Want to really sell your message? Here's what you need: promotion, a polished
image, honesty and a sense of humor.
Heads up, dear adversaries.
Yes, you: loyal, seasoned, serious abortion supporters. You have a right to be
jittery about your precarious poll ratings, the uptick in youthful pro-life
energy, your House, your Senate and your President. Toss in Scarborough,
Limbaugh, Coulter, Fox News and President Reagan's week-long funeral!
Conservatism is coiling around you like a black rat snake ready to crush its
No wonder you gathered every leftist group you could find and threw yourselves a
Mall party on April 25. Prudent to choose that date rather than risk the weather
of Jan. 22, the actual anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Judicious, also, to
use the word "life" in your theme — March for Women's Lives — rather than the
divisive "abortion" or even "choice."
You gathered your crowd, a big one. And now you're energized, but still uneasy,
as November approaches.
You should be worried. Despite all your advantages, you are allowing
Middle America — that attractive, busy, conflicted middle — to drift over to
pro-life. You need help.
So listen to an old pro-life hand. To hold onto Roe, you have to
appeal to the middle, and that means dropping some bad old habits. Think
advertising. Think marketing:
Lose the hysterical language and endless, fever-pitch outrage. "Bush's War On
Women" may get the juices flowing in the back room, but it's death in the public
square. The electorate is not charmed by your melodrama. When you're on TV,
stash the tattoos, multiple body piercings and Tyne Daly's pink hair. They
wouldn't sell automobiles; they won't sell abortion.
Stop attacking the Catholic Church. Jeering at counterprotesters holding
crucifixes aloft is dumb, not to mention blasphemous. Two words: "The Passion."
Don't brag publicly about having the media in your pocket. Last year, I watched
as Barbara Zdravecky, the chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and
Central Florida, told an open meeting that Florida media is always
"sympathetic." She then explained that, although they're obliged to quote both
sides "they are good at asking questions that make the opposition look foolish."
Do get your facts straight. President George W. Bush is not, even from your
perspective, "the worst president for women's rights in the history of this
country." That honor belongs to President Theodore Roosevelt, who thought
contraception akin to murder, never mind abortion.
Don't lie. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the NARAL co-founder turned pro-life activist,
has claimed responsibility for fabricating inflated figures for pre-Roe
deaths related to abortion; Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National
Coalition of Abortion Providers, admitted that he "lied through my teeth" to the
press by understating the number of late-term abortions performed and
overstating the percentage done for the health of the mother. Lies will out.
Don't lard your communications with legalisms. Yes, I know it's vital, but too
much legal talk wearies the soul.
Do stay on message. Every time you throw gay marriage, the environment,
nationalized health care or Iraq war protesters into the discussion, you lose
part of your audience.
Do engage pro-life arguments. In the public square, it matters not how you see
yourselves but how you are perceived by others. To wit:
When you ignore the "Silent No More Campaign" involving women who regret their
past abortions, you risk appearing cold. When you disregard the cutting-edge
clarity of 4-D Ultrasound — "Look, he's got his dad's nose!" — you risk
appearing out of the loop. And when you avoid discussing the possibility of
fetal pain, you risk appearing, well, cruel.
Last but not least, develop a sense of humor. One wonders if your eyes ever
twinkle or if you occasionally let yourselves chuckle or chortle or beam at this
But, then, maybe you're not happy.
Sherry Tyree, "Abortion: Tips for pro-choice advocates." St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, 26 June, 2004.
Reprinted with permission of the author, Sherry Tyree.
Sherry Tyree, a native of St. Louis, and an alumna of John Burroughs School and
Washington University, has taught in St. Louis public and private schools. A
founding member and vice-president of Women for Faith and Family, Mrs. Tyree has
also contributed op-ed columns to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and serves on the
board of the Friends of the New Cathedral, St. Louis University Library
Associates and the ProLife Citizens Political Action Committee. She is married
to Donald Tyree, retired professor at the St. Louis University School of