As the story of CLC Youth Coordinator Marie-Claire Bissonnette being assaulted during Life Chain by Jordan Hunt has been covered by everyone from conservative figures like Ben Shapiro and Andrew Scheer to millennial media sites Narcity, blogTO, and Vice, to YouTubers h3h3Productions, Chris Ray Gun, and Sargon of Akkad, I felt I shouldn’t miss the opportunity to add my two cents.
Lots of lessons can be learned from this incident and its fallout: Those who accept violence against the unborn as an acceptable solution to difficult circumstances are also prone to accepting violence against the born; the myth of pro-lifers harassing women used to argue for bubble zones is even more insulting given the reality that pro-lifers are often the victims, not the perpetrators; and it takes a video going viral before the mainstream media will cover a story that casts abortion proponents in a bad light.
Here’s the lesson I want to focus on though: Hunt kicked Bissonnette mid-sentence. Even though he asked her a question, he demonstrated that he wasn’t at all interested in her answer, which inclines me to believe that there is nothing Bissonnette could have said that would have produced a different outcome. Hunt’s mind was already made up and there’s a certain despair that comes from knowing that. Bissonnette was near powerless—not because she’s a petite woman, but because her words were falling on deaf ears.
How can you convince someone who’s not listening to you?
I cannot overstate how grave a problem this is and how essential the answer, and yes, there is an answer.
Our arguments are truthful and incredibly persuasive and many underlying principles of the pro-life philosophy are held by your average citizen and yet, none of that matters if the possibility that we might say something worthwhile is not even entertained. It almost makes me go crazy to think about how many people judge me and my position without even attempting to understand my rationale. Hunt is not a lone outlier. Commenters across the internet sympathized with his actions, and in the days following the incident, Toronto Against Abortion and the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform released their own footage of belligerence they’d been subjected to over the years.
Regrettably, plenty of people won’t consider the pro-life argument because they don’t ever want to be a pro-lifer themselves. Pro-lifers are religious fanatics, judgmental bigots, or women-hating pro-birthers.
Even scarier than these negative stereotypes is this: Many find it impossible to conceive of a reasonable person being pro-life. Before someone can be converted from pro-choice to pro-life they must first be convinced of this possibility.
On the one hand, this may appear like an easier job than converting people: We don’t have to prove that abortion is wrong, only that it is rational to think it may be wrong. On the other hand, it is really difficult to persuade someone that you’re a reasonable person when they’ve already decided you’re unreasonable.
Certainly,ifthey listened to us, they would realize that we put forth a valid argument, and thus, are likely reasonable people ourselves. But what can we do when someone doesn’t listen? Well, hopefully, their fellow pro-choicers who have done us the privilege of hearing us out can testify to our sensibility on our behalf, thereby granting legitimacy to the pro-life position. We can also, as the female pro-choicer in the video of Bissonnette’s assault said, “kill with kindness.” We can do anything and everything to cast a shred of doubt in the minds of those who have bought the lies about us.
Most pro-lifers, myself included, have been nervous about doing activism because the responsibility of trying to sway others on abortion seems so great. One of the most reassuring things I was taught was that even if I don’t change a single mind, I’m doing good for the pro-life movement simply by being gracious and polite, behaving in a manner which contradicts the stereotype of the vicious, hateful “anti-choicer,” which is what every Life Chain participant was doing when they were quietly and peacefully witnessing together.
Yes, Hunt remained impervious to our efforts, but I have observed furious pro-choicers calm down when their aggression was met with gentleness, and they realized that pro-lifers are sincere and well-intentioned.
Is it fair that we have to reassure people that we aren’t all insane terrorists? No, but nothing about this fight is fair—particularly for the babies. The question is: Is it necessary? And yes, it is. So, we do what we need to do and vexingly, that involves convincing others that a reasonable person can be pro-life.