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Why do we encourage street activism?

"Public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed."

Abraham Lincoln

One objection raised against the Revelation 3:2 Project is that it focuses too narrowly on one form of anti-abortion advocacy: street activism. I hope here to provide a brief explanation.

As many veterans of the anti-abortion movement have noted, "abortion will not become illegal until it becomes unthinkable". [1] Grossly unpopular laws are difficult to enact and almost impossible to impose. The abolition of abortion would require millions of people to curtail a passion that for the past few decades has been universally encouraged to run wild. It would require men to become dutiful, monogamous fathers again. It would require the cooperation of national, state and local law enforcement to root out illegal abortion clinics and eliminate the trade in black market abortion drugs. Unless the majority of the American people are willing to submit to these changes, no government policy will be able to force them. And of course, few will submit until they learn to truly value preborn life and recoil at its destruction. Influencing public sentiment is essential.

However, when we examine the American pro-life movement, it is painfully obvious that the majority of our efforts have NOT been directed at this crucial goal. Instead, pro-lifers have focused on political maneuvering (thus putting the cart before the horse) and on the rescue of individual babies via sidewalk counseling and pregnancy help centers (which saves lives but cannot address the widespread cultural acceptance of abortion).

This probably explains why, in the 46 years since Roe vs Wade, public opinion on abortion has shifted very little. We've have been locked in a stalemate with about half of the populace self-identifying as "pro-life" and half as "pro-choice".[2] Despite what you might have heard, it is not apparent that Americans are becoming more inclined to abolish or even regulate abortion. It looks like Generation Y is not the pro-life generation after all.

This is truly incredible when we consider what's been learned since 1973. Every year ultrasound technology becomes better, and astonishing new revelations about fetal development give us a better and better understanding of that remarkable and beautiful process. We now know that even 1st trimester embryos are far more complex and developed than ever imagined. As neonatal medicine improves, it is possible for babies to survive outside their mother's womb earlier and earlier, and many birth defects once considered fatal are now treatable. Meanwhile the abortion industry has been involved in scandal after scandal, from baby parts trafficking to medical malpractice to covering up statutory rape and everything in between. Millions of post-abortive men and women have repented of their actions and are able to testify that abortion destroys both child and parent. All the information is on our side, but we have failed to make our case.

It is my belief that people change their minds about abortion when: [3]

1. They learn new information about it

2. They are impressed with the zeal that other people have for ending it

There are pro-lifers involved in educating the public, but they are few and far between, and most opt to use the tools of mass media, creating pro-life films and actively utilizing the explosive new world of social media. What's the harm in that, you ask? Nothing ... save that these are passive forms of communication. The recipient must choose to listen to the message. He/she must choose to watch the pro-life movie, click on the pro-life link and read the pro-life article. Considering social media platforms are deliberately constructed to show you more of what you already want to see, [4] it is increasingly unlikely that someone uninterested in hearing the pro-life message will ever get a chance to hear it online! Furthermore, anti-abortion images and information are often censored. Finally, sharing media is ... easy; it does not convey the maddening devotion to the victims that one would expect us to have if we really believed it was an act of murder. Except for the people creating the media, it costs most of us very little, and observers pick up on that.

Street activism, on the other hand, accomplishes both these goals. First, it is non-consensual. We do not wait for invitations to tell people why preborn babies are valuable and abortion is evil. We show up when and where people least expect us and tell them without being asked. On the street we are able to encounter tens of thousands of people on a regular basis and educate each one at least a little bit, and often much more. Through the use of literature we can get enormous amounts of information in the hands of people who otherwise would never bother to learn about the subject. On the street we are not censored and can use whatever image or message is at our disposal.

Secondly, educational street activism (and other forms of front-line advocacy) impress upon the recipient that we really do care about ending abortion. We care enough to get out of our homes and endure the elements. We care enough to travel and spend precious hours doing an uncomfortable job. We care enough to risk persecution and physical/legal attacks. We care enough not to be anonymous.

I've witnessed first hand that minds do change when pro-lifers are willing to get outside their comfort zones and conduct street activism. We may not be able to reach people as quickly as a successful piece of pro-life media might, but we often reach them more deeply. And productive encounters with anti-abortion activists make those we reach more likely to examine the pro-life media for themselves.

Activism and media should work together. But there is already plenty of excellent pro-life media. Activism and politics should work together, but policy changes are not not going to be effective until widespread repentance takes place. What we need right now are millions and millions of pro-life people willing to get out in their communities and deliver our message, making the case for life both by what we say and what we are willing to do.

  1. This quote has been attributed to Gregg Cunningham of Center for Bio-ethical Reform and Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, among others


  3. The influence of the Holy Spirit upon men's minds is assumed to be active in both these outward occurrences


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