What Should the Pro-Life Movement Do Now? (Part 1)
Our executive director, Monica Snyder, recently appeared on the Equipped for Life podcast (hosted by Josh Brahm) for the two-part episode “What Should the Pro-Life Movement Do Now?” A full transcript of part one is below. Many thanks to our volunteer transcribers, Samantha Sandstrom and Anna Rawerts. Stay tuned for part two!
Announcer Voice: If you’re looking for clear pro-life thinking, cutting edge apologetics, and a fresh approach to abortion dialogue, you’ve come to the right place. This is the Equipped for Life Podcast.
Josh: Welcome back to the Equipped for Life Podcast. We have one of my favorite pro-life people in the world finally in my studio. It is my friend, my good friend Monica Snyder from Secular Pro-Life. It is so good to have you here, we have so many episodes that we want to record in the next few days. So all of the social media people who are all excited that we’re doing crossover stuff…
Monica: We have a lot of shared followers, I think.
Josh: We have a lot of people excited and I’m really happy for that.
Monica: Very nice people. Yes.
Josh: And I am just really happy that we’re going to be talking about a lot of different things that I think a lot of people are excited to hear us talk about. There might be some stream of consciousness here, it’s not like these are super super prepped outlines, we don’t want them to be. But kind of intentionally, we know that sometimes we even disagree a little bit, and think differently. And so people are going to get, kind of, multiple perspectives.
Josh: It’ll be just really interesting to see where we overlap on the Venn diagram and the little areas where we maybe don’t, and that’s totally okay. That’s the pro-life movement. So for those who don’t know, somehow, what Secular Pro-Life does, I want you to briefly describe it.
Josh: I kind of always say this, Secular Pro-Life is maybe the most important pro-life organization in the world.
Monica: Thank you.
Josh: I really believe that, I think I said it in about every speech I’ve given in a couple of years.
Monica: Thank you!
Josh: And so, I really care about it. I think our people know a lot about you guys, but just in case, give them the Secular Pro-life elevator pitch.
Monica: Sure. So I’m the executive director of Secular Pro-Life. I am an atheist. It is an atheist-led organization, although you do not have to be atheist to participate, but it is atheist-led. And we have a three-part mission. The first part is to advance secular arguments against abortion. The second part is to make space for atheists or agnostics, or humanists, or even just people who aren’t particularly religious who want to do anti-abortion work. And the third part is to build interfaith coalitions of people who want to advance secular arguments against abortion.
Josh: Like we’re doing right now.
Monica: Like we’re doing right now! So we like to say, you know, we don’t actually really care what you personally believe about religion or faith or whatever, we care if you are with us on this issue. And we want to be very intentional about this. Our goal is to advance arguments against abortion, not arguments against religion. We’re not trying to make more atheists, we’re trying to make more pro-lifers.
Monica: We do really love it when we find more pro-life atheists, because it’s a solidarity thing.
Monica: But that’s not the main point. And so we have been, I think for about years now, putting out secular pro-life content. It’s starting to really ramp up since I went full-time as executive director, which has been fantastic, honestly. And we want to talk about some of that stuff, maybe in some of these episodes.
Josh: Awesome. Okay, so today (or for the next maybe a couple of episodes, we’ll see how this goes) we’re going to be talking about what should the pro-life movement be doing right now. We’re recording this November 18th. So I don’t know exactly when this is going out. Actually, for sure it’s going out next year because we kind of figured out we are not putting out any more podcasts this year because we can’t, because of the all the stuff for stuff that we’re trying to get done.
Monica: Scheduling, sure.
Josh: So this will come out in a couple of months or something like that. And we just recently had the midterms.
Monica: A week and a half ago, a week and a half ago we had the midterms.
Josh: It didn’t go super well for pro-lifers.
Monica: Not super well, no.
Josh: And so a lot of people are kind of talking about that, and you were interested in talking a little bit, a bit about that.
Josh: Because basically pro-life lost on every single amendment that it could have lost on.
Monica: Yes, even ones that we didn’t feel particularly concerned about, so.
Josh: So what’s going on with that?
Monica: So for a quick recap, there were five amendments. Some of them were to advance pro-choice legislation, some of them were to protect pro-life ideas, and we lost all of them. That was in California, Kentucky, Vermont, Montana, and especially Michigan. And so this was a week and a half ago, and we’ve had a lot of people reach out to us since then, kind of… not just since the Amendments, but also since Dobbs, there’s been a paradigm shift since Dobbs in what is going on with the abortion debate, how should we proceed, how should we be thinking about this, what are our priorities, what are our strategies. And then we have Dobbs in June, and then only a few months later we have, you know, for the first time, really, these opportunities to have these state-level fights, and sort of our first testing. And it went very very difficult, very very difficult. And we’ve got a lot of people that are feeling discouraged, and they’re feeling like we don’t know where we should go from here. And we want to talk about why did this happen, why did we lose every single one.
Monica: And what should we be doing differently,and what can individual people who aren’t necessarily part, like head of a major pro-life organization, what can they be doing? That’s the focus of this episode.
Josh: Yeah. So where do you want to start?
Monica: So I want to start with kind of a post-mortem of these five amendments. So I’m going to try to be brief. For those who don’t already know, California had Prop 1, which essentially further expanded abortion access. Which is kind of ridiculous. I’ve lived on with my entire adult life in California, there’s not an abortion that they don’t like.
Monica: They already were pushing for things that are unheard of in the rest of the country, they’re…
Josh: And wanting to fly women in from other states, and pay for their abortions and travel.
Monica: They… this is not even close to all of it. Before any of this, before Dobbs, they were already requiring public universities to provide abortions on campus, okay? They just recently signed legislation saying that they will forgive student loans for medical students who provide abortions after they graduate.
Monica: You didn’t know that.
Josh: No, it’s okay, so here’s the thing. I have not been able to track the state level stuff. Hardly at all.
Monica: It’s impossible! It’s been crazy lately, you know.
Josh: I just kind of talked about, like what if we could hire someone that kind of keeps their fingers on the pulse with every fifty states.
Monica: Well, and with California it’s like, oh, they’re doing another crazy thing. Oh, they’re doing another crazy thing.
Josh: Right, so you will surprise me a lot. Anytime you’re telling me stuff, specific stuff going on in a certain state, I probably don’t know it.
Josh: And I’m happy to know it, but I haven’t been able with everything else.
Monica: Sure, sure, sure. So California had Prop 1, which further expanded their already ridiculous situation. And it’s important to note that people look at California and New York as like, the craziest. You need to understand that, in fact, California and New York (I know this is hard to believe) have more restrictive laws than New Mexico and Colorado for abortion. Okay?
Monica: New Mexico and Colorado and other states, too, have literally no gestational limits on abortion. I want to be very clear about this. When New York passed its reproductive Health act in, I think 2019, the pro-life side was saying, oh, they’re allowing abortion at any stage for any reason. Okay? What they meant was they were expanding the legal circumstances under which someone could get an abortion post-viability later in pregnancy. But technically, if you look at the laws, there’s still some kind of restriction you have to… even if it’s a broad “health” exception, there’s something there. Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, some other places, they don’t even pretend. They don’t have any restrictions, just whatever you want. Okay? So we focus on the places that are expanding access because they’re going from a bad situation to worse, and we’re trying to stop that, and then we either can or can’t. And we don’t realize that they’re actually not the worst. That said, California passed Prop 1, which further expands access, broadens the reasons, has vague language that may be construed to mean you can’t have any limitations. We’ll see how it plays out in court, but if it goes anything like the way almost everything abortion related goes in California, it’s going to be even more than they were doing before.
Josh: Can I ask you a specific California question before we move on to the others?
