What Should the Pro-Life Movement Do Now? (Part 2)
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 two is below.
Many thanks to our volunteer transcriber, Milena Popp. Want to join her? Learn more about becoming a Secular Pro-Life volunteer.
Josh: Welcome back to the Equipped for Life podcast. This is part two with my friend Monica Snyder from Secular Pro-Life. If you didn’t listen to the last episode, stop. Don’t be dumb. Go back, listen to part one; this is all building on that. We’re not gonna repeat stuff from that, it was like an hour or something.
Monica: I mean we might, but….
Josh: Let’s just continue the conversation because I’m trying not to do three-hour-long podcast episodes, which I’m so tempted to basically do with you. And, by the way, I’m curious if you would be interested in us doing two- to three-hour-long podcasts? Let me know if you would want that, because I’m open to it. I like the Joe Rogan/Sam Harris, people doing the long form podcast.
Monica: It’s like one or the other, either Tik Tok or Joe Rogan/Sam Harris, right? Those are the options.
Josh: So I’ve been trying to keep us roughly to like an hour, but I’m wondering if our audience has changed on that because…
Monica: If they are, I’m your girl, because “concise” is not one of my talents.
Josh: We could easily do a two- to three-hour podcast together. So okay, on “What should pro-lifers do,” you had a really interesting discussion question that you added to your outline for this that we’ve never talked about before. But it seems like, of course we should, because we should be defining our terms. And so you’re asking what does the pro-life movement mean? What is that?
Monica: How do we define pro-life movement?
Josh: What do you think are some of the options?
Monica: It depends on how far outside of it you are. I think, way outside of it, they think it means Republican politicians. That’s what they think that it means, which is really unfortunate because I think, way inside of it, that’s like an afterthought actually.
Josh: What do you mean by that?
Monica: I mean that when I’m doing pro-life activism, Republican politicians or any politicians really are sort of a side topic, where we want to figure out how to interface with them to get them to propose the legislation we want or support or oppose legislation we want. But I don’t necessarily consider them pro-life. They might be pro-life, but to be frank I’m totally agnostic on that. When it comes to politicians, I believe they are what they need to be to keep their jobs.
Josh: Yeah. And we’re going to find out now, I mean…
Monica: We are finding out now!
Josh: We kind of knew… I heard people talk about things before Dobbs was a thing.
Monica: Of course, that they’re like, “they’re just using this as a wedge issue to get votes.” And the other side says that about their side too. Quick side note: right after Dobbs happened and then all of a sudden the Democrats were saying “you’ve got to vote for us so that we codify Roe.” I have friends who are Democrats that are like “Where’ve you been the last several decades? You could have done that the whole time.” So both sides have this problem where they’re like, “You don’t care about what we care about. You care about us voting and donating to you.” And I’m sure there are politicians out there who are sincere; I’m not saying literally nobody. But at best it’s not their main focus. And so, outside of the pro-life movement when people are commenting on an SPL tweet — and we see this all the time — they’ll say “You say you care, but then you vote against this and this.” I literally never voted against any of those things. Do you mean me? Or do you mean like Ted Cruz? Who are you talking to?
Josh: Those are very different people.
Monica: (sarcastically) Because we are obviously one in the same, total monolith, all right!? And so, when people say, “why didn’t the pro-life movement do this,” “why doesn’t the pro-life movement do that.” Back up a second. Who are you talking about, first of all?
Josh: Right, right. It is more diverse than they think. So I really like this thing that Jacob said one time trying to explain this. I remember trying to explain this to the pro-lifers in Ireland when I was there because it was like, “You need to understand this is what’s going to happen to you too.” For the normal person — not inside the pro-life/pro-choice movement — if they drive by Jacob on the sidewalk doing sidewalk counseling, at the abortion clinic where he often is in Georgia, there are multiple groups. There’s another group with bull horns and big graphic signs…
Monica: In their mind, all the same group.
Josh: … saying Bible verses to people and then you’ve got these people over here praying the rosary. And they think this is all the same group and it’s really, really not.
Josh: I mean you are proof that the movement is a very diverse place.
Monica: And we have that happen all the time when people say, “Well you guys say this.” And I’ll sometimes say, “If you could find anywhere, on any of our platforms in 12 years, that I’ve ever said that, I will give you a hundred dollars. I’ve literally never said that because I don’t think that.” But I shouldn’t be so harsh because, like you said, if it’s kind of low information, not really involved, you get these big ideas and then you react. I mean we all do it. So who is the pro-life movement? I don’t think there’s one single answer. One time, years ago — we should do this again — we did a poll to test people’s intuitions about this. Okay, let me back up. There’s two questions: Who’s the pro-life movement? And who is pro-life?
Monica: Those are different things.
Monica: I’ll focus, I’ll focus. Who is the pro-life movement? In my opinion, the pro-life movement, broadly speaking, is everybody who does pro-life activist work. That is my opinion and so that includes people who work for pro-life organizations. It includes people who don’t formally work for pro-life organizations but have volunteered for them, or even donated to them — I consider donations activist work. It includes people who aren’t involved with the legislative side but they might do sidewalk counseling. It includes people who donate to crisis pregnancy centers. If you are pro-life and you have done, literally, anything about it ever, then I consider you at least nominally part of the pro-life movement.
Josh: Me too. Literally, I was wondering if we would have the same definition and that is the way that I think about it. I would just say, sometimes when we use the phrase “pro-life movement,” I know that I’m sometimes using it just to mean like the big organizations and I am referencing them.
Monica: Sometimes you mean, you know, SBA, SFLA, whatever. And sometimes you mean everybody on the Gallup Poll that says they’re pro-life…
Monica: …and those are not the same, not the same at all.
Josh: Yeah, yeah.
Monica: It’s a tricky thing. But it’s important to clarify. We were talking, in the first part of this series, about the amendments that didn’t pass. And a lot of times you’ll see people say “Why doesn’t the pro-life movement take this strategy?” “Why don’t they do that?” I just want to clarify that on every one of those amendments the people working for or against them are different people, in different groups. And there was some national involvement, some national organizations trying to help here and there with different things. I’m not saying there isn’t. But the idea that the pro-life movement is some kind of monolith choosing what to support and what not to — even within the same state you will have different groups with different priorities. Sometimes the different priorities are just different focuses like, some people’s heart is with supporting women in crisis pregnancies, some people’s heart is in having debates, and some people’s heart is in donating to politicians. Sometimes it’s just different focuses. Sometimes it’s literally contradictory priorities where you will have abolitionists on one end and you’ll have incrementalists on another. There’s all kinds of ways you can divide this out.
Monica: And so on the outside looking in, they’re like, “Why does your movement…?” My movement, right? I wish, man. I am not in charge. If I was in charge, things would look differently.
Josh: Think in contrast. So I’ve had, at least two or three times, some donor or volunteer tell me, “You what the pro-life movement needs?” Like, they’re gonna tell me now the solution. Like, “If only everyone understood what I understood.” Oh, this happens to me all the time.
Josh: But they’re like, “Here’s what, here’s what we need…”
Monica: “If we just did this…”
Josh: Right. “What we need is our own version of Planned Parenthood. We need one massive pro-life group that shares all the findings…”
Monica: They are very organized.
Josh: “Shares all the office space…”
Monica: “Shares all the color schemes…”
Josh: “…so then you’re paying less than these fixed costs and will unify the whole thing” because everybody hears about pro-life unity — well, not everyone, but there’s a lot of people that care about pro-life unity.
Monica: Could be more efficient …
Josh: If we just did that…. Okay, they’re comparing — they’re wrong anyway, like there’s no way…
Monica: Planned Parenthood is also not a monolith, by the way. They’ve got plenty of internal strife….
