Working in the pro-life movement can be discouraging at times. We do experience a lot of backlash for what we do. I have to admit, however, that I often assume people’s reactions before I even know them. Last week I was post carding a particularly unforgiving neighbourhood when I came to a house where a woman was sitting on her porch. I walked up her front steps and asked if I could give her some important information regarding human rights, offering her a postcard. She looked at the fetus on the front cover and I felt as though I could already hear all the criticisms going through her mind. It took a while before she accepted it and when she did I quickly exited her property. When I had walked about fifty meters she called out to me and said: “You know what, this is really good!” and smiled at me. This was a response I was not expecting at all.
I’m constantly reminded that many people have never seen images of abortion. I experienced this the other day as I watched a middle-aged woman walking down the sidewalk, looking at the picture of an aborted child on a brochure. Her husband’s arm was around her and she was weeping. She clearly recognized that what she was looking at was a human being, torn to pieces. While I felt her pain, it reassured me that what we show people is effective, which means we can never stop doing what we do.
I often find myself surprised. Some people I peg as pro-choice are not at all, others who I assume would be pro-life, aren’t. When we go to high schools with abortion victim photography (AVP), the initial reaction I’ve experienced most often is: “Why are you at a high school? How can you show these photos? Is this even legal?” I’m sure anyone who has done “Choice” Chain has heard any or all of these questions. What’s really amazing, however, is to witness the inner change in people as you speak with them. I love when people ask me why we show AVP, because I get to explain to them that we expose the injustice that is abortion in the same way that other social reform movements exposed injustice throughout history. When they realize we have come to hear what they think and have a conversation, most of the time they instantly become calmer.
While doing “Choice” Chain at an arts school, we experienced mobs of infuriated high school kids and teachers. By the end of lunch hour, most of the kids that had been very angry with me in the beginning shook my hand and thanked me for engaging in a respectful conversation. They appreciated that I was willing to come to a school of almost all pro-choice kids and told me to have a nice day. While no one explicitly told me they had changed their mind, if one of those girls becomes pregnant in the future, she will remember what she saw and how it made her feel.
Continually, I am finding that I never really quite know what to expect when I arrive at my “Choice” Chain location for activism. People often surprise us, and while we see and work with AVP every day, I think it’s easy to forget that so many simply have never seen with their own eyes the truth about what abortion does to innocent human beings. When people begin to recognize injustice, their attitudes change and I know for myself, I often don’t give people enough credit. I was fortunate enough to have been born into a family that explained to me early on in life what abortion is and why it is wrong. Most don’t have this privilege. While the initial negative feedback we receive while doing outreach may tempt us to quit, if we stick it out we often get to see anger dissipate and understanding come in its place.