Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Lila Rose, founder and president of anti-abortion organization Live Action.
Due to Rose’s invaluable experience in the pro-life movement, I decided to use our interview as a miniature apologetics training session. There are many arguments that pro-life Americans face when debating pro-Abortion individuals – and even others within the pro-life community – for which we should be prepared.
Among other questions in the exchange below, I asked Rose about incrementalism, rape and incest exceptions, abortion victim photography, and a particularly frustrating argumentative tactic used by abortion advocates.
DW: What is your position on incrementalism in law? For example, if there's a 20-week abortion ban that's going to be voted on, would you be in favor of that bill, or are you an all-or-nothing advocate?
ROSE: If there’s a situation where a complete abortion ban is possible, for example, if there's a pro-life supermajority like there was in the state of Alabama, then I would urge complete protection for the preborn. That said, if a more incremental law is what's possible at the time, then I would not oppose it, although I would recommend a law that provides complete protection.
Ultimately, our goal at Live Action is complete legal and cultural protection of children. We want to see our laws change to recognize the child in the womb as a person that deserves equal protection to anyone else, and we continue to work for a day when culturally, every child is seen as a gift.
DW: In that same vein, what will it take to change public perception? If you look at Gallup historical trends for the last 20 years, the percentage of pro-life to pro-choice individuals has remained remarkably steady.
ROSE: It's important to look beyond the labels of "pro-life" and "pro-choice" in polling to better understand the beliefs of individuals and cultural trends. For example, most "pro-choice" people do not agree with the Democrats’ pro-choice political platform (unrestricted, tax-funded abortion for any reason), and there are some pro-life people that think some exceptions are okay.
What I'm most interested in when I look at polling – and Live Action is involved in research right along these lines – what I'm most interested in looking at is what the public thinks about the legality and the morality of abortion. When it comes to, for example, Millennials, only 7% actually agree with abortion-on-demand for any reason, paid for by taxpayers, which is the position of the Democratic Party. I think that's really telling. People are very sympathetic to the pro-life ethic, to the concept that this is a human life that deserves protection.
Also, I think there's a lot of misunderstanding out there about abortion as medically necessary, which can make some individuals think they need to identify as "pro-choice" when they would otherwise be pro-life. The abortion lobby, including allies in medicine and politics, have worked hard to persuade people over the last 40+ years that abortion is medically necessary – but that’s simply false. The more education that happens, and the more thoughtful polling and research that's done to probe beyond labels and understand what peoples’ beliefs really are, will help shift people to a more truly pro-life position.
DW: Are Millennials the most pro-life age group?
ROSE: Gallup has found that Millennials poll as more pro-life than their parents. Again, that identification of pro-life, there's a lot to unpack there. I think it's very telling that the vast majority of Millennials want abortion to limited to the first trimester or banned altogether.
DW: How should someone argue against exceptions?
ROSE: Well, again, I think that a lot of this comes down to misunderstanding. The "medically necessary" exception has been ingrained in the public consciousness since Roe, because Roe v. Wade helped create the idea of abortion as necessary for women's life to be saved or their health to be protected. The reality is, though, abortion is not a medical treatment. The intentional, direct killing of a child in the womb is not a medical treatment. The Dublin Declaration – a position statement by over a thousand medical professionals – explains this.
There are rare cases where inducing early delivery may be necessary, but that's not an abortion. For example, if there's a case of severe preeclampsia, a doctor would carefully monitor the mother and child, allowing the pregnancy to continue for as long as possible so the child can grow as much as possible. But if it's so severe that you have to induce early delivery, you do whatever you can to save the child's life. This is not an abortion. There are cases where there may be ectopic pregnancy and a child is in a hostile environment, he or she is not developing in the womb, she's developing maybe in the fallopian tube or another part of the abdominal cavity, putting the mother’s life at risk in case of internal bleeding, and the baby will not be able to survive. Removing that child is not an abortion – the intention is not to kill the baby, but to remove him or her from a hostile environment and to save the mother’s life.
I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about what abortion actually is, versus life-saving treatments for a mother, which might also lead to the tragic and unintended death of her child.
DW: Such as chemotherapy?
ROSE: Yes, chemo can indirectly lead to the death of a preborn child, but that’s not an abortion. If a woman is experiencing health complications, or risks to her life, whether it's cancer or some other condition, treating that condition is not an abortion; treating that condition is – she might opt to choose chemotherapy, as you just mentioned, that's not an abortion, even though it might have an ill effect on the child's health or even, tragically, lead to the child's death.
It can be confusing today because abortion advocates have conflated some of these medical treatments with abortion because they might have the tragic, unintentional effect of the loss of a child, as opposed to admitting that what has happened in the American healthcare system is that abortion procedures, the direct intentional killing of children in the womb, of children throughout all three trimesters, is being used as a shortcut for doctors to avoid caring and serving both patients – the child and the mother.
DW: How would you argue against the other two exceptions – rape and incest?
ROSE: Rape and incest are both horrific, and our response needs to immediately be one of advocacy for the survivor, the victim. The rapist, the abuser, needs to be punished for their crimes to the greatest extent the law allows.
Unfortunately, these horrific cases have been used to justify the nearly 1 million elective abortions annually, when less than 1% of abortions are performed in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother. That said, the claim that part of the solution for a rape survivor, if she does become pregnant, includes abortion, I think is wrong. Abortion is another act of violence, this time against an innocent child, as well as an invasive procedure, an act of violence against the body of the pregnant woman or girl, and it does nothing to help her heal from the trauma of the rape that she endured. Abortion isn't going to take away the trauma of the rape, and it's not going to take away the memory, the pain of that rape. Instead, it's going to inflict a second crime, a second act of violence against an innocent third party, that child who didn't decide how he or she came into the world.
