|The above tips were created in the context of racial justice advocacy post-Ferguson
but apply well to activists in any movement, including the pro-life movement.
Below is a lightly edited version of an email exchange I had with a budding pro-lifer earlier this week. Got a question for Secular Pro-Life? Contact us here.
Q: I’ve been following you and reading your posts for a long time. I write to you searching for advice. I live in Europe, and in my country, is abortion a subject you don’t talk about. Or if you do tal about it, it’s just to mention how it’s a woman’s right to choose and all that rhetoric you and I know. The pro-life groups are few and Christian. I don’t have anything against Christianity, but it helps the typical “Christian radicals are against women” crap. We know it’s BS, but still.
I’ve come to a point in my life in which I’ve realized I can’t keep living with myself without fighting for the unborn. I somehow feel the weight of all those lives been taken unjustly and myself not doing anything against it on my conscience. But I really don’t know where or how to start. And taking into consideration that I don’t speak the language as a native makes it even harder to put myself out there.
So as general and broad this question might be I ask you… what can I do? Where should I start?
Another thing I would like to ask you is: where do you get your motivation and endurance? And by that I mean, as non-religious people, why or how to keep going? The Christians pro-lifers I know have that at least, you know. They have their god who they believe will ensure ultimate justice. But from a non-believer’s point of view I feel hopeless, because no matter what the unborn are still going to be killed.
A: I’m so glad you found us. Great questions!
I am not European, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what you are experiencing. I know that the pro-life movement is not as strong in Europe as it in the United States, with the exception of Ireland, Malta, and Poland; I assume you’re from somewhere else. But on the other hand, Europe on average has better legal protections for unborn children (for instance, many European countries at least recognize the right to life after the first trimester) and much lower abortion rates. So in some ways, you’re at an advantage.
But the questions you ask are universal: what can I do, and how can I keep myself sane while I do it?
As to the first part, your situation is somewhat unique since you don’t speak the language of your place of residence. Normally I would suggest starting a secular pro-life group in your community, but that may not be feasible for you. But there is still a lot you can do. You’ve already found one outlet: the internet! Sharing pro-life memes on social media is an easy way to get started. Mind you, online pro-life work isn’t just for armchair activists; there are ways you can directly help women in need via your computer, which we’ve written about here. That way you can reach out to people who speak your native language, anywhere in the world.
You also don’t need to speak the language to donate new or gently used baby and maternity items to pro-life pregnancy centers in your community. Pregnancy centers exist all over the world, even in nations that steadfastly support abortion. If your town doesn’t have a pregnancy center, you can achieve a similar effect by giving pregnancy-related items to homeless shelters, rape crisis centers, and other places where pregnant mothers in need of support may congregate.
You don’t mention your financial situation, but if you have the means, you could donate money to a pro-life organization. If you aren’t comfortable donating with the faith-based pro-life groups in your country, you can donate to Secular Pro-Life or any other pro-life organization you like, perhaps one in your country of origin. (Even if your home country is pro-life, groups need support to aid pregnant mothers and to defend against international abortion advocacy mega-groups.) After all, a child saved is a child saved, regardless of the nation in which he or she is conceived.
On to the second part of your question: where to get your endurance as a secular person?
For starters, I think you’ll begin to feel a lot better by diving into the kind of activities I described above right away. I find great comfort in knowing that I am doing what I can to make the world better in the time I have here.
And the more involved you become in the pro-life movement, the more you will network with people and build mutually supportive friendships. I’ve gotten to know birthmothers and adoptees, single moms and abortion survivors, longtime pro-life workers and emerging college-aged leaders. All of these people give me the strength to keep going when I’m depressed.
I also find encouragement from history. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Taking the long view, the world grows more egalitarian each century. Admittedly, past performance is no guarantee of future returns, so it does take some sense of faith to believe that the we’ll continue on that track (albeit not necessarily supernatural faith). It isn’t inevitable; we do have to work! But I do believe that the right to life will be restored.
And don’t envy our Christian counterparts too much. I used to be a Christian. For some, religion is an oasis of hope. But for others, believing in a god who would sit back while millions of children die before they even have a chance to take their first breath can cause great emotional angst of its own.
Readers, do you have any other advice to pass along?