Today I want to mention specifically the experience of talking with street canvassers. You know, the ones who call out to people walking by on the sidewalk, offering literature and asking for support for their organizations. One of the most visible canvassing organizations in downtown Chicago is Planned Parenthood, and currently, they're trying to drum up public support for President Obama's health care reform bills.
A friend of mine actually became aware of their presence long before I did, and she's talked to them more than I have as well. I suppose that's partly because she is out on the streets during the day more than I am. She's had a few successful conversations, including one in which the guy she was talking to ended up stopping his canvassing for PP and starting with another organization. Praise God for that. And, interestingly enough, as she began to recount another conversation to me while we were on the bus together last weekend, a guy sitting in the seat across from us overheard and introduced himself as a PP canvasser. Naturally, that turned into a conversation as well.
A couple of things have struck me while talking to these people. The first is how indoctrinated they sound. They literally all repeat the same catchphrases: "anti-choice forces are hijacking health care reform"; "97% of what Planned Parenthood does is preventative in nature and only 3% is abortion related"; "women should be in complete control of their bodies"; "women should have access to reproductive health care."
The second striking thing about the canvassers is their complete lack of ability to argue a point. When challenged on any of the above points, not once has any of them actually defended it with anything resembling an argument; all they do is paraphrase the statement and/or try to get out of continuing the conversation further.
Canvasser: "Abortion is essential reproductive health care for women."
Me or my friend: "How is it health care? It is a completely elective procedure almost 100% of the time. It doesn't cure any illnesses or disease."
Canvasser: "I can see that I'm not going to convince you."
Me or my friend: "Well, maybe if you had a reason for your point of view, you would. Seriously, why should abortion be considered health care?"
Canvasser: "Women should have complete control over their bodies."
Me or my friend: "Uh huh...but is control really an inherently good thing? People can 'control' their bodies in lots of ways that aren't healthy."
Canvasser: "Women can't be free unless they have complete control over their bodies. That includes abortion."
Me or my friend: "We're getting away from the point here. Even if I agreed with you on the control thing, how does that mean abortion is health care?"
Canvasser: "I can see I'm not going to convince you."
These people are in complete, utter denial about what they are doing. Even when confronted, they avoid the key points. Once, after a canvasser told me that abortion wasn't "included in health care reform," I offered her a stack of paper articles from mainstream news sources explaining how and why abortion was, in fact, "included in health care reform." Her response? She gestured for me to take them back and said, "No thanks - I'm pretty set in my beliefs."
Most of us have beliefs in which we are "pretty set." Yet, I can't think of a single intellectually honest person I know who would refuse to look at new information that might challenge her current way of thinking. The surer you are about your beliefs, the more you should welcome challenges, right? - because your beliefs, if true, should withstand them. I have never said to a pro-abortion debate partner, "I can see I'm not going to convince you." I lead with the reasoning and let that stand on its own truth. And if they avoid it, I state it another way, until the point is finally made.
I don't know what to do with conversations like these that always seem to lead to a dead end. Sometimes I wonder if having them is a waste of time. Yet, most people don't change their minds about anything overnight, and some former abortion-industry employees have said that they changed their minds due to the cumulative effect of pro-life rhetoric that they heard or read. It just took one "aha!" moment to bring it all home for them. So, you never know. Maybe we're planting seeds. It's hard not to at least try; each person is a life in need of saving. I pray for each and every one of them. May they know the true peace and joy that comes from living the culture of life. Anything less is a cheap imitation and falls far short of the greatness that we human beings are capable of.