A short while ago, I spoke with a student named Kevin. Last year, Kevin had encountered our group in front of his high school as we dialogued with students while showing abortion victim photography. He told me that at that time he was passionately pro-choice and debated fiercely while we were there. He went on to explain that when he walked away, he was still adamantly pro-choice. However, Kevin shared that something had resonated with him. After encountering the images and reflecting upon the conversations he had had, he was prompted to do his own research. He watched some videos and read articles online, which eventually led him to totally change his view on abortion. Now, a year later, he told me that he is totally pro-life. He had been inspired to look more into the issue of abortion because we had come to his high school.
There is an important lesson to learn from the conversation I had with Kevin. It would have been very easy for whomever Kevin spoke with to feel as if they had failed. It would have been easy to feel as if they had not done enough to change Kevin’s mind.
Clearly, this is simply not true.
Although Kevin walked away pro-choice, that was not a failure. Conversations about abortion cannot be a failure because the pro-life message and images of abortion victims are never forgotten. A seed is always planted. For some, this seed grows so fast that it instantly sprouts, and a heart and mind is changed right away. For others, this seed grows slowly, as was the case with Kevin, and the change is much slower. Many people take time to change their mind on such an important topic. The reality is that no one can un-see an image or take back a conversation: they stick with people.
Often, those who take longer to change their mind on a topic turn out to be the most convicted in the end. This is true with abortion as much as with anything else. I could tell that Kevin is unwaveringly pro-life. He was convicted. He didn’t just agree with someone else’s views, he understood the reality and injustice of abortion for himself. For some people changing their mind on abortion could happen after one five-minute conversation. For others, changing their mind might take an entire lifetime.
The full impact of abortion victim photography and engaging people in conversation cannot begin to be measured. There are countless testimonies of people who changed their minds after seeing just one image and others who change weeks, months, or years afterwards. It might be tempting to equate immediacy with effectiveness, but that wouldn’t make sense. Abortion victim photography and conversations about abortion are effective, though not always immediately.
Whenever you’re feeling discouraged about a conversation you had, remember that all conversations about abortion are potential testimonies that just might not have an ending quite yet.