Josh: Because I’ve been getting asked this sometimes and again, I haven’t been able to fact-check it yet. And you are literally my favorite fact-checker in the entire pro-life movement.
Monica: I may or may not know, so we’ll see.
Josh: I’m always sending people to Secular Pro-Life for like the fact-check kind of research…
Monica: That is a symbiotic relationship. so.
Josh: It is a really really helpful thing you do. I know there are other pro-lifers that do it, I just like you guys the most by a pretty wide margin. So, I’ve heard that… I think this amendment, unless I’m quite confusing or conflating two things, was going to allow infanticide. And there were people talking about that. What… like that’s very hard for me to believe. Or at least I don’t think the intention would have been…
Monica: Sure, sure.
Josh: Give me the…
Monica: So of course the amendment doesn’t say: hey, infanticide is fine. It doesn’t say that. And this goes for Michigan as well, actually. The concern is that these propositions are written in a very broad way, that it could be interpreted later by the courts to negate previous restrictions. And so for example California’s proposition, and I don’t remember the exact text of language, but it’s basically saying that people have this right to reproductive autonomy, the right to make their own decisions about abortion. And it doesn’t say in there, except, you know, after viability. Except in these situations. It just says broadly, you have this right. Now, the other side will argue, okay, but we already have this other legislation saying: but these are the limitations. And surely the courts will interpret it that way.
Monica: And then our side is saying, oh, will they? Because you’ve made it very broad and you’ve made it very affirmative, and it’s not at all clear that they’ll say, okay. Which… is it the previous restrictions that will, you know, come out in the end? Or is it this new thing you passed that says: hey, you have this right, don’t interfere with it.
And Michigan had a similar problem, where they weren’t just talking about abortion. They also talked about how you cannot penalize pregnancy outcomes, and pregnancy outcomes could include stillbirth. But the problem is, if you have a case of actual infanticide, and you don’t know if it’s infanticide or stillbirth because you haven’t investigated it, and an investigation is seen as a penalty, then they were saying there could be a situation where the authorities can’t actually investigate it to see if it was a infanticide or not, because then you’re penalizing a potential pregnancy outcome. Now, it might not play out that way. But it wasn’t clear that it wouldn’t.
And this is not just hypothetical, there have already been cases where there were situations… and when I say infanticide, I mean leaving a newborn to die. I don’t mean like, stabbing them in the face. I mean, you kind of just walk away and don’t take care of them, and they die from exposure or something.
Monica: And then there are people (and granted these are people on the internet, take it for what it’s worth) but there are people with viral tweets talking about how you shouldn’t be investigating this because you are criminalizing pregnancy. For real.
Monica: Yeah, like you have a born child, and they no longer are alive, and the authorities are looking into it and people are objecting because it’s criminalizing pregnancy.
So there is concern about being very very clear about what are our limitations here, and both the proposition in California and the one in Michigan, the pro-life side was very concerned about how broadly they were defining these rights with no limitations. You know, in Michigan is another example. The proponents of Prop 3 in Michigan were saying it’s essentially a state level codification of Roe v. Wade. It doesn’t say Roe v. Wade, but it’s basically trying to have what a lot of Americans see as a compromise, and making sure you can get abortions in some situations, but it doesn’t have to go crazy. But it was written so it was written vastly more broadly than Roe v. Wade. And for those people who don’t know, and a lot of people don’t, I see this all the time, Roe v. Wade said you could not reasonably substantially limit abortion before viability.
Josh: When combined with Casey.
Monica: When combined with Casey, right. Yes, exactly. Basically the first (roughly speaking) first two trimesters you can’t really do a lot of limitations. After that you can if you want to. It did not say you had to. Which is why there have always been, before Dobbs, there have always been multiple states and Washington, D.C. where there are no limitations on abortion whatsoever. But most Americans think of Roe v. Wade as: early is okay, late is not, that’s what we’re going with, everything’s fine, right?
Monica: That was never true. But let’s say that it was true (and it wasn’t). Now we’re having these state-level things where they’re saying okay, we got rid of Roe v. Wade, which was this great compromise — no it wasn’t. Okay, but let’s say that it was. And so we want to put in our state an equivalent of that compromise, okay? Michigan built Prop 3 this way. And so they’re saying we’re just saying you know make sure there are some reasonable rights. But Prop 3 didn’t say: hey, early on it’s fine, later it’s not. Prop 3 said: you have a right to reproductive autonomy, and it includes all of these things in all of these ways.
Josh: They’re going to codify the actual Roe and not what people thought Roe was.
Monica: They’re going to qualify worse than Roe. Roe didn’t say you… Roe said you can limit it after viability if you want.
Monica: These propositions aren’t even saying you can do that.
Monica: They’re just saying you have a right to reproductive autonomy or your reproductive freedom, or however you want to word it, and people can’t interfere with that. And they’re putting no restrictions on it. And so our side is saying, well, so wait… so like, parental notification laws. If someone says oh, you have to tell your parents you’re doing this. And that’s considered, you know, a restriction on your reproductive autonomy. Will you get rid of parental notification laws? And they’re like: No. And you’re like: Why not? And they’re like: Why? We’re not. What do you mean? It sounds like, if you read the text as it says, it says every individual doesn’t say every individual. It doesn’t say every individual over eighteen. It doesn’t say any kind of limitations you can put on that by gestational age. Like, I’m just reading the text as it says, and it doesn’t specify any of these limitations that most Americans do support. Most Americans support parental notification laws.
Monica: It doesn’t say you can do that, and you’re like: well we’ve always done that. Okay, but this is new legislation. You get that, right?
Monica: This is new. This is a new thing. So backing up a bit, you’ve got Prop 1 in California, Pro-Life San Francisco and other groups did a lot of work fighting it, but they were outspent (and I looked this up) ninety-seven to one. Okay?
Josh: Wait. What was out spent ninety-seven to one?
Monica: Prop 1 in California (I wrote this down), the committee in support of it spent 12 million dollars, and the committee against it spent 129 thousand dollars. Okay?
Josh: Wow. Okay, so is that factoring in any… is there like other pro-life activities that were going on like against this that…?
Monica: Yes, I’m sure there were. This is literally just the formal committees for and against it, that’s what ballot PD measures, so this doesn’t capture everything.
Josh: Okay, so this isn’t on the same side than like, Planned Parenthood might also have been adding stuff that wouldn’t have counted.
Monica: There could be other things going on, like you could have ads that weren’t specific about the ballot initiative, about abortion in general, you could have lots of different things. This doesn’t capture all possible spending. So it might have not been ninety-seven to one, it might have been, you know, eighty to one. Whatever it was. The point is…
Josh: It seems unlikely that the pro-lifers had like matched it outside of…
Monica: No, and I get why. You have finite resources and time, and a lot of us look at California as, like more of a… long-term goal, you know?
Josh: [laughing] Yes.
Monica: But they did, but Pro-Life San Francisco and other groups did put effort in to fight it, and it seems pretty ridiculous, because it was riding on the wave of Dobbs. Like, they’re attacking our reproductive freedom. Not in California! Are you kidding?
Josh: Right, right.
Monica: California does not have an abortion access problem.
Josh: No, no.
Monica: They do not, no. Okay? There’s some statistics that estimate (and we don’t know for sure, because they don’t report their numbers to the CDC) but there are some statistics that estimate that something like one in ten or even one in six abortions in the country happen in…
Josh: Yeah, I’ve heard one in five. Twenty percent happen in California.
