Why the Educational Arm is Essential
Jonathon Van Maren
For over fifty years, the pro-life movement has fought the abortion industry tooth and nail from the streets to the halls of power. While there have been some legislative successes in the United States and organizations like Operation Rescue have been tremendously successful at shutting down abortion clinics, the societal situation at present still vastly favors abortion advocates. The ideal of the so-called “pro-choice movement”—abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy, which exists in Canada and is the status quo in several American states—is far more prevalent than the ideal of the pro-life movement—a Culture of Life where abortion is an unthinkable option.
A majority of people still support legal abortion at some stage during pregnancy. Despite the rise of alterative media more friendly to the pro-life movement, the mainstream media is still overwhelmingly pro-abortion, ensuring that pro-lifers form the first human rights movement that is opposed by a media complex complicit in the cover-up. Public high schools do not teach a pro-life ethic, and the vast majority of academics push the pro-abortion worldview, with polling data telling us that many students who grew up in pro-life homes lose their pro-life views sometime during university. Politicians claim that abortion is a religious issue, religious leaders claim that it is a political issue, and the corpses quietly pile up in the middle. Our culture is sleep-walking through a massacre of unfathomable proportions, and people must be woken up.
The pro-life movement has responded to the legalization of abortion in many ways, and those responses form what are traditionally known as the three arms of the pro-life movement:
1. The pastoral arm
2. The political arm
3. The prophetic or educational arm
There are others, of course—the history of the Rescue movement from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s would be a strategic aberration—but the current pro-life movement can, for the most part, be organized into these three categories.
The pastoral arm essentially responds to the existence of abortion and attempts to mitigate the fallout. This arm would include crisis pregnancy centers, homes for unwed mothers, post-abortion counselling, and other forms of assistance. They attempt to alleviate poverty, provide resources, and ensure that women have what they need to care for their children. Due to the uncontroversial nature of most of this work, the pastoral arm is a favorite of churches and religious organizations.
The political arm is made up of the pro-life movement’s lobbyists and political activists. These would include those meeting with politicians to advocate for pro-life policies, organizations that support and campaign for pro-life politicians, and those working on the ground to create grassroots support and help elect pro-life legislators. The political arm of the pro-life movement, in other words, pushes to ensure that whatever social consensus does exist on abortion—like a ban on partial-birth abortion, for example, or a Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act—is enshrined into law.
The prophetic or educational arm is tasked with changing public opinion on abortion—in other words, rebuilding the pro-life consensus that once existed. Without pro-life activists doing consistent public outreach, millions of men and women would remain unaware of the truth about abortion. The educational arm is essential to the success of the pastoral and political arms, which simply cannot function if there is no movement to reach out to the public with the truth about abortion.
Educational activists ensure that crisis pregnancy centers do not simply have to wait for people to walk through their doors but send people there. Many million-dollar centres with paid staff sit empty for the majority of the year, reaching only a handful of women—it is essential that pro-life activists are out in the culture, where abortion-minded women actually are, telling them the truth about abortion and directing them to other, life-affirming options. An enormous number of pro-life dollars go to supporting centres that frequently has no way of actually reaching women outside of simply waiting for them or relying on increasingly suppressed advertising.
Educational activists are also essential for the political arm of the pro-life movement (and generally work closely with both the pastoral and political arms). The educational arm works to create a new, broader pro-life consensus and to intensify support for pro-life policies among those who already hold anti-abortion views. It is this support that enables lobbyists to encourage legislators to take action. It is the task of the educational arm to turn the tide with the best educational tools at our disposal. The question, then, must be asked: What tools can the educational arm utilize? What is the most effective strategy for changing the hearts and minds of millions of people, when the lives of millions of others unquestionably depend on it? Is it even possible?
What we at the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and thousands of other pro-lifers have found—most of them veterans with decades of activism under their belts like Joe Scheidler, Gregg Cunningham, Mark Harrington, and Scott Klusendorf—is that the most powerful educational tool at our disposal is abortion victim photography. A visual generation in a visual world needs visual evidence that rises above the chatter and cuts through the din of modern life to push home a powerful message: Abortion is an act of violence that kills an innocent human being.
From the days of William Wilberforce to the front lines of today’s abortion wars, we see over and over again a simple truth illustrated: When the ugly truth is brought front and center, that truth has the power to transform the way cultures see injustice, and when we change the way someone sees an injustice, you change the way people respond to an injustice.
Abortion victim photography is still considered by some to be controversial because it is so shocking and disturbing. It certainly is, but it is also the most effective tool pro-lifers possess. As lawyers for pre-born children who are sentenced to death or have already been killed, we must bring our best evidence into the court of public opinion.