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Monday, February 17, 2014

What I Learned During My Time in Florida

Last week I went to Florida to engage in pro-life outreach with the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform's (CCBR) Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) tour. The universities we did outreach at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Ft. Myers, and University of Northern Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville. No, I didn't see any jaguars.

The Florida GAP tour from week one.
Image copyright: Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform
The week actually began with a training session from CCBR's own Stephanie Gray and Jonathon Van Maren. Jonathon's presentation was on the history of abolitionism, and the importance of using graphic images in our displays. I agree wholeheartedly that graphic images are a necessity, though they need to be used in the right way. I don't think they should be forced on anyone. Jonathon has written many articles regarding the history of abolitionism at CCBR's Bridgehead blog, and they are definitely worth reading. As has been said, those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. We're seeing that now with the current state of legalized abortion in our country. Additionally, pro-life advocates can learn from the abolitionists who came before on how best to affect social change when human rights violations are allowed in their society.

Me talking with Jonathon Van Maren.
Image copyright: Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform
While Jonathon's presentation touched on the history behind abolitionism, Stephanie focused more on the philosophical case for the pro-life position. She even talked about Peter Singer's case against unborn personhood, which I was very much impressed by. CCBR's method of talking to people about abortion is very similar to Justice for All's (JFA). They focus on asking questions, finding common ground, and genuinely listening to the person that you're talking to. Stephanie really drove home why we should use analogies: people respond better to them. Humans love stories. Jesus used parables when he taught; Aesop used fables to teach morals. She also emphasized something I found very interesting. Most people, when they talk about abortion, will talk about circumstances that are hard for a woman to go through. They have an "easy vs. hard," mentality, when we really have to get them to see that abortion is a "right vs. wrong" issue. So even if a woman must go through a situation that is difficult, the point is that we must do what is right, even when it's hard.

Another point she really drove home was the emotional barriers to accepting the pro-life position. Now, I find intellectual arguments incredibly stimulating, and I could debate abortion all day long. But that's probably not what a person needs. She helped me realize that the reason someone may start to believe an inherently irrational position (such as the position that humans are not intrinsically valuable, or that animals hold more value than humans) is because they may have been severely hurt in the past, or they may have found more love from animals than they have from people. I've realized that I need to focus less on the intellectual aspect (as stimulating and interesting as that is) and really focus on relating emotionally with people, especially in light of what has happened to me in the past. So while still studying the issue, I'm going to work on the relational part of talking to people, as well.

As usually happens at outreach, there were some who were offended by the graphic images we showed at their universities. One guy I remember that really stood out wasn't talking to me, but to another volunteer. He was yelling at this volunteer about the fact that we were only out there to talk about abortion, and not all the other genocides going on all over the world, despite the fact that the display is called the Genocide Awareness Project. While I think it's kind of silly to argue that our arguments against abortion are irrelevant because we're not trying to end all of the world's ills, the reality is that it's extremely difficult to get people motivated to end a human rights violation that's going on in our own backyard. I don't see how we can expect to get people motivated about human rights violations going on in other countries, especially since, by comparison, the abortion issue is one that is much easier to correct.

One person that I did talk to had a problem with the abortion/genocide comparison. I believe the comparison is defensible, but it's certainly not an argument we need to make in order to show that abortion is immoral and should be illegal. I ended up listening to his complaint and he thanked me for listening. At the end, he said that we could have had this discussion without the comparison to genocide, but as Jonathon said when I quizzed him later, without these signs and the genocide comparison, he would never have sought me out to talk to me about this in the first place. So these signs do the job of getting the conversation started.

Introducing a student to the leader of the pro-life club.
Image copyright: Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.
This was truly an eye-opening experience for me. Not in the way that CCBR does pro-life outreach; while having some slight philosophical differences, CCBR's GAP display is very similar to JFA's display. But one thing that was really driven home for me is the need to meet people where they are, and realize that often when someone has a philosophical objection to human value, it's probably because they have emotional barriers that need to be overcome before they can see the value of the pro-life position.

People often try to argue that we shouldn't be out there. That as a man, abortion doesn't affect me. Or even, that women who are not in the situation that a pregnant teenage girl would be in aren't affected by abortion, so we should stay out of it because we haven't "been in their shoes." But the reality is that the only way the abortion issue will end is when people not affected by it speak out. The unborn can't speak up for themselves; they're too young to do so. The unborn can't fight back against this atrocity, they're too weak and vulnerable to do so. Only those not affected by abortion can fight to end it. I don't do college outreach because I want to do it. Don't get me wrong: I love the people that I do outreach with, be they from CCBR, JFA, Right to Life of Central California, or any other group of pro-life advocates. But talking to strangers, especially about something as contentious as the abortion issue, literally fills me with dread. Every stranger that I talk to at one of our outreaches feels like an accomplishment to me. I would quite literally rather be speaking to a large group of people, or writing on my blog, but the problem is these have a much lower chance of changing hearts and minds. The way to change hearts and minds is to be out there, on the streets, talking to people one-on-one and meeting them where they're at. My conscience won't let me stay at home, doing what's comfortable. The only way we will see an end to this human rights violation is if people step out of their comfort zones and truly work to see abortion made unthinkable, and if everyone who claims to be pro-life were to do this, it's entirely possible that we will see abortion made illegal again in our lifetimes.


  1. " ...t's entirely possible that we will see abortion made illegal again in our lifetimes."

    That's nonsense but I'm not at all surprised that you believe such a thing. If want to decrease induced abortion, it will never be outlawed, then you will have to get rational and willing to deal with human reproduction honestly. As of yet your movement is not rational, cannot answer difficult questions or deal with reality or biology. It is instead based upon subjectivity and emotionalism...

    1. The argument "it will never be outlawed" is a really bad one. People said that about slavery, too.

    2. Yes they did I suspect, but slavery was "optional" while abortion is not, not if you want the woman to live that is. If you you are willing to let her, and very likely the fetus die, then be honest and say so...

    3. Now you're not making any sense. Abortions are optional, too. Only 1% of pregnant women will die in pregnancy-related deaths or childbirth. You can read my article on life of the mother cases (just search for "hard cases part III"). Abortion is rarely, if ever, necessary to save the life of the mother. But if her life is in danger, if the child is viable the ethical thing to do is deliver the child and save both. If the child is not viable and abortion is truly necessary to save her life (which is highly unlikely -- see the quote by Alan Guttmacher in the article I'm pointing you to), then abortion would be permissible.

    4. Besides, slavery was not optional for the slave.

    5. Slavery was not required to save a life, while abortion is, so my point stands. As long as induced abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother at times, and it is, it will never be outlawed.

      And 1% is way too high BTW. We don't lose 1 out of 100 women. Check your numbers but I'm glad to know that you are okay with abortion in certain cases. That doesn't surprise me.

    6. If you're not willing to read what I write, and instead are only going to spout nonsense, then I'm going to stop interacting with you at all. I'm not okay with abortion at all, but I recognize there are times (very rare times) in which it may be permissible, just like there are times when it is permissible to kill someone outside the womb (such as in self-defense).

      Also, 1% is too high, but not for the reason you think. Approximately 8 in 100,000 women die in childbirth or pregnancy complications, which comes out to less than 1% but I was rounding up. It's a statistical insignificant number. A woman is more likely to die in a car accident than in pregnancy or childbirth, but we don't outlaw cars.