Today my bike commute involved passing 5-6 men on the sidewalk holding “pro-life signs”, speaking into megaphones about how “abortion is murder.”
From the multitude of times I’ve encountered people with pro-life paraphonealia, there are a few consistencies. First, they use large poster boards with large images of aborted fetuses. Secondly, they assert the message that “abortion is murder.”
My understanding is that the pro-lifer’s main objective is to reduce the number of abortions (I think, ideally they would want the number to be 0).
If that is indeed the case, I wonder about the efficacy of their efforts.
In essence, the type of work that the street-missionary-pro-lifer is engaging in is a type of marketing. They are trying to convince anyone that walks by of their mission. I obviously have not done any serious studies on it , but by my generalized observation from the sheer number of people who yell at them to, “f off” is that they are not fulfilling their mission. (Unless their mission is drive a deeper wedge between two groups of people, in which case, they are doing quite well.)
What are they getting wrong?
I think the key component of marketing* that they are getting wrong is that they do not understand their audience. They are trying to sell an idea in a way that is interesting to them, not to the pro-choice people that they are trying to change. Seth Godin said, “You can’t be seen until you learn to see,” and I watch the truth of this unfold every time the pro-life street preachers can not get a pedestrian to even entertain a conversation.
I imagine things would look very differently if pro-life street preachers tried to really see and understand the people they were trying to persuade. I think they would realize that perhaps the “abortion is murder” argument doesn’t resonate with pro-choice folks. And I don’t think this necessarily means that pro-life people couldn’t continue to try to advance their mission, I think that they would merely have to change their tactics. So imagining that pro-life street preachers began a mission to really understand who they were trying to persuade they might discover a couple of key factors: the underlying one being that the backbone of the pro-choice movement are people who do not want to be told what to do with their bodies.
Maybe it appears like this complicates things. But it doesn’t really. The easiest way to prevent an abortion is to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, and the easiest way to prevent that is universal access to contraceptives, which the pro-life-street-preacher could spend their time and energy rallying for, rather than holding a sign depicting a bloody fetus.
If a pro-lifer’s mission is truly to reduce the number of abortions, why wouldn’t they try different methods of getting their message across? Or at least, for the love of god, test the efficacy of the sign-holding and mega-phone shouting.
*when I say marketing what I mean is the spread of ideas. that is what it is.