Hear me out. During this summer, I participated in the “Question Abortion project” on Ryerson’s campus. The project involves surveying passersby about the legal status of abortion in Canada, and then segueing into a dialogue about abortion more generally. During one hour, I had productive conversations with three “pro-choice” women. Each of them expressed their thanks that I wasn’t displaying graphic images of abortion and said they wouldn’t be comfortable talking to me if I was.
Their comments did not convince me that pro-lifers shouldn’t display images of abortion, as some people stop to talk to pro-lifers precisely because we hold graphic images. Their comments convinced me that we should alsobe doing activism that doesn’t involve graphic images, as different forms of activism are going to appeal to different people.
I received further proof that a diversity of people are reached by a diversity of activism in the spring when my pro-life club’s free speech booth about female gendercide drew in people interested in gender equality, some of whom otherwise couldn’t care less about abortion.
This diversity is just as important for pro-life activists as well. Some are never going to be comfortable holding graphic images, while others rely on them as conversation-starters. Some find pro-life dialogue challenging and would much prefer simpler activism like 40 Days for Life or Life Chain – also good options for the elderly, children, and others inexperienced with pro-life activism.
Of course, not every idea for pro-life outreach is a good one, but there are many that are, especially if we recognize that there a number of valid goals of pro-life activism. Obviously, saving babies is our priority, but it’s not only accomplished by converting people from pro-choice to pro-life. Just raising awareness that abortions are happening in our country, unconstrained, and mobilizing people who are already pro-life to act on their beliefs is hugely important.
Regarding the latter point: I believe in objective truth. I wish there was consensus among pro-lifers on every issue and strategy. Naturally, I consider every position I hold to be the correct one (hence my holding it), so I wish everyone just agreed with me. However, in acknowledgement that there isn’t a consensus, and that I might not, in fact, always be correct, I’m glad that there is also a diversity of pro-life organizations to mobilize pro-lifers.
I’m a subscriber to the consistent life ethic, so I’m grateful that there are organizations which treat everything from abortion to the death penalty as interconnected issues. I’m not a feminist, yet I’m grateful that New Wave Feminists and other pro-life feminist organizations exist. Similarly, I’m not an atheist, yet I’m grateful for the secular pro-life groups.
Regrettably, there are pro-lifers who feel excluded by the mainstream pro-life movement who wouldn’t get involved in fighting against abortion were it not for these groups, and there are also so-called pro-choice feminists and atheists and so forth who are confronted with the abortion issue thanks to these groups.
I must stress I’m not a relativist. We should seek and stand for the absolute, unaltered truth, and that’s what I hope I’m doing. However, there are some pro-lifers whose grasp of the truth I admittedly think is more incomplete than mine, and there may be some issues they’re not presently willing to move on. That fact shouldn’t stop me from being open to learning from them, nor from encouraging them in the areas where we do have common ground, such as in their pro-life ministry. The pro-life movement is better for this representation.
I say this in part because these pro-lifers I refer to think it is my grasp of the truth that is more imperfect than theirs and I cannot plead for their consideration without being willing to extend the same to them. The sincerity of our efforts must be matched with equal humility.
Our house is divided and a house divided will not stand. The solution is not a forced or feigned consensus or a compromise of principles – on this point, I want to be clear. The solution is to strive for unity when possible, despite our differences – to keep in mind that we all share the overarching goal of abolishing abortion and the underlying commitment to upholding the inherent dignity of every human being. We will disagree – over which form of activism is most effective, or legislative action to take – but let this disagreement not splinter us.
So allow me to rephrase: Diversity canbe our strength, just as much as it could be our downfall. The choice is ours.