Josh: Exactly! And you and I were talking about that…
Monica: They are doing exactly the opposite of what we are talking about. We’re way outside Planned Parenthood, vaguely looking at them, and we see this one Twitter account. If you even look at other abortion clinics and smaller abortion funds, there’s a lot of internal strife in the pro-choice movement about what they should be doing, what their strategy should be. There’s strife between abortion providers and pro-choice activists. There’s strife between people that are more local and people that are more national.
Josh: People who do the abortions think about it super differently than the people who are lobbying.
Monica: And some people think the most important thing is hearts and minds and some people think the most important thing is legislation. Some people think the most important thing is abortion funds, some people think the most important thing is abortion pills. And they have the same issue. It sounds weird — it almost endears me to them because I’m like, “Dude, I know this is difficult.”
Josh: I’m just like, “Hey look people, do the math.” If the pro-choice side which has Planned Parenthood, has a literal billion dollar non-profit on their side, plus NARAL and a couple of the big groups people know about….”
Monica: … you know, they’ve got their hierarchy…
Josh: If they are as divided as THEY are, then what does it mean when you say, “Why doesn’t your movement do this thing?”
Monica: I do wish that we had some kind of better communication, because what I do see sometimes — it’s really frustrating — is you’ll have group A doing project A, and then group X doesn’t know that and they start project A also. And it’s literally the same project and they don’t know.
Josh: Well sometimes it happens on purpose because they are intentionally trying to compete with each other.
Monica: Sometimes, but a lot of times I have had project ideas where I’ll start it and I’ll realize someone has started it already and it would be so much more efficient for me to come alongside them and be like, “How can I support you; you’re already doing it.” But I didn’t know and it’s very difficult to keep track of.
Josh: You are also more collaborative than some pro-life leaders are. So both of those things are a thing and I’m pessimistic because I’ve been around.
Monica: I’m feeling good right now because I was in D.C. not that long ago, and I went to a conference where the whole point of the conference was that a larger pro-life organization had all of this consumer research and they were like, “Please take this and use it for whatever you want.” It was really nice because that whole conference’s theme was How Do We Unify the Pro-Life Movement? And it was one of the large organizations and even they were like, “I don’t know. Here’s what we’re figuring out. What’s working for you guys? What can we do to help support your groups?” And even with those efforts, it’s really, really tricky. How many pro-life organizations do you think there actually are, like formal organizations?
Josh: You mean just national or are you adding in state and local?
Monica: No, everything — state and local. Hundreds, at least.
Josh: Easily hundreds…
Monica: Probably more.
Josh: Probably. There’s gotta be at least a thousand once you add that, I would think. There’s a lot. And they’re all made up of very different kinds of people and with different kinds of experiences, in different ages and different places on the political spectrum. And we fight a lot and we have a lot of internal disagreements.
Monica: And even if we didn’t, we don’t always know what each other are doing. So when people say, “Why didn’t the pro-life movement have this reaction to this amendment?” and then, of course, you have hindsight bias and all these other things…
Monica: But it’s much more complicated than that. And that’s not to say there’s no room for critique or improvement — there totally is. But also keep in mind who you are talking about when you say the pro-life movement. And again, I think a big distinction is between politicians ostensibly supporting pro-life goals and actual pro-life activists. In fact, we even saw this in Dobbs. Obviously I’m glad that Dobbs went the way it did. But I was there, outside the Supreme Court, during oral arguments and I reread the oral arguments later and I thought that they could have been much stronger. But I understand, because the person making them was not a pro-life activist. He is an attorney who covers many different things and this was one of them. There were things they asked him that you or I could have answered in great detail because this is all we do, you know.
Monica: But that’s not him.
Josh: We did such a long deep dive after the oral argument. It’s like why… (exasperated)
Monica: He’s not a pro-lifer who’s an attorney. He’s an attorney who’s trying to do a pro-life thing and that’s not the same thing. And to be fair, I think the other side felt the same way where, if they were in there they would have asked different questions or had different responses. Those of us who do this every single day, of course it’s going to feel that way, you know? So first it’s like, “What do we mean by the pro-life movement” and here we’re kind of talking about anyone who opposes abortion enough to do anything about it, and I mean anything — I mean talk about it day to day. How many people do you think privately oppose abortion and never speak of it or do anything?
Josh: It’s probably at least tens of thousands.
Monica: Yeah. And on the other side too. This is not an indictment of anybody. I’m just saying there are layers to this; there are tiers of how involved people are, right? So right now I’m not talking to the people who are privately pro-life and don’t want to get involved. That’s a different conversation — although I do want you to get involved. But that’s a different conversation. But for people who are involved, they’ve tracked these amendments that just didn’t pass. They’re tracking what’s going on politically and legislatively and they’re feeling overwhelmed. They’re feeling like we’re losing a lot of ground which I argued in the first part, no, we’re not; we are way ahead. But I get how recency bias makes it feels like we are. What can they do? That’s the question. And I argue actually there’s always something somebody can do. There’s always something you can do, always — whether you’re broke, whether you’re busy, whether you’re an introvert. There’s always work you can do. Now, before I continue, I will plug my side project.
Josh: You have a website for this.
Monica: I have a website for this! I would love to expand it greatly, but it’s still got a lot of stuff on it right now. Now this is — I want to clarify — it is not specifically a secular project. It is a collaborative project. We consulted with you. We consulted with a whole bunch of different groups. This is a collaborative project which is why, when you go to it, you will see that, I think, one out of like every 10 items is a religious-related thing you can do and I am not religious, okay? But the whole point of this project is that everyone can do something, which includes people who are religious, obviously. But it is called HowtoBeProlife.com and it’s literally just a list. And you can sort it. You can sort it [by] if you are busy, if you’re broke, if you’re introverted, or you can just read through the whole thing. And again, right now it has 52 ideas on it — one for each week of a full year — but we hope to add more to it in the future. It includes things you can do if you’re an introvert, for example, and you don’t want to talk to other people about this necessarily. You can write a thank you note to a local city council member who did something useful in the pro-life realm and just be like, “I supported that.” That is pro-life work. You can have a postcard party where you invite just people you’re comfortable with — two people — and you can just get all these postcards and write thank you notes to the right people. Or you can write suggestion notes. Okay, if you’re more extroverted, you can go in person — and this is all legislative-related, but it doesn’t have to be legislative-related. There are so many things you can do that crisis pregnancy centers need help with, that sidewalk counselors need help with. Say you’re not confrontational enough to do sidewalk counseling — welcome to 85% of the population. But, sidewalk counselors do emotionally grueling work and it could be pro-life work for you to just drop by and say “Would you like me to pick you up a cup of coffee? I care about what you’re doing, I appreciate you.”
Josh: Oh my God, having been on the sidewalk before that would have been so amazing.
Monica: And even if they say, “I don’t need a cup of coffee,” that’s not the point. The point is not everybody is screaming at them.
Monica: Okay? That’s the point. Or if that’s not your thing, or maybe you don’t believe in sidewalk counseling — I’m not saying that you do — I’m saying, if you don’t want to take a frontline role, then take a supporting role to them. If you don’t want to take a role with activists, then find people in your community who need help. Students for Life of America has a million ideas of ways you can help make campuses more pro-life, which is super important because, disproportionately, women in their late teens early 20s are the ones often getting abortions. And how can you support them? Do their campuses have policies that support pregnant women — is there a lactation room? Speaking as someone who has breastfed four children, we notice if there’s a lactation room or not, okay?! I don’t mean a bathroom.