Monica: Yeah, there are plenty of abortions in California. But in response to Dobbs, they did all of these different expansions, including Prop 1, to make sure that they guard their very well guarded right to abortion. And so anyway…
Josh: So I just want to… just to make sure everyone’s tracking. I’m going to tell you what I basically hear you… I’m going to summarize what I hear your answer being to the infanticide question and in general. What I hear you saying is that as kind of a major pushback to Dobbs, you’ve got amendments that are, you know, maybe even performatively over the top pro-choice or pro-abortion or whatever.
Monica: Sure, right.
Josh: And because they’re trying to do that, they’re not doing what a lot of legislation does, which is put really clear borders around it. It’s more of this declaration.
Monica: No, they’re just saying you have a right to abortion, period, end of story, full stop. What’s that mean?
Josh: That’s why pro-lifers are concerned that maybe they will go even further outside those bounds than most people would think they would be.
Monica: Yes. Exactly.
Josh: Okay. I’m tracking now. That’s helpful.
Monica: So those were the big ones: Prop 1 in California and Prop 3 in Michigan. Now, to be clear, Prop 3 was a lot closer than Prop 1. California… I wrote it down. 66.3% voted in support of it, 33.7% opposed. In Michigan it was closer. It was 56.7 to 43.3. And Michigan also had closer spending. We were still outspent two to one, but that’s not ninety-seven to one. The pro-lifers in Michigan worked so hard trying to oppose that bill, and they and they knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors, and they talked to lots of pro-choice people. They weren’t even saying: hey, abortion is wrong and it kills a valuable human being. They were saying: hey, did you know that this is very broadly written and it might undo parental consent laws. It might undo these common sense…
Josh: Right. Very smart strategies.
Monica: Right, exactly. A lot of people are like: oh, I don’t want to go that far. Like they… a lot of Americans, they want to make sure a woman isn’t going to have her life threatened because she can’t get care. But that doesn’t mean they want to get rid of all possible restrictions, of course. So they worked very very hard, but in the end they weren’t able to do it, and now it’s in their state constitution, which is equivalent to Roe in some ways, in terms of how difficult it’s going to be for them to undo this. That was the really hard one.
But then, as a cherry on top, there were three other states that didn’t get as much attention. So in Kentucky, they had sort of the opposite, where they were trying to put in their constitution that there’s no specific right to abortion. They weren’t outlying abortion, they weren’t restricting abortion, they were saying it’s not specifically a constitutional right. That’s what they were saying. And in Kentucky where there wasn’t as much attention spent, it was pretty close: 52% to 47, but to be clear, we were outspent eight to one there. And it failed, and I think at least in the circles I ran, in we didn’t pay as much attention to that. I think people thought that that would be safe in Kentucky.
Josh: Yeah, Kentucky.
Monica: And it was not. Similarly in Montana (this one is very frustrating), they had a born alive protection amendment.
Monica: Yes. And now again, I’m not talking about all possible spending on it, I’m just talking about the formal committees, but they had a committee opposed to it that spent $715,000, and guess how much the committee that was supporting it spent?
Josh: I’m gonna guess hundreds of thousands.
Monica: Nothing. There was no committee supporting it, okay?
Monica: Not that Ballotpedia could find. I think because they thought that it was just an obvious common sense thing.
Josh: Oh, see I had It reversed in my head, I thought you’re asking how much the pro-choice compared to 17 grand. Okay.
Monica: Oh, sorry. No, so the people opposed to a born alive protection amendment spend about $700,000, the people opposed to it.
Josh: Protecting the born alive infants.
Monica: And the people supporting it had no official committee supporting it.
Josh: Got it.
Monica: Now, okay. Most generous interpretation: The pro-choice side will say: the reason this failed is because it was written very poorly, and it would have required doctors to do invasive painful procedures on children born early from… like, wanted children born early in various medical circumstances, and you’ll have to do invasive instead of palliative care, and it’ll be really destructive for the parents already going through a difficult time, and you’ve written this in an ignorant way that’s going to interfere with people even outside of abortion. That was their argument.
Josh: Is that true?
Monica: It depends on the interpretation. They were using the same language others have used before where that has not been the result.
Monica: Right? So it’s this… it’s kind of the same problem that we’re having on a wider scale here, where we’re taking language that, in my opinion, in some cases is abundantly clear, abundantly clear, and people are saying this is confusing, and so I can’t treat people. You know? So there’s a whole debate there. But…
Josh: Yes, we’ll get into that before we…
Monica: We’ll get into that. But, so, most generous interpretation, you’re a pro-choice person and people are like: why would you ever be against offering care to a child born alive after a botched abortion? You want to kill babies? The argument was: this is too broad, and it’s going to cause interference in really difficult situations where we would all agree that palliative care is more appropriate. That was the argument.
Monica: Okay. And so that was defeated, too. And then lastly, Vermont, almost an afterthought, they had the right personal reproductive autonomy. Very similar to California and Michigan, where it’s just kind of this declarative, like, even though they’re already pro-choice and they already have legal abortion. And that passed. But nobody even really paid attention to that one, honestly. Because it was like, okay, well, yeah. Go on, then.
Josh: …you’re gonna win.
Monica: Yeah. So all… those are the five amendments. Now, five might not sound like a lot. It’s actually a lot. There’s not usually nearly this many amendments on abortion in a given year. And we lost every single one of them. So one of the points I’m trying to underscore is that we were outspent on all of them, and not just on the ballots specifically, like the specific amendments. But also, Democrats spent more on ads related to abortion and to Dobbs than they did on anything else, by a lot. It was something like 400 million dollars nationally on ads related to abortion leading up to the midterms. I am not a political strategist, I’m actually notoriously bad at predicting politics, so take it with a grain of salt, but I think that that was one of the only issues where they saw that they had some significant public support, because other concerns about the economy and and other issues were much iffier. And so they really wanted to hit where they were strong, everyone’s concerned about Dobbs. And so they rode on that. Okay. But it’s still something we need to talk about. Because it’s not just about being outspent. You’re being outspent on something that people do feel very conflicted about, where there’s room, where the spending will make a difference.
Monica: That’s the point. You know, they didn’t out they didn’t worry about outspending Republicans on the economy because they didn’t see as much wiggle room to convince people that they’re the people to go with. But on abortion they saw that, and we need to talk about that, you know?
Josh: Yeah. So what does this mean, do you think, for how Americans feel about abortion?
Monica: Well, polls have shown very consistently for a very long time that Americans are conflicted about abortion. Sometimes they hold what would seem like contradictory views. Broadly speaking, Americans are more comfortable with first trimester abortion, not so much later. If you get in this (they don’t poll on this as often), but if you ask about reasons, they’re very comfortable with abortion if her life is threatened, if her physical health is in serious danger, if there’s a fetal disability. You know, medically indicated abortions.
And I’m defining that broadly, we can get into, you know, what does it mean fetal disability? But something to do with some kind of medical situation, Americans are very supportive of that. If you start to ask about socioeconomic reasons or if…. some polls have even said: for any reason. That’s the quote. They’re like, I don’t know, not so much. And so even before Dobbs, and it seems to look like it’s still this way now, Americans generally support it early and for dire medical reasons. And they don’t support it late, and they don’t necessarily support it for just any reason. And that’s broadly how they feel.
Now we have Dobbs, I think (and you and I have talked about this) if you could do a bell curve of abortion debate activism, we live in the tail of the pro-life activists.
Monica: And we often engage with and see the tail of the pro-choice activist that’s where — especially for us, we’re almost completely online. We see a lot of that.
Monica: We need to remember that most Americans are in the curve.
Monica: They have, um, much less information. Okay, and I’m not — I’m not faulting them. Everyone cares about twenty-five different things. You know, how much time can you spend on something. They also, in my opinion, don’t want to talk about this. Americans don’t like talking about this.
