenthood I like to also pass out a magazine put out by Human Life Alliance called “Why Trust Planned Parenthood?” I also have brochures on birth control, Natural Family Planning, and scripture suggesting God is against abortion; I hand these brochures out only if the conversation leads to these specific topics. I bring up religion only if the person indicates they are religious (such as if they have a religious bumper sticker or a rosary on the dash or if they bring up God first).

Do you refer people to local services? If so, what types or services? Provided by whom?
I refer women to the closest pregnancy help center. The clinic I counsel outside of the most has a pregnancy help center right across the street, so it’s easy to suggest they go there for a free walk-in appointment. When I counsel in front of Planned Parenthood, I suggest a center a block or two away. These centers have trained professionals who are excellent at comforting and encouraging the women who go to them.

Do you have religious beliefs? If so, how do those influence your work? How do you handle religious differences between you and the people you meet?
As I mentioned, I’m Catholic. Being Catholic affects everything in my life. I try to always do the right thing and to speak to people in a way that they will see Christ through me. I desire for all people to know God and to not be hurt by sin, so if the Holy Spirit moves me to say something in a certain situation, I let Him move me. (This is never anything along the lines of calling women murderers or condemning anyone to hell or anything like that.) My first duty is not to preach the gospel; it is to try and save lives. If the conversation leads that way, I may simply say God gave this woman a gift and He will help her through this situation.

Most sidewalk counselors I’ve met are Catholic. I have met some Protestants. There’s been some tension there. I’m sure you’ve heard of the infamous group AHA (Abolish Human Abortion). One of their members told me their second goal is to save the baby, and their first goal is to “save people,” meaning preach the Gospel using condemning language about murder and hell. Many sidewalk counselors have tried to tell AHA that their methods only turn women away; they are neither “saving people” nor saving lives. Many of us have been frustrated trying to convince them that it’s more helpful to encourage women and let them know about the resources available. In general I’ve found that new sidewalk counselors are sometimes eager to “save” others on the sidewalk and can become distracted, but over time we’ve realized the “you do you” approach is the most fruitful in our efforts to save lives. For the most part sidewalk counselors of different denominations do all get along with each other and recognize that we have the same goal. Some of the AHA members have softened their approach and multiple women have been helped and their babies saved.

How do you respond to people who say they are at the clinic for reasons other than abortion?
Some women say they are not at the clinic for an abortion, but in many cases they simply don’t want to tell me. I usually respond, “Well, if you’re pregnant or know someone who is pregnant, there is free help across the street. No one needs an abortion.” If the woman is adamant she is at the clinic for a check-up or anything other than abortion, I may say, “Let me help you find a healthcare provider that respects all life. This place kills children for a living. You deserve real healthcare.”

If I’m counseling outside a Planned Parenthood, I have a lot more to say about how the organization takes advantage of vulnerable women to maximize their profits. At Planned Parenthood I also talk to the escorts about the reality of what Planned Parenthood does. I point out that if PP really cared about women, the organization would not promote lifestyles that increase a woman’s risks of STDs and unplanned pregnancies. If PP really cared about women they would include education on fertility awareness and NaPro technology, both of which can help couples actually plan to be parents.

What are some of the most common circumstances women describe that brought them to the clinic?
The most common reason women give is that they can’t afford another baby right now. The second most common is that they aren’t ready for a baby right now. I tell them about the plethora of help available and that a sibling is a great gift for their other children.

Sadly, the third most common reason is that their doctor told them to go to the clinic, saying the baby “isn’t compatible with life,” “is going to die anyway,” or “is already dead.” I suggest we can get them to another doctor for a second opinion, or, if the child is truly dead, I point out it’s safer to get a D&C at a hospital. Doctors refer these women to a clinic because it’s faster and cheaper, not because it’s safer.

Do you have ongoing relationships with any of the women you have met at the sidewalk? If so, what are those like?
There was a woman I stayed in touch with during and after her pregnancy; I tried to get her as much help as possible. She struggled with addiction but her baby was born healthy. Unfortunately I lost contact with her when her phone number no longer worked. Her child is now in the custody of her grandfather. Another woman was a friend of mine who I convinced to keep her baby on Valentine's Day. She gave birth to a baby boy and moved to Texas. There was a man I worked with to try to convince his girlfriend not to have an abortion, sadly to no avail. He and I now have a “pen pal via text” type friendship. I also have an ongoing friendship with a woman I persuaded to keep her baby. She is very grateful. She has sent me pictures and I have since helped her with two Christmas bundles of food and gifts. We’re Facebook friends.

Do you interact with clinic staff? If so, what has that been like?
At the clinic where I primarily sidewalk counsel, I’ve never met the abortionist. I have seen the nurse only once when she came out to take a video of me with her phone. She said she was going to show the law “how awful I am,” I think because I touched their fence? I don’t know why specifically, but nothing ever came of it. I have an interesting ongoing conversation with the security guard who is a fallen away Catholic. I believe and hope he will soon come back to the Church.

At Planned Parenthood, I speak to the volunteer escorts even though they are told to put headphones on and ignore us. I say, “You know why they tell you not to talk to us? Because they know if you listen long enough you’ll discover the truth about this place and about abortion. They want to keep you in the dark. We are both here because we want to help women. I just want to give them life-affirming healthcare.” If staff come out for a smoke break, I ask them to look up Abby Johnson’s testimony. I say “She was where you are, and you don’t have to work here.”

