[Today's guest post by Roger McCormack is part of our paid blogging program.]
Those who defend the rights of the unborn are habitually caricatured as zealous, religious nuts, and/or gross chauvinists with deep-seated issues regarding their mothers, much to the chagrin of thoughtful defenders of the vulnerable. A modest step for the pro-life movement might be found in taking a discerning look into how we cultivate our allies. First, we must understand how the opposition views us. A perfect example can be found in this article in the liberal publication Salon, in which author Jill Filipovic makes the following claim:
While radical positions are being mainstreamed, some of the more extreme activists who have spent years hearing that abortion providers are Nazis but the U.S. government won’t do anything about it decide to take the next logical step and bomb a clinic or kill a doctor. The mainstream antiabortion organizations shake their heads in disapproval. Then they support the grass roots in rallying their extremist troops all over again.
Filipovic’s borderline ad hominem argument does not address the core issue—the morality of abortion—but it certainly gives motivation to those who are already inclined to favor the abortion rights cause. “Just look at these religious zealots comparing abortion to the Nazi regime! How could anyone but a cave-dweller support a position that prevents women from exercising their unalienable right to an abortion?”
A thoughtful pro-life movement, founded on empiricism and devoid of unnecessary assumptions that many will find unsatisfying and unappealing, is the first step in shifting public opinion to reflect the discontent and inherent wrongness abortion presents. The facts of what abortion does to human beings in the womb are persuasive on their own; bringing Hitler into it does not add to the argument.
An effective pro-life movement must promote thoughtful arguments divorced from more abstract claims. The ability to petition politically for candidates who do not advocate an uber-capitalist laissez-faire version of social Darwinism would further bolster the self-evident logic of the pro-life argument. The late British journalist Christopher Hitchens (himself an atheist and pro-lifer) diagnosed the rodent gnawing at the heart of the anti-abortion movement: “Quite a few pro-life activists revere the fetus second only to the way in which they cherish the Confederate flag.” If even a small but vocal minority holds that mentality, it is pernicious to an influential pro-life movement.
The pro-choice movement is no doubt susceptible to exaggerated and extremist rhetoric of its own, as was demonstrated by the pseudo-Satanist chants of Wendy Davis’ supporters in Texas. However, the perceived notion of pro-lifers' supposed dogmatic principles is viewed in the media as a greater threat. Therefore, the tangible fear of a patriarchal revival, although a generally mistaken view, precludes an honest and forthright debate. So, instead of letting the loudest and rudest voices prevail, a modest step for the pro-life movement would seek a cultivation of solidarity with judicious secular elements who doubt the wisdom, brutality, and diminishing returns of Roe v. Wade.