By Paul Stark, Communications Director, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life
Storytelling moves people. It changes hearts and minds. But it can be used in two very different ways. It can illustrate the truth about the way things really are—or it can sway people to accept false beliefs about reality.
We need to be able to discern the difference.
Stories play a huge role in the debate surrounding abortion. Consider campaigns like “Shout Your Abortion” and “We Testify.” They specialize in “abortion storytelling,” promoting the personal experiences of women who had abortions and don’t regret them.
The point, says the “Shout Your Abortion” website, is that “abortion is normal.” It isn’t a big deal. The destruction of unborn humans, according to this view, is no great loss. It’s needed for women to live the lives they want to live.
That’s the message these stories are meant to send.
The problem is that the message doesn’t match reality.
The reality of embryology is that unborn children are living members of our species. The reality of equality is that every human being counts. Everyone has human rights and deserves protection from lethal violence. This is why killing unborn humans through abortion, no matter its perceived benefits, isn’t a humane and loving answer to the difficult circumstances women often face.
Yet abortion supporters see stories as key to persuasion. A recent Cosmopolitan article quotes one woman saying, “A lot of my friends and family have literally told me, ‘I have changed my view because you had an abortion. In hearing your story and you telling me what you went through, there was just no way I could be pro-life.”
This is the kind of storytelling that employs feelings and obscures facts.
Stories can be used in a much better way. They can show the way things really are.
Look at groups like the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and Abortion Changes You. These are post-abortive women and men who recognize abortion for what it really is. They mourn their abortions. They were wounded by their abortions. They are parents who lost children. That’s the reality, and their personal accounts powerfully illustrate it.
Take Bettina’s story. Under pressure from her partner, she underwent two abortions, then experienced years of struggles, culminating in a suicide attempt. Eventually, she says, she “accepted the reality of preborn humanity”—that “if a baby is a human being deserving of life and protection after birth, it must be the same essential creature beforehand, since birth does not cause any real change, except that of location.”
Like so many others, Bettina began to process her grief, and found healing.
Or consider the stories of those who reject abortion, who overcome hardship, who exemplify perseverance. Aimee’s experience, for example, is both terrifying and inspiring. She was raped as a teenager and became pregnant. The rapist, an ex-boyfriend, even threatened to end her life if she didn’t have an abortion.
“There was something about my own life being threatened that I felt solidarity with the preborn child,” she says. “I said to myself, ‘If I were to be killed by my rapist, I would be victim to this gruesome violence. If it turns out I am pregnant, then who am I to threaten this same sort of violence against a completely defenseless human being? Who am I to perpetuate that same cycle of oppression and violence against someone else?’”
Stories like this are so moving because they paint a picture we’d all like to emulate. They show what it looks like to live with courage and compassion.
We need to tell stories about abortion. But in doing so, we must tell the truth—about biology, about human equality, about strength and love, and about the tragedy of abortion.