Rebecca Hamilton is a former pro-abortion activist and leader. As the Oklahoma Director of NARAL, she helped establish the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma, and she continued her activism after being elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives. After experiencing a profound conversion to Christ, voters returned her to office as a pro-life Democrat and she spent twelve years defending life and families in the Oklahoma Legislature. Rebecca left her political career in 2014, and along with the National Catholic Register, she writes at Patheos on her blog Public Catholic.
I was once one of them. The pro-aborts, I mean.
After my conversion, when I began to understand that abortion was wrong and, worse for me at that time, when I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to change, the major obstacle for me was pro-life people. I had been the Oklahoma Director of NARAL. I had been a pro-choice legislator who used my position to kill pro-life legislation.
I had made speeches, organized and worked for abortion rights with all my little heart. I was as sincere and committed in my pro-choice advocacy as anyone could be. Pro-life people in Oklahoma counted me as the enemy. And they came after me.
The trouble was, they made it into a personal fight against me instead of advocacy for the babies. Instead of speaking for the humanity of the unborn, they tried to hate me to death. They said I was a communist, a prostitute, a lesbian, a whore and a slut. They claimed all sorts of political positions for me that I did not hold, and that ultimately were proven lies by my actions.
These lies hurt me as a person and as a woman. They wounded me, and they hardened me in my pro-choice resolve. They also enraged people who know me and who knew full well that the pro-life people were telling creepy, hate-filled, low-life lies about me. What they did not do was convert anyone to the pro-life cause. To the contrary, they tempered all of us into pro-choice steel.
After my conversion, when the Holy Spirit began urging me to change on abortion, I was reluctant and fearful precisely because I didn’t know one single pro-life person who I thought was sane, much less trustworthy and nice. If God had asked me to jump into an active volcano, I could not have found it more dreadful.
I believe this same dynamic is at work with pro-choice politicians today. Why don’t they look at the videos of Planned Parenthood selling baby body parts, we ask? I think the reason is that they are avoiding the cognitive dissonance that the videos would cost them. They don’t want to know, and what they don’t want to know is not about the babies. It’s about their pro-choice friends.
If they realized that any part of what these pro-choice people who befriend them and treat them as human beings was saying was a lie, it would call their own defense system into question. They believe they can’t become part of the pro-life crowd. After all, those ugly people call them names, treat them like dirt, and lie about them.
So, it’s better not to watch. They don’t want to know about something that might lead them to a decision as painful and fraught as jumping into the mouth of an active volcano, which is exactly how they view asking for love and mercy from the pro-lifers.
The truth is, we can’t call people names, lie about them, Photoshop them into revolting ugliness, prey on their every misspoken word looking for something we can use to embarrass and hurt them and expect them to open up their hearts to us and listen when we decide to speak honestly. The partisan nature of this debate not only adds an extra layer of ugly on top this situation, it sets it in concrete.
I’ve lost track of the number of times that someone I don’t know has decided to lay into me because I am a registered Democrat. I passed a lot of pro-life legislation when I was an Oklahoma legislator. The state Democratic Party came within 50 votes of censuring me at the statewide convention because of this. I’ve been picketed, slimed and attacked by my own party for being pro-life.
But people feel free to come at me demanding how I can be pro-life if I am a Democrat. It’s as if nothing I’ve actually done matters; all that counts is the letter on my voter registration card. I want to make it clear that while this sometimes harasses me a bit, it doesn’t matter to me all that much. Not now.
But there was a time when it drew real blood. And it draws real blood in internal caucus debates among Democratic elected officials today. What any pro-life Democrat will hear from the other Ds is that it doesn’t matter if they are pro-life or not. The pro-life people will still attack them because they are Democrats. They’ll add that it doesn’t matter what wishy-washy thing a Republican does about life; the pro-life people will still excuse them because they are Republicans.
They aren’t blowing smoke when they say this. It is actually true.
It wouldn’t matter all this much, except for two things.
