All of this played out against the backdrop of a very different public view of the pro-life movement. Gone were the days of outright intimidation and harassment; replaced by a peaceful, prayerful presence outside the clinic doors peopled by compassionate souls ready and willing to assist pregnant mothers in practical, useful, and lasting ways. Only by continuing to offer truth, solace, hope, help, and love to the troubled and misguided can we ever hope to end abortion. Only by continuing to speak the truth about the horror and brutality of abortion can we hope to change minds. One heart, one soul, one mother, one child at a time.I was reminded of an article by Marvin Olasky in World magazine (Jan. 17, 2009) entitled "Pivot Point." In this article Olasky traces out the shift of focus in the pro-life movement that happened from 1989-1992. Prior to this the tactics and language of the pro-life movement was more confrontational with Operation Rescue being the most vocal and aggressive of the pro-life organizations. Olasky writes:
Frustation had grown as eight years of the Reagan administration had not led to Roe v. Wade's reversal or reduced the annual toll in dead children. With legislative and judicial approaches bogged down, some pro-lifers blocked entrances to abortion businesses as part of Operation Rescue. Others thrust bloody photos of dead unborn babies in front of passerby. (p. 47)Because of this many associated pro-lifers with the shootings of abortionists and "blockades" of abortion businesses. A Gallup poll during this time showed that Americans were 45 percent more likely to regard pro-lifers as violent than to see pro-abortion people in the same way. It is helpful to remember that the pro-abortion side was much more aggressive at this time. Not only was abortion a "right" is was something good; something to be proud of and glory in for those who had the "procedure." Frank Schaeffer in his book Crazy for God reminds us of what it was like:
Leading up to Roe, abortion had been pitched as a sad but inevitable solution to rare and agonizing dilemmas, like pregnancy resulting from rape and incest. But in the context of the post-Roe firestorm, pro-choice people seemed to also be defending abortion not only as a way to end a pregnancy but as an in-your-face triumphant political statement. They even seemed to be goading anyone who had doubts about Roe v. Wade. For instance, in the mid-1970's, the Washington DC chapter of the ACLU auctioned off free abortions at a fundraising raffle held at a dance, and they made sure their action was publicized. (p. 292)Both pro-life and pro-abortion camps were belligerent and their mutual antipathy fed off each other.
But in 1989 a series of meetings were begun by leaders of various pro-life organizations. They invited in a number of counselors to direct the "messaging" of the pro-life message. Out of this effort there emerged a new direction. Olasky writes:
A consensus to "love them both"--troubled moms and at-risk unborns--also emerged. (Guy) Condon of Americans United for Life played an important role in that movement, arguing in 1991 that "our sloganeering, demeanor and symbols make us appear to be against women, against individual freedom, against the democratic process if it leads to policies that defy traditional religious principles, and even against one another, if the other doesn't hold precisely the same view we do."
He proposed a pro-life pivot: Since much of the public perceived pro-life advocates as "violent, fighting for special interests, against something instead of for something," he wanted the pro-life movement to "personalize the unborn, personalize women as victims, present women as pro-women and pro-life advocates, present pro-lifers as compassionate and reasonable." (p. 49)This has had tremendous results. This is a battle for hearts and minds--the soul of America. Once the attitude seemingly was to get the legislative and judicial victories at the national level. This could be done but without a corresponding change in the mindset of Americans this would be short-lived. The focus on tactics of local victories that chip away at the foundations of Roe are working. More importantly, as the Christian community has chosen to engage in the works of service and prayer the Lord has blessed. Olasky quotes an article from Time magazine which states that the,
quiet campaign for women's hearts and minds, conducted in thousands of crisis pregnancy centers around the country, on billboards, phone banks and websites, is having an effect. (p. 49)The numbers for abortion in America are still horrifically high (about 1.2 million every year) but there has been decrease down from a high of 1.6 million two decades ago. There is still a long way to go but may God in his mercy grant his church to live, love, and pray in such a way that the evil of abortion on demand is done away with for good.