Pregnancy help centers shouldn't be our focus
Updated: Sep 19, 2022
“The pro-life movement is like an army. Everyone has their own unique role to play!”
Often, when I’m challenging pro-lifers to get serious about ending abortion, the question of strategy comes up. Although the average pro-life person is not themselves seriously involved in pro-life service of some sort, almost everyone knows someone else who is. And that someone is almost invariably working at a pregnancy help center.
This, in my opinion, is part of the problem. The “pro-life movement” is focused on the wrong objective.
In their 2020 report on pregnancy help centers in the USA, Charlotte Lozier Institute estimated that 68,832 people worked either as paid staff or volunteers at pregnancy help centers or related pro-life charities like mobile ultrasound ministries. Although this is still only about .02% of the American population (a pretty paltry showing for an issue so important), it is, by far, the overwhelming majority of the so-called pro-life movement. In a 2017 article Brian Clowes of Human Life International suggested that people working at pregnancy help centers constituted more than 75% of all people who were fighting abortion in any capacity.
Clowes does not list where he thinks the other 23,000 people are supposedly laboring. Personally, I think his estimates are way off. Perhaps he is counting everyone who helps elect pro-life politicians during election years. Perhaps he is counting the 1,000+ (usually inactive) campus chapters of Students for Life of America. Maybe he is estimating the number of sidewalk counselors outside our nation’s 1,000 remaining abortion mills. I’m not sure.
We know who Clowes isn’t counting: anyone focused on helping Americans reject abortion as a practice. By this I mean anti-abortion apologists, people who regularly focus on convincing other people that abortion is wrong and should be abolished, socially and legally. The number of people doing that are so few I could probably write down all their names in less than 5 minutes.
This is a tragedy because it means we’re totally focused in the wrong place. You cannot end abortion as a practice by saving individual babies anymore than the underground railroad could end slavery by smuggling escaped slaves to safety. You end abortion by convincing enough people that abortion is murder and then outlawing abortion for being exactly that. Pregnancy help centers save some babies (1), but they are not designed to end abortion. They should not be the focus of the pro-life movement.
I know this statement is going to ruffle a lot of feathers, especially among those whose involvement in pro-life activities has primarily been with pregnancy help centers (again, the overwhelming majority of our movement). I’m told that I shouldn’t be minimalizing the work of others, and that every good army has soldiers working in many different capacities.
Don’t get the idea that I think talking women out of abortion is easy. Indeed, it’s probably the hardest type of pro-life work I’ve ever done (aside from trying to convince Christians to help). My claim is simply that that’s not how you end a holocaust. The fact that something is beautiful and/or hard to do doesn’t mean it’s the most effective thing to do.
The comparison of the pro-life movement to an army is interesting, because I’ve served in the US Army and the pro-life movement is nothing like it. In an army, you go where you’re most needed, not where you feel most comfortable. In an army, every other branch is designed to support the infantry, because the infantry is where the fighting takes place. An army operating like the pro-life movement would have infantrymen supporting medics and cooks. Finally, an actual army really does have people working in all sorts of fields. It is not like the pro-life movement where 75% (probably more) of us are involved in one particular field and barely anyone can even name a single person doing anything else!
I could go on about this a long time. The magnetic attraction most pro-lifers have towards pregnancy centers is an aspect of much more endemic problems for which I cannot mention here. Suffice to say that we need to reconsider our strategy (such as it were) to end this brutal holocaust. You cannot hit the target when you're aiming somewhere else.
It is actually very difficult to know how many babies are saved at pregnancy help centers, since even Charlotte Lozier’s otherwise very thorough report never gives us an estimate! One would think that would be pretty important, and the absence of such a statistic is suspicious.