Monica: Whether they’re nominally pro-life or nominally pro-choice, it’s a very uncomfortable topic. It gets people very angry very fast. A lot of people don’t want to get yelled at at family dinner, you know.
Pro-choice or pro-life. Not just our side, right. And, um, they get comfortable with the status quo. Roe was the status quo my entire life. Before my life, before your life, right? For a lot of people. And a lot of people, incorrectly, believe that Roe was this nice middle ground and they just wanted to be left alone about it. And we have, um, destroyed that possibility, which I am very happy about, by the way. But, Roe was the status quo. We just upended it and it’s only been a couple months. And people are very uncomfortable, and people are trying to figure out what that means for them, what that means for their families, what that means for their state laws — all these things.
I think that, um, as time goes on, there’s what has there been? Twelve, maybe more states that have passed extremely restrictive abortion laws, either at conception or at heartbeat that have so far not been challenged. That are in place. That could change, but it provides an opportunity for them to see as time goes on that the sky actually isn’t going to fall. And so there’s some proportion of people who will not be okay with that, because they believe in the pro-choice view as hard as we believe in the pro-life one. But, there are a lot of people who initially are worried and they’re reading all these stories about women not being able to get care and what’s going to happen and, you know, will it be, you know, war in the streets? And what’s going to happen is: no there won’t. And you’re going to get an opportunity as time goes on and these states have banned abortion where the sky isn’t going to fall, and some proportion of people are gonna be like, “Okay whatever.” Not necessarily like, “Oh, this is great!”
Monica: But just kind of like, “I don’t want to talk about this,” and moving on with my life. You know, that will happen, but it there has not been enough time for that yet. So —
Josh: I agree with all of that analysis. That’s — that’s the way that I’ve been seeing it too.
Monica: Right. And so, um, there’s also an element I think not really thinking, “Okay what do I think about abortion? Is it moral or not? And why or why not? And what do I think about bodily rights? And what do I think about fetal personhood?”
No. I think for a lot of people it’s like, “I’ve been uncomfortable with abortion, but Dobbs happened and everyone’s really mad right now and I saw my sister post something on Facebook about being pro-life and then my cousin quit talking to her. You know what? I’m out. I’m out. I don’t want to be involved.”
Even pro-life people. Like, and when I say pro-life people, I mean people who are personally opposed, but they’re not activists, right.
Monica: Give that time to calm down, too. You know, you’ve — I’ve had this happen the whole time I’ve been a pro-life activist where something will happen in the media that’s very upsetting — Dobbs is obviously much bigger than most things that have happened before — but, it’s very upsetting. And you’ll have the, uh, “If you don’t believe in a woman’s right to control our own body, unfriend me now.”
No! I’m not gonna unfriend you. I’m not gonna unfriend you. You know what, I’m gonna stay friends with you and continue to annoy you with my friendship. If you want to unfriend me —
John: I’ll make you unfriend me, right?
Monica: Yeah. But — and they won’t unfriend me because all I post on Facebook is stuff about my kids, you know — and then eventually, over time, they’ll be less angry and we can maybe have a conversation about it. But now might not be the time.
Monica: Actually when Dobbs first happened, we and — and and social media exploded — we did put out a piece (and I highly recommend it on our blog) sixteen responses to claims about Dobbs, if you want to talk about it. But I also did say on our Facebook, “You don’t have to talk about it right at this very moment.”
Monica: You know, people are very upset.
Josh: They’ve got abortion fatigue at best.
Monica: Right. And, and not specific to the abortion debate: there — there’s always a situation, um, when people get really upset in anything in life. It could be a fight with your spouse, it could be something at work, it could be that you stubbed your toe — it doesn’t matter. Everybody has a period of time between the event that made them mad and being able to think rationally again.
And some people that’s a very short period of time. My brother is notoriously objective, and he’s kind of like give him about thirty seconds and then he can tell you — he literally would be like, “I’m so mad right now, and it’s because of these reasons,” like, are you mad? You don’t sound mad. You know, but then one of my sisters, give her a month, you know, and get back to her.
It’s different for different people. And that’s for everyday things. You talk about something huge like this where it’s all the stuff in the media, and everyone’s yelling at each other…You don’t have to convince people to be pro-life thirty seconds after Roe v. Wade got overturned. You know?
So, to recap: we are outspent. People are conflicted. People are scared and worried, right and and, we don’t — the battle is not over. And nobody thought that if we overturned Roe v. Wade, we would just be done and be able to go home. All that meant — all that meant is that now we are at least free to actually have the conversations. Now, we’re at least free to take the fight to the state level.
It doesn’t mean we’ll win every single time.
Monica: It means now we can at least try.
Monica: So I want to make a point here. This is really important. You would think that after Roe v. Wade was overturned, the pro-life side would erupt in joy and feel like this is the momentum we’re going to carry forward for years. Right? In fact we saw a lot of people, especially in the first few days and weeks, but even now months later, we’ve seen a lot of people contact us despondent and disheartened and worried and not sure what the future brings.
Josh:I don’t blame them.
Monica: Because you have it overturned, you have this huge backlash in your personal lives and socially, right, on a national level, too. Then you have these amendments and we lose every single one of them. And people are like, “Well, what are we doing?” I don’t blame you for feeling that way, but I wanna — I wanna take a ten thousand foot view here for a second.
Monica: We are way ahead of where we were last year, ten years ago, my whole life. Do not be confused, okay. Roe v. Wade had to go.
Josh: Yeah. This was a necessary condition to the things that pro-lifers really want —
Monica: Not sufficient.
Monica: But necessary.
Josh: Necessary, but like, first thing that’s gotta get done.
Monica: And we were seeing this before Dobbs even was coming down the pipeline, we would have people all the time where we would talk about, complain about Roe v. Wade and we would have pro-life people — not just pro-choice people, pro-life people — like, “You know if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that doesn’t outlaw abortion.”
Yeah dude, I know that. Thank you. Thank you for clarifying that.
Josh: So, I feel like there were a lot of people that didn’t understand.
Monica: I knew that! You don’t need to tell me, okay?
Josh: I know that you understand that. But, you understand more than 99% of everyone.
Monica: Fine, fine. So, to be fair, you’re right. A lot of people — a lot of people did not know what Roe v. Wade did —
Monica: — and what it means. And, and by proxy didn’t know what Dobbs did, right? And they didn’t understand what that meant either.
Monica: So, for anyone who doesn’t know, I’m not trying to — not everyone is as obsessed with this as I am. I understand, okay. Like we said, Roe made it basically impossible to pass meaningful legislation before, like, the first two trimesters roughly.
Monica: Or before viability when you get Casey involved.
Monica: And then after that you could, although you did not have to. That is what Roe did. And I want you to understand that was radical. Okay?
Monica: Internationally, most countries have come to a more moderate position than that.
Monica: Internationally, trying to pass a 15-week ban would not be considered insane.
Monica: Okay, but in America it is. Because Roe established a standard that we’ve been used to for decades that is actually quite extreme.
Monica: So that’s what Roe did. And that means what Dobbs did — Dobbs did not tell anybody to do anything about abortion. Technically, all fifty states could say we don’t want to have any gestational limits at all. They could all do that.
Josh: It’s like the Supreme Court is slowly backing out of the issue..
Monica: They’ve removed themselves from the equation!
Josh: They’re like, “It’s not our thing anymore.”
Monica: Which is so funny, because they’re like, “This is judicial activism!” It’s the opposite —
Monica: — of judicial activism. They’re literally like “We’re out!”
Josh: It’s them undoing judicial activism.
Josh: They’re like, “This shouldn’t have happened in the first place…”
Monica: You’re right that judicial activism is involved, but not in the way that you think.
