Advice to Pro-Lifers from the Peanut Gallery



 Peanut Gallery

Over at Hot Air Dustin Siggins notes that the pro-life movement is succeeding more than ever in passing legislation, including some in Mississippi that is expected to close the state’s last abortion clinic and also that young people are more pro-life than ever.

One could add to that, that the pro-life movement has Planned Parenthood on the run with efforts like the Mona Lisa Project and attempts to defund Planned Parenthood across America.

In the midst of this great success, Siggins concludes that it’s time for the pro-life movement to adopt new tactics.

Among these are:

  • “First, stop using Biblical arguments to debate abortion…
  • Do a better job of educating people about responsible sexual activity prior to becoming pregnant and having an abortion…
  • Get people like Randall Terry out of the movement.Shock and awe have their place, as does presenting difficult truths, but indiscriminately throwing up images of dead babies will cause most people to simply turn and look in the other direction…
  • Stop making abortion about women vs. children. Both are victims when it comes to abortion. First, every time a pro-life activist blames a woman for having an abortion, that activist should in the same breath blame the men who get women pregnant and then either abandon them or encourage them to abort the child…”

This is the type of condescending article/blog post that causes my blood to boil. The first time I read something like this was in Former Vice-President Dan Quayle’s Autobiography Standing Firm. He suggested to pro-lifers that they needed to focus on alternatives to abortion and “changing hearts and minds.” As a teenager who frequently went to pro-life protests outside of the abortion clinic where one sign had a number for the pregnancy support center, I felt like saying, “Mr. Vice-President, get real.” That is our focus.  I have the same feeling about Mr. Siggins. The only qualification Mr. Siggins possesses to speak to what the pro-life movement is  about is that he attended one March for Life in Washington, DC and more in “coverage” mode than as an activist and two prayer protests outside of an abortion clinic.

That’s why many of his points are hallow straw men. Points two and four are particularly bad on this point.  For the past two decades, the pro-life movement HAS been educating about sexual activity prior to pregnancy and alternatives to abortion.  There have been billboards, ads on buses, pamphlets, brochures, websites. By better, what does Mr. Siggins mean? Does he know? Does anyone who offers this sort of “advice” know what the pro-life movement is doing before telling them “do better”? And as for his point on condemning women is equally laughable for anyone involved in the movement. Again, in two decades, I’ve rarely seen anyone in a “blame the woman” mode. If you go to a Life Chain, one popular sign will  be, “Jesus Forgives and Heals.”

That brings us to Mr. Siggins’ point about religion. His argument is that religious-based arguments have no place in pro-life discourse. Siggins writes, “As I noted after attending the 2010 March for Life, I do not think using religious arguments will persuade either self-described Christians who agree with abortion or non-Christians who agree with abortion. The science of life is in our favor, and we should emphasize this. “

Siggins thinks that the scientific facts on the beginning of life ought to propel the pro-life cause to victory.  But will it?

Consider that for years blacks, Native Americans, and other racial minorities were abused in this country even when basic scientific facts told us we were mistreating human beings. We believe we were right despite the science or we made up racist pseudo-science to justify ourselves.

If you go back to the days of Rome, the pagans left their children out to face exposure and they certainly had no question about their humanity. We can look at the child in the womb and say, “Yes, it’s human, but who cares. An abortion is convenient.”

The only reason we can ever come to respect the unborn right to life is if we realize that the child has a right to life that comes from their Creator. And to suggest we can leave that out of the equation is out of touch with the state of humanity.

The other reason that the role of God is essential in the pro-life movement is the women Siggins talks about. All that science can tell a woman who has had an abortion is that she hired a doctor to kill her child. It is Christianity and Christians that can offer forgiveness, healing, and redemption from even this.

In addition, Siggins complaint came at the March for Life. The March for Life is part rally, part prayer gathering. There are secularists and non-Christians who may show up, but this is quite rare. It is about rallying the faithful. Many are pro-life activists who have soldiered with little help and support. Maybe, they’re at the moment where they despair and cry out like Elijah, “I, even I only, am left.” (1 Kings 19: 10 KJV) At the rally, they see they are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands concerned for the unborn, not only that, they see that they are doing the Lord’s work in standing for the innocent. At that moment, beleaguered activists need inspiration, not a bland recitation of fetal development facts.