Monica: I mean, it doesn’t have to be a spa. It could just be a place that is private that has a lock. There are things you could do. You could contact local schools and find out what their policies are for those things. Or if you don’t want to even be that confrontational, you can just — we talked about this in the last episode — if nothing else, you can just let people in your life know, if they don’t already, that you don’t agree with abortion and you think it’s problematic. And that sounds very small; it is not very small. Our side suffers from what I call a smaller megaphone. I firmly, firmly believe that on a cultural, national level, there are major institutions who are much more on the pro-choice side than ours and they give out information — not necessarily untrue information. Some of it is untrue, but some of it is just asymmetric in the sense of you’re focusing on some information and not other information. That’s actually the most insidious form. And one [example] is you focus on certain kinds of stories, not other kinds of stories and that leaves people who aren’t super into this with this overall impression of who pro-lifers are and what it means. And so the way an individual private pro-life person can fight that is to be friends with people who aren’t identical to you and let them know that you don’t agree. That’s it; that’s all you’ve got to do. If you want to talk about it, if you want to debate it, you can do that. And I would say too, by the way, when you’re having these conversations in your private life with your family, with your friends and if you dare, with your co-workers, you don’t have to convince them. In fact, I would argue — and I don’t know if you would agree with this — I would not even go into the conversation trying to convince them. I would emphasize to them that you aren’t trying to convince them, just trying to explain where you’re coming from. You don’t need to make them feel defensive or like they need to convince you. You could just say, “This is how I feel about it, and you can think whatever you think.” And I have had, at least all the time I was in California and I had no pro-life friends, plenty of times when I would — and it often wouldn’t be in that same moment — just say “Oh, this is how I feel about this.” But later down the line, weeks, months, years, people would be like “Hey…” So, for example, I have one friend who I’ve been very close friends with for years. And like four or five years into it, she’s visiting me at my house and she says, “I actually have a question about abortion.” I was like, “I can talk about whatever you want, you know.” And she says (and she’s not in this debate; she’s not an activist, she’s pro-choice in the nominal way) “Do you worry about overpopulation?” And I say “Rhat is a good question, so let me elaborate for you.” And then I give her like, “If you want to understand my perspective, here are the premises.” She knew nothing about the debate at all. So I’m not gonna be like “Oh my gosh, I just can’t, I’ve heard this a million times!” No, don’t!
Monica: They’re putting their toes in the water. They’re stepping out of their comfort zone. But they were only able to do that because I told them that I was against abortion. Otherwise, it would have never come up. That’s what I’m saying. So if you are seeing these amendments not getting passed, and you’re wishing that Michigan [pro-lifers] had, you know, 200 million more dollars and was able to do something. Yes, I agree. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for you to do here. It is not enough for us to sit and say “Well, the pro-life movement should have done it this way.” You might be right; I’m not even saying you’re wrong! I’m just saying you can always do something. And if you are critiquing, you better be working, okay? You can always do something. And if you don’t want to have any conversations — you don’t want to talk to sidewalk counselors, you don’t want to talk to your friends, you don’t want to write letters to the editor, you don’t want to do postcards, you don’t want to put yourself out there at all, okay. Your money is a conversation too. You can be donating. And if it’s not to us — and it should be to us (laughter) — but if it’s not to us and it’s not the Equal Rights Institute… it doesn’t have to be to us! There’s a million organizations that could use the help. And it doesn’t even have to be money. It could be in-kind donations. There’s all sorts of things. Oh! Do you shop on Amazon? Did you know that Amazon has what’s called Amazon Smile? You could pick a non-profit and they will give a percentage of your purchases to that non-profit at no extra cost to you.
Josh: Actually, we just did the math — we were writing a fundraising email about this — we did the math. So we have, since the year began, brought in roughly thirteen hundred dollars in Amazon Smile gifts.
Monica: That is amazing!
Josh: That literally paid for our new third camera.
Monica: See? And it doesn’t cost you anything extra! You can do Amazon Smile, you can ask your employers if they do match percentages to charities. A lot of times there’s a 501c3. Or you know what you could do? And this is important, people don’t understand this. Instead of thinking, “Well, I don’t even have a hundred dollars to give to these guys.” Can you do five bucks a month? Monthly recurring donors provide money, but they also provide stability and predictability. We literally have donors that give us five or ten dollars a month and they are part of my core team because they have committed over a long term.
Josh: You don’t want to be dependent on one person giving 100 grand or something like that.
Monica: No, although we love it when you do that! That’s wonderful, but there’s…
Josh: You don’t want to only have that.
Monica: You don’t have to have a ton of money to help. We had a college student come to us — do you know how broke I was in college? I was fantasizing about someday being able to buy fresh produce without feeling guilty about it because I was so broke in college. It’s a joke about, you know, just eating Ramen all the time, right? So you know how much it meant to me when we had a college student be like, “I can give you ten dollars a month.” I was like, “Dang, ten dollars! Thank you so much!”
Josh: Well, this is in my head because we were just doing this yesterday. I did that math too. If every single person on our email list just gave ten dollars a month, or 10 more, it would literally triple our budget.
Monica: I know! Exactly! You think it doesn’t make a difference. It makes a difference!
Josh: It would completely change everything at ERI!
Monica: And if you literally don’t have any money and you literally don’t want to talk to anybody, what can you do? You can donate your time. And you can do sidewalk chalk. You can ask people if they need you to transcribe. You know how time-consuming transcription is? We now have a team of transcription volunteers and it has changed my life. It’s changed my life. I’ll be like, “Hey I did this podcast, can somebody transcribe it?” Sure! They get it back to me in a week. Oh my gosh, right? There’s lots of things you can do from home that are helpful. Do you know how to do graphics? It doesn’t have to be gorgeous. But can you literally just take this screen capture tweet and…
Josh: Meet canva.com.
Monica: Just make it in Canva. Yes, exactly. There are so many things you can do and I’m trying to… Oh, oh! Do you like photography? Go to pro-life events…
Monica: This is so important! Go to pro-life events — it could be marches, it could be conferences, it could be tabling, it could be speeches, it could be sidewalk counseling — anything. If you are a good photographer, take high quality photos and then upload them to a royalty-free website. Let people use them in their work. Give them permission off the back…
Josh: And let them know they’re there.
Monica: Send them to the organizations that were involved when you took them. ‘Here are these pictures that you can use to talk about what you’re doing.”
Josh: Like most speaking events that we do, we have no pictures.
Monica: I know because how are you going to take a picture of yourself while you’re talking?
Josh: You can’t.
Monica: He and I have taken pictures of each other at the speeches because nobody else is there to do it.
Josh: Because we both know that you have to take like 30 of a speaker to get one good one because mouths are a super weird thing.
Monica: Or you could just be smarter than we are and take one picture in advance where you’re not talking but pretending to.
Josh: Yes, we have occasionally done that…
Monica: It took me a little too long to figure that out.
Josh: Yes, I mean the difference it would make if there was a volunteer photographer at every single thing that we did.
Monica: Yes. And for the specific organizations it’s a huge difference. But also, when we’re doing blog posts we try to have an image related to every blog post and we have to have royalty-free images or we could take something we took, but maybe it’s not that good. If you’re good, put it on a royalty-free website. Maria Oswalt with Rehumanize International has done this and there’s a couple different uses for this. I’m pretty sure she is on Unsplash as Maria Oswalt and she has taken amazing photos of pro-life events that she has granted anyone to use. And so this is great for us to use but, also, this is a really big deal — tons of people use royalty-free websites. And now when they Google like, fetus, a bunch of pro-life images come up. The first year that she did this her photos had over four million views, just for existing on there when there was basically no pro-life content. So people could look up abortion protest and 90 percent of it will be pro-choice stuff. But now Maria Oswalt’s stuff is up there too. Think about that visibility, okay?
