What a whirlwind of a month, with abortion bubbling up in the public consciousness more so than ever before in my memory.
The excitement began for me on the Tuesday prior to the National March for Life, at a screening of Unplannedin Ottawa. Friends who had already seen the film were raving about it, but I didn’t quite understand why until I was sitting in the theatre myself, tears unwittingly leaking out, seeing Ashley Bratcher, the actress who plays former Planned Parenthood abortuary director Abby Johnson, respond to abortion in a way that felt so real.
Afterwards, during a Q&A session, the Unplannedteam said that rational arguments aren’t sufficient to change hearts and minds on this issue – we need to be sharing our stories. I was skeptical. In theory, everyone should be convinced of the pro-life position if equipped with the knowledge of when life begins and an appreciation for why human rights should be extended to all. I don’t have a compelling abortion-related testimony, just a rigorous understanding of pro-life apologetics. Also, I thought, if this debate is just reduced to who can tell the better story, then how can we hope to win when pro-choicers need only pull out their ace: the oft-referenced 11-year-old pregnant-by-rape scenario?
The following night, I listened to personal testimonies throughout the Candlelight Vigil. The National March for Life rally featured not only Johnson, but post-abortive Angelina Steenstra of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, and Shalyn McGuin of Save the 1, who conceived in rape. Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, producers of the film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, who became pro-life through learning about the horrors committed by abortionist Kermit Gosnell, spoke on Parliament Hill and at the Rose Dinner that evening. During the youth banquet, keynote speaker Steve Fitzhugh shared how his mother nearly aborted him.
The 2019 National March for Life was dominated by personal stories, and I suppose they always feature strongly. Still, it wasn’t until I was back at home, once again reduced to tears, watching a woman named Marie describe how she fought tooth and nail for the life of her daughter Emily in a video by The Missing Project (which I’d highly recommend checking out), when I conceded, Yes, our stories might very well be what finally turns the tide on abortion. After all, it was reading the testimonies of both women who chose life when faced with a crisis pregnancy, and those who didn’t and came to regret it, which ignited my passion for the pro-life cause in the first place.
Of course, just as I was coming to the realization of the full power of our narratives, abortion advocates were wielding their own, knowing that they are their best weapon. In response to Georgia’s heartbeat law, actress Busy Philipps said that, “we all need to be talking more and sharing our stories more,” revealing that she herself had had an abortion. Then, with the passing of Alabama’s abortion ban, Philipps spurred the hashtag #YouKnowMe to take off, encouraging Twitter users to “share your truth,” bringing to mind the similar #ShoutYourAbortion campaign from 2015.
Diablo Cody, the screenwriter of Juno, came out to say that had she foreseen this uptick in pro-life successes, she may have never written that hit film, in which title character Juno MacGuff chooses adoption instead of abortion. This, however, is why I ultimately believe the pro-life story is more compelling than the pro-abortion one – because even while being “as pro-choice as a person can possibly be” Cody told a pro-life story.
Pro-life stories are the ones we want to tell, regardless of our professed positions on abortion. In the TV show The Gilmore Girls, Rory Gilmore curiously has a Planned Parenthood poster up in her dorm room, even though there would be no show had Rory’s mom aborted when she got pregnant with Rory at age 16. The movie A Quiet Place, which came out last year, attracted praise from a lot of pro-lifers, in part because parents Evelyn and Lee Abbott choose to have another child, even though they live in a world where any noise (like crying) can endanger their whole family.
The takeaway is that we always hope. We need to believe in redemption and in mankind’s ability to overcome the challenges we’re confronted with. So, while I do think we should use reason to oppose abortion, to get people to care we might need to rely on the emotional appeal of stories, and, thankfully, ours are more powerful than pro-abortion ones with a bitter aftertaste of helplessness and despair.