The American Pro-Life Movement is a Confidence Game

The American Pro-Life Movement is a Confidence Game August 10, 2023



an upside-down flag


On Tuesday I saw the circular saws.

The video was going viral on the internet: apparently, Greg Abbot’s barrier stretched across the Rio Grande is equipped with booby traps. In between the floating red buoys are circular saws designed to maim anybody who tries to climb over them. The Mexican government is reporting that two bodies have been found dead in the river nearby– one of them entangled in the trap.

Abbot is pro-life.

The people who showed up trolling on social media were also pro-life. The people exalting in the killing of two human beings who were trying to commit a misdemeanor, were staunch Republicans and pro-life. Yes, I know they were just internet trolls, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a human being on the other side of that troll account with the Pepe Frog and the Vatican flag, and that human supports a certain ideology and calls himself pro-life.

This horrific crime and the people exalting in it, was ringing in my ears as I watched the returns in the special election in Ohio. As I explained earlier this week, the Republican party controls Ohio’s state legislature with an iron fist thanks to ridiculously gerrymandered districts, but that wasn’t enough for them. They tried to rush through an election at a ridiculous time, which would have taken away our ability to amend the Ohio constitution as well. They wanted us completely disenfranchised and hoped we wouldn’t notice. We beat them back, for now. The change to the Ohio constitution was voted down, almost by a supermajority. Even here in blood red Jefferson County, even half of our tiny number of votes were “no” votes.

The Republican party wanted to drastically alter state laws, so that there wouldn’t be a vote on a state constitutional amendment this November. This amendment, as everybody knows by now, would guarantee a woman’s right to abortion in Ohio, and it’s expected to pass. The pro-life movement did not attempt to influence this vote by changing hearts and minds, reasoning with people, trying to educate them. They instead decided to try and rob Ohio of what little democracy we have left. We’d never have a say again, about anything, so that they could pass an abortion ban.

This is what the pro-life movement does.

I didn’t think we were like that, once upon a time. I used to think we wanted to help people and save lives. I used to think we had the moral high ground.

The events of the past several years have disillusioned me. The actions of so-called pro-lifers this year in particular have left me so sick.

In the aftermath of the Ohio election, I saw a gentleman on Twitter say this was “a five-alarm fire for the pro-life movement,” as if the pro-life movement only had a branding problem.

I have come to a different conclusion: there is no pro-life movement.

There is a fascist movement that wants to destroy our democracy and feigns a love of children as an excuse.

I’m not saying that every individual person who believes they’re pro-life is a fascist. There are plenty of sincere and helpful people who donate diapers to the pregnancy center and throw baby showers for poor mothers, people who want to do good and do accomplish good things. But the celebrities of the pro-life movement, the politicians they court, the powerful figureheads they revere– it’s just a confidence game.

If there was a pro-life movement, then the political candidates that the pro-life movement anoints would significantly reduce abortions, but they haven’t. Abortion rates have been falling since the 90s no matter who’s in charge, they tend to fall faster under Democratic presidencies, they bounced up a little for a brief time under pro-life hero George W. Bush while he was slaughtering the people of Iraq. They reached their absolute nadir under Obama, and then they went up alarmingly every year under Trump. Between 2017 and 2020, they went up  eight percent. Now they are falling again under Biden. They seem to have gone down six percent since the Dobbs decision, but then again those statistics only count legal abortions and we may never know how the rate of illegal abortions has changed. We also don’t know if the rates are falling because they’re illegal or whether the abortions are just being gotten illegally. Even if the rate of abortions really has gone down that far, an eight percent rise plus a six percent drop isn’t progress. A Supreme Court decision and twenty states passing abortion bans, and they still can’t yet make up for the ground they lost when they controlled the White House. This is because they don’t want to.

The so-called pro-life movement has been manipulating well-meaning Christians since the Nixon administration. It’s a deeply cynical gang of scammers who just want control.

Meanwhile, the politicians they crown as our saviors want to deny Americans our rights and murder desperate migrants who come to us for help.

That ought to make you angry.

It ought to make you sick.

I hope it makes you angry and sick enough to not listen to them anymore.




Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.


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