Josh: So we’re going to pull the plug.
Monica: So Dobbs didn’t say you have to outlaw abortion. Dobbs didn’t say — Dobbs didn’t say much, to the dismay of pro-lifers. Dobbs did not say fetuses are people.
Josh: Yes. Correct.
Monica: Dobbs said: “We’re out.”
Monica: Whatever you want to do —
Monica: Okay? And so people think Dobbs meant abortion is outlawed. And in an indirect way in some states, yes.
Monica: Because it allows states to do that.
Josh: ‘Cause there were trigger laws already. On both sides.
Josh: There were trigger laws on both sides.
Monica: Yes. But, Dobbs didn’t say you had to do any one particular thing. The pro-choice movement can and will try to expand abortion access in all fifty states —
Monica: — and we will try to do the opposite. And now we can. Before, our hands were tied. Before — before we couldn’t even require admitting privileges, okay.
Josh: Yeah, yup.
Monica: I don’t know if you recall, um, the Supreme Court before Dobbs. I had — I had no hope for Dobbs for a long time, okay —
Monica: — because I’m very cynical. Before Dobbs, you had Supreme Court cases where, first Texas had an admitting privileges case and it went to the Supreme Court.
Monica: And Roberts voted, “Yes, you can do this,” and overall the Supreme Court said, “No, you can’t.” And then two years later, Louisiana had essentially exactly the same case.
Monica: Essentially exactly the same case and Roberts changed his vote because now there was precedent that you couldn’t.
Monica: I remember that day. I remember pro-lifers were like, “We can’t even require admitting privileges.” We’re not even trying to outlaw it. We literally think that this is killing valuable human beings and we’re not even trying to outlaw it, we’re just trying to say, “You have to have admitting privileges to go to a hospital.” We can’t even do that!
Monica: Right, that was in 2019.
Monica: Fast forward to 2022 and we have overturned Roe v. Wade. So, again I want to underscore this very, very clearly: the pro-life movement strategically, logistically, and practically is vastly ahead of where it was the whole time we’ve been doing this.
Josh: Vastly ahead of where — of where I thought we would be in my lifetime.
Monica: I never thought Roe would be challenged in my whole lifetime.
Monica: So I was filled with joy. When the Dobbs decision came down I was by myself working on my computer and it came down and I’m not — I am not kidding. I cried. I cried with relief. Because that’s not the end of the story, but now at least we have — we are at least allowed to put up a fight now.
Monica: Or at least allowed to. So, I understand that a lot of people are feeling despondent. We lost all these amendments and that does suck. I’m not trying to belittle it. But, the lives that are involved and just the frustration of motivating people to do this work for us when it doesn’t feel like we’re getting anywhere and everyone’s yelling at us.
Monica: It’s a big deal. I’m not saying it’s not a big deal, but make no mistake. We are so much further ahead than we — than I ever thought we would even get.
Monica: Okay —
Josh: Yeah, from a legal perspective —
Monica: From a legal perspective, from a logistical perspective.
Josh: Because I want you to react to, to my sort of alternative version of the despondent thing that you’re talking about.
Josh: But I think it’s different. Because that day, yeah, I had my moment where I teared up a little bit when I started reading the first page of the thing and I knew what it was. But —
Monica: Music to my ears.
Josh: — very quickly, sadly all that — all that nice feeling —
Monica: This is where we disagree. Nah.
Josh: went — went far away. And it — and it stayed away. Well, well actually, I’ll — I’ll nuance it a little bit. And I — and I’ve told this story at least once before.
Josh: But like, that day immediately was–went into busy work. Was: we had a video to publish that we had made like a month before. We’re on Twitter, Emily’s on Tick Tock. I was on the road for like six hours that day for personal family reasons, so like I’m trying to get what I can do from– so that day was just a weird day for me, for other reasons.
Josh: But after that, when, again, I felt like most of my colleagues were, you know, doing victory laps, I felt like the weird one who was not having those feelings, because I felt like I was watching the people that I spent literally the last twenty years trying to reach shove so much further away from me than they ever had been. And so I–of course, I understood everything you’re saying about the legal thing–
Monica: Mmhmm. (in agreement)
Josh: And I was–a necessary condition to substance–substantive protections for the unborn.
Josh: But, I also felt conflicted because at the same time, at a societal level, it felt like maybe something was happening kind of like happened with prohibition where–
Josh: — legally things moved so much faster than public opinion, and so it didn’t last. And I was worried about, like — so that’s been the conflict in me. You disagree.
Monica: I do disagree.
Josh: Tell me about why you disagree.
Monica: I disagree for a couple of different reasons.
Monica: First of all, you aren’t — you’re not totally wrong. Because —
Josh: Oh, thank you!
Monica: You’re not totally wrong.
Josh: Thank you for that, Monica.
Monica: But, the part where I agree with you is that there was a huge bump — not even when Dobbs came out, but when the leaked draft came out
Monica: Which was a good test case of what was going to happen.
Monica: There was a huge bump in pro-choice sentiment. More people started saying they were pro-choice.
Monica: More people started saying they think it should be legal all the time. Like, pick a metric and they got a bump. That is true.
Monica: Okay, but if you look at this historically, bumps like that happen when big events like this happen. And then, at least with abortion, then they keep evening out. Abortion has been extremely stubborn for Americans.
Josh: Yes. That’s for sure.
Monica: Contrast that with other social issues. With legalization of pot or other drugs, with, uh, LGBT issues, especially gay marriage. There’s lots of things you can show where there’s —
Josh: The Overton window moves super quickly.
Monica: It does.
Monica: Abortion has refused to do that.
Josh: Yes. That’s for sure.
Monica: Another thing to be — to point out while I’m talking about this, is you’ll see lots of coverage that will say the younger generation is pro-choice. Guys, the younger generation is always pro-choice until they get older, okay?
Monica: Gallup —
Josh: This is not new.
Monica: This is not new. Gallup has had polls where instead of just polling everyone in a moment and saying, “How old are you? What do you think?” They’ll take a group that’s 18 to 29 and then follow them, and they get more pro-life. And it’s been happening the whole time. And I can get into later why I think that is, and why that’s different from other social issues. And it is different. Okay?
Josh: (quietly) I would enjoy hearing that.
Monica: But, getting back to Dobbs.
Monica: You are right that a bunch of people are going to be pushed more pro-choice. Especially as they hear all of these horror stories of people not being able to get care and things like that. That is going to happen.
Monica: Okay. But, at the same time —
Josh: And we’re going to talk more about that, too–don’t worry.
Monica: Yeah. We are going to talk more about that, too. Yes. We’re not just going to keep mentioning it and being like, “Whatever. It’s fine.”
Monica: I’m sure it’s fine. But, at the same time, we have also had people telling us that they’ve been activated as pro-lifers either — either they were on the fence about whether they were pro-life, or they were privately pro-life and (got) more involved. And the reaction of some of the pro-choice activists to Dobbs has gotten them off the bench and into the playing field, because they couldn’t believe how vitriolic and —
Josh: So, I have not been seeing this. This is not — now I’m — I’m not hearing from these people.
Monica: This is just in my circles. This is just in the secular pro-life circles.
Josh: I believe you. I believe you. I’m not hearing from these people.
Monica: I am hearing from these people.
Josh: I’m happy.
Monica: People contact us. And so I don’t know if our group is unique this way, take it for what it’s worth.
Monica: But we are trying to reach a demographic that is traditionally extremely pro-choice.
Monica: Secular people, atheists, and so forth.
Monica: We also are very non-partisan.
Monica: We are very intentional about trying to be very nonpartisan.
Monica: Um, and so we also reach — even if they might be religious or not — more Democrats —
Monica: More liberals, kinds of things —
Josh: On average.