First, we cannot build a pro-life culture with half the people. If we are serious about saving babies’ lives, then we are going to have the convert the Democrats.
Second, the Holy Spirit will not honor our efforts if we use the devil’s weapons. If this fifty-year fight has taught us anything, it should have taught us that we can’t cast out the devil by using the devil’s weapons.
Personal vendettas, partisan hatred, lies, slanders and attacks on other people’s humanity are all the devil’s weapons.
It took a long while after my conversion for me to gain the trust of pro-life people. Based on the occasional comments about me being a Democrat, I may still have a way to go. I was not an Abby Johnson who got welcomed home right away. I was rejected and attacked and refused entry into Christian fellowship.
I realize now that this was a kind of penance, and as such it was a gift. But like all gifts of penance, it certainly did not feel like a gift at the time.
The pro-life movement has come a long way since those days. Abby Johnson was not only welcomed home, she knew she could go to pro-life people when she wanted to leave the abortion industry. We have learned that abortion industry workers can be converted — that they are, in fact, lost human beings.
But we still treat elected officials as if they were things with power. Worse, we treat them as if they were just their political parties. We lionize Republicans for being pro-life when, if we knew what they really thought, we would be aghast. We excoriate Democrats for being pro-abortion, when, if we knew what they really thought, we would realize that many of them are one step away from conversion — if we just approached them properly.
I have written and I’m going to write more about calling elected officials out on the political games they play with human life. I will never suggest at any time that anyone should change political parties or tell you how to vote. If you are a Republican, you have a job of work in front of you, converting your party from the evils that it does. If you are a Democrat, you also have a job of work in front of you, converting your party from its nihilism.
The truth is, We the People deserve better choices than a choice between electing a corporatist puppet who is bent on doing away with Social Security and all benefits to create endless troughs of corporate welfare, and electing a nihilist who never met an abortion he didn’t like. We are being manipulated, lied to and used by both political parties.
The way to change this is two-pronged. First, we need to focus on conversion. Second, we need to stop being fools who hero-worship these political parties and let them use us for their purposes.
I’m writing about conversion today. We have a huge job ahead of us. We need to convert the culture and we need to convert our elected officials. I began this discussion by advising you to get prayed up. A couple of people came back at me charging that this was not useful advice.
To the contrary, a Christian who goes out to battle for the Lord without prayer and humility before the cross is like a driver setting out on a cross-country trip with an empty gas tank. I meant it when I said that the first conversion needs to be your own.
Now, I’m going to ask you to do another seemingly useless and counter-intuitive thing. I’m going to ask you to take the names of every member of the Senate who voted against defunding Planned Parenthood Monday and send them a letter, telling them that you know this was a hard vote and that you know they were torn about it. Tell them that you will pray for them and for their souls and that you will pray from love for them as a child of God.
Then, I want you to take this list and go sit in front of the tabernacle in your parish. Go alone. Don’t tell anyone. Do it when the sanctuary is deserted. Take this list of names and place each one of them in Jesus’ hands.
But before you dare to do this, look at your own sins. Ask Him to forgive you. Then, pray for these errant politicians. Pray for their conversion, pray for their salvation, pray for their eyes to be opened and for them to find the courage to face what they have done.
Next, I want you to fast from eating meat on Friday, every Friday, for the souls of these, our lost brothers and sisters. Go back to pray for them at least once a week. Pray Rosaries for them at home. Include them in your family prayers. If any of them are your state’s senators, go to their town halls and go to the mic and tell them that they are God’s child and that you are praying for their conversion because that is the best thing you can wish for them. Do it as lovingly as you can.
Do not stop praying, even when you are absolutely certain that it is not doing any good. That is the time when they are most likely to hear the Holy Spirit, when the evil one tells you to stop.
We’ll talk more about hardball politics. You may get sick of hearing from me about it. But for today, let’s take on the for-real practice of what Jesus taught us from the cross: Praying for those who do not know what they do.