The pro-life group on campus, Go Life, has proven their tagline, “it’s not easy holding an unpopular opinion,” as their advertisements have met vicious backlash and vandalism. But they’ve also proven that it’s not easy to get on board with an opinion that is being aggressively and graphically endorsed with little tangible support for those who opt “life.” The student pro-life/pro-choice debate has been overshadowed by the group’s thoughtless approach to the discussion, ironically stifling the real issue before it has the chance to be born.
In the past few months, Go Life has been raising awareness — and tempers — with their often-aggressive advertising material, causing a general distaste for the group, and inspiring response posters and counter-protests. President of campus’ pro-life student group, Amberlee Nicol, said in an interview with The Gateway “when you’re conveying the pro-life position, especially if you’re conveying it effectively, it doesn’t matter how you do it or how you try to make it nice or non-confrontational; just because it’s pro-life it will make people angry.” But to say tact is unimportant or even futile is to suggest humans are only capable of one kind of response, or that manipulation has no power over us. People are like clay — you can make them do or believe pretty much anything if you go about it the right way.
It’s a common response to get defensive when you feel threatened, and many pro-life demonstrations — including the table demonstration featured in SUB a couple weeks ago, and this week’s gory display in Quad — use aggressive tactics and shocking images to get the point across, rather than taking a gentler approach. Nicol says “we often hide the idea of abortion behind words and rhetoric,” and that to “take the reality of what it looks like and bring it to the forefront causes us to really think about the issue,” but it’s difficult to consider any concept when you have already been offended by the presentation of it.
Go Life isn’t alone in forgetting that there’s more to promoting an idea than the conversion of insurgents. If you’ve ever been handed The Watchtower or shouted at on Whyte Avenue, you may have been too distracted by the delivery and seemingly one-dimensional dogma to realize that maybe you have dabbled in the occult or that the end really is near. A pro-life group — or any group, really — should exist not only to advocate for their cause, but to flesh out their beliefs in a tangible way. Nicol insists the demonstrations are meant to encourage open and respectful conversation, but the method doesn’t support the message. Shock tactics are uninviting, and a respectful dialogue isn’t possible when one party walks in already feeling condemned. Scholar and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias says a message must be “not merely heard, but also seen; not only argued, but felt with conviction.” In other words, the way that an idea is portrayed must be consistent with the goal of the idea itself.
Any group propagating an idea, especially a controversial one, should ultimately back up their argument with consistent practices. Proclaiming the immorality of abortions — regardless of one’s stance on the issue — without providing services to those in crisis pregnancies or those seeking support after an abortion, is providing a hollow message. It would be one thing, as a pro-life group, to offer services such as abortion recovery, crisis pregnancy counselling, education on adoption or (who would have thought) parenting — that would imply a greater purpose than just scaring people away from abortions — but the group offers little more than contact information for a crisis pregnancy center.
The problem with Go Life isn’t their ideology; it’s the inconsistency of their methods and message. Aggression doesn’t promote respect, and it doesn’t win followers either. You can’t preach peace while shooting at people.