Monica: Yes. On average.
Josh: They’re going to be further from the right.
Monica: So that also means that we are reaching out to people who, more often — this is just my speculation — in their geographies and social lives, um, are not “out” as pro-lifers. Um, they’re more likely to be secretly —
Josh: You mean, like, out of the closet.
Monica: Out of the closet.
Josh: Yeah. Okay, right.
Moncia: They’re more likely to be secretly, privately pro-life. And — and sometimes even their own families don’t know.
Monica: Now, this has a couple effects. First of all, after Dobbs, these were the ones who were most likely to be despondent. Because people are more likely to mouth off to them —
Josh: Right. Right.
Monica: — about this not knowing they’re pro-life.
Monica: Sometimes even their spouses, okay?
Monica: And they’re just like, “Okaaaay.” And they reach out to — I had people reaching out to us like, “Is there some kind of atheist pro-life Zoom chat or something? I am so lonely right now.” You know? Kind of thing, which to me was surprising. Because I’m — okay listen. I am a total zealot, all right.
Monica: You talk about the single issue voter? That’s me.
Josh: Yes. I know that about you.
Monica: Okay? I — if we had lost — if we had not gotten Dobbs, I would have been sad and then done the same work I’m doing right now.
Monica: If we had gotten all five of these amendments, I would have been happy and done the same work I’m doing right now. This is my thing, right? But, I recognize not everyone else feels as —
Monica: — specific as I do about it. And so I was — I told you, Dobbs happened and I was… Joy isn’t the right word. It’s almost like a happy sadness. It’s almost like, the — the analogy I used at the time was like, I feel like I just spit out poison.
I’m so relieved, but I’m also angry that it was necessary. It’s a weird feeling. I’m definitely glad that it happened, but it’s not in just this, like, “Party!!” It’s more like, “Finally,” you know, kind of thing.
Josh: Yeah. yeah.
Monica: Right, and so, I felt that way and I have continued to feel that way. But — but like we said, a lot of people haven’t. Anyway, sorry, that’s a tangent. The point is, we have these demographics, but it also means there’s a lot of people in those demographics that haven’t yet decided if they really are ready to call themselves pro-life, necessarily.
I’ve had people help us, volunteer with us, and donate to us who don’t say that they’re pro-life. They’re like, “I don’t know if I would say I’m pro-life, but I like that you’re doing this right here.”
Monica: I’ve even had people who say they’re pro-choice, but they don’t like some of the excesses, help us. So, it’s a complicated thing.
Josh: Yes. Very interesting.
Monica: Yes, so we also had people who contacted us saying, “I want to get involved.” And when people volunteer with us, usually I try to ask them like, “How long have you been pro-life? What’s your religious background? What are you doing?” I always want to see why that — why now?
Monica: And we’ve had several people be like — like one person, she said, “You know, I don’t usually talk about this issue and I made a status kind of trying to — I saw all these people complaining about pro-lifers, and so I made a status kind of trying to explain. You know, this is where I’m coming from. And my cousin basically called me names and blocked me. And you know what? How can I help you?”
Monica: We had someone–we had someone one–of my one of my new volunteers this year– one of my favorite volunteers and I didn’t ask for permission so I won’t say her specific name but she contacted us and she said hello I am uh I have a degree in philosophy. I am a nerd. I go to an in-person local philosophy chat group to talk about Philosophy for fun. And side note, everyone: me, Monica, not that into philosophy. Okay.
Josh: This is my–this is my kind of person right now. I would love this person.
Monica: Yeah! This is your kind of person. So, she contacts me and is like–So she–she goes to– and this has nothing to do with abortion–she loves philosophy.
Josh: In general, right?
Monica: Yes. And she went to her philosophy meetup group, um, the next time they met after Dobbs. And somebody there started mouthing off about how terrible pro-lifers are, and she was really mad. Because, that’s not the purpose of the group. How dare you assume everyone here agrees with you? The standard thing. Now, she didn’t say anything, I believe, in that very moment. She reached out to us, and she said, “I want to get more involved.” I was like oh my gosh, especially philosophy major?
Monica: I — I — Yes. Come.
Josh: We can use more of those.
Monica: And she has been enormously — so we have what I call spite donors and spite volunteers. And that is people who are donating to us and volunteering with us because they’re mad at somebody else, okay. and she is the best spite volunteer I have ever had. She’s so smart, and she’s so, you know I could go on about that. The point is we have people who have seen how this is going, and moved more in our direction. Now, on aggregate, I do think most people moved more pro-choice, the polls showed that.
Monica: Okay, I don’t think it’s a permanent effect. But, I do think it happened but I’m telling you there’s a back and forth there.
Monica: Okay? And as we see — as we see the other side push a lot harder for more extreme things, I think we’re going to see more people pushed away from them. So right now, the most recent thing was Dobbs and before we were used to you know this protected legal right to abortion at least in the first two trimesters, and now that’s not a sure thing.
Monica: And people reacting to that, but we’re also seeing California, Michigan, and other places — and not just not just legislation, but also talking points. Where they are increasingly starting to say, “Any time, any reason, doesn’t matter, not our business.” And Americans don’t like that. And that is starting to happen more. And I believe — and maybe I’m just the consummate optimist I — believe that is not going to work.
I believe that the more vocally they try to say, “Any time, any reason, not our business,” it’s going to backfire on them. It’s not going to be that everyone — I don’t think the Overton window is going to move. I don’t think everyone’s gonna be like, “Okay, this is fine,” it’s going to be like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.”
Monica: You know? Um, it’s one of the reasons we talk about it a lot. We talk about it a lot through Secular Pro-Life, because late-term abortion, elective late-term abortion — which is a real thing that does exist — is an entry point for moderates. It’s an entry point for people who aren’t sure, um, to start to see where we’re coming — they might not become pro-life, they might not be like, “Okay, conception, bam, done!”
Monica: But, they can at least see how like, hmm, this is a complicated issue.
Josh: Seems pretty barbaric —
Monica: It’s not, “Abortion is healthcare. End of story,” there’s — there’s, you know, a conflict of rights here.
Monica: It’s an important entry point, and they’re starting to embrace that a lot more now. Emily. Your Emily. Equal Rights Institute’s Emily —
Monica: — when she went on MSNBC recently —
Monica: She hit that note so perfectly. Oh my gosh, I was so proud of her. But, essentially they did the same bumper sticker nonsense, and she was like, “Okay. Well, doesn’t that mean any time, any reason?” And their response was, “That’s rare.” Okay, but —
Monica: How does that answer my question?
Josh: And only, for, you know, these like serious situations.
Monica: I could tell she was ready to answer that, too.
Monica: She just did amazing. I — I just, quick side note plugging you guys–
Josh: Okay, thanks. (laughing)
Monica: Okay, I was so compelled. I reached out to her immediately, I was like, “I am so proud of you! That was amazing. You couldn’t have hit it better with the content, the delivery, the demeanor. Just: chef’s kiss,” and I promoted it heavily on our channels —
Josh: Thank you.
Monica: — and we had so many people being like, “That was so satisfying because — to get to see a pro-life voice on, um, on a hostile audience and have the opportunity to say what they want to say.” It shows how rarely that happens.
Monica: You know? And kudos to MSNBC —
Monica: — for letting that happen.
Monica: And it also showed that you can have an early 20-something young woman who has some training with you guys but no — no formal background in this, go up against — what was it? The president of NARAL? And they had nothing!
Josh: And a doctor and a lawyer.
Monica: They had nothing. It really underscores — and I can’t say this enough — the pro-choice activist position is completely fragile. It exists off of myths and a lot of support from a very supportive, like, media infrastructure, and a lot of money. And that’s important —
Monica: — and those are significant things that we have to figure out how to overcome.
