The Maturing of the Pro-Life Movement
As a political movement, Evangelicalism is still in its infancy. While Roman Catholics have been engaged in politics for over a thousand years, it is only within the past thirty years that Evangelicals have ventured forth into the political sphere. The immaturity of the movement was at times more obvious than others. In the past, one of the clearest places that Evangelicals would show their inexperience was the abortion debate; but, as this movement has matured so has its practices. The recent “controversy” surrounding Focus on the Family’s Super Bowl commercial is one example of the maturation of Evangelicals, and the pro-life movement as a whole. The media hype before the ad aired would have led us to believe that we would be shocked by the audacity of Focus on the Family, but instead all we saw was a mom talking about how she cared for her son. What a perfect example of the new manner in which the pro-life community conveys its message.
This new maturity is revealing itself in two particular ways. The first is the focus of the movement. In the past the pro-life community was defined as being pro-baby. Anti-abortion rallies were replete with posters of aborted children and signs labeling anyone who chooses the practice a murderer. All that this conveyed was that the pro-life community was pro-fetus, while the pro-choice community was pro-mother. Not many women with crisis pregnancies are going to go to a pro-life clinic if they feel the organization’s supporters are attacking them. In recent years the pro-life community has moved away from this guilt approach and embraced a joy approach. Instead of labeling the woman a murderer, pro-life billboards will have a picture of a smiling mom holding her child, choosing to focus on the joy that each child brings. Additionally, by pointing towards the many harmful side-affects of abortion – physical, psychological, and emotional – the pro-life community is highlighting concern for both the mother and the child. These decisions by pro-life leadership are destroying the myth that being pro-mother means you have to be pro-choice. Showing love to the women with crisis pregnancies is doing something effectively a condemning sign never could: reducing the number of abortions.
The second area the pro-life movement is showing signs of maturity is in its willingness to accept incremental gains, instead of being locked in to an all-or-nothing mentality. Previously, we saw the pro-life movement target the complete abolition of abortion, and anything less was unacceptable. But all that we were left with was over thirty years of abortion on demand. Recently the pro-life community has recognized the importance of taking small steps to reduce the number of abortions, and has thus moved to encourage the passage of laws to that end. This is pragmatically effective due to the overwhelming public support for certain checks on abortion on demand. For example, according to Gallup Polling, 88% of Americans favor a law that would require the woman’s doctor to inform her of alternatives to abortion, 78% favor a mandatory twenty-four hour waiting period before having an abortion, while 69% favor parental consent for minors, and 64% favor spousal notification (see polling data here).
As the movement continues to mature it will be interesting to see what new facets develop. In the meantime, however, there is still much work to be done. Not everyone has adopted the pro-mother approach, and many still need to be convinced of the effectiveness of focusing on incremental gains. Additionally, we still need to do a better job of answering the critics that claim the pro-life movement is only pro-birth, but doesn’t care about the children after they are born. But these steps, if implemented thoroughly, will result in fewer abortions and show the love of Christ to the world, both of which are very good things.