Monica: There are so many opportunities. And if you are an artist, even not a graphic artist — it doesn’t have to be digital — there is a volunteer, not specific for us, that makes these beautiful paintings on cardboard. She takes an old cardboard box and makes these amazing paintings and then gives them out at walks for people to hold and then somebody else takes pictures of them, and they are very moving. And she just does that of her own accord because that’s her contribution. There’s so many things you can do. And so to bring it all home again, we talk about these legislative defeats. That’s very frustrating, and if you are legislatively minded go that route. Talk to your local and state politicians. Talk to people; get other people to go with you. Go meet them and get to know them. Have a conversation with them. But if that’s not your route, that’s not the end of the story. Secular Pro-Life firmly unequivocally believes that the law is a crucial part of this and we have to change the laws. However, it will never be the only part of this. Hearts and minds are fundamentally important. They’re important to get the laws changed and, even outside the laws, they’re important for helping people right where they’re at. And you can be a part of that conversion. And I know we’ve talked about this before — keep in mind too — when you are trying to move the needle and you’re trying to get more people to see our perspective on this, almost nobody just changes their mind in a single conversation and wham bam they’re done, okay?
Josh: Almost never.
Monica: For most people it will take….
Josh: Months or better…
Monica: …Years, months, or better. We have people, some of our most hardcore passionate activists, that were pro-choice for thirteen years. You don’t know what role you’re playing in moving them and you don’t need to worry about it. I saw this recently and I thought this was such great phrasing. They said: “The way I see it, you’re either planting a seed in their hearts or a needle in their conscience.” But either way you’re just doing a little like, “Hey, hey!” We had somebody reach out. They donated to us. I reached out to them to say thank you for donating. “Why did you donate?” And it turns out they donated because they converted. And they converted because of sidewalk chalk. Not literally, “Oh, sidewalk chalk. I’m converted!” But somebody on their college campus did sidewalk chalk outside of the student cafeteria and it said 67 percent of prenatal Down Syndrome diagnoses end in an abortion. And the person who saw that, the woman who donated to us, she worked with special needs kids and she was like, “That’s made up.” She was pro-choice and she was like, “They just make up anything; it’s ridiculous.” But it bothered her so she went home and looked it up and it’s not made up, it’s true. And then she wasn’t like, “Oh I’m pro-choice.” She was like, “Well, wait a second, what else might I not know?” She started following both pro-choice and pro-life blogs. She started reading more about it and the sidewalk chalk was what started it for her. So you think it doesn’t make any difference. You don’t know.
Josh: I’m glad to know that story because I have probably overly underestimated the value of sidewalk chalk. It’s like, I’m glad to know that story now.
Monica: And a lot of sidewalk chalk is oriented toward outside of clinics and it’ll say we can help you here’s the number. And I’m not saying that’s not important — it is — but you can also just put some of these facts out there. Just, “hey did you know this; hey, did you know that.” You don’t know who you’re reaching.
Josh: Yeah, it’s better than just Pro-Life.
Monica: Pro-life is not nothing but, yeah, you want to put something to give them to chew on. And so then, her conversion story is really great too because it started with the sidewalk chalk. But then as she’s following all these different blogs and she’s learning about a lot of content that she thought wasn’t true that turns out to be true — that was important. But what was also important for her — and people need to understand this — she was also really thrown off as she was following these different online circles with how vitriolic and aggressive and vacuous a lot of the pro-choice voices were and how respectful and substantial the pro-life ones were. And she clarified — and this is important — she’s not saying pro-choice people are all this way, pro-life people are that way. We all know that you have both on both sides. But that’s my point: we do have both on both sides. Make sure you’re one of the good voices, okay?
Monica: So it’s not just what you’re saying, although you should know what you’re talking about and we would be happy to help you with that. By the way, another plug! Another plug! We have recently unveiled, on Secular Pro-Life, the secularprolife.org index — what we are calling the abortion debate index. It’s literally a table of contents. Right now it has five categories. It has biology, personhood, bodily rights, effects of abortion laws, stereotypes of pro-lifers, and then underneath it has common things pro-choice people say, and then our material telling you what you might want to think about when you’re responding. And we’re going to expand it a lot more. So if you need the content, we got you. But if you need the demeanor, Equal Rights has got you. You need to have both when you’re having these dynamics in these conversations. Always think about — and we’ve talked about this before — we are mostly online. You guys do more in-person stuff and so there will be different rules for different things. Whether you’re online or in-person, always be thinking about yourself as an ambassador for our cause. You are an ambassador. You are representing pro-life people to this person who may not have a ton of exposure or they may have very bad exposure. And so you need to know what you’re talking about. You need to be respectful. You don’t have to be defensive, but you need to be professional or just chill, right? And when you think of yourself as an ambassador you need to think about what you’re spending your time on. I have a lot of theories about this online — it might be different in person — but whoever you’re talking to online, where everything is public, remember who’s reading it, because — there’s no hard numbers on this — but depending on the forum and depending on the situation, you could have anywhere from 10 to 500 people silently reading your conversation with this person. And they’re thinking about not just what you are saying but, are you the jerk or is the other person the jerk.
Josh: I would argue this is most of the reason to do any online debates is for the other people watching.
Monica: It actually is. I’m not saying that you will never change the mind of the person you’re directly talking to. It has happened. But that’s actually why, by the way, for the most part, I will not engage in debates privately. I will not, online. It’s a waste of my time. No offense. We actually had someone message the page not that long ago and he was perfectly polite. There was nothing wrong with his demeanor.
Josh: But you’re leading a pro-life group.
Monica: Yes, sure.
Josh: Like most of the volunteers, the people who are not like, if they could…
Monica: And it all depends on your relationship though. If it’s an online stranger — wasted time. If it’s someone you know in person that’s talking to you online — probably very good use of your time. So there’s a lot of factors here. But we had this guy message us, totally polite, asking questions I’ve answered 50 million times before. And I did answer them initially because initially it was easy — just like, “Oh here is my answer to that.” And then he wants more details or whatever and I am always overwhelmed with how much I have to do for Secular Pro-Life. I love my job but there’s always way more to do than I can get done and I’m very conscientious about what I’m doing with my time. And I’m not trying to brush anyone off, but you want me to sit for an hour and talk to you and only you about this thing that a million people have said before. And I’m just not going to.
Josh: That’s a lot. And I am failing to give a lot of people what they want because they’re wanting these answers. And they get really mad at me when I don’t….
Monica: Well, they could also just, like, go find it. I’m not saying anything I haven’t written before. Oh, I didn’t even say that I just stopped. It’s on Facebook Messenger. I was just like I’m not even responding to this anymore. I don’t even care. It’s all on our website; it’s all over the place.
Josh: But there is something about that also that’s going to be true of even some of the people who aren’t professionally doing this all the time. They have a life; they have different levels of availability and it’s okay to draw boundaries.
Monica: Other important boundaries for online conversations — we posted about this after Dobbs when everyone was fighting online more than they usually are. And a lot of people who don’t normally fight about it were fighting about it and a lot of people who don’t normally fight online were fighting online. And we said a couple things to keep in mind: first of all, you don’t have to answer every single question and accusation they have. You can pick one and say, “This is what I will talk about first.” And you could just say that. And if they’re like, “Oh you don’t want to answer these questions…” “You’re right, I don’t because I am a finite human being. So which one do you want me to answer?” You also don’t have to answer them within five seconds. We’ve all seen that thing where you’re arguing with someone and if you don’t get back to them within like 30 minutes, “Oh, no response, huh?! I literally was sitting here waiting for you to answer me because you have such great insight and new information for me and I was just wondering what it would be!” It’s just ridiculous. I literally don’t even… I ignore that they said that completely. Another thing you can do in online debates if you have the fortitude — take everything they said, minus out all of the vitriol and trolling. What is the point? And just only address that; try not to match their snark. Try not to answer every single thing. Just get to the point. And I’m not saying I always do this effectively at all. I am not saying that, I’m just saying you ought to. So you don’t have to answer every single thing they say and you don’t have to answer constantly. In fact, one of my friends, when Dobbs was happening, couldn’t resist. And they were just answering too many things. It wasn’t even that they got invited to. They saw their friend’s status — they weren’t even on it — and they had to. So they went to the other person’s table and started talking and they did it for like six different people. So their solution was they literally set themselves a 24-hour reminder and then every 24 hours they go back and see what was said and answer. And it keeps it from getting too crazy; it keeps it from taking over too much of your life. And plus, if you set that cadence they expect it, as opposed to if you were answering, answering then you disappeared. So again, lots of ways you could do it. But have healthy boundaries. You don’t actually owe anybody all of your time and energy. One thing I’m a big fan of and not everyone agrees with this. I do this all the time — the hit and run comment — all the time. Not everyone agrees with this because they’re like, “Well then they have a response and you never respond. It looks like you didn’t have a response.” Maybe, maybe not. I have more to do than I can possibly get done and if I don’t say anything and literally nobody says anything — I consider it the 80/20 rule, 20 of the effort for 80. And so I will do it when it’s something substantial. So especially on public threads, not necessarily with a Facebook friend where only friends can see it. But on public threads, I will often pick one thing and be like, “That’s actually not true. If you’re interested, here’s some information.” And then I’ll never even look back. I’ll immediately mute the thread and forget about it. I won’t be able to find it again because I do it so often. I have no idea where I put all these nuggets but I think it’s better than doing nothing because at least you put it out there. You don’t know how many people are going to click on the link. You don’t know how many people are going to consider it. And if you do go back — and I don’t recommend it — if you really don’t want to get too involved, don’t go back. Don’t look at it again. It doesn’t matter, but if you do go back there could be, depending on the thread, eight different people responding to you with different arguments and name calling and stuff and you never responded. Okay, you never responded. Anybody who is silently reading this and thinking about it at all should be able to recognize that you might not respond to literally every single thing. And a lot of people refuse to engage entirely because they know they’re going to get dogpiled and they feel overwhelmed and then they don’t want to go through that, and I don’t blame you. But then if we all refuse to engage entirely, only one side is talking and that is not going to work, especially because they’re wrong.
Josh: Okay, so we’ve talked about a lot of things that people can be doing. The first thing that I thought of when you sent me a possible podcast called What Should the Pro-life Movement Be Doing Right Now. What’s been in my head – what should we be doing post Roe is like the only thing that I can think about since we heard the oral arguments in Dobbs. Oh my gosh, this is going to happen now and this is not what I thought was ever going to happen.
Monica: We’re like the dog that caught the car.
Josh: I have completely agreed with this analogy. The pro-life movement is like the dog that caught the car for the first time and is now trying to figure out what now? There is some truth to that because most of us didn’t think that this could happen.
Josh: And a lot of the stuff that we can do now couldn’t have been done before. So there is…
Monica: …kind of experimental some of it…
Josh: I’ve heard leaders talk about it like Pro-Life 3.0. We need to drop a lot of the assumptions…
Monica: As the post-Roe generation….
Josh: We are now the post-Roe generation, yeah! So I’m thinking a lot, not just about what we should be doing but, of what we should not be doing? I think of this as a really fragile moment….
Monica: It definitely could go a lot better or worse.
Josh: …at a societal level. I don’t want the Prohibition thing to happen…
Josh: …and for, you know, some kind of federal codifying Roe amendment or something…
Monica: Oh, gosh, no.
Josh: Hopefully that doesn’t happen. I mean, in the end the timing is the timing. They made it a Supreme Court issue and then the Supreme Court test has been going on for 45 years.
Monica: Now it might be this other new different thing.
Josh: Now this is where we’re at. But trying to think of, how can we not do a ton of damage right now.
Monica: How do we not screw this up?
Josh: So I’ve got like four unforced errors for us to avoid that I’ve been talking about lately. I did this in this piece.
Monica: Clarify unforced errors versus forced errors.
Josh: So, like in tennis, an unforced error would be like if you screw up your serve really badly. Or if you just completely screw up on your own…
Monica: And there was no reason that had to happen…
Josh: It’s not because they had a really good shot at you and then you missed it. It’s you did not have to mess that up and you did mess that up and it’s the worst kind of mess up. And I almost never use sports metaphors because I’m not a sports guy but for whatever reason…
Monica: Okay, it makes sense.
Josh: I’m interested in your reaction because I don’t think you’ve heard at least all four of these. It depends on how much you’ve been able to pay attention to us lately.
Monica: Was it on TikTok? I might have seen it.
Josh: Possibly. Probably.
Monica: Emily is pretty amazing on TikTok.
Josh: So the first one: we need to be really careful about including clear life of the mother exceptions in abortion bans.
Josh: Like the states that are able to pass the really big substantive protections on the unborn they need…
Monica: And do you think they are not?
Josh: I think usually by the end of the process they do.
Josh: From what I can tell that there have been a couple of times that bills have been initially proposed without it.
Monica: VERY unforced error. Super unforced.
Josh: But the fact that it ever happened is really, really bad. And look. I’m glad that there are apparently at least a few politicians who are actually pro-life enough to do something about it and are trying. And I’m kind of just assuming they’re doing their best and they are accidentally screwing something up. But it’s screwing it up at a national level. And people know, I am a very charitable guy when it comes to pro-choice people but I do firmly believe, at this point I’ve seen enough evidence, that there are pro-choice doctors on TikTok that are intentionally knowingly lying about this stuff.
Monica: Can I give an example just to hit on that a little bit more. Okay, not all the laws are written with the same language, some are more clear than others. Not denying that. But Texas was the test case with the Heartbeat Law and what they did, and you can look up this language yourself, they defined abortion as, “legally, an abortion is defined as…. blah blah blah,” whatever they said. And they said, “what is not legally an abortion are the following…” and they listed a couple different things. One of the things they said is “any treatment of ectopic pregnancy.” Now I wanna explain this for a second because what you will hear is people will say “Oh yeah, they said you could treat ectopic pregnancy if her life is in danger, because they said they defined abortion as this and this and this, but there’s an exception if her life is in danger. But then you have to wait to make sure her life is sufficiently in danger.” No! They said any treatment of ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion. So the life exception to abortion doesn’t even matter because any treatment of ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion. And it did not say “if you are doing this particular procedure, or this particular medication, in these particular circumstances” or make it super confusing. They just literally said, “if it’s treating ectopic pregnancy, it’s not an abortion.” You could not possibly be clearer. It’s not, as far as I can see, possible to be clearer.
Josh: This is definitely a common language thing in some of the state bills.
Monica: Not all of them — and I’m not saying it’s all of them — but I’m saying then you hear these stories out of Texas and some of them have been “Oh, what if you can’t get treatment for ectopic pregnancy?” What are you talking about? They couldn’t possibly be clearer that this is not meant to touch that at all. Sometimes they go even worse than that. They don’t even just say, you can’t get treatment. They’re saying they want women to not get treatment. What are you talking about?
Josh: So I will get to that. I think there is a reason why they’re saying that or at least sometimes the reason that it’s not…
Monica: Again emphasizing this is not every bill, but one more point I want to make — to the extent that we aren’t being clear enough in our language, whether it’s life of the mother exception or other kinds of exceptions like miscarriage management, we need to be. And one of the things that we need to have is pro-life medical professionals interfacing with legislatures to help them craft the correct language. It’s not just to give them the right information; it’s also to give them confidence that they are doing this correctly. There are some non-zero number of ostensibly pro-life legislators who would be interested in this but they don’t want to touch it because they’re afraid they’re going to screw it up. And if they have the right people — so AAPLOG, the pro-life OB/Gyns, are asking more and more people, especially if you’re in the correct state for it, to get in touch with them. They are trying to be involved with legislators at every level to give them advice, to give them input. You don’t even have to formally sign anything. You don’t have to go public or anything. You just need to be there and can literally call up their office and be like, “Here’s who I am. Here’s what I know. If you’re ever thinking about this, please keep in mind I’d be happy to give you input.” By the way, they also do witness training. So if you want to be more public about it, they really, really could use the help of pro-life medical professionals to give expert witness during legislative sessions about what would and would not be likely in a medical setting? If all you have is abortion providers — I’m not just talking about pro-choice activists; I’m talking about literally just abortion providers — giving input on this stuff, you already know which way it’s going to go. That’s my rant, go ahead.
Josh: You kind of bring me to another kind of thing that I was going to say and it’s something that we talked about in a podcast recently. I basically think that most pro-life people define the word abortion in a way that is unhelpful for clear communication. I think there’s an equivocation between pro-life and pro-choice people and the word abortion. I don’t think it really mattered too much before Dobbs.
Monica: I think Dobbs made it very clear that people are using it to mean all kinds of different things.
Josh: Yeah. And so pro-life people typically, I think, want to use it to mean an intentional, elective, you’re trying to kill a baby procedure. And they want to be able to then be able to say, “I am a 100 percent, no exceptions” pro-lifer. So here’s the problem though: we are the only ones that use the word that way. Pro-choice people — I mean doctors use it way more broadly sometimes depending on the doctor, depending on the group …
Monica: Spontaneous abortion or incomplete abortion or all kinds of things…
Josh: Yeah, all these different things. And then generally you just get, “What do normal people think of the word abortion?” And since most people would use the word abortion more broadly than a pro-lifer, the equivocation they have is miscommunication that happens. That at least I’m concerned about, is when pro-choice people hear from lying pro-choice doctors on TikTok that we’re trying to kill women who have ectopic pregnancies and then that person hears their pro-life friends say, “I am a no exceptions pro-lifer; I am against 100 percent abortions,” then what they hear is something different than what the pro-life guy….
Monica: TikTok doc is right…
Josh: …they are hearing us say, “We think women should have to commit suicide via pregnancy.”
Monica: Yep. Side note! Let’s say that it was true that we are evil and we hate women. Let’s say that that was true. okay? And all we care about is fetuses because we worship and obsess over fetuses. Let’s say that was true. The fetus will still die. Why would we, even in that ridiculous description of ourselves, want both the woman and the fetus to die?
Josh: So I basically think — and I know off-air you’ve got like a really cool thing to add to this — minimally speaking for pro-lifers, when they describe their view, if they’re going to get their elevator pitch moment, they need to make sure that they are making a clear life of the mother exception. And I think that they ought to define it. I think basically say elective abortion.
Monica: I have two points for this…
Josh: Or be very over the top specific about what they mean when they say, what are you against and what you are for? If you are okay with people intervening, which almost all pro-lifers are in an ectopic pregnancy, they need to understand that.
Monica: Yes, exactly. So actually, several points. First point, Secular Pro-Life, generally speaking, when people say “Do you make any exceptions about abortion?” one of the first things I say is “If her life is in danger and the only solution is abortion we think she should be able to get that.” Now that’s me glossing over a lot of nuance and the way we define abortion, and is treatment of ectopic pregnancy abortion, and all these other things. But that doesn’t matter; I’m just getting to the heart of the point. Nobody thinks that a woman should have to die because we are against abortion. That’s the first thing, okay? I just go straight to it and for a lot of people that question is sincere. Now there’s a lot of activists where they’re trying to trip you up, but for a lot of everyday people, that’s a sincere question. Secondly, a lot of times instead of saying elective abortion — because remember we talk about this constantly but our target audience is people who don’t talk about this constantly and they might even have a really clear idea what you mean by that — so often what I will say is, “What do you think of the 95 percent plus of abortions in this country where the abortion is of a healthy fetus carried by a healthy woman with no medical emergency?”
Josh: I love…I think that’s so good for people…
Monica: That’s what I say. I can’t be clearer. I guess technically you could just say “where it involves no medical emergency…” But just to really emphasize the point we’re not talking about any fetal disability, we’re not talking about any issue. It has nothing to do with physical, medical health. What do you think about that?
Josh: I think every, single time a pro-life person gives their elevator pitch on why they are pro-life, they need to say that.
Monica: Yes, because I think — this is just speculation based on the playbook the other side is using and based on the way things are going — I suspect that the average American who’s not that into this thinks that like half of abortions are medical emergencies, or some ridiculous proportion, some insane amount of times.
Josh: Or at least a lot, 20, 25% or something like that.
Monica: Right, when it’s actually almost never the case. And that’s not even getting into the fact that we are trying and, I think, sometimes succeeding, sometimes not, to craft laws that make exceptions for that anyway. So that is the second thing. But the third thing I want to emphasize — this is super important — we want to make a delineation between elective abortion and medically necessary abortion for the reasons you just explained because people think of those differently. And I’ve said this before: polls show that Americans broadly support medically necessary abortion and, much less so, non-medically necessary abortion. It’s totally different, okay? So we have every reason to make the delineation. The other side has every reason not to make that delineation. And they are trying not to on purpose. This isn’t me being paranoid. ACOG just released a language guide a couple months ago — they had thirteen phrases that they want us to stop saying. They claimed it was all for medical accuracy. One of them did have a medically related reason.
Josh: One out of eight?
Monica: One out of thirteen.
Josh: Out of thirteen!? Oh, okay! Wow!
Monica: The rest of them were basically just ACOG saying, “We don’t want you to think badly about abortion.” And one of the thirteen phrases they said we shouldn’t use ever again is elective abortion.
Monica: They don’t want you to say elective abortion because they don’t think it’s up to third parties to judge whether her reason is good enough or not.
Josh: That has nothing to do with medicine.
Monica: No, it has nothing to do with medicine. Elective is definitely a term used in the medical field. Forget the abortion debate, forget the abortion debate! Elective versus emergent, elective versus therapeutic.
Josh: Kinda like a C-section!
Monica: It’s also used in billing for insurance. In fact, we just covered, recently, the death of Keisha Atkins. She sought a six-month abortion in New Mexico and they fraudulently signed paperwork saying it was for all these medically necessary reasons. And you ask, “Why would they do that? New Mexico has no gestational limits on abortion. They don’t even have to say it’s medically necessary. They can do it for any reason. So why would they lie?” So they could bill Medicaid because Medicaid won’t cover it unless it’s for medically necessary reasons. So the medical side is not confused about if there’s a difference between elective or not. They just don’t want us talking about it. ACOG doesn’t want us talking about it. Why do you think that is?
Josh: They don’t want us judging.
Monica: They don’t want us judging and they don’t want us conveying to Americans what proportion of abortions are not for medically necessary reasons. It’s not a coincidence that when you talk to pro-choice activists, for the most part, they will go right to, “This woman was trying to get treatment for miscarriage and she almost died” and “This woman was trying to get treatment for an ectopic pregnancy and she almost died.” And don’t get me wrong, we do have to address that. We have to address those situations and make sure we are not putting people in danger. I’m not saying we shouldn’t. But they would rather talk about anything than elective abortion. They would rather talk about miscarriage; they would rather talk about ectopic pregnancy. They’d rather talk about gay marriage; they’d rather talk about contraception. They’d rather talk about anything, anything other than elective abortion. And do you know why? Because Americans don’t LIKE elective abortion. In fact, I just read a study that came out recently where they had a pro-choice audience, including a couple of abortion providers, and other people who like volunteered to do pro-choice activism — so not even just nominally pro-choice people but a very pro-choice audience, watch the documentary After Tiller, which puts as much of a sympathetic spin on late-term abortion as you possibly could. You shouldn’t even call it a documentary — that’s a different rant. So they had an already agreeable audience watch a very positive documentary on late-term abortion and then they interviewed them afterwards about their impressions. And they did find that, after watching it, they were more sympathetic about late-term abortion than they had been before. They did find that. And, even then, they still were only okay with it if it was medically necessary, basically. They still were saying things like, “Yes, I see why this might be necessary for these dire situations. I see why, given the right reasons…” They were having these caveats. And the people doing the research who are striding abortion rights activists, were contextualizing the research saying, “We still have work to do because they got better. But they still think there should be limits.”
Josh: “We have this problem….”
Monica: Yes, they’re still judging based on the reasons, when we’re trying to say that it’s their autonomy and whatever. They don’t want us to talk about elective abortion. So for the pro-life people who are feeling like it should be obvious what abortion means — I’m not even going to argue with you about that or not — I’m saying there is every reason strategically for us to emphasize that we are talking about elective abortion because, first of all we are. And, secondly, the average American who’s not super into this debate, they feel very differently about elective abortion than medically necessary abortion and they feel differently about us based on if they think we’re talking about one or the other. So there are a bunch of reasons that we have incentive to make this delineation. And if you need proof, all you have to do is look at ACOG asking us not to make this delineation.
Josh: You have an article or something about that?
Monica: Yes! I do have an article about this! It is called… what is it called?
Josh: I’ll link to it in the description. It’s OK. (laughter)
Monica: And, by the way, this article took me forever to write, and I told you I’m very conscientious about my time and there was a part of me that was like, “Why am I doing this? I shouldn’t be spending this much time on this.” But I was so mad.
Josh: This is interesting.
Monica: It is called ACOG Has Spoken: 13 Phrases We No Longer Are Supposed to Use Regarding Abortion. And there was ONE phrase that they gave a medical justification for — that was late-term abortion versus later abortion. Now, personally, I don’t feel strongly about this. I will say either one. I’ve started saying later abortion more often. Actually, what I usually do…
Josh: What’s the reasoning?
Monica: I will tell you in a second, but what I usually do is I don’t even use either one of those; they’re both vague. I just say 21 weeks or later or third trimester.
Josh: Even better. Clarity!
Monica: Yes, but the reason they are giving is that, in terms of pregnancy when you talk about term, you’re talking about when you “get to term” you’re getting to where you’re supposed to be having the baby. And so you know, in that regard, “term” would be 40 weeks or 38 to 42 weeks or whatever. So “late-term” would be after 40 weeks and they are accusing us of trying to say that these abortions are happening after birth. That’s not what we’re saying. You could show a strong history of us and the other side using late-term abortion to broadly mean 21 weeks or later, post viability, that kind of thing.
Josh: And, to be fair, they always fight the born-alive kind of legislation too.
Monica: Yes, also that. And I am saying the internet is forever and we have the receipts of Planned Parenthood, NARAL — even now there are still journalists who will say late-term abortion and they’re pro-choice journalists. But now they’re saying, “You guys made that up to confuse and prejudice people against us.” And I’m like, “Okay, what do you want me to say so I can make my point? I don’t even care.” So that was the only one where they were like, “medically, ‘term’ means this so ‘late-term’ means that. So you’re a big meanie and you should say later abortion instead.” So, fine. I’ve started saying later abortion more often in my stuff, depending on the context. The other twelve phrases they said — you know, I will tell you what they said. These are what they don’t want you to say, are you ready: chemical abortion, surgical abortion, heartbeat bill, fetal heartbeat, dismemberment ban, abortion provider, baby or unborn child (that’s an old one), self-induced abortion, elective abortion, partial-birth abortion, womb, or abortion on demand. So let me re-emphasize really quick, they don’t want you to say chemical abortion, surgical abortion, self-induced abortion, elective abortion, or partial-birth abortion because basically — and you can read the details here — I went to great detail on every single one with lots of sources including the up-to-date database and all sorts all the details you could possibly want. What it comes down to is they don’t want people to have details on abortion.
Monica: They just want them to accept it as health care, period.
Josh: The more people are thinking about what it is….
Monica: Yes. They don’t want you to think about hearts and heartbeats, for sure. They didn’t mention this specifically here — they don’t want you to think about fetal pain. They don’t want you to think about the different kinds of abortion and the different reasons women get them. And, by the way, let’s say that you are fine morally with abortion. Let’s say that you are, okay?. This is still absurd because you should care! You should care….
Josh: How do you feel about the fact that your side is clearly trying to clean up the language….
Monica: Like “La, la, la, la!” (putting fingers in ears to block hearing). Not even just that! Not even how much you want to obfuscate everything. But let’s say you’re a moderate pro-choice person. You don’t think abortion is morally wrong, per se. Maybe later, but definitely not earlier. And you sympathize with the reasons women want to get one. You should still care why women are getting them, because there’s some non-zero percentage of women who are getting them because they feel like they don’t have a choice. And we can’t possibly talk about that or examine what’s going on with the party, or the side, that’s like, “Uh, we don’t need to give the CDC data about abortion. We don’t need to offer women the OPTION to view the ultrasound. We don’t need to be reading fetal development info. We don’t need to be asking them why they’re getting it.” Every time we try to do just a data collection thing, not a restriction, but just … we just did this in Colorado recently, where they proposed a bill that said Colorado has no limits on abortion gestational limits, none. It’s not like after 24 weeks you have to have a broad health exception; it’s just there’s not a gestational limit. So, in Colorado, we would like to gather data on who is getting abortions, at what gestational ages. And when I say who I don’t mean people’s names. I mean the number of women getting them at different gestational ages, and then give them, whatever 5/10/15 options as to why and have them say why they’re doing it. And you could see as it gets later, why they’re doing it. People are always like, “Oh, where’s the data to show why elective late-term abortion is happening?” First of all, there is data, but it’s very hard to find. And you know why it’s hard to find? Not because of us. We are not against gathering that data. Someone is against gathering that data. It’s not us. And you should care, if you’re a moderate pro-choice person, why a woman would want to get an abortion at 28 weeks. That should be concerning. Maybe it is because she really, really, really doesn’t want this pregnancy for various reasons. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s not. Do you care if it’s not? Do you care if she’s going to get a 28-week abortion which she really doesn’t want to get? Do you want to find out why and address those issues or are you afraid if we talk about that, it undermines the right to abortion generally? So throw her under the bus because ABORTION RIGHTS ABOVE ALL! I think we all know the answer already. So when they try to control the language, the language controls the way the conversation goes. So I agree with you, that we should be very intentional. The unforced error of being confused about what we mean by abortion — and they want us to be confusing about that. They want us to be vague and confusing about that.
Josh: So don’t play into their hands
Monica: Yeah… so that they could be like, “You don’t care if a woman dies from an ectopic pregnancy.” And you’re over here like, “Can we just not dismember 15-week fetuses for no medical reason? Can we not?”
Monica: They don’t want to talk about that.
Josh: All right, so I’ve only got one more on here. We’re again past the hour now.
Monica: Of course we are.
Josh: So to recap, we need to be very careful about including clear life and other exceptions in the actual bills…
Josh: Which means that maybe pro-lifers are using the word abortion sometimes in a way that you don’t like. But if that’s the clearest way to do the legislation, if that is the way that makes the hardest or the pro-choice doctors on TikTok say, “There’s this killing effect and now I can’t save people’s lives.”
