The rhetoric of "choice" created a cognitive disconnect.
The 80/70 Phenomenon
The issue is not what people believe, but what they are going to do about it.
Mark Crutcher has been identified as the most dangerous anti-abortionist in America. He is the founder and president of Life Dynamics Incorporated.
If you ask the American people whether they personally believe that abortion is the taking of human life, poll after poll has consistently shown that about 80 percent say yes. But if those same people are asked whether abortion should be illegal, more than 70 percent will say no. In other words, most people believe that abortion is the killing of a baby, while also believing that, at least in some circumstances, it should be legal.
Confirming the existence of the 80/70 Phenomenon are the experiences of almost every pro-lifer in the country. We've all been in situations in which we were arguing the pro-life position only to hear the person we were talking to make the following (or similar) statement: "I agree with you, abortion is murder. I'd never have one. I'd never pay for one. And I don't see how any decent person could possibly participate in one. But I don't think I have the right to tell someone else they can't do it."
The thing most pro-lifers can't grasp is how someone could believe that abortion is the killing of a baby, while concurrently believing that people should be allowed to do it. One explanation is self-interest, or in the case of abortion, the lack of self-interest. Although they would never say it in these words, people accept the legality of abortion while simultaneously believing it to be murder because they know it is a murder of which they can't be the victim. They are already born.
Another explanation for the 80/70 Phenomenon begins at the start of the abortion conflict. During the early years, our fundamental argument was that abortion should be illegal because it is murder. The abortion industry's primary defense against that contention was that abortion couldn't be murder because the unborn are not really human beings, but simply globs of cells or tissue.
However, it was not long before they discovered that whether the yardstick was science, philosophy, theology, or common sense, this "glob of tissue" assertion was getting harder and harder to sell. They also saw that new technology, such as intra-uterine photography, sonography, and fetal surgery, was going to make it even weaker. Concluding that this strategy would ultimately be a loser, it was time to call in the marketing gurus.
It is now clear that these marketing people showed the pro-aborts that their key to victory was in controlling what people do, not what they believe. They convinced the abortion industry that they could win without convincing one single person that abortion is a great and noble thing. All they had to do was convince the American people that, regardless of their personal beliefs about abortion, they shouldn't join us in trying to outlaw it.
Armed with that philosophy, the pro-aborts decided to switch gears. They would no longer argue that abortion wasn't murder, or that the unborn weren't human. "Choice" and "Who Decides" were to be their new mantras. Meanwhile, the pro-life movement continued to scream, "Abortion is murder," and totally missed the fact that the pro-aborts were no longer saying that it wasn't.
In effect, the two sides were fighting two different battles. The only problem is that the pro-aborts were fighting the one that mattered.
The rhetoric of "Choice" and "Who Decides" was designed to disconnect the public's actions from their core belief system. Since the pro-life movement stubbornly refused to accept that the issue is not about what people believe about abortion, but what they are going to do about it, the scheme worked exactly like it was drawn up. Today the public's attitude is, "We know that abortion is the killing of a baby, we just don't care."
Mark Crutcher is the founder of Life Dynamics, Inc.
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