…Beyond “Cognitive Dissonance”
An early 1960s film about parents of developmentally delayed children struggling to adjust. A 1998 article about the one-third of our brightest young women who can’t be reached with the Pro-Life message. Today, a young writer explains how our criterion of success forbids us from accepting bumps in life’s road and receiving the unexpected Gift of Life.
Burt Lancaster and Judy Garland, (Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961) starred in the 1963 film A Child is Waiting. Lancaster is medical director at an institution for retarded children, dedicated to guiding young people with reduced expectations to the best possible life adjustment. (With calm dignity, actual developmentally-delayed children play many of the roles.)
Garland is a new employee of the institution whose overly emotional reaction to a young boy’s sense of rejection by his parents diminishes her ability to be of actual help to the children. The boy’s father seems to be aloof, to the point of refusing to visit his child—”A Child is Waiting”—when other children are seeing their families. Rather than uncaring, the father’s problem is shown to be acute discomfort with his son’s perceived imperfections.
One of the new generation of pro-life thinkers, First Things Junior Fellow Tristyn Bloom, examines our fixation on perfection and resistance to the unexpected, in “Beyond the Pro-Life Pep Rally: Where Do We Go From Here?” (The Federalist: “The Surprising Ingredient To Creating A Pro-Life Culture: Are Kids These Days ‘Too Responsible’?“ http://thefederalist.com/2013/10/29/surprising-ingredient-pro-life-culture/ ).
The reason people continue to defend abortion is because, essentially, of existential terror: fear of what will happen when something unexpected, uninvited, unplanned bursts into our lives demanding action.…We are pathologically terrified of risk and … we have this enslavement to our own ideas of respectability, our own ideas of our life plan, our commitments, our existing duties such that something as radically changing as a new life doesn’t fit in with those existing duties. To accept that life would be the irresponsible choice, and that’s the framework from which a lot of people are operating.…When we have something unchosen, unplanned, uninvited, it’s a direct attack against the very core of our being.
Ms. Bloom’s insight points toward a solution to an enduring mystery, a fly in the ointment marring the past generation’s great success in turning around public opinion about the issue of Life.
Fifteen years ago, news of a population of up to one-third of young women practically unreachable by the Pro-Life message was carried in another First Things article, “Abortion: A Failure to Communicate” www.firstthings.com/article/2008/11/004-abortion-a-failure-to-communicate-49 by Paul Swope of the Vitae Caring Foundation. The article was largely concerned with a self-defeating misapprehension among the Pro-Life mainstream: the “Adoption: The Loving Option” solution is, unexpectedly, completely contrary to a basic psychological premise for many of the most success-oriented, “upwardly mobile” young women. (Our front-line experience is liable to confirm the fact that it’s much easier to communicate the Pro-Life message to women of more modest “socio-economic” background than those of the educational and economic elite.)
Adoption, unfortunately, is seen as the most “evil” of the three options [giving birth, adoption and abortion], as it is perceived as a kind of double death. First, the death of self, as the woman would have to accept motherhood by carrying the baby to term. Further, not only would the woman be a mother, but she would perceive herself as a bad mother, one who gave her own child away to strangers. The second death is the death of the child “through abandonment.” A woman worries about the chance of her child being abused. She is further haunted by the uncertainty of the child’s future, and about the possibility of the child returning to intrude on her own life many years later. Basically, a woman desperately wants a sense of resolution to her crisis, and in her mind, adoption leaves the situation the most unresolved, with uncertainty and guilt as far as she can see for both herself and her child. As much as we might like to see the slogan “Adoption, Not Abortion” embraced by women, this study suggests that in pitting adoption against abortion, adoption will be the hands-down loser.
(Woman firefighter handing a child she just saved to the Mom.) “Being alive today has special meaning–for both of us. There have been times when I almost didn’t make it. But the one time I had the most to lose, was before I was even born. My Mom was young, single, no money. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to give me a chance. But today, I know she’d be very proud, that her decision saved more than one life.”—”Lifesaver”, Vitae Caring FoundationMany in the mainstream of dedicated, Pro-Life stalwarts, seem unaware of the fact, that much of the credit for turning around American public opinion about abortion goes to groups like the Vitae Caring Foundation and Heroic Media which have employed to best effect, sophisticated consumer-psychology research and Madison Avenue marketing expertise to support the cause of Life. Yet many Pro-Lifers remain rather in the dark about our failure to reach so many of the best and brightest, the very people who should be at the forefront bringing forth new generations to help ensure future prosperity and the health of society.
Vitae Caring’s “Lifesaver” commercial overcomes many of the hidden biases against Life by recognizing and affirming the special requirements of feminine psychology: It portrays a successful woman heroically–potentially, self-sacrificially–giving life to another while maintaining control over her own life and remaining personally successful. This flies in the face of the presumption of the upper-crust of young women that having a child when they’re reaching for success means the effective end of their lives.
It’s high time to take stock of our current course, to help the right-thinking majority on the Life issue overcome the unthinking bias against Life on the part of the “better classes” which have so much influence over the fate of our nation and our world.
Pro-life activists are still viewed as dangerous extremists.…The pro-life movement’s own self-chosen slogans and educational presentations have tended to exacerbate the problem.—Paul Swope, 1998
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© 2013 William Keevers