What messages do pro-lifers and “pro-choicers” send?

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. This is adapted from a workshop I participated in entitled, “The Art of Pro-Life Persuasion: One Size does not fit all.”

To expect responsibility from the pro-abortionist, to look for mercy for the powerless from people who honestly believe our biggest problem today is that there is not enough “access” to abortion—which is simply shorthand for more and more and more and more abortions—is to the miss the whole point.

The sum and substance of pro-abortion persuasion? In a nutshell, nuts to you, Rick Warren, it is all about me.

I write for a living, so I’d be the last guy to minimize the power of words and images. But it is also so very true that the wrong messenger—or the right messenger with the wrong heart—can neutralize even the most self-evident truth.

So what about us? Let me quickly make three points.

#1. Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with having said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” It is an obligation we willingly assume to help women facing a crisis pregnancy before and after birth. That also establishes our credentials with someone who has no strong feelings either way. Moreover assisting women and their babies appeals to the idealism of young people who are the most persuasive apostles we have. But most important, it is consistent with whom we are and what we believe, and honors the cause many of us have given most of our adult lives to.

#2. Because we are adults, we take responsibility for our behavior. Are we flawless, never make a mistake? Of course not. Moral maturity is becoming the decision maker who less and less frequently fails the test. But when we do, we don’t try to disguise our failures by pretending what we did–and to whom–lacks ethical weight.

There is one ten letter word that is perhaps the only true obscenity to pro-abortionists: repentance. Our humanity shines through when we express regret and ask for forgiveness. That is why women who have experienced abortions and who now regret them are more than welcomed into our Movement and why they are such persuasive champions.

But we offer them a shoulder to cry on regardless of whether or not they have come to that stage of recognition. They are not notches on our belt but human beings who, like you and me, don’t always meet the challenge in difficult times.

#3. If pro-abortionists are tapping in a culture that is becoming ever coarser and more brutal, how can I nonetheless believe they will eventually lose? This is a little indirect but stay with me for a moment.

I remember vividly listening to a program some of you may hear on your local NPR station: Radio Lab. Diana Deutsch is a psychologist who tested 203 students at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music to see how many of them had perfect pitch.

On a test of 36 different notes, incredibly 74% of the kids who spoke an East Asian language had perfect pitch while only 14% of the English speakers did. Genetics? Tiger Moms? Naw.

Unlike English, which is atonal, many East Asian languages, such as Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese, are “tonal,” so that a word’s meaning often depends on the tone in which it is said (not to be confused with intonation such as sarcasm). So we English speakers say (for example) “me” in essentially a monotone whereas the same exact word in Chinese will have four different meanings, depending on the tone.

Dr. Deutsch surmises that learning perfect pitch is, for fluent speakers of a tonal language, akin to learning a second tone language.

By the language we use, the imagery we employ, and the services we perform on behalf of women—pre and post-abortion—pro-lifers are providing an alternative to the me-me-and-always me idiom of the pro-abortionist. In a way it’s like perfect pitch, once thought to be confined to an infinitesimal few.

Pro-lifers are equipping their own children and others who come into contact with us a second language, one with a richer, more vibrant vocabulary. It is a vocabulary built around the understanding that we become more fully human not by sacrificing unborn children but by sacrificing for them.