I am pro-choice, but not pro-abortion. I believe in a woman’s right to make a fully informed and consensual decision to have, or not have, a child. And the information for that decision should be coming from both sides of the debate.
Unfortunately, when we pro-choicers hear the term “pro-life activist,” one image comes to mind: people shouting over posters of aborted fetuses.
And to the people with those signs I’d like to say this: The women walking into abortion clinics are not murderers. They are human beings who have the ability to feel a range of emotions, including love, anger, confusion, relief and occasionally regret. Feelings that can all be associated with abortion.
To those activists, I’d like to offer a few alternatives to the dead-fetus poster — suggestions that might help achieve pro-life goals but that also may increase the knowledge available to women entering clinics across the country. (Because I understand that for most of you, your protest comes from a place of love.)
1) Consider the images on your posters.
What are you trying to say? If the goal is to convince a woman there are options other than abortion, is a photo of an aborted fetus delivering that message? Just as for an advertiser, it’s important to make the most impact in the shortest time (that is, a walk from the parking lot to the clinic doors). Instead of an image that sends a message of attack, consider a more supportive approach.
“Did you know …
• That a baby’s heart starts beating at five weeks? That 67.7 percent of abortions occur after Week 6?
• That my church will throw a baby shower for any new mother, including diapers, formula and more?
• That all expenses related to childbirth may be reimbursed to those giving a child up for adoption?
… Let’s talk about your options.”
In that one poster, issues ranging from the start of life to financial hardship are addressed. All issues that may contribute to a woman’s decision for abortion.
2) Make an offer she can’t refuse.
Instead of persuading a woman to carry a baby to term, persuade her to wait a day. By trying to persuade someone she shouldn’t have an abortion while she is on her way to the clinic, you’re asking her to change her entire life after a minutelong conversation with a person holding a poster. That is not realistic. If you believe abortion is immoral or unethical, a day of education may help convince her to see your point of view. Ask her to sit with you for an hour, postpone her appointment until tomorrow and discuss the options available today. Explain that you’re not asking her to make any decisions; you just want to share the most information possible.
3) Provide love and support.
Nobody responds positively to personal attacks. By taking a negative “abortion is murder” message and turning it into a positive, you’re opening the lines of communication. After starting a conversation, ask questions about the woman’s decision and her life. For example:
• “If I said there was financial aid for women with newborns, would you be open to the idea of having a child?”
• “What are some of your reasons for having an abortion?”
Make it clear that you are not trying to shame or scare her; you’d like to help. And should she choose to make the decision to leave, you will help her find the necessary resources, including adoption agency numbers and/or applications for government aid. Above all, let her know that she is not alone and that she is loved. Sometimes that’s what a woman needs most when starting a life of parenthood.
Nikki Yeager works in sales and marketing and is based in New York. She recently spent time in Minnesota with a friend who participates in anti-abortion campaigns.