NRL News

An Indelible Impression

by | Nov 22, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. This ran in the September 26, 1985, issue of National Right to Life New, almost exactly four years after I assumed by post as editor. It is part of our year-long “Roe at 40” series because it touched on a central question: how best do we communicate our message of love and support for both mother and unborn child.  I have omitted the beginning, because it talks about matters that had importance then, but none now.

Istandforlife…In today’s environment, at a time of mounting public uneasiness about the reflexive first-resort use of abortion, how do those who affirm the value of all human life most propitiously dialogue with the American people?

The historian W.E. Lecky somewhere observes that the spread of any idea depends not only on the intrinsic power of that idea but also on the predisposition of the age to which it is presented. Taking that as our cue, clearly our task is to create in modern America an overriding receptivity—predisposition—to the idea that the unborn child is “one of us,” deserving of justice and loving care. Since pro-lifers believe that virtually every heart, no matter how calloused, can be touched, we have a challenging job ahead of us. But before we can devise a winning strategy for seriously influencing the hearts and minds of people, we must figure out what are the principal stumbling blocks, the primary obstacles, that impede this age’s receptivity to the message that the unborn are our brothers and sisters.

Surely the absence of sufficient information is not the problem. The wealth of information generated by Movement is one of our greatest accomplishments. We believe in education. Whether it be popularizing the discoveries of fetology, displaying the pictures of the victims of abortion, or producing the extraordinary film, “The Silent Scream,” The Right to Life Movement seemingly has made it almost impossible for those with eyes to see and ears to hear to deny that abortion is a grievous offense against the individual child and our collective humanity.

Does moral obtuseness stem from misunderstanding? The late New Testament scholar William Barclay once distinguished between two kinds of misunderstanding. The first is of a man or woman who has not yet reached the stage of knowledge and experience which would allow him to grasp the truth. There is also the misunderstanding of those who are unwilling to see. Can there be any doubt that, for most people the real explanation is not lack of information or experience, but their resolve to remain ignorant of the facts and relevant ethical issues?

Barclay, who had an extraordinary understanding of the human capacity for self-deception, taught about three inexcusable forms of ignorance. The first he pictured as ignorance arising from neglect of knowledge. Here we are guilty because we neglect to know what is always open to us to know.

The second type was ignorance which is the result of willful blindness. We stubbornly refuse to look at the facts.

Finally, there is what Barclay termed ignorance that is in essence a lie. Borrowing from Barclay, we must ask ourselves why so many millions of people neglect the enormous body of pro-life information and lie to themselves by pretending that the deaths of 4,000 unborn babies each day is not of incalculable importance to every citizen of this Republic.

I don’t pretend to have anywhere near a complete answer. Part of the reason, surely, is the human tendency to take what appears to be “the easy way out.” Part of it, no doubt, has to do with the desensitization that accompanies mass killing. And part of it is, of course, that evil hates the light lest its deeds be exposed. Thus millions of people shield their eyes from the light—the light for which the Pro-Life Movement stands—indeed, would sooner extinguish the light than search their souls for the darkness within.

All of which brings us full-circle to our original question: how can we increase our nation’s receptivity to our message of equality and mercy? How do we engage the consciences of Americans in a manner which allows the truth to enter in? Let me say first, I hope what follows is not misunderstood. No one who makes his livelihood writing is likely to diminish the value of the content of what we say.

But if we ponder why people resist the pro-life message, I suggest that what we may learn is that it is at least as important, if not more so, how we convey our message—the spirit in which we communicate—than it is which particulars we include in the message itself. This is to say it is not mere information that we must offer if we are to overcome the “ignorance” (in the sense Barclay meant) of Americans to abortion’s cruelty and injustice. Facts we have aplenty, many of which the pro-abortion forces no longer bother to contest. Rather what we must conquer is the “blame the messenger” mentality which now plays such a major role in propping up the Abortion Culture. As much as is humanly possible, we must compel Americans to confront the message not the messenger about whom they constantly hear bad (and unjust) things.

Now I am not so foolish as to suggest there is some pat solution that we can trot out problems are over. All we can say with confidence is that if we are ever to have a chance with those who grow more uneasy with abortion, we must be transparently filled with compassion in everything we do. That is why it is so important that when any of us attempts to reach people on the abortion issue that we remind ourselves of two things.

First, the sobering fact that this one opportunity may be the only exposure this individual will ever have to the Pro-Life Movement. Second, because in such cases, each of us is the Movement, how we conduct ourselves may well leave an indelible impression—positive or negative—which no subsequent actions can ever erase.

In telling our story, we are under a moral obligation to be absolutely accurate. Unlike our opponents, we need not manicure the truth for the truth is all on our side. But far more important, those we seek to persuade must see in us men and women who are wholly dedicated to assisting both mother and child.

We freely and joyfully choose to lovingly help these women who need our assistance both because (being the kind of people we are) it is our obligation, and because it ennobles us and everything we stand for when we open our hearts to women facing very difficult times. There is no book we can offer, no film we can show, no discussion we can conduct that can ever compare with the impression we will leave with doubters when we compassionately help a young woman through her pregnancy.

Finally, compare our situation with that of the anti-life forces. They have no choice but to hurl epithets, distort and manipulate public opinion, and to attempt to fill the ethical void with breathtakingly brazen attacks on the motives of pro-lifers and the humanity of unborn children. Alas, no one ever said life is fair. Rare it is that the anti-life forces are ever taken to task for their conduct while we are expected to be purer than Caesar’s wife.

Yet, we should be proud that so much is demanded of us before people will ever lend an ear. It is a tacit admission that they understand that we live by a set of decent and humane values. Also, such expectations are, in another way, only fair: of those who are given much, much is demanded.

And, truly, pro-lifers have been given a marvelous gift: the privilege of shielding our collective humanity against the ferocious onslaught of the anti-life forces who would wrest it away. In the face of such formidable opposition, we must and will endure.

Then, one day, perhaps when we least expect it, the clouds that darken our moral horizons will be rolled away. And when they are, the truth, so long obscured, will light the children’s road to freedom.

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Categories: Pro-Lifers