I think it's important to note that we do not give the death penalty to rapists in America. It’s against federal law. Why then would we give the death penalty to a child conceived in rape? Nothing justifies taking that child’s life – even the terrible evil of their father’s crime.
I also think that the little research that’s been done here is very telling. One study found that 73% of rape survivors who become pregnant reject abortion. The study also found that out of the women who did have abortions after rape, 88% said they regretted their decision and felt they made the wrong choice. These women and girls deserve our advocacy, care, and support – not being told that abortion will help them heal and encouraged to abort.
DW: Emmett Till’s mother wanted an open casket so that the world could see what was done to her son, and it sparked a massive movement in the civil rights era. Similarly, the photo of "Whipped Peter," which was widely circulated during the slave era, forced people to confront their own perceptions of slavery. Do you feel the same way about abortion victim photography in the modern era?
ROSE: Absolutely. Exposing what abortion actually does to a living human being is essential to educating people about the horror of abortion.
When you look at the trajectory of social reform movements, like the ones you just mentioned, you see the use of powerful images revealing injustice: images of Peter’s lacerated back as a slave, or the disfigured face of lynched Emmett Till – a decision made by his mother to leave the casket open – or the diagrams of slave ships that were shared throughout the U.K. exposing the evil of the transatlantic passage and how so many slaves were ultimately murdered after they were captured because they were left in sub-human conditions to die on the slave ships.
These images, whether they're of the victim or the tools of oppression against the victim, are incredibly important, especially when there is a push to hide the truth about what's happening to the child, what's happening to the victim, how they're being harmed. With abortion, it's hidden. You’re talking about a child inside his or her mother's body; you're talking about the sterile walls of an abortion facility that can often look like a doctor's office; and we're talking about a lot of euphemisms and false words to present this horrific act of violence as a positive thing – whether it's "women's rights," "empowerment," "reproductive freedom," even the word "abortion" doesn't have a lot of meaning in today's discourse.
So it's crucial to actually talk about what abortion does, and what these procedures entail. Even in the first trimester, how a suction abortion or chemical abortion is destroying a child with a beating heart, a child who’s rapidly developing. In a suction abortion, which is the most prevalent abortion procedure, that child is often disemboweled and dismembered as he or she is sucked through a small tube, a cannula, by an incredibly powerful suction device that’s up to 40 times as powerful as a household vacuum, ripping that child apart. They’re a victim of this incredible violence, and nobody sees that, few people even know that. That's why Live Action has created the abortion procedure videos, which are medical animation, created in consultation with OB-GYNs, former abortionists, that actually show you what happens in the development of the child in each of these trimesters and what happens to them during each of these most prevalent abortion procedures.
DW: What should someone do if they encounter the following frequently used argument: "If you're pro-life, what about [insert secondary claim]?" For example, "Why aren't you advocating for more access to birth control?" "Why aren’t you advocating for a better foster care system?"
ROSE: Well, first of all, I often respond to that query by saying, "Okay, let's imagine for a moment that the world is poverty free, and there are no orphans, and there are no broken families. Would you then support a complete ban on abortion?" Because what you’ll often find is that the people demanding that we stop advocating against abortion until every other world problem has been solved support the "right" to abortion for any reason. So, that’s the first thing. Question the person asking the question.
That being said, it lacks compassion or respect for those children that are in situations of poverty, that are in foster care, that are from broken families, because it insinuates that their lives are not as valuable, that their lives should actually have not existed, and that it would have been better if they had never been born. That is unjust. That is cruel. The reality is, there's hope for every single child and the virtue of their existence should secure them legal protection, the basic human right to live and to not be killed.
Yes, our society needs to work on improving conditions for children everywhere, and there are many efforts to do that, but our care must start in the womb. And the most fundamental condition to improve for children is to protect them from lethal violence. That’s what abortion is. It’s lethal violence against children when they’re at their most vulnerable, and that's where we need to shore up our defenses to win that fight. Nearly 1 million children are killed intentionally every year in the womb. The greatest threat to children today is abortion.
And I look forward to the day when we have won that fight to abolish abortion, to then be able to spend my energy working on other threats to children.
DW: What would you say to those who ask anti-abortion activists why their activism is so important? For example, they will say, "Why are you so obsessed with this issue? Why can't you just leave people alone?" This is especially directed toward men.
ROSE: This is a matter of life and death for millions of children. The "choice" of abortion invites an incredible trauma into one's life for millions of women and girls and fathers who are being lied to by a powerful abortion lobby, who are under pressure, who are being told by society that abortion is acceptable, and it's actually a good for them to do.
This is for the sake of children who have no representation, who have no voice, and for the sake of their parents and vulnerable populations who are being handed abortion as some sort of solution to their problems, which is the opposite of real empowerment, and the opposite of actually helping elevate the condition of people because it's teaching us to use violence to attempt to solve a problem. All an abortion does for someone who is poor or a victim of rape, or someone who is feeling depressed or struggling, is that it just leaves them in the same condition they were in before, except now they're the mother of a child who's been killed or the father of a dead child.
This is a fight for the very basic human right to live, and it's a fight for those who are the most vulnerable. It’s the most important human rights issue of our day.
The Daily Wire would like to thank Lila Rose for speaking with us about this critically important issue. For more information, visit Live Action’s official website, follow them on Twitter, and follow Lila Rose on Twitter.