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Where was I? Oh, that’s right: Narrative efficacy. Not every message at the march was as ineffectual as our first three examples shown above. Several of the pro-life marchers carried signs that struck deep in the heart of the pro-choice ideology, and must have caused great philosophical distress among those who saw and actually paused to ponder the messages. For example…

Ouch! Now here‘s a sign that a leftist doesn’t want to see. Margaret Sanger’s unabashed and overt racism has always been a big problem for Planned Parenthood’s public image, as has her leading role in the eugenics movement. It’s extensively documented that Sanger saw birth control mainly as a way to decrease the number of “unfit” in society, a category which in her view included foreigners and racial minorities. Her defenders try to mitigate the painful truth of her racism by pointing out that at least she wasn’t as bad as those eugenicists who called for the active extermination of blacks and other “unfit” groups; Sanger merely advocated the more mild “negative eugenics” in which undesirable populations are gently eliminated over several generations by means of lowering their rate of reproduction through birth control. So hey, she should be praised as the least bad kind of genocidal racist!

The flipside of his sign was just as devastating. Sanger’s notorious “Negro Project” has become such a public relations disaster that the library which houses her personal papers felt compelled to issue a long defense of The Negro Project and Sanger’s reasons for starting it. To give both sides of the dispute equal time, here is the crucial paragraph from the essay linked above defending Sanger’s statement:

Sanger reiterated the need for black ministers to head up the project in a letter to Clarence Gamble in Dec. 1939, arguing that: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” This passage has been repeatedly extracted by Sanger’s detractors as evidence that she led a calculated effort to reduce the black population against their will. From African-American activist Angela Davis on the left to conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza on the right, this statement alone has condemned Sanger to a perpetual waltz with Hitler and the KKK. Davis quoted the incendiary passage in her 1983 Women, Race and Class, claiming that the Negro Project “confirmed the ideological victory of the racism associated with eugenic ideas.” D’Souza used the quote to buttress erroneous claims that Sanger called blacks “human weeds” and a “menace to civilization” in his best-selling 1995 book The End of Racism. The argument that Sanger co-opted black clergy and community leaders to exterminate their own race not only gives Sanger unwarranted credit as a remarkably cunning manipulator, but also suggests that African-Americans were passive receptors of birth control reform, incapable of making their own decisions about family size; and that black leaders were ignorant and gullible.

So: Was Sanger just manipulating naive black clergy to participate in the slow-motion genocide of their own race, or did she just want to provide the gift of sexual freedom to African Americans? You decide.

It was only much later in the 1960s that theorists expounded the notion that birth control’s main function was to enable the “sexual liberation” of women, who should be able to have sex freely without any physical consequences. In Sanger’s mind, birth control was not so much about sexual enjoyment as it was a way to improve America’s genetic stock by preventing the wrong kind of babies from being born.

But even the “sexual liberation” justification for birth control and abortion has its potential flaws. This pro-life protester displayed a distinctly feminist message which presents the other side of the same argument: Is the Sexual Revolution just a trick to get women to “put out” more often and by so doing become nothing more than “re-usable sex objects” for men?

Once again, this message directly confronts the arguments presented by the pro-choice side, and it therefore is much more effective than other messages which don’t acknowledge the opposing side’s issues.

More effective signage from the the pro-life side. Pointing out that many leftist heroes of the past were anti-abortion is a painful reminder that there is no unanimity on the left on the abortion issue — just as there is no unanimity on the right.

But then again…sometimes people do live up to stereotypes — in this case, the “angry Christian warrior.”

Speaking of stereotypes…in the other camp we have dour-faced and decidedly unsexy feminists demanding sexual freedom.

While the sexual energy, contrary to all preconceptions, seemed to be mostly on the pro-life side.

Near the staging area for the pro-choice contingent, someone had taped these signs onto the Porta-Potties. Hmmmmmmm. As a point of reference, ponder these comparable signs from not too long ago in American history:

Are we entering a new age of ideological Jim Crow?

As always, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (a transvestite street theater group who dress up as nuns) blessed the rally with their presence. Unfortunately, no one seems to have clued them in that the whole joke of men dressing up as nuns went stale about 30 years ago, and that their particular brand of “genderfuck” (intentionally defying traditional gender appearance) is now about as shocking as teenage boys with piercings and eye-shadow. I.e., not anymore. The time has come to stop humoring these buffoons and their worn-out schtick.

The small group of counter-protesters waiting to confront the marchers included one woman with this rather unnerving off-topic sign. What is its relevance to abortion?

The other side of her reversible sign showed this no-less-angry but somewhat more relevant message. Yet since the pro-life marchers were themselves mostly young women and did not in any way match her stereotype of embittered male abortion opponents, the accusatory tirade on her sign seemed more reflective of the pro-choice side’s misapprehension of the conflict than an accurate description of the pro-life side’s motivations.

The rally’s organizers carefully arranged a solid wall of pretty young girls at the front of the march, presumably to make it more photogenic and to drive home the point that the pro-life side is not just a bunch of old fogeys.

Awaiting them was a smaller but equally devoted clique of pretty young pro-choice girls who had taken it upon themselves to “re-interpret” the pro-life signs, doctoring them to display pro-choice messages instead.

Though I remain more than a little confused why anyone thought the phrase “Men Regret Fatherhood” (the word “Lost” being crossed out) could possibly be construed as a good rallying cry for the pro-choice side.


Speaking From the Gut: Do Extreme Messages Work?

Many protesters on both sides of the aisle displayed messages with heartfelt and unapologetic sentiments that could be considered a little over-the-top and in-your-face. Do such messages “work” in terms of influencing the public debate — or can they be counter-productive? Let’s take a look at some of the more extreme messages on both sides and ask the question: Did you really want to say that?

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