by Ethan Mack
Dear Pro-Life Movement,
First of all, thank you! Thank you for all that you have done. Thank you for all the pro-life legislation that has been passed over the last three years. Thank you for all the mothers who have received loving care in pregnancy help centers. Thank you for all the children who have been saved. And thank you most importantly for bearing witness to those who have no power to defend themselves.
This letter is not meant in any way to demean the pro-life mission or accomplishments. On the contrary, I find myself quite in line with the former and proud of the latter. Rather, I hope to offer a constructive critique of some of pro-life methods and in particular, the practice of using gory, bloody images of dismembered children.
I know that these images depict the truth. Pro-choicers have long said that these images are all fake and I do not believe that for a second. The hard reality is that abortion is not clean. It is not sterile. It is violent, gruesome, and bloody. I'm not by any means suggesting that pro-lifers should brush this reality under the rug like the rest of the “civilized” world. It is important that the pro-life movement show the violence of abortion to those who look the other way. The question is whether or not large posters with bloody images is the best method of accomplishing this task. I don't think it is just or prudent to thrust these violent images upon those we aim to convert.
The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is not passing pro-life legislation, constructing pregnancy resources centers, or even overturning Roe v. Wade. The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is conversion. Everything else is secondary to this. Overturning Roe v. Wade will mean nothing if our culture is not radically converted from a culture of death to a culture of life. Conversion is not something you can simply demand of someone. Conversion is something that takes time. In Christian tradition, for every saint like St. Paul who was converted by an immediate act of extraordinary grace, there are thousands like St. Augustine who converted over a lifetime. In our mission to convert our culture to culture of life, we need to recognize that it will take a great deal of time. This should not be a cause of despair or frustration. For us, time might be important, but it means little to nothing for God. He doesn't care if the sinner is converted after a day, or after 40 years after. The destination is all that really matters to Him. Thus, our task is not to smash the other over the head with the truth, but rather to offer a gentle push in the right direction. Even if that “push” takes a lifetime to come to fruition, it will have been worth it. A post-abortion woman who sees a screaming pro-lifer with a bloody sign might become pro-life on the spot, or (more likely) they will become hardened in the belief that they did the right thing. On the other hand, if the same woman sees a pro-lifer silently praying the rosary outside planned parenthood, she might pay it no mind or she might pause for a second and think, “Why is this person kneeling on the cold, hard ground? Don't they have better things to do? Don't they have a job and family?” They might dismiss the pro-lifer for simply being a crazy loon at first, but who knows what effect such an experience could have on a person a year later, or even 30 years later. If we were to take a Pascal's wager approach to the problem, the second senario is clearly preferable. The first option may result in an immediate conversion, or it will make conversion a near impossibility. However, the possible that could be brought about does not balance with the possible evil. In the end, it is simply not worth it.