Josh: And like a lot of personal experiences.
Monica: But the — the content of what they’re actually saying is vacuous nonsense. And Emily was able to make short order of it in ten minutes.
Josh: Stunned by how bad their responses were — it was almost like they were —
Monica: You were stunned? I was not stunned. Do you think they secretly had some really great argument you’ve never heard before? That they were waiting until MSNBC to say?
Josh: No. No, no, no.
Monica: They don’t!
Josh: That’s a straw man.
Josh: I wasn’t expecting some — a brilliant philosophy from the president of NARAL. But I was also expecting her to be able to understand the difference between the biological part of the debate and the philosophical part of the debate.
Monica: You know why they can’t, Josh?
Josh: Why? Tell me.
Monica: Because they literally live in an echo chamber, okay?
Monica: They don’t hear our voices. They don’t hear Equal Rights Institute. They hear their own stereotypes of pro-life people —
Josh: That seems fair.
Monica: — either actual living stereotypes or more likely just them telling each other.
Monica: They don’t know what our arguments are. There’s no — there’s a reason that the vast majority of the time, pro-choice activists cannot even begin to articulate the most fundamental premise of our position. They have no idea what we’re saying.
Monica: They think we’re motivated by misogyny and money and people’s sex lives. We’re actually motivated because we care very, very deeply — committed for life —
Josh: Mmhmm (agreeing)
Monica: — to human rights issues and they missed that. To their detriment. And now that Roe is gone and we’re allowed to actually have these conversations, I recognize that in the first four months, we didn’t immediately have victories everywhere. But, I firmly believe that we are right. We have biology and ethics and truth on our side. And when we get a chance to have an even playing field, an equally-sized megaphone to the other side, we will annihilate them. Because all they have is bumper stickers. And Emily demonstrated that.
They — she says, “Hey, you know, what about thalidomide? Obviously, it’s not, you know, unlimited.” And they’re like, “Anyway, so, it’s really about health care.” What? What are you talk—? Okay. I’ll come in again. You let me know where I lost you.
Josh: I was just, like, I want — I want to send them so many Secular Pro-Life articles that debunk every single thing they’re saying.
Monica: And they’re — they ignore it, to their detriment.
Monica: So, one of the things I’ve tried to tell our followers — we put all this content out there — do not feel obligated to link to our website. Okay, take the content and link to it directly. Because as soon as they see our website, they’re like, “Pro-life website. Bias. Not reading it,” right?
Josh: Right. It’s like: Wikipedia. Go find this source. Here’s some links to those.
Monica: Yes. It’s exactly like that. And so, it’s not going to hurt my feelings if you don’t tell them it came from us. Just get the content out there to them. But, I also want to point out that the fact that they won’t read it because it’s pro-life, that’s a huge mistake on their part. They are not prepared for this debate because they think that they don’t have to talk to us.
Monica: And that was one of the other things that Roe did. It made it so you didn’t have to debate it. Because you had so much legislation — legislative inertia on your side.
Monica: And you could say, “Well, it’s legal. Get over it.” Well it’s not. It’s not
Josh: Let me, I want to add one, like, layer to that, though. Because I — I love how you’re saying like, it’s fine if people aren’t linking to your stuff as often as we are —
Monica: I mean, if you want to link to it, you could link to it.
Josh: But — but there are going to be some people that your followers — who will be interacting with, where it will — it would seem like it would be even a benefit if what they’re linking to starts with secularprolife.org. Because —
Monica: The secular is the benefit, the pro-life is not.
Josh: Secular’s in the name, right, but so — is this going to be dependent and hopefully they’ll try to work out which one is more important.
Monica: So, I will caveat that.
Josh: Yeah, okay.
Monica: Most of our content is not about being religious or secular. Most of our content is just arguments against abortion.
Monica: And if you are having a debate with someone, for example, about: does late-term elective abortion exist? Does an embryo have a heart? So on and so forth, feel encouraged to get the resources from our website and link to them directly. Just skip us completely. But, if you’re having a debate about how nobody is against this except for Christians —
Monica: If you’re having a debate about how this is imposing on people’s freedom of religion… okay, yes. Then, yes. Emphasize us in that sense. So, it depends on what you’re talking about.
Josh: Yes. Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah, okay, so clearly just like you and I both thought, this is going to have to be a two-part discussion. Because we’ve spent most of this time talking about like what the situation is —
Josh: In order to answer the question, what then should we do now?
Josh: Um, so before we close this out and — and record a part two, if you could give one of your answers to, what should the pro-life movement be doing right now, let’s do that? And then, we’ll go into part two.
Monica: Okay. If there is nothing else you can do, then at minimum, what you should be trying to do is very intentionally and thoughtfully, pick the right time and place, and talk to people about abortion. People have high emotion and low information. There’s a lot of information we can give them that will add complexity to the issue, at minimum. And not just that. They need to know that you’re pro-life. They need to know who pro-lifers are. They need — I have, so I was in California my whole adult life, pretty much. Basically none of my friends were pro-life. Right? And a lot of my friends who are pro-choice didn’t know any pro-lifers except for me. At all. But just knowing — just only me. Just only me — the only one was enough to inoculate them against the most ridiculous stereotypes.
Because we are friends — we don’t talk about abortion all the time. We don’t talk about abortion — not much at all.
Monica: In some cases, we never talked about abortion. I just let them know that I am against it. That’s it. And then they know, well, she’s against it and she is not a woman-hating crazy religious person.
Monica: And so, it doesn’t make them pro-life. But, it helps keep them from being like — that seems like an exaggeration. So, if there’s nothing else you do — intentionally and carefully, you don’t have to get into a big debate about abortion, you could just say, “I don’t really agree about that.”
Monica: I don’t — you can even say, “I don’t really want to fight about it. I would just appreciate it if you would keep in mind when you’re talking about it in front of me, that I don’t agree about that.”
Monica: You could just say that. You could just say that, and you’re still doing pro-life work because you’re helping get people thinking, “Who agrees with me and who doesn’t? And why or not? Is what I’m saying ridiculous? Is what I’m saying rude?” You know?
Josh: And people are more influenced by what the people around them think than they arguably ought to be, but they are.
Monica: That is the way it is. Let’s just skip —
Josh: What they — they are. Yeah.
Monica: And so, and in particular, talking to —
Josh: I’m with you.
Monica: Talking to my pro-life friends who are in geographies and social circles where you are maybe even the only pro-life person you know, I respect that you want to be very, very cautious especially in your professional life. And you’ve got to do what you’re comfortable with. And I respect that. But, you also need to keep in mind, you are in a unique position. The pro-lifers we know who live in largely pro-life and largely Christian and conservative communities, they’re just talking to each other. We all know. Okay? That — you are an ambassador. You are in a place that a lot of other pro-lifers cannot get to.
Monica: So, just keep it in mind. And I have stories about this. My brother, who is an atheist in Portland, okay, and not at work, but in certain social situations with other people, every now and then, they’ll be like, “Yeah. I don’t agree.” And they’ll be like, “Wait. What?” And then — you don’t have to have the whole debate right there in that moment. He has converted people. He has converted secular, pro-choice Portlandears just by saying, “Well, but what about this? But, what about that?” In one case, he had someone, they — they went the whole round and the guy bit the bullet on infanticide. And he was like — and my brother instead of being like (GASP!)
Monica: He was like, “Okay. Well, I can’t argue with that. You’re consistent.”
Monica: And the guy was like, the guy was like, “Well, I don’t feel very good about this.”
Monica: That was the beginning of a conversion.
