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Abortion: Tips for pro-choice advocates   

SHERRY TYREE

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 prey.

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 fine world.

But, then, maybe you're not happy.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Sherry Tyree, "Abortion: Tips for pro-choice advocates." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 26 June, 2004.

Reprinted with permission of the author, Sherry Tyree.

THE AUTHOR

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 Business.

Copyright 2004 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 

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