Rebranding the Pro-Life Movement
By Brian Mavis
Three groups, one mission, a new day for efforts to lift up the message of life.
Joe Baker was visiting his local Apple Store when a woman grabbed him, spun him around, and passionately pleaded, “Who is killing the storks?”
“What?” Baker asked, still gathering his thoughts.
This woman noticed Baker’s graphic T-shirt with an image of the mythological baby-carrying stork and the corresponding message, “Save the Storks.”
“Oh, yeah. It’s a big problem,” Baker said, leading her on. “Especially in North Dakota right now. Guys just go and shoot them right out of the sky.”
“That’s horrible!” said the woman, now visibly angry.
Ann, Joe’s wife, then gave him a “would you stop kidding around” look. So he came clean with what his shirt was really about.
“I’m just kidding. No one is killing storks,” Baker reassured the woman. “Save the Storks is a pro-life nonprofit my wife and I started. We create mobile, medical, pregnancy centers and park them in front of abortion clinics. We offer free pregnancy tests, sonograms, and counseling to expecting mothers.”
Now the woman’s passion turned cold and callous. “Well, I’m totally pro-choice!”
“That’s great,” replied Baker, “because 84 percent of post-abortive women later say that they felt like abortion was their only choice. We’re offering them another choice. In fact, three out of five women who already have an abortion scheduled choose to keep their baby after seeing it on the sonogram in that desperate hour. We don’t convince the woman to keep her baby. The woman bonds with her baby at that moment, and it’s her baby that convinces her.”
Joe and Ann Baker are part of a new and influential group of young pro-lifers who are taking new approaches to shape the image of the pro-life movement and to save the lives of babies.
“We are trying to rebrand the pro-life movement,” Baker said. “The pro-life brand is 20 years out of date, with its babies’ feet, flowers, and ribbons. It is usually associated with people who are white, Republican, and Baptist or old-school Catholic. We are trying to do things that are both whimsical and thoughtful so that younger people will say, ‘I can identify with that.’
“For example, last October 9, we had a bunch of twentysomethings go to Times Square and hand out thousands of cupcakes with the word “Life” written in icing on top of each. As people accepted the cupcake, the ‘Cupcakes for Life’ team explained that the cupcakes were for the one in three children who weren’t allowed to have a birthday. It started hundreds of conversations and we didn’t have even one hostile confrontation.”
Save the Storks isn’t just about giving the pro-life movement a different look and a new voice. “I love pregnancy centers, but we want to bust pro-life pregnancy centers out of the brick-and-mortar model,” Baker said. “Most women who enter pregnancy centers are pro-life already. Our approach, instead, is reaching abortion-minded and abortion-committed women. We park our provocative, high-tech, Mercedes Benz van in front of abortion clinics. The women who come to the clinics already have their abortions scheduled. Three out of five women who come to our van change their minds and keep their baby after having a sonogram.”
If Joe and Ann are part of rebranding the pro-life movement, Lila Rose might more accurately be described as rebranding the abortion industry. When Rose was just 15, she founded Live Action, a nonprofit that uses investigative journalism to expose abuses in the abortion industry.
As a freshman at UCLA, Rose learned that more than 2,000 pregnancy test kits had been sold at an on-campus store, but she hadn’t seen one girl on campus who appeared to be pregnant. So she visited the campus’s medical facility and pretended to be pregnant to see how she would be counseled. She was encouraged with only one option—abort. Among other things, she was told she would embarrass herself being pregnant, having to do things like excuse herself from class to go to the bathroom.
Rose then founded, while still as a freshman, the pro-life student magazine The Advocate, which is the largest pro-life student publication in the country today. Her experiences at school helped lead her to do many undercover investigations in Planned Parenthood buildings across the country, where she documented Planned Parenthood protecting child sex-trafficking rings, covering up statutory rape, giving medical misinformation, and the organization’s executives making false statements.
Rose’s and Live Action’s work has been featured in pieces by Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and National Review. You can see their most recent exposés at www.liveaction.org/inhuman/.
Today, Rose is well-known by Planned Parenthood. Her picture has been distributed with multiple hair colors so Planned Parenthood employees will recognize her even when she is disguised. That has been a good thing for Live Action, because many young women have now volunteered to be new “Lilas.”
Abort73.com (73 refers to the year 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state prohibitions against abortion) is a website with scores of articles, arguments, statistics, and swag to educate people on the injustice of abortion. Abort73 has a considerable number of compelling cases against the pro-abortion arguments, but as they say, “evidence is only half the battle—the easy half.” The tougher half is getting that information to a larger audience. “Websites have theoretical access to an entire world of people, but must compete with billions of other sites for their attention.”
Abort73 targets high school and college students. “Changing the way America thinks about abortion begins with changing the way American students think about abortion.” The site focuses on this age group not only because students are more open to changing their minds, but because they are also more likely to have an abortion (more than half of all abortions are performed on women younger than 25).
The website reaches thousands of unique visitors daily, and it reaches many more with its presence on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter—which students use to connect their friends to Abort73.
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The abortion industry is huge, incredibly well-funded, and politically protected. Planned Parenthood is a giant. The three organizations mentioned in this article are very small, depend on donors, and have no political power. These young, idealistic, pro-life leaders really stand no chance of slaying this giant. But then again . . .
Brian Mavis is executive director of the Externally Focused Network. He also serves as community transformation minister at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado.