Why we should create cognitive dissonance on the “pro-life” issue

I found the following poll interesting because as I am out collecting petitions for Florida’s pro-life Personhood Amendment, I find that many people are confused about the term “pro-life.”

More than 25 percent of people who say they are “pro-choice on abortion really take a “pro-life” position against most abortions.

The Marist College Institute of Public Opinion conducted a survey between September 24 and October 3, 2008.

Of the “pro-life” group

  • 13 percent say abortion should never be permitted.
  • 15 percent say abortions should only be allowed to save the life of the mother.
  • 32 percent say abortions should be allowed in that rare case and when the mother is a victim of rape or incest.

A full 60 percent of Americans say abortions should never be allowed or only in rare circumstances, such as danger to the life of the mother, rape and incest, that constitute less than two percent of all abortions nationwide.

Of the “pro-choice” group

  • 24 percent said abortion should be allowed only in the first trimester.
  • 8 percent believed abortions should be allowed any time during the first 6 months of pregnancy.
  • 8 percent agreed that abortions should be allowed any time during pregnancy for any reason.

Just 40 percent took one of these three pro-abortion positions.

A confusion of labels

Even though the survey found 60 percent of respondents took a pro-life position against all or most abortions, 50 percent of Americans called themselves “pro-choice while only 44 percent said they were pro-life.

Of the so-called “pro-choice” group

  • 5 percent of people who self-identified as pro-choice said abortions should never be permitted.
  • 3 percent said only to save the life of the mother.
  • 20 percent said only in cases of the life of the mother, rape or incest.

In other words, 28 percent of Americans who call themselves pro-choice actually oppose 98 percent of all abortions.

More cognitive dissonance among “pro-choice” advocates

  • 71 percent said they favored more abortion limits.
  • 15 percent of those describing themselves as “pro-choice favored unrestricted abortion throughout a pregnancy.

- LifeNews.com


Commentary by Jay Rogers

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is that mental or emotional internal conflict caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. It is believed by some to be a possible source of mental illness. In the field of Christian apologetics, cognitive dissonance can be used by the evangelist to call for the “renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2). Those hearing the Gospel must choose between one of two alternate understandings of reality or worldviews. Even as Christians, our thought patterns often conform to the pattern of this world. To remain torn between two worlds is the state of a sick mind and a suffering heart. The more we hear the Gospel preached, the more we must align ourselves with either the kingdom of darkness or the kingdom of light. The more we align our thinking with the Word of God, the more we move from doubt and unbelief to positive faith.

One of the most baffling phenomena in my experience as a pro-life activist consists of the various smokescreens surrounding the abortion issue. Two of the greatest misconceptions are the following:

1. That abortion is needed for cases of rape and incest.

2. That abortion is restricted in some way beyond the first trimester.

This was essentially the language of Roe v. Wade when it was enforced upon the American people in all 50 states. The pro-abortion advocates won the legal battle and then proceeded to wage a public relations propaganda war surrounding the so-called “exceptions.” But in fact, Roe’s companion decision Doe v. Bolton allowed abortion for any reason through all nine months. The irony is that vast majority of “pro-choice” and “pro-life” Americans are completely unaware of this.

This is one reason why I am convinced that the national campaign to pass Personhood Amendments to the constitutions of 34 or more states is the right language and the right strategy at the right time. The fact is that America has never had a national dialog on the ethics of abortion either before or since Roe v. Wade. By pressing for ballot initiatives that would enact the anti-thesis of abortion “rights,” we are conducting this needed debate. The “mushy middle” will no longer be able to ignore the facts.

As we push for these legislative and ballot initiatives to enact Personhood Amendments, we are simultaneously challenging those who hold to “only the exceptions” as to why they really believe abortion ought to be illegal in 98 percent of all current cases. In other words, why in fact should abortion be restricted for the most common excuse of convenience or economic situations? If abortion is morally objectionable because it is the killing of an unborn human person, then one must grapple with the issue of allowing killing in “only certain circumstances.” We need to create cognitive dissonance in the minds of these people.

What most pro-life advocates don’t realize is that it is possible to drive people away from a pro-abortion view simply by asking questions. No argument or debate is needed. All we need to do is offer an antithesis — that is, to expose an accepted contradiction — and seek to create as much cognitive dissonance as possible. Here are some questions to ask those caught in the mushy middle.

  • Why would we ever allow the killing of an unborn child who is the product of rape or incest, but not call for capital punishment in cases of battery-rape and pedophilia?
  • If abortion is wrong after the first trimester, then why is it wrong?
  • If abortion after the first trimester is wrong because it is the killing of a human person, then what about the child at two months or one month? When does this developing human life become a “person”?
  • When is it ever morally acceptable to kill a person? Why? Do any of these reasons include killing an innocent person?
  • Does abortion “to save the life of the mother” include first making every effort medically available to save the life of both the mother and the unborn child? — If so, why is this called an “abortion”?

By asking such pointed questions –- many more can be formulated — we are pressing our advantage simply because as William Cullen Bryant once wrote, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.”

If we continue to ask for truthful answers to these questions, we will win. In fact, we will find that we have already won, but most are just unaware of the victory. Due to their cognitive dissonance, they are unable to act accordingly.

By confronting the inevitable conclusions, those “pro-choice” advocates who advocate killing in only two percent of all cases will be forced to come into the light and admit that they would allow child murder. If they can live with this cognitive dissonance, then so be it. But I am convinced that the darkness cannot hide from the light.

This position paper is not copyrighted and the words and ideas it contains may be reproduced and distributed without prior permission.

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