Earlier this week, Kansas state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald raised some money for Planned Parenthood when he compared the group to a Nazi concentration camp: “This is as bad, or worse, as having one’s name associated with Dachau,” he said after a constituent sent a $25 donation to Planned Parenthood in his name. “I think the Nazis ought to be incensed by the comparison.”
Later, presumably after he’d had a chance to cool off, the Leavenworth lawmaker backed off not an inch. “Yeah,” he said, he really had meant to say the group is worse than Nazi Germany.
Sure enough, Bonyen Lee-Gilmore of Planned Parenthood Great Plains said the remarks inspired other donations. “It’s this kind of inflammatory language that adds to the shame and stigma of safe, legal abortion,” she said.
Well, no; it’s this kind of inflammatory language that not only keeps the coffers of her lobby brimming but also is a serious hindrance to the pro-life cause.
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With science on our side and medical advances making viability earlier in pregnancy than it was years ago, millennials in the “sonogram generation” are more likely to oppose abortion rights than their parents are. By 2010, young adults had gone from being the most supportive, when abortion became legal in 1973, to the least supportive, with 23 percent of them telling Gallup it should be illegal in all circumstances.
A recent Slate piece that called the new face of the anti-abortion movement “young, female, secular and ‘feminist’ ” noted that despite recent legal setbacks, “the demographic outlook for the pro-life movement looks anything but bleak. On issues from race to sexuality to drug law, Americans are used to seeing each new generation become more progressive than their parents; with abortion, it’s not happening: In a 2015 Public Religion Research Institute survey, 52 percent of millennials said the label ‘pro-life’ describes them somewhat or very well.”
They, like the public as a whole, overwhelmingly support limits on late-term abortion, with health exceptions. Gallup polling has consistently shown that 8 in 10 of those polled say it should be barred in the last trimester.
Yet the off-putting meanness of remarks like Fitzgerald’s threatens the consensus on the late-term abortions that are banned in most other countries by confirming every NARAL talking point about anti-abortion extremism. Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards prays every night for your continued good health, Senator.
My list of counter-productive efforts also includes last month’s proposal to install an exhibit tracing the history of abortion right next to the history of slavery exhibit in the Missouri statehouse. A display like that doesn’t make a visitor think, “Oh, that’s appalling,” so much as, “Whoever made me look at that is appalling.”
Recently, I saw a highway billboard in southern Indiana that said, “Voting pro-abortion? What, no conscience?” If the objective is to win hearts and minds rather than lure those who disagree into running off the road in fury, why say something so insulting? Can you think of a single time when such an attack won over anyone, on any issue?
We all know the negative stereotypes about pro-lifers: We are throwback woman haters whose lack of interest in what happens to children after they’re born belies our true agenda.
That is not true of so many of those I know who care enormously about the well-being of women and who spend considerable time and resources helping not only during an unplanned pregnancy, but also for years afterward.
It isn’t easy to run counter to the culture on this issue; we pay a price in ridicule, opprobrium, and sometimes suffer professional repercussions.
But if the goal is change instead of martyrdom, those of you so determined to confirm the caricatures are unwittingly devaluing your own sacrifice. Worse, you’re undermining your own deeply held beliefs, and you risk putting the goal of making abortion obsolete permanently out of reach.