Note: This is the second installment in an occassional series by Eric Scheidler on the myths many people hold about pro-lifers and the pro-life movement.
Does this young woman look to you like she’s filled with hate?
One of the most common claims being made about pro-lifers and the pro-life movement is that we are “filled with hate” or that we are bent on “spreading hate.” We hear this all the time in press statements by the likes of NARAL, NOW and Planned Parenthood. It’s all over the blogosphere. In a way, this is a diffucult myth to address. For one thing, it’s so far out of phase with reality that it’s hard to know where to begin. When I think of the kindness and generosity of the pro-life activists that it’s my priviledge to stand with out on the street . . . But why would anyone who’s willing to believe this myth in the first place take my word for it? Never mind that it would be rather out of character for a hate-monger to care what anyone thinks of him. I suppose the only way to really debunk this one is for those who hold it to spend time with pro-lifers and find out what we’re really like. The best I can do along those lines here in this article is to offer some typical pictures of pro-life activists doing what we do. Aside from that, I’d like to explore some of the psychology behind this myth.
Hateful Abortion Signs?
This myth is raised most often, in my experience, in regards to the kind of grass-roots, direct action that we specialize in at the Pro-Life Action League (the parent organization of Generations for Life)â€”especially when we bring out the graphic abortion signs. Holding signs of aborted babies out on the street is declared to be “hateful.”
Another hate monger?
But the question one has to ask in response to this claim is, “Who is the target of this alleged hatred?” We don’t hate the babies. We’re there trying to show what abortion does to them so people will choose not to abort them. We don’t hate the passersbyâ€”we’d hardly make the effort to change the attitudes of people we hate, and in any case, how is it “hateful” to say, “Here’s what abortion looks likeâ€”you ought to see this.” You could call it insensitive, inappropriate, even obnoxious to show the mangled victims of abortion out on the street. But “hateful”? Does anyone make a similar claim when activistsâ€”or news mediaâ€”show the victims of war, poverty or natural disaster? Again, they may object to the tactic of using graphic images, but they don’t attribute the use of that tactic to “hatred.”
Hateful Abortion Clinic Witness?
This objection is even less rational when it comes to counseling women against abortion at pregnancy resource centers or outside abortion facilities. Yet this again is called “hateful.” Think about this a minute. If we really believeâ€”as we doâ€”that abortion is killing a person, would we want to talk our enemies, people we hate, out of abortion? Would we not rather say, with the Psalmist reproaching Bablyon, “Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock” (Ps 137:9)? If we believeâ€”as we doâ€”that aboriton is likely to leave a woman feeling wounded, hopeless and even suicidal, and we hate this woman, wouldn’t we rather stand back and let her go through with it and delight in her decades of misery? It doesn’t add up.
But Don’t We Hate Abortionists?
What’s more undestandable is the belief that we hate abortionists and abortion clinic staffers. After all, we are accusing them of abominable crimes against unborn babies and their mothers, so it would be understandable if hated them. But even that accusation breaks down on closer examination.
Joe Scheidler (center) with former abortion providers (from left) Marian Johnston-Loehner, Luhra Tivis, Judith Fetrow and Joan Appleton in 1993.
We have worked hard to convince people involved in the abortion business to quit. Again, not the kind of behavior you would direct towards someone you hate, especially if you believe their transgressions could lead to eternal punishment, as we Christians do. Why not leave them to the justice of a vengeful God? But we don’t do that. Pro-life activists all over the country have worked tirelessly, for years in some cases, to reach out to abortion workers. And those who have listened and stopped their involvement with abortion very often credit the compassion and patience of individual pro-lifers with bringing about their conversion. Yes, it’s hard to like people who are directly involved with the killing of innocent unborn babies, but we do not hate them. Like them or not, we do love them, being commanded to do so against our inclinations by Christ Himself, and we want the best for them, which is to repent of their involvment in abortion and seek forgiveness and peace in Christ’s love.
