During the March for Life this year, I posted a tweet about a mom who chose life over abortion. This tweet blew every tweet I’ve posted ever out the water for most viewed. However, many – especially those contrary to the pro-life message – misunderstand it and the pro-life message. I want to set the stage, respond to this misunderstanding, and conclude with some lessons for us.
2 Million Saw This Tweet
Here’s my most-viewed tweet ever.
— Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC (@FrMatthewLC) January 18, 2019
It has 2.3 million views as of the time I type this. I have had many tweets go somewhat viral before reaching into 100s of thousands but this beats my second most viewed tweet by over 7 times.
It is also worth noting that the engagement rate is 89%: even though most of those are just clicking to see the image, that is insanely high. It rare for this to be beyond single digits. (I had some issues with Twitter analytics that at one point showed a much higher number.)
I think all of us who are pro-life are happy with this story of a mother cho0sing life.
“Pro-Choice” Activists Misunderstand This Tweet
This tweet generated many responses or quote tweets claiming it was actually “pro-choice.” Here is the most popular which I think embodies this misunderstanding.
The basic misunderstanding is that these people think the only goal of the pro-life movement is to make abortion illegal. They view it as a choice and think that we are just against people choosing.
We Want to End Abortion
Although I think most in the pro-life movement would be glad if abortion became illegal, the ultimate goal is ending abortion. I don’t want any children killed before they are born. As long as the means are ethical such as convincing people and passing laws, I just want the most effective means.
I don’t think I’m alone. Fr. Frank Pavone, who has lead the pro-life movement, wrote books called Ending Abortion and Abolishing Abortion. He also stated, “Our goal is not just to make abortion illegal. Our goal is to make abortion undesirable, unavailable, unnecessary in the eyes of those that would want it. In short, our goal is to make abortion unthinkable.” Despite the fact he clearly puts legality at the service of ending abortion, most of the critiques I have heard of Fr. Pavone within the pro-life movement have been that he is too political, not that his strategies are not political enough.
Likewise, I would like abortion to be reduced and eventually end. If abortion ends with persuasion and not by laws, praise God. I did a Twitter poll to try and bring out this point and 2.5 times as many agreed with me as disagreed.
#ProLife Twitter poll: Which would you prefer happened next year?
(a) half the number of abortions but it still be legal or
(b) same number of abortions but illegal
I leave a 3rd option for those who aren’t #ProLife.
— Fr. Matthew P. Schneider, LC (@FrMatthewLC) January 21, 2019
Even among the 25% who would prefer it illegal, many replied with things like (a) was only a 1-year drop while (b) would drop it long term, or saying it wasn’t a fair poll as making it illegal would surely reduce it. These critiques have some merit and maybe I should have put this over a longer term. [EDIT: to clarify the third option is there because on Twitter you can’t see results without clicking an answer and I preferred to let those who don’t identify as pro-life see results without messing with the same results; this is common in Twitter polls for only part of the population.]
Punishments for AbortionAs further proof of this, let’s look at the punishments proposed for abortion.
Ohio recently passed a law making abortion illegal after the fetal heartbeat. Many news outlets falsely reported that this could result in the death penalty. However, if you read the law, it says (page 21, lines 573-575): “Whoever violates this division is guilty of performing or inducing an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, a felony of the fifth degree.” A felony of the fifth degree is punishable by 6-12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2500. This is punishment but far from what the media claimed.
When Trump proposed serious punishments for women who abort, Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life responded, “Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we are about. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.”
Leah Libresco even did an informal poll on how people think women who abort their babies should be punished at the March for Life. Most wanted a small punishment like a short period in jail or mandatory counseling, or no punishment, with only a tiny majority arguing for murder charges. Personally, I think that we need to make sure doctors lose their license and spend some time in jail, maybe like Ohio, maybe a little longer; in many cases, I think mandatory counseling for the women, especially if they felt forced, would be the best option.
A Social Media Lesson
To us, we all think that a woman choosing not to abort is a pro-life lesson. It is. However, we need to be more active and organized online. Part of why this tweet got so big was from pro-abortion people quote-tweeting it arguing it was actually “pro-choice.” In fact, the tweet I screen-shotted above got significantly higher Retweets than mine did. Its retweets got into a territory the average Donald Trump Tweet doesn’t reach.
We know that the culturally accepted position right now is unfortunately pro-abortion. However, it is still amazing that tweets claiming to be “pro-choice” can get that much interaction while we struggle to get 1/10th of that.
Right now, Twitter drives the news. The average person spends more time on Facebook and Instagram but those who work in media tend to spend far more time looking through Twitter. Even without it being President Trump’s preferred mode of communication, newsmakers talk and journalists get stories most on Twitter. I heard an anecdote that one journalist arrived at a new job and her boss said that Twitter was their assignment desk. We need to figure out ways to better connect and communicate the Gospel there. We need more Catholics and pro-life people in that space. If you want some ideas, I’ve written about six modes of online evangelization and made a 4-part video series on online evangelization.
Let’s pray that posts like this move some people’s hearts to choose life rather than abortion.
I posted this and 13 others I thought were amazing right after the March for Life.
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