Monica: To be clear, they will say it either way. But it’s harder for them to be persuasive.
Josh: Make it as hard as possible.
Monica: Make it seem RIDICULOUS for them to say that.
Josh: Exactly. Okay so we got that. Also, every time the pro-lifer describes their view they need to include a clear life for the mother exception kind of a statement in it.
Monica: Say: “For no medical reason, for no medical reason.”
Josh: And the way that you did it is the best way. Repeat the line.
Monica: “What do you think about abortions on healthy fetuses, carried by healthy women, for no medical reason?”
Josh: That’s the line. Memorize it. Add it to your pro-life pitch. Will you be more careful about how we define abortion? And then, lastly, we need to understand why we shouldn’t prosecute women for illegal abortion.
Monica: You want to get that done in less than an hour?
Josh: Yeah, I mean, I’ll point to an article — we explain, basically, why our view is this. We are trying to basically add nuance to both sides of this debate because I think, generally speaking, almost everyone who talks about this is lacking too much nuance on one side of a spectrum. And we’re trying to like, “Here’s a more nuanced middle option.”
Monica: But also, take hope here — talking again about that bell curve of activism — I think a lot of times when we get into nuanced discussions about this, we are dealing with the tails. Similar to when you’re dealing with the average American and they’re saying, “Do you think there should be a life of the mother exception?” and they’re sincere. And you’re like, “Yes I do.” Similarly, if they say, “Do you want to prosecute women?” a lot of them are sincere. They’re not trying to get a “gotcha” — if you say no you don’t really care and if you say yes you’re evil. They really — “Do you want to prosecute women?” “No.” “Okay, let’s talk then.”
Josh: Right. But the problem is now, for whatever reasons, that there are more and more loud voices that are on the pro-prosecution side.
Monica: Well, because Roe is gone. So now that’s an actual thing that you could even conceivably talk about. Before Roe, it was assuming a frictionless-surface-Coffee-House conversation. Now it’s like a thing that could theoretically happen.
Josh: But the other side is the one that wants us all focusing on what exactly should we do if abortion becomes illegal? What should we do to this woman? They want that.
Monica: I read another piece of research recently where they interviewed a whole bunch of average American pro-life people — so again non-activists. “Do you think there should be a penalty and what should it be?” And what they actually found was that most of them [wanted things] not related to jail. It was like maybe a fine or community service or a class. They thought there should be something; they weren’t sure what it was. And they concluded from that, not that “Oh, they definitely don’t want to prosecute women,” but that, “These guys just don’t know what they think about things.” I mean you’re not totally wrong, that you could pick an average pro-life person and they won’t have every answer to every single thing. But you refuse to see that it’s because they’re not motivated by hating women. You refuse to see that. If it really was that they just hated women, why wouldn’t they just be like, “Yep, jail. Done.”
Josh: Why would most pro-lifers have actually spent a ton of time trying to figure out exactly what should happen in the situation when they haven’t thought it’s remotely possible in their entire lifetime. It’s not that weird that this is one that a lot of pro-lifers haven’t thought about.
Monica: It’s another one of those asymmetric things where we suffer from scrutinizing our view. And you should scrutinize our view. But there’s nobody scrutinizing the other side. And so then people who are only listening to one set of information and are like, “Oh, well they don’t know what they think. They don’t know what they want to do and they have these bad answers.” But nobody’s asking you about — and I will say it again — about late-term elective abortion. Every time you want to ask me about the implications of conception bans, IVF, contraception, all of those things, that’s fine. You’re not wrong to ask me. But if you ask me that and you’re not asking anybody about six month/seven month [abortion], for no medical reason, then I don’t take you seriously. And the thing is you are talking about theoretically. You’re talking about “What if in the future we ban IVF clinics?” I’m talking about, literally, right now, every day, for years this has already been happening. And you’re like, “What if your implications are really terrible in the future?” Okay, what if your implications are really terrible right now while we’re talking?
Josh: What if you were dismembering six month fetuses and no one really knows about it?
Monica: Like, yeah what if that was happening?
Josh: Yeah, what IF!?
Monica: Just hypothetically — if they could live outside the womb and you decided to inject a poison into their heart first to make sure that didn’t happen, hypothetically, and then birth them. Like, how would you feel about that? And I could tell you 95 percent of the time the answer is: “That doesn’t happen.”
Josh: Yeah, and whenever that happens, I point them to your website.
Monica: Let’s say it doesn’t happen. Can you answer the question? Because nobody’s banned an IVF clinic yet either. And I’m still not like, “Nobody’s banning that, so I’m not going to answer you.” Well, actually, some people are like that to be fair…
Josh: What’s the question for me?
Monica: I’m saying, when you’re having conversations where you want your opposition to defend or at least examine the hard edges of their case, I’m fine with that if we’re doing it in both directions.
Monica: So when someone wants me to answer, “Oh do you think we should shut down IVF clinics?” Do you want me to just be like, “Well we haven’t.” “Okay, do you think we should?” “Okay, but we haven’t.”
Josh: Of course we have to answer the question.
Monica: Right, just answer the question. But then I’m like, “Okay, what about elective late-term abortion?” “Oh, nobody does that.” “Okay, but would you have a problem with it?” “Nobody does that.” “Okay, you would have a problem, wouldn’t you?” It’s okay to say that. We have common ground here. This is where we both agree that this is a freaking terrible, horrible thing.
Josh: Do you think that this whole list of abortion doctors, and people who’ve had the abortions are lying when they say it happened.
Monica: No, no, they don’t think I think they’re lying. They think I’m dumb; I’m misunderstanding them.
Josh: How can you misunderstand?
Monica: Because Josh, abortion just means ending a pregnancy….
Josh: Am I asking too many big questions right now (sarcasm)
Monica: Abortion just means ending a pregnancy; it doesn’t mean that anybody has to die. That’s just an anti-abortion myth. We are just vilifying abortion to say that it is about purposely killing anyone. So when the DuPont clinic in Washington DC has a section on their website that says 26 plus week abortions, no medical reason, we don’t care what the reason is, whatever you want. And I point them to that. They’re like, “Yeah, because that’s just labor induction and the NICU.” That’s what they think. They think that I don’t understand the clinic correctly because when they say abortion they just mean early termination of pregnancy.
Josh: I’ll just say again and I’ve said this before. If they’re going to reject your view or your argument, you want it to be for the dumbest, most intellectually dishonest reason ever. You don’t want it to be because you’ve been a jerk or too weird or because you made a logical fallacy or you made some bad argument or something like that. You want it to be that they are being flagrantly intellectually dishonest, because it is going to be more likely that they can’t sustain that for their entire life.
Monica: Getting back to what we were speaking about before, if this is happening online, don’t feel like you have to get them to admit what you’re saying, you totally don’t. You could say, “Look at the DuPont clinic.” And they’ll be like, “Oh, they just mean labor induction to NICU.” And you’re like, “Okay.”
Josh: Almost no one is willing to admit they’re wrong in public.
Monica: What I’m saying is you don’t have to keep going; you can stop. Because, if your target audience is the average reasonably intellectually honest person and they see that response, they’re gonna be like, “That seems implausible” and you don’t have to do anything else. Okay, we’ve gotten on a tangent.
Josh: Okay, we need to stop. We’ve covered it; we’ve got many more episodes to film and so we’re gonna bring this one to a close. I’m so glad that you’re here. Thanks for being here and I can’t wait for the next one.
Monica: Yes, thanks for letting me just rant and rant.
Josh: My favorite thing!