Monica: Okay? So, to reiterate, if you are a Democrat or an atheist or a feminist or a religious person in a very more liberal area or you just, you know, you have a lot of pro-choice people in your social circles, do what you’re comfortable with. But, if there’s nothing else you can do, you can just let them know that you don’t agree. That’s it.
Monica: That is a huge step.
Josh: I was literally talking about this last week in Alabama at a talk. Because I do — they asked me to do my relational apologetics talk for this — for this pregnancy center banquet. And I always give, like, some tips at the end of it. And you’ve basically just described a couple of them, so I’m just gonna underline, uh, and say it maybe a little bit of a different way, and then we’ll get out. But, first, completely agree that people who are Democrats, people who are liberal, or anywhere on the left, anyone who is secular has a massive —
Monica: — opportunity —
Josh: — advantage with most pro-choice people — and this goes back, and I will link this along with everything that we’ve referred to from your website in the description. But, we did a podcast a couple years ago about this persuasion study that came out of Stanford. This is the thing that got me saying Secular Pro-Life’s the most important organization. Because, functionally, one of the big takeaways from the study on persuasion — they study this — was that everything else being equal, the more that you have in common at a values level with the other person —
Josh: — the more likely you’re going to be to change their mind on the issue that you’re talking about. Because, they will be able to easier imagine themselves having your view because you’re not as different.
Monica: It’s giving them the opportunity to realize this is feasible. So, our board vice president, Terrisa, she was not involved in this movement. And she’s an atheist and she’s an animal rights activist and she had started to have thoughts about whether she agreed with abortion. But, she didn’t see where she would fit in, because she saw it as this largely very conservative, very Christian movement, and then when she basically found Secular Pro-Life — and she has told the story many times — she was like, “This is where it is for me.”
Monica: And people — people underestimate that.
Monica: And in particular — I’m not — in particular, pro-life conservative Christian people can underestimate this and say, “Well, if you really cared about this issue, you would just do it.” Cool story, bro. Okay, that’s not how people work.
Josh: That’s not how it works!
Monica: That’s not how people work!
Josh: That’s not how any of this works.
Monica: If you have to put aside, mentally and psychologically, all these differences — sometimes very important values differences you have with people — psychologically people think, “Okay, so this is not me.” Um, yes. Some people — some people will just look at fetal person and bodily rights: Does this make sense? Is this logical? Okay, I don’t agree. And they will do that. Some people will do that.
Most people — there’s a huge element of, “Is this where I am socially? Is this going to cost me a lot?” You know —
Josh: “Does this feel correct to me?”
Monica: “Does this feel correct? What does this mean?” And so, you want to give people a vision. You can — you can be like — this is also why we talk about Christopher Hitchens. Because, people accuse us of being secretly religious. I’m like, oh, just like Christopher Hitchens was secretly religious? Right? No? No. Okay, so really, there is room. I understand — I understand that the vast majority of atheists are pro-choice. I’m not pretending they aren’t.
Josh: Yeah. Right.
Monica: I’m just saying, to act like that’s the only possible reasonable conclusion an atheist could come to is absurd.
Josh: Right. And the other thing that you said that I like just to highlight this also is — this doesn’t have to be what you talk about all the time with them.
Monica: You don’t even have to talk about it ever.
Josh: Right, like, I mean, so, that’s even going further than I usually say, and I — but I mean, like —
Monica: I mean, I like to talk about it —
Josh: But I’m — but just avoid the mistake where it just feels like, “Okay I am — because I’m an ambassador for the pro-life movement, I have to get into this every time I hang out with my pro-choice friend.”
Monica: I have to know everything about everything and be ready to, yeah.
Josh: It’s like, stop. And — and I always, this has become, for some reason, this is like this improv line. It’s become like, the line in my talk that gets the most laughs every single time. Which is, I kind of say, like, look, Christians do this a lot when they have a gay friend. Where it’s just like they feel like assuming they’re, like right wing, and thinking —
Monica: Right. Sure, sure.
Josh: — because, like, if I don’t, every single time I’m around this person, make sure they understand I don’t agree with their lifestyle, that I’m betraying God. And I’m, like, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. They know. But, they know — you — calm down. This is not — and friends don’t normally hang out and talk about their sexuality every single time.
Monica: Right. Yeah, right.
Josh: Treat them like anyone else.
Josh: It’s just — it’s the same thing here. It’s weird.
Josh: To talk about the same issue every single time you’re around them.
Monica: Although, it’s almost the opposite, because, you could correct me if I’m wrong, I get the impression that the kind of Christian you’re talking about, they feel motivated and obligated to talk about it every time. But, the kind of pro-lifer I’m talking about, they don’t want to talk about it ever. And so what I’m saying,
Monica: What I’m saying is —
Josh: We’re trying to bring both people towards the middle.
Monica: You don’t have to talk about it every time. And if you’re really uncomfortable, I would like you to talk about it occasionally, as you feel comfortable. But, if you’re really uncomfortable, you don’t have to talk about it ever. All I’m asking you to do, the minimum thing you can do is just say, “Just so you know, I don’t agree.”
Monica: And if you have the situation, a lot of people are afraid of this, that if you say that people will jump on you as the token pro-lifer to defend every single thing any pro-life politician has ever said ever, you could say, “No, I am not saying I agree with everything they’re saying. I’m saying, broadly speaking, I think abortion is very problematic and we can talk about it if you want.” Or if you’re not comfortable, you say, “I don’t really want to argue about it. I just wanted you to be aware, since you’re talking about it.”
Monica: My brother that I was talking about, he did this right after Dobbs. He was with a bunch of men, a bunch of pro-choice men, and they’re not even the kind of group who normally would talk about this. They’re, like, nominally pro-choice men. They’re, like, “I guess I’m pro-choice because I want to stay out of it.” Right?
Monica: And Dobbs happened, so everyone’s talking about it. And they started mouthing off very aggressively and he said, “Hey, just for full disclosure, since we’re talking about it. I wasn’t going to bring it up, but, since we’re talking about it, I don’t agree.”
Monica: And one of them was like, “I would really like to talk more with you about that sometime.”
Monica: Because they don’t know anybody to talk to.
Josh: That’s not what the pro-lifer expects in that situation.
Monica: No. Although, to be fair, he’s very prepared. But you don’t have to be. And you don’t have to know everything about everything to say that.
Monica: You could just say that, not with him.
Josh: It’s completely fine to get into it a little bit and then end up having to say, “I don’t know,” in answer to one of their arguments. They will remember that more than anything else that you said anyway. And then go and find it. One of us has the answer on one of our websites.
Monica: Or — but also, it’s completely fine to say, “I don’t want to talk about it and I don’t want you to either.” And, I mean, I know that’s not what we’re going for —
Monica: — with dialogue. But, like, I have definitely had —
Josh: I agree.
Monica: — especially when I lived in California — in professional settings —
Monica: — people start going on, I’m like, “I don’t think you should be talking about this at work.” And then, they already know you don’t agree, because you wouldn’t say that if you agreed.
Monica: They already know. I don’t even have to say it. I could just be like, “I don’t really want to talk about this at the lunchroom.”
Monica: “I don’t really want to talk about this,” and then that’s —
Josh: Totally appropriate.
Monica: That’s still — I know you might not think that’s pro-life work, because you’re increasing representation, you’re making people think a little bit more about this. And so, again, to anyone who isn’t already in strongly pro-life circles, you know. Um, just think about that.
Monica: You’re in a good position.
Josh: Yeah. I really agree with that. Okay, we’ve got more to say. But, we’ll do that next week in the part two. This has been so fun. I’m so glad that you’re here. I can’t wait for the rest of these.
Monica: Okay, great. [Music]