Many people believe that sidewalk counselors primarily try to shame and intimidate women. How do you respond to that idea?
Unfortunately that might be true for some people’s experiences, because on public property anyone can come out. I believe it’s more common in the South; sadly there is footage out there, usually older footage from Southern states. But these methods are shunned by the pro-life movement and by people trained in sidewalk counseling. We know that approach simply doesn’t work. I think it’s rarely used anymore except by the hardcore AHA people or perhaps ignorant passionate people who don’t know better. But I find if these people continue to go to the sidewalk they learn from the experienced counselors who hopefully convince them to use a message of encouragement and support.

What do you think of buffer zone laws? Has your work been impacted by such laws?
Buffer zones suck. Buffer zones actually make normal, peaceful sidewalk counselors look aggressive because we are placed so far away we have to raise our voices to even be heard, which seems like yelling and obviously has a negative connotation. If there were no buffer zones it would be clearer that I am just someone who wants to help, instead of looking desperate and crazy from a distance. Planned Parenthoods are also often built in a way to keep the parking lot very far away, preventing sidewalk counselors from speaking to the women. It’s frustrating.

What advice would you give someone interested in sidewalk counseling?
I actually wrote a piece for young people on sidewalk counseling I hope to use at a pro-life event someday:
Imagine there's an outreach activity done all over the nation, and if you were to step in and try it, you'd be more successful than 90% of the people who have been doing it for years? If you knew you’d be great at it, would you give it a shot? Because I know! You wouldn't even have to try as hard as the others. Just by being you, a millennial or a Gen Zer, you could save so many lives. This activity is sidewalk counseling. And right now, the majority of sidewalk counselors in the State of Minnesota are older than your parents or are your grandparents’ age. They can and do say so many wonderful things to abortion clients and they have years of experience. But they could say all the right things and a young pregnant mother won't even turn her ear because she doesn’t feel like they can relate to her experience. Just even seeing a young person such as yourself opens the door to a conversation she might never have had with someone else. Young women especially. If you just step out and give it a go, the fruits of your efforts will be so amazing. In this case your youth is your power. We would be so effective if more of you stepped up to this very important work of saving lives on the front lines in the battle over abortion.
I do want to clarify that the veteran sidewalk counselors are invaluable to the cause and I am grateful for all of the hard work and training that they have done. But I would like to think most of the current older sidewalk counselors would agree that younger sidewalk counselors would be effective and would want more young people joining them.

I guess I was lucky in how I came to start sidewalk counseling. It’s been hard since then to recruit others. They are more likely to do well here if they are not shy and if they feel knowledgeable about abortion. Once you start doing it you finally understand how vitally important it is and how much difference you can make. But it’s hard to get people to come in the first place.

What advice do you have for people who don't sidewalk counsel but still want to help women with crisis pregnancies?
I would tell them to look at this amazing image you guys made:

(Here's the pic on FB if you want to share it...)

And I would tell them to pray about it or think about where their passions and talents lie and figure out what part of the movement they believe would benefit the most from their work. There are so many ways to help.

But if they are interested in directly saving lives, sidewalk counseling is that work. Trained sidewalk counselors and staff at pregnancy help centers are the ones who are speaking to the women themselves and who have a direct line to saving those lives. The sidewalks and the help centers are the places with the most dire need, but particularly the sidewalks because there isn't 100% coverage yet and we always need a lot more people there. Additionally if pregnancy help centers are short volunteers, their hours may be shorter, such as being open only three days a week instead of six. There's no telling how many women were going to go to a pregnancy help center but it wasn't open, so they chose abortion instead. An open abortion clinic with no one outside offering help, not even a sign--that's hopelessness. There’s no chance of a woman changing her mind. But even people out there praying can be seen as a sign to a woman who was praying to God to give her a way out of this abortion she felt forced into.

What do you believe the pro-life movement is getting right? What do you believe could be better?
This is a most important and difficult question.

What the movement gets right: I think the number of different ways people can be involved is amazing. There’s no shortage of information out there from the pro-life movement. If you want to research abortion and the facts of fetal development, it’s out there. There are so many wonderful organizations to team up with and get involved. That’s a good thing we have going for us.

What we could do better: We could improve on our divisiveness and our effectiveness at decreasing abortion numbers. We could work on legislation to overturn Roe v. Wade. And we need to fight the bad image we have. When people think of pro-lifers they think WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant [usually male]). They think “those crazy protesters,” because pro-choicers continually point to photos and footage of the bad eggs. And in some place the “crazies” are still alive and well.

I feel when I started sidewalk counseling, I was awakened into fully being pro-life. Before sidewalk counseling, I voted pro-life and I stated I was pro-life on Facebook, but that was it. I believe the majority of the people who attend the March for Life are more like I was originally. They don’t know how to put their pro-life beliefs into real action, or they believe they are too busy. I think we need to better emphasize how to turn belief into action. It seems like hundreds of thousands of people attend a rally or march or walk with a “checklist” mentality: “I did my pro-life thing for the year. Check.” If the same number of people who go to marches were at the abortion clinics, these places would be shut down. The community would see the uproar against abortion and realize they don’t want abortion in their neighborhood. I think this video explains how sidewalk counseling started, what it looks like now, and where to move from here.

As a Catholic, I believe there should be more masses said outside of abortion clinics. From the secular standpoint, I think the pregnancy centers need to unite as one organization that will become more competition for Planned Parenthood. New Wave Feminist’s President, Destiny, has an idea for an app called Help Assist Her that sounds amazing. If that app existed and there was a FEMM center in every major city that would drastically help our cause.


Learn more about the Help Assist Her app.
Read the perspectives of a woman who did not have anyone to tell her she could keep her pregnnacy.
Read the perspectives of another sidewalk counselor.
Read the perspectives of a woman who runs a pregnancy resource center.