Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Are Pro-Lifers Failing?

I read an interesting paragraph on the blog FiveFeetofFury today:

I sometimes suspect pro-lifers are (unconsciously) hoping to just keep on failing because martyrdom is more appealing to them psychologically than success.

They talk a lot about the millions of fetuses aborted since the 1970s, but how many of them could have been saved if pro-lifers had been humble enough to accept criticism of their strategies by "unacceptable" almost- sympathizers: young, worldly, sexually active women?

I figured that this was as good a topic for discussion as any. How many pro-lifers have adopted a fatalistic attitude toward their cause, and is that damaging the cause as a whole? Thought it was an interesting question to raise.

You can read the entire post here.


Andy Bodoh said...
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Andy Bodoh said...
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Andy Bodoh said...

I apologize for the deleted posts above, but I initially did not see the link to the original article.

This is an interesting article and an interesting question. I considered this a bit in writing my thesis last year. I have to say that I agree generally with what the author had to say, though there are a number of points I would dispute. For one thing, I do not believe that the audience of the pro-life movement is strictly pregnant women, but society at large.

The first part of the quoted passage is a bit ambiguous, but from the context I think that the author is saying that pro-lifers sometimes rely on the pro-life movement to satisfy their desire to feel important. That is no doubt true.

In fact, I believe that part of the appeal of direct activism in any movement is the psychological “thrill” that comes from “doing something important.” This “thrill” is all the more explicit when you are actually facing arrest or other external force, so long as you are convinced about the righteousness of your cause, and as long as you see your sacrifice as part of a bigger movement. Add, too, the fact that pro-lifers claim that they actions have actually preventing death. This provides a huge psychological boost to pro-life activists. This is not the case in other social movements that use direct actions. First, many other movements don’t deal with life or death issues as the pro-life movement does. Secondly, the most movements purpose only a more indirect but well-defined goal.

That is really what made the anti-abortion blockade movement of the 1980’s so strong. Furthermore, literally at the end of the day, pro-lifers who have blockaded an abortuary will always claim that they prevented abortions and saved (ignoring the fact that women could have the abortion the next day). In contrast, when African-Americans were arrested from lunch counters, the object sought (legal rights) where far removed from the actual direct activism.

In some cases, I do believe that the psychological "thrill" of pro-life work could become what the pro-life seeks under the rationalization that they are saving lives. However, I would have a hard time believing that someone would take this so far as to think that they want the thrill while hoping (consciously or unconsciously) to fail in their alleged objective of saving lives, as the quoted author suggests.

Regarding the second aspect of the original author's criticism--her criticism of tactics--I am always a little cautious. It is always important to understand the tactic before you condemn it. It is true that Operation Rescue pushed a lot of people who were on the fence into the anti-(anti-abortion) mindset, but Operation Rescue initially had some great potential and initially it had some impressive results. In 1988-1989, there was well-founded belief that the Supreme Court might overturn abortion in its Webster decision, and this was in part due to Operation Rescue.

In other words, there are things that one can and should criticize in the pro-life movement, but it is important to understand the particulars first.

Now, you apparently ask a slightly different question: " How many pro-lifers have adopted a fatalistic attitude toward their cause, and is that damaging the cause as a whole?"

First, I assume that you mean, "How many pro-lifers believe that the cause will fail, and not accomplish its objective?" However, this raises a question, what is the "object" of the pro-life movement? Overturning Roe v. Wade? Making abortion illegal? Stopping abortion altogether? Saving lives? Saving souls?

In all reality, the pro-life movement is a coalition of individuals and groups, each of whom may have a slightly different object. The “cause” is not well defined. In fact, looking historically, the “pro-life movement” has radically developed since 1973. It is hardly the movement it was fifteen years ago. The author of the quoted article really criticizes the movement of old, but the movement is constantly evolving.

You may find some active pro-lifers who thinks that pursuing one or a few of these goals is a hopeless cause. I do not know that you will find any active pro-life who believes that all of these are hopeless.

I, for one, am certain that we will not totally stop abortions, and I admit that we might never overturn Roe v. Wade. However, I am absolutely certain that we are saving lives, and I honestly believe that we are saving souls.

Furthermore—and most importantly--I believe that I am called to be actively pro-life, and that is good enough motivation for me. Even if I never affect others, this is what I am called to do. Now, I admit that sometimes I do get a “thrill” out of doing pro-life work. It is not that I want martyrdom. It is rather that I firmly believe that life is always precious, that I have been blessed with the gift of knowing that life is always precious, and I feel morally obligated to object to those people who think and act otherwise.

Andy Bodoh said...

One other reason I would be cautious about this article: the author here criticizes the tactics of the pro-lifers without offering a clear alternative. The last part may suggest that she prefer that pro-lifers promote contraception. She does not explain how that would have saved some of those "millions of aborted fetuses".