Tips for Pro-Life Men: Actions Speak Louder than Words
In case you haven’t heard, last week another man who claims to be pro-life made an incredibly insensitive and stupid comment. Although Donald Trump has since reversed his position, he indicated that women who obtain abortions should probably go to jail. This ridiculous statement is right up there with former Missouri Senator Todd Akin’s claim that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.
Unfortunately, men like Donald Trump and Todd Akin help perpetuate one of the abortion debate’s greatest myths: that pro-life supporters are just a bunch of old white men who want to control women’s bodies and keep them down. But if you take a close look at the leadership of the pro-life community, you’ll find a large number of extraordinary women. Let’s start with Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King is the Director for African-American Outreach for two pro-life organizations, Priests for Life and Gospel of Life Ministries. Another prominent pro-life leader is Abby Johnson, a former award-winning Clinic Director for Planned Parenthood. (Other prominent pro-life women leaders include Dr. Peggy Hartshorn, Chairman of Heartbeat International, Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life, Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the Susan B. Anthony List, and Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life, to name just a few.) Dr. King and Abby Johnson both acknowledge and regret their own past abortions — they are speaking from experience. So my first tip for pro-life men is, whenever possible, let women take the lead when talking to other women about pro-life issues. Women are uniquely positioned to understand what other women with crisis pregnancies are going through.
My second tip for pro-life men is, offer support, rather than criticism, for women facing crisis pregnancies. Criticizing women who are already under stress with an unexpected pregnancy comes across as arrogant and insensitive. The most dedicated people in the pro-life movement have incredible compassion for women experiencing unexpected pregnancies, and only seek to help them. Up to three-fourths of women who seek abortions do so because they lack the financial means to support a baby, or because they believe having the baby will disrupt their education or career. Crisis pregnancy centers such as the White Rose, the Pregnancy Resource Center and Involved for Life offer adoption referral services, childbirth and parenting classes, and material help such as diapers, formula, and clothing. Feminists for Life works to bring day care centers to college campuses so that women don’t have to choose between completing their education and having their child. There are so many pro-life organizations where your money can make a difference. Finally, if you want to support women in crisis pregnancies, don’t make harsh cuts to government programs such as WIC and food stamps that provide a safety net for poor single mothers. Pro-life men, please put your money where your mouth is on this issue.
My last tip for pro-life men is to promote a culture of responsible fatherhood. Studies show that women who believe they cannot rely on their partner to help care for a child are more likely to have abortions. Not only that, some studies indicate that up to 70 percent of men facing a partner’s unexpected pregnancy will pressure her to obtain an abortion. The widespread use of birth control, the availability of abortion, and changing cultural expectations about premarital sex have allowed men to take the position that a crisis pregnancy is strictly the woman’s problem. Men can speak to other men about making responsible choices to avoid unexpected pregnancies and about stepping up to provide support when their partner does become pregnant.
Of course, I know many pro-life men who are extremely compassionate, and who offer support to women in crisis pregnancies by their actions as well as their words. And women undoubtedly bear their share of responsibility when an unexpected pregnancy occurs. But if you claim to be a pro-life man, yet seem to only offer criticism to women in crisis, don’t expect anyone to listen.
A version of this piece appeared in the Dallas Morning News on April 4, 2016, as well as in the Miami Herald, the Burlington Hawkeye, and several other newspapers.