WE NEED CHANGE
The Problem: The problem is that anti-choice organizations are growing in size and strength. As you already know, the mission of anti-choice organizations is to deny women reproductive rights, and they support their mission by indoctrinating people to believe pregnancy termination is murder (for example, see: abort73.com). They also hand out bumper stickers that say things like “It’s not a choice, it’s a child!”
Not surprisingly, people influenced by these organizations feel that voting for pro-choice politicians is unconscionable. As these organizations grow in strength and size, they influence more and more people with misinformation. Unfortunately for us, the result is that we have had to endure a pathological liar as president for the last four years, and we are also in serious danger of losing legal protections for reproductive choice because that president has stacked the courts at all levels with justices against reproductive rights. We recently scraped the barrel for an electoral college win for a pro-choice president, and the state-by-state voting margin for this success was razor thin, which indicates anti-choice organizations are holding onto immense political leverage.
What does this mean? This means our current strategy is not working. This means the fate of reproductive rights depends on us improving our strategy. And this means we can no longer afford to simply ignore the people already influenced by anti-choice propaganda.
The Solution: The solution is an education campaign to positively influence public opinion of reproductive rights. At its core, this campaign needs to discredit the narrative that “abortion is murder.” To achieve this, we need to:
-Take a stance on personhood: We need to take a clear and stable stance on when a fetus becomes a person, and we need to base this stance on the premise that people have minds. Taking a stance on personhood offers us two powerful benefits: 1) instead of vaguely claiming that personhood arises across a 40-week time period, we can affirm that personhood arises within a 4-week time period, like 23-27 weeks of gestation, and 2) the morality of elective abortion before 23 weeks of gestation is solidified, safeguarding the time when 99% of abortions occur.
-Alter terminology usage: As much as we wish it did not, the term “abortion” has destructive connotation (and destructive visual imagery). Thus, making a change in the timing in which we and the American populace use the term can help us build our base. We should only use the term “abortion” to describe a type of pregnancy termination that can be performed up until a fetus becomes a person. For pregnancy termination performed after a fetus is a person, we must use a different term instead of abortion, like “separation,” and we should emphasize that “separation” is nothing more than induced labor or cesarean section. While this terminology change is small, affecting less than 1% of pregnancy terminations, it holds significant potential to aid us in our effort to gain support for reproductive rights.
-Stop conflating reproductive rights with euthanasia rights: We should not permit abortions for fetuses that have functional minds (unless the pregnant woman’s life is in danger). Currently, abortions of viable fetuses that are at or beyond 23 weeks of gestation are extremely rare (less than 1% of all abortions); however, by condoning such abortions the pro-choice movement has sent a mixed message that abortion is euthanasia (or flat out murder). This mixed messaging has cost us supporters and is all too easily manipulated by anti-choice media and anti-choice politicians to suit their purposes. We don’t have to keep giving them such a manipulatable gift. We can and should adjust our message to gain supporters. While euthanasia is a facet of a humane society, the fight to give people euthanasia rights—including babies with severe biological anomalies—is different from our fight to secure reproductive rights. While reproductive rights are protected weakly by Roe v. Wade, euthanasia rights have neither federal protection nor a publicized supporter base. Therefore, maintaining strict distinction between reproductive rights, euthanasia, and murder in our messaging will no doubt help advance support for reproductive rights in the public eye.
In sum, if we take a stance on personhood, if we designate abortion and separation as two types of pregnancy termination contingent on personhood, and if we stop conflating reproductive rights with euthanasia rights, we can protect reproductive rights at all stages of pregnancy without leaving our opposition genuine clearance to say abortion is synonymous to murder.
For this solution to work, we must not give up hope that we can change minds, especially those minds who are unsure or on the edge of their current stance regarding reproductive rights. If we can change the minds of even just 5% of all anti-choicers—this 5% representing a group of people who are on the fringe of abandoning anti-choice convictions—then a new group of anti-choicers will become the next 5% on the fringe to feel the pressure of the pro-choice movement, generating a chain reaction. We won’t change every single anti-choice mind, but we can have a profound impact on any person questioning their view on reproductive rights, and thereby have a profound impact on future elections. No one is more equipped to control the narrative of the ethics of reproductive rights than the organizations and people to which this proposal is being presented.
The Challenge: The challenge we face is how to run an education campaign to influence as many people as possible, as efficiently as possible. Here is a plan.
-Mobilize: Pro-choice organization leaders should meet, agree to support an education campaign, and democratically settle on a set of objectives to be achieved through the campaign, including the objectives listed in the solution section above. Each pro-choice organization should synchronize their terminology displayed on their websites to align with the education campaign’s terminology, especially regarding pregnancy termination, abortion, separation, and personhood.
-Utilize a New Website: All pro-choice organizations should support and endorse a central website dedicated to advocating for the morality of reproductive rights. Your organizations are not being asked to give up their individual identities, websites, or unique mission statements; your organizations are being asked to work together to support a persuasive pro-choice website that every pro-choice organization and every pro-choice political candidate can benefit from. A prototype central website can be found at RespectPeople.org.
-Produce a Short Video: We should produce a short, engaging, sharable video for the central website, for your individual websites, and for social media influence, much like EHD’s Your Life Before Birth but with a) information about human life versus human personhood, b) information about zygote intrauterine implantation rates and miscarriage rates, c) information about fetal suffering, d) information about fetal viability, e) a natural, genuine video clip of live human birth, encouraging the viewer to empathize with women, f) images of the damage pregnancy causes a female body, and g) information about the dismal outcomes of unwanted children to emphasize the importance of family planning.
-Ask Supporters to Participate in the Education Campaign: We should share the new central website to all pro-choice subscribers through email and social media, asking supporters to click on and interact with the new website to learn the nuances of the education campaign and to heighten the website’s prioritization in search engine algorithms. After supporters have looked at the new website, we ask them to share the website with anti-choice family and friends through email and social media, encouraging respectful, productive conversations about personhood and bodily autonomy. We should also provide bumper stickers and car magnets with the logo and web URL of the central website to all pro-choice supporters. Commuter advertising is visible, effective, and cost efficient.
-Yard Signs for Clinics: In the lawn of every abortion clinic, we should stake a yard sign with the logo and web URL of the central website so that when protestors are bored between bouts of harassment, they will pull out their smartphones, look up the website, and be educated.
-Government Elections: Every vote matters. For pro-choice political candidates, explaining their pro-choice stance to pro-life voters is challenging―so challenging that many candidates choose to economize their time by not engaging with pro-life voters at all. We can no longer afford to simply ignore the people already influenced by anti-choice propaganda. We need our pro-choice candidates to engage pro-life voters, and we can make that engagement less challenging and more time efficient by providing our candidates with the support of this educational campaign. Instead of exhausting themselves in fruitless conversations with pro-lifers, which all too often devolve into hostile, finger-pointing confrontations, pro-choice candidates can simply say, "I believe in respecting the life and liberty of all people, including unborn people. You can understand my stance on abortion by visiting a website called RespectPeople.org. Please visit that website, and then if you have any further concerns, you can let me know and I'll address them." This three-sentence script, in conjunction with a central pro-choice advocacy website, will help pro-choice candidates gain the respect, support, and votes needed to win their elections.
The Conclusion: Working together to implement this proposed education campaign provides pro-choice organizations with the opportunity to garner political and judicial support. All in all, the pro-choice movement has much to gain and very little to lose by engaging in a united education campaign to shift the public’s perception of reproductive rights. In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” Let’s get going.