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January 28, 2013

Pro-Life: Sell it Like Civil Rights … or Pepsi

pro-life demo abolition

I was looking at the signage from this weekend’s pro life demonstrations, particularly in D.C., and noticed some possible trends. For one, the messaging reflected a more legislative and legalistic focus. Sure, that may have been mostly due to the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Still, seeing fewer fetuses, and self-righteous and rageful statements, made me wonder if there might actually be a more rational tone strategically settling in to the movement.

Pro-life overturn

I was wondering about a tonal shift as much because of a second aspect. Call it a Trojan Horse strategy, what I noticed, also, was pro-life protesters framing their message by way of either progressive, or more popular culural symbols and references.

Most noticeable was the civil rights/equal rights twist, the protesters likening themselves to abolitionists. (I can’t report whether “We Shall Overcome” was also sung.) It’s so out there as an analogy, it almost defies rejection in the same way anti-government flat earth types successfully came to claim the identity of the Tea Partiers.

pro life demo

And then, there’s the symbol so prominently identified with globalization rallies, and economic justice, and most recently, Occupy. Really, now Guy Fawkes wishes to govern women’s bodies?  ”We are the Pro-Life Generation” is also very catchy (with the prarie rebellion/wild west quality of that font). It’s like Mad Ave advising to drop the shock strategy and sell it like Pepsi.

Abortion LIFE poster

Finally, I’m not sure whether or not this poster is new on the scene but, in borrowing from the LIFE logo, it’s just one more traditional, cultural allusion to hang the coathanger on.

(photo 1 & 2: J. Scott Applewhite/AP caption: Anti-abortion activists march past the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, as they observe the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators marched through Washington to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to protest the landmark decision that legalized abortion. photo 3: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP photo 4: Robert Craig/The News Journal. caption: Those protesting against abortion end their demonstration at Planned Parenthood in Wilmington this afternoon.

  • black_dog_barking

    One thing the third and fourth images tells me is that someone has decided that spending money on professional design is a good way to promote an idea. Compare the layout and execution of those signs with the careful but homemade sign featured in the second image. One says “my organization protests abortion”, the other “I protest abortion”. That this careful typography is in service of promoting a more populist approach undercuts the authenticity of the message, a casual hypocrisy suggesting an ends-justify-means level of commitment.

    It also suggests some deep pockets quietly opening somewhere.

  • bks3bks

    Close-ups of mass demonstrations always lie. If you don’t need to get up to the fifth floor of a building to photograph the crowd, there is no crowd.


  • Scarabus

    I read the other day that as the membership of the SCOTUS has changed, so have the rationales for supporting or opposing R v W. The more sophisticated those pulling the strings for the puppets shown in the photos, the more one would expect the style and content of the protest signs etc. to change in response. (Note bdb’s last paragraph.)

  • jonst

    everything is sold like the Civil Rights movement. Pro Life, immigration, gay marriage…they all want to claim that mantle.

  • tommo

    I am pro life. I am also pro women and their doctors making health choices in private.
    Boehner, Ryan, and EVERY OTHER MAN nees to shut his stinking hole regarding women’s rerpoduction issues. Their opinions have been well heard and are no longer welcome.

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