(LifeSiteNews) — On this week’s solo episode of The Van Maren Show, Jonathon identifies what he perceives to be failures in the pro-life movement’s political strategy in the wake of the Ohio abortion referendum held earlier this month.
He begins the show by acknowledging that the defeats the pro-life movement has suffered since the overturn of Roe v. Wade are indeed part of a blowback to the Supreme Court’s decision. But he also opines that these defeats should not be a cause for despair.
He explores the pro-life movement’s political strategy in places like Ohio and Michigan, where the movement suffered defeats in ballot measures on pro-abortion amendments to the states’ constitutions. First, he observes that abortion is intimately connected with the Sexual Revolution, and that some people will always look to keep abortion legal as a means of avoiding the consequences of casual sex. However, he also breaks down the political strategy of the pro-life movement to examine the issue more carefully.
To this end, Jonathon splits society into three groups: those staunchly pro-life, staunchly pro-abortion, and those in the “mushy middle” who, though they find the pro-abortion movement “extreme,” nevertheless favor abortion in some circumstances. It is this middle group that both pro-lifers and abortion activists seek to convince in a referendum. The problem with the pro-life movement’s strategy, Jonathon contends, is that the pro-abortion side’s narrative “is far more compelling to that mushy middle,” regardless of the amount of money they spend.
Nevertheless, the outspending of pro-lifers remains a factor in these pro-life losses, as well as media sympathy for the pro-aborts. Although pro-lifers routinely push back against the claim that pro-life laws threaten women’s lives, abortion activists manage to convince the “mushy middle” not only that they do, but that a) late-term abortions are rare, b) abortions are not painful, c) abortion is a necessary evil, and d) pro-life laws would force 10-year-old girls to carry their rapists’ children to term.
Jonathon further notes that pro-lifers often see an “inherent tension” whereby activists insist on a total abortion ban while pro-life politicians seek to legislate “from the common ground.” In the face of criticism from the media, politicians are forced to allow for exceptions to pro-life laws in rare circumstances such as rape or incest, which earns them a denunciation from activists. This, Jonathon maintains, complicates ballot measures for pro-lifers, because pro-lifers spend most of their time defending their most unpopular opinions, while abortion activists manage to avoid discussing theirs.
But Jonathon proposes a solution. He says the pro-life movement must simplify its message, e.g., through greater use of abortion victim photography. While most people see abortion as a health care matter, “they can’t understand the stakes” if they don’t see what it is – a matter of a “who” rather than a “what.” He also urges pro-lifers to utilize the words of abortionists and pro-abortion activists themselves, particularly when they admit the horrifying reality of what abortion entails.
“The reality is that a decent percentage of the pro-life movement runs away from these tactics,” he says. “They’re afraid of being open about what abortion is because they’re confusing marketing with social reform. A social reform strategy which seeks to change people’s minds is turning people off of an injustice.”
Jonathon suggests that the following are not the right strategies: 1) making arguments about “parental rights,” 2) rebutting pro-abortion arguments by saying “abortion hurts women” and “women deserve better,” and 3) asserting that a piece of pro-abortion legislation is “too confusing” and “too extreme.”
“Everybody knows that we’re being disingenuous [with these strategies], because the reality is the only reason any of us are in the movement, the only reason any of us do pro-life work, is because we want to save babies, because abortion kills babies,” Jonathon contends. “Our opponents know that, mushy middle voters know that, and we pretend that abortion referendums aren’t actually about abortion. We don’t do ourselves any [favors] either, and I genuinely believe that we damage our credibility when we do that.”
“It’s so important to emphasize the fact that our pro-life messaging is not actually related to the ballot box issue that people vote on when they step into the polling booth. And the reality is that we are facing this perennial pro-life temptation, which is to compete with the abortion activists’ narrative by constantly putting the pro-life movement in a reactive position.”
However, Jonathon ends the episode on a hopeful note. He reminds listeners that 16 states still have pro-life laws since the fall of Roe, and that nine of these 16 states have laws that cannot be subject to a referendum. Further, he reminds listeners that because of these state laws, tens of thousands of lives have been spared from abortion.
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