A little over five years ago I wrote an article called “Are you really pro-life?” That article was going on words by a woman named Valerie talking about the hypocrisy in the pro-life communities. Recently I discovered an article published by Glamour Magazine that is prompting a revisit of what I published.
Reagan Barklage is the Midwest Regional Coordinator for Students for Life America. She wrote the article called “Yes, I’m Pro-Life, but I’m not a Stereotype“. The “stereotype” to which she refers is the pro-life “advocate” who stands out in front of abortion clinics:
Unfortunately, the pro-life movement is often painted as judgmental and harassing. I recently appeared in the documentary, Abortion: Stories Women Tell, and was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that stereotype reinforced. Instead of focusing on how I, and the other pro-life women they followed, provide resources and alternatives to abortion, the film injected footage of fringe groups protesting outside clinics. By doing so, audiences only got to see the same old image of pro-life people yelling and condemning patients going into an abortion facility. Those actions and words don’t represent our movement—what woman would ever listen to someone who is shouting horrible things at her or telling her she’s a murderer or whore?
Indeed it is that stereotype I specifically denounce in my earlier article:
First let me ask you this: do you really think, in the bottom of your heart and in the depths of your soul, that protesting and proselytizing outside an abortion clinic is really helping to turn lots of women away from the clinics? To the best of my knowledge there is no unbiased evidence suggesting this. So protesting outside a clinic isn’t doing any good, especially if all you’re doing is shouting and proselytizing. (“Trust God. Choose life. Abortion is murder! You’re going to regret this!”)
So if in your bid to curtail abortions you employ means that have no demonstrable evidence of obtaining the ends you seek, are you actually pro-life? If what you are doing is having little to no demonstrable effect on the incidence of abortions, in the United States or abroad, are you actually pro-life?
Reagan can actually say that she is. She specifically denounces the judgmental nature that has become representative of the pro-life movement. Indeed in reading Reagan’s article, she appears to not align with the other colloquial that has also become representative of pro-life movements: being unequivocally anti-choice.
Judgment and condemnation should have no place in a woman’s decision to continue or terminate her pregnancy, and frankly, they have no place in the pro-life movement. This is the time for compassion and love. We don’t want women to run into the abortion clinic because someone is harassing her. We want her to run to us because we are there for her with open arms, ready to help and love her while showing her alternatives to a decision she may regret.
In my previous article, I qualified the moniker “pro-life”:
It is all in how you try to combat the incidence of abortion that makes you pro-life. Do you proselytize and preach, standing around holding signs and shouting, or do you actually try to help the women who are in need?
Reagan makes it clear in her article that she isn’t out to preach and proselytize. She isn’t out to bully and harass women outside abortion clinics. Instead she wants to be the kind of pro-lifer that really needs to be the most vocal members of the movement: the ones who try to make women aware of the other options that exist and help them get what they need.
So while I doubt I could call her pro-choice, and she likely wouldn’t consider herself that either, it’s difficult to tell if she’s anti-choice since she makes no mention of wanting to outlaw abortion. Instead she wants to be proactive in helping women discover the full breadth of their options.
And that is what we need. Along with comprehensive sex education to ensure that women (and men) are aware of their options for preventing pregnancy, we also need a comprehensive pregnancy education that can inform women of all of their options should they become unexpectedly pregnant.
As I said five years ago, telling women to not get an abortion without giving them any other options besides “just don’t get an abortion” isn’t going to help. And while crisis pregnancy centers are certainly problematic, they are at least an option. But there are better options out there, and at least Reagan is one person helping to direct women there.
What Reagan says are the “most compelling words” that an unexpectedly pregnant woman could hear are the words that they are wanting to hear: “I’m going to help you.”
If your “pro-life” activism extends only to trying to pass laws and screaming at those of us who are “pro-choice”, then you’re not doing any good. Take a page from Reagan’s book and lower your voice and actually try to help the women and couples in need. Otherwise you’re not really pro-life. You’re just anti-abortion.