Where Is the “Hatred” Really Coming From?
So if it just doesn’t make sense, nor square with the evidence available to an objective observer, to accuse pro-lifers of hate mongery, where is this accusation coming from? As the son of a prominent pro-life activist and now a pro-life activist myself, I’ve dealt with more than my share angry opponents, including many who have turned from being angry to being sympathetic after a little honest converstaion. Based on my experience, I argue that what we have here is a case of psychological projectionâ€”the defense mechanism whereby one projects one’s own negative feelings onto another, especially when the other is associated with evoking those negative feelings.
Who are the ones spreading hate again?
And nothing evokes negative feelings like the abortion issue. In particular, the sight of an aborted baby picture appearing unexpectedly on the side of the road is bound to conjure up negative feelings in the hearts of most people.
Dark Emotions, Projected
Some will feel sorrowful over the injustice done to unborn babies. That sorrow may inspire appreciation for our efforts to expose this injustice; the passerby might give us a thumbs up or even stop to thank us for being there. But it might also trigger anger at us for the unwelcome reminder of a horror they would rather not think about. Some will feel guilty about abortionâ€”for having had an abortion, for having pressured a wife or girlfriend into having an abortion, for having done nothing to stop the injustice of abortion. Our presence might inspire healthy regret, even repentenceâ€”but it might also cause a passerby to lash out, blaming those feelings on our actions rather than the prickings of his own consciences. Some will feel mournful over a child or granchild lost to abortion. Sometimes the grieving one values our witness, but other times we become a target of a deep resentment that has no other outlet. These and other dark emotions are all out there when we show the face of abortionâ€”and there is hatred in the air: hatred of the craven boyfriend or ashamed parent who pressured you into abortion, hatred of the woman who aborted your son or daughter against your wishes, hatred of the feckless clergyman who condoned your choice to abort your child, hatred of the society that allows 300 babies to be aborted every waking hour of the dayâ€”even hatred of yourself for what you have done or failed to do for these unborn babies. All that hatred gets projected onto us. How else to explain those angry men who drive by a little group of retirees praying quietly outside an abortion clinic and shout out curses, make rude gestures, rev their engines and drive off like maniacs? What could be less hateful than praying together in a little intimate group that the abortions going on a few yards away will stop?
Hate Must Be Exposed and Conqueredâ€”by Love
So why do we do these things, if they arouse so much anger? Even if we were insensitive to these feelings, why would we want to be the target of so much hatred, and even be accused of being the source of it all? This is a serious question, one that we revisit often, especially with regards to the public display of abortion pictures. Sometimes, indeed, we will chose not to use graphic signs under particular circumstances. That we must be present at abortion facilities to pray and counsel is an unshakable conviction, but we are constantly working to make our presence a there a more authentic outreach and more effective font of compassion. In the end, we do not believe that it is best to allow these feelings of sorrow, grief, guilt, shame and anger to remain buried. It cannot be good for our society nor for individual people to avoid confronting the painful emotions surrounding abortion. The results we see confirm this conviction: the lives saved, the wounds healed, the despair conquered, the sould converted. Pro-lifers are not “filled with hate.” The pro-life movement is not “spreading hate.” The hate is already out there, festering beneath the surfaced, unresolved, malignant. We’re working to expose the sources of hate so that hate can finally be conquered by love.
Doesn’t every childâ€”born and unbornâ€”deserve to be loved?
This is what really inspires our work in the pro-life movement, even if the face of so many lies about us, so much invective and calumny, is just this: love. We love the mothers who are carrying a burden of guilt. We love the fathers who are consumed by shame. We love those parents and grandparents who are grieving children lost to abortion. We love the abortionists in whose hearts the spark of the Holy Spirit has nearly been extinguished. We love the society that we know we could create together if only we could overcome the hate at the core of abortion and learn to love the gift that is every unborn child.