Stereotypes are commonplace in today’s society. Who hasn’t been judged and labeled with what people perceive a certain demographic to be? And, on the flipside, we’re all guilty of judging others, and sometimes it’s hard to see past the images we have planted in our heads by the media. The pro-life and pro-choice communities are good examples of this type of thinking. It is assumed that both groups are extremists, with little patience for the views of the other side. I think it is because of these stereotypes that we have such a hard time understanding what it is that the other side stands for. These are some stereotypes about pro-lifers that I’ve heard in my lifetime, and how I respond to people who make these statements.
There are those that think that…
…pro-lifers are forcing their religion on others: I always argue that you don’t necessarily have to be a religious person in order to be pro-life. Anyone can believe that every human being has a purpose in life, and every person has a right to pursue that purpose without the threat of being eliminated. I do not believe that we have the right to judge whether a child’s life will be difficult to the point where it should be ended before it even begins. This does not come from any religious sense, but from a sense of love. No matter what their religious belief, people can believe in the power of love overcoming challenges. This is where my pro-life view comes from.
…pro-lifers are anti-woman: We are not a community that condemns women. Our focus is the opposite. We recognize the difficulty of making the decision to have the abortion, and also consider how such a decision will affect these women later on in life. I touched on this in yesterday’s post, but I think it’s important to bring it up again since this is one that I commonly get. I always tell people that we do not condemn women who choose to have abortions. We pray for them, and try to educate women who are considering abortion about other options they might have. We look at the circumstances surrounding their decision to have an abortion (lack of access to proper pre-natal care; pressure from society, friends, or their significant other; the discovery of a birth defect or other abnormality in the fetus) and ask why it is that the answer to these issues is the disposal of an innocent human being. They shouldn’t have to give up the chance to give birth to an amazing human being simply because the conditions aren’t perfect. Life isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth giving life a chance.
…pro-lifers are the minority: With a heavy media focus on Planned Parenthood, it’s easy to believe that the pro-life community is a small group of people who could never hope to carry much weight in today’s political environment. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The number of Americans who identify as pro-life has been steadily increasing since the mid-90’s. The percentage of pro-life Americans now sits at 50% of the population, while the pro-choice number has fallen to a record low of 41%. To see the data yourself, check out Ohio Right to Life’s press release on the issue.
So, what do these perceptions mean to us? They mean we’ve been given an incredible opportunity: the opportunity to show them they’re wrong. It’s up to us to break the stereotype and redefine who we are. It’s time for the world to understand the identity of the pro-life movement. We are everything they believe we are not: we are compassionate, strong, and in touch with reality. By breaking the stereotypes, we become more powerful, and more people will respond positively to our message. By strengthening our voices we silence those that box us in and judge us based on preconceived notions of what being pro-life means.
What about you? Do you ever come across a statement made about the pro-life movement that you feel is unfairly stereotypical? How do you respond to it? If we start recognizing what it is that makes people react negatively to what we do, we can start working harder to dispel these images and recreate our image for the world.
It’s time to show who we really are.