“The pro-life movement won the battle over Roe. But it is losing the war for the hearts and minds of Americans,” according to Warren Cole Smith, president of Ministry Watch and a thought leader among evangelicals.
The pro-life movement “has formed liaisons with politicians that most Americans consider to be immoral and obnoxious, who claim to be pro-life in order to consummate political transactions,” Smith wrote in an opinion piece published Nov. 10 by Ministry Watch.
Smith has the bona fides to speak to the pro-life and evangelical communities. He previously served as a vice president for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and served as vice president and associate publisher of WORLD News Group, publisher of World Magazine.
He’s “not just talking about Donald Trump,” he added, although agreeing Trump is an “obvious example.”
Although many pro-lifers consider Trump the savior of their movement because of his Supreme Court nominees, Smith adds another layer. “During the Trump administration, funding for Planned Parenthood reached an all-time high, and Planned Parenthood’s private fundraising more than doubled. Planned Parenthood’s annual budget (about $2 billion) now dwarfs the combined budget of all 3,000 pregnancy resource centers combined.”
“The pro-life movement’s shift to ‘ends justify means’ activism continues to alienate Americans.”
In short, he writes, “the pro-life movement’s shift to ‘ends justify means’ activism continues to alienate Americans. In Ohio, a state that has been reliably red in recent election cycles, a statewide referendum to limit abortion was defeated.”
He quotes The New York Times: “Democratic officials have been saying for months that the fight for abortion rights has become the issue that best motivates Democrats to vote and is also the issue that persuades the most Republicans to vote for Democrats.”
All this is a tragedy for the anti-abortion movement and for the work of pregnancy resource centers, he laments. The title of his article is “Pregnancy Resource Centers Save Lives, Help Women, Change Hearts and Minds of Americans.”
He claims the root of the pro-life movement in America was one of grassroots compassion.
“That compassion was most evident in the network of more than 3,000 pregnancy resource centers that had grown up around the nation,” he says. “Each of these 3,000 PRCs had staff, volunteers, and donors in the tens of thousands, in the hundreds of thousands. Many of them have been part of two large networks called Care Net and Heartbeat International.”
He adds: “Over the decades they have saved millions of babies and helped millions of women. They were also quietly changing hearts and minds. According to the Gallup organization, by the early 2000s, a majority of Americans thought abortion was morally wrong. In 2010, the percentage of Americans who thought abortion should be legal in all circumstances was just 21%. That means a full 79% of Americans favored some form of abortion restrictions.
“But in the past decade, the numbers have changed dramatically. Today the number of Americans who think abortion should be legal in all circumstances has risen to 35%.”
He blames this shift on what Jacques Ellul called “the political illusion” — the notion that all problems are political problems, and therefore have political solutions.
“We are now discovering that how one wins is as important, if not more so, than what one wins.”
The pro-life movement got “faked out of position” by the “political illusion,” he contends.
“Overturning Roe was a worthy goal. But we are now discovering that how one wins is as important, if not more so, than what one wins. The tactics and political liaisons of some in the pro-life movement both alienated those pro-lifers need to persuade, and simultaneously energized the pro-abortion movement. After years of decline, the number of abortions in America are now once again on the rise.”
He asks: Having won the battle but now losing the war, what can be done?
He offers two answers: Remember this is a “moral” battle and not a “political” one. And, “we must redouble our efforts to love our neighbors. A common argument against pro-lifers has sounded something like this: ‘You care about babies, but only until the moment they are born.’ The practical, local and compassionate care of the 3,000 pregnancy resource centers around the nation have made it difficult for that charge to stick. But the beautiful work of PRCs, who walk with women not only through pregnancy but often for years afterward, is now getting slandered. PRCs have been physically attacked by groups such as Jane’s Revenge. We need, now more than ever, to make PRCs the frontlines of our pro-life activism, taking precedent over even our political activism.”
In conclusion, he drives home the point again that political activism is not the answer. “We will never make (abortion) unthinkable if we jettison our commitment to the truth in order to win short term political battles. If we do, we will become what we say are fighting against. And we will get what we deserve.”