Of course, there are times when Biblical arguments wouldn’t be best. Congressional floor speeches and hearings on pro-life legislation would not be a good time nor on appearances in the secular media. But then again, that’s not when the faith talk really comes up in the pro-life movement except as part of  Mr. Siggins’ straw man argument. I watched hundreds of hours of debate on partial birth abortion and never once heard anyone say it should be banned because the Bible says so.

Finally, as to kicking Randall Terry out of the pro-life movement, I’m not quite certain how he proposes that we do this. Maybe Mr. Siggins would propose that a group of pro-lifers perform a discommendation ceremony for Mr. Terry at the next March for Life:

Practically though, there’s just no way to toss someone out of a movement, that’s because it’s a movement, rather than an organization. For various reason, Mr. Terry’s less prominent than he was in the past, but we have yet to reach a point in the pro-life movement where we can be tossing people overboard merely because they make some of the more timid people uncomfortable.  One big problem with that mindset is that whether the timid people want to admit or not, the firebrands have a place in any political movement. They balance the movement and provide energy.

And to be honest, I’d gladly trade twenty armchair quarterbacks like Mr. Siggins for one Randall Terry.  Mr. Siggins can pontificate on plans for the pro-life movement with no clue as to what they’re actual doing from the safety of his living room. Meanwhile, the pro-life leaders face the mockery, the degrading attacks, and even death threats. Due to their efforts, abortion rates are down and the number of crisis pregnancy centers are up.

If Mr. Siggins thinks the pro-life movement should meet his specifications, he should start a pro-life group modeled after his ideal.  Once his group has built pregnancy centers and closed down abortion clinics, then I’ll be happy to listen to him. If he wants to pontificate on how the pro-life movement should operate based on a shallow analysis of the pro-life movement as just another column, I could care less. The pro-life strategy will not be dictated from the bleechers. If Mr. Siggins and pundits like him want to have a voice in the pro-life movement, they need to get out of their seats, suit up, and get in the game.

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  • EricAlan

    Although you and Siggins both make good points, I’m extremely grateful he wrote his article and that people are talking about it.  As someone who works on the issue at the Statehouse, it is disheartening to see some of the old-school pro-lifers unable to grasp that tact and tack matter.  New generations are now being elected and tactics need to change.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      Re. not using a biblical argument… yes when we are doing grassroots lobbying up at the Statehouse etc… as part of educating – I guess as a former pastor and one who still preaches I would be remiss to not lay out for those whom I teach a biblical framework for life and ultimately why I am pro-life – because God is life.  I’m afraid that Mr. Siggins would go the opposite tack.

      Also I believe he is largely ignorant of the good work that is being done to provide alternatives as well.

      Anyway I was less than impressed with his arguments.  I understand your frame of reference and what you’re talking about, but what he is suggesting is much broader than a Christian quoting Bible verses.

    • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

      I so agree with you EricAlan. The untactful and abrasive hate speech of folks like Randall Terry have done more damage than good to the pro-life movement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=49001717 Tom Reichardt

    I am not sure who does more damage…people who do crazy stuff like Mr. Terry or people who do next to nothing like Mr. Siggins.

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  • David Shedlock

    Nicely done, Adam.

  • Cubtrackerxp

    There’s another arguement out there that is not being addressed enough when it comes to pro-life issues. Many women are scared of pregnancy.So much so that they believe to be be pregnant puts their life at risk. To a certain extent this is true. Yet there are so many misnomers about preganacy and birth in the medical community that many women feel that abortion is a safer option. Early women sufferages like to point out that there was a great cover-up on reproductive health and fought against the comstock laws that prohibited mailing of information about sexual health.  But today they have neglected what midwives had provided for years before the sufferage movement, information about how a woman’s body work. A continual frustration I have with pro-aborts is that they insist on birth control education but neglect the rest of the reproductive health class. I believe that if we come along side our young pregnant ladies and support them through pregnancy and birth they will embrace life. This is why I love what Ruth Harbor does with their volunteer doula services. Birth does not have to be a great physical risk.