My Presentation at Yale on October 1

I'll be speaking at Yale this coming weekend on the topic "Mastering Dialogue to Make Abortion Unthinkable" as part of the "Vita et Veritas" Conference hosted by Choose Life at Yale (CLAY).  Here's a description of what I'll share in that presentation: 


The pro-life movement is full of good intentions, but without a focus on changing public opinion, we can’t hope that the unborn will ever be protected in law the way other human beings are.  Contrary to popular perception, however, public opinion is not fixed, and it’s not easy to pin down.  It's all over the map, with many people uncertain of their positions.  Many others are certainly against most abortions, but they lack the courage or confidence to argue publicly that abortion is wrong or that the unborn should be protected in law.  While there is value in many pro-life activities, the pro-life movement must at the very least “get back to the basics” of mastering the skills of dialogue that makes abortion just as unthinkable as other human rights violations.  Dialogue cannot be merely a buzzword, however, and its substance must be permeated with genuine love for every human being, including the pro-choice advocate and the women and men personally wrestling with unplanned pregnancy and abortion.  In “Mastering Dialogue to Make Abortion Unthinkable,” Steve Wagner draws upon thirteen years of outreach experience and hundreds of conversations with pro-choice advocates to give the audience a road map for becoming skilled at the sort of dialogue that helps pro-choice advocates change.  Steve outlines the key principles of dialogue, but also gives practical tools pro-life advocates can begin using to change hearts and minds immediately.
 

Mother Teresa to the Supreme Court (1994)

Mother Teresa's 1994 amicus brief, filed by Robert P. George with the Supreme Court, is worth reading in its entirety. 

Note the tone of the entire piece, both praising America for its virtues and calling America to respect its highest ideals.  Mother Teresa is both mindful that she is an outsider and bold to speak from her unique vantage point as one who has distinguished herself in caring for the poor, something most people hold in high esteem.

Note also that here Mother Teresa does not speak about the value and rights of the unborn in a way that pits them against the rights of women.  She see valuing both as being necessarily connected.  She also focuses most of her piece on the underlying principles that drive the American project, namely our concern for freedom and human rights, and then shows how care for the unborn is a natural, practical outworking of those underlying principles.

Then she goes on to name some of the effects of abortion on American culture, but only within this necessary context of discussing the human rights of the unborn:

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts—a child—as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered domination over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners.

Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.

You can read the amicus brief in its entirety at The Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse blog.

CSU-TV Channel 11 Covers the New JFA Exhibit Project

When JFA debuted its new Art of Life Exhibit at CSU a few months ago, the student television station did a short piece on the exhibit, protesters of JFA (were they protesting the exhibit?), and some of the other responses of students.  You can hear an introduction to the exhibit by JFA's Rebecca Haschke at 1:12.

See our "Exhibits" page to learn more about all of JFA's exhibits, including "Art of Life" and "Stop and Think," created in 2016.

UCLA's Fem Newsmagazine Comments on JFA@UCLA

JFA partnered with Live Action UCLA to bring The Art of Life and Stop and Think, two new exhibits by Justice For All, to UCLA in May.  (See an introduction to the two exhibits here.)  During the day we displayed The Art of Life, I was engaged in a conversation with two gentlemen at the exhibit when Jacqueline Pei, a reporter with Fem, a Feminist Newsmagazine at UCLA, asked if she could record our conversation for a story she was writing for Fem News.  I was hesitant, but agreed, and we had a good discussion.  Another woman joined at one point as well.

Ms. Pei published her report at Fem a few days later.  I was happy to see that although she was confident in a different perspective than mine, she appears to have given my thoughts and ideas an accurate rendering and a fair hearing.  Thanks, Jackie.  I hope we can continue the discussion at some point.

Two New Exhibits: A First Look

Note: This Impact Report (print version dated July 2016) is the first of a series of Impact Reports which focus on JFA’s newly-expanded large exhibit campus outreach program.

 

One exhibit for fifteen years.  Two new exhibits in three days.  What’s going on?

 

I wish you could have been there to experience it with us.  After displaying one large exhibit on 40 campuses for more than 250 days over the past 15 years, the JFA team raised the nine panels of a new large exhibit called The Art of Life at Colorado State University (CSU) on April 18 and April 19.  Then on April 20, we raised the panels of another new exhibit called Stop and Think.  A month later we used both exhibits again to create dialogue at UCLA. 

Far from replacing the original Justice For All Exhibit built in 2000, these two new exhibits simply increase our options for large-format outreach.  For any given day of outreach, we can now choose to display the original JFA Exhibit, the Art of Life Exhibit, or the Stop and Think Exhibit.

Our goal with Art of Life and Stop and Think is to try some new things without losing touch with the original JFA Exhibit which has become a mainstay of JFA’s conversations with pro-choice advocates and JFA’s training program for pro-life advocates.  Indeed, while conducting conversations with passersby in front of these new exhibits, we are still using the original JFA Exhibit Brochure to help people connect with the humanity of the unborn and the inhumanity of abortion.  The Brochure is also still the main resource passersby can take with them from our exhibit conversations.

These new exhibits are part of an ongoing research and development project which the JFA team restarted with new energy last year, thanks to generous supporters of JFA.  These exhibits look different than the original JFA Exhibit, and this is very intentional.  We are still the same JFA, though, and we are still driven by the same twin passions: engaging hundreds of pro-choice advocates in conversations in each single day of outreach and training pro-life advocates to skillfully create those conversations wherever God places them.  In fact, it’s precisely our mission of training thousands to make abortion unthinkable for millions, one person at a time that is causing our team to seek to discover new ways to reach more people.

In the galleries below, we’d like to give you a first look at these new exhibits and allow you to experience them in much the same way that students first see them on campus, without much prior explanation.  Along with the galleries, five JFA staff members share stories of conversations and reflections from these recent events.  To learn more about the exhibits, please feel free to contact me or any JFA trainer.  We are happy to answer questions, listen to your comments, or delve deeper into the thinking behind our new exhibits.  You can also use the links at the bottom of each page to explore the exhibits.

I hope you enjoy learning about these new exhibits as much as we enjoyed creating them and using them in these recent outreach events.

- Steve Wagner, for the JFA Team

 

The Art of Life - An Exhibit by Justice For All

***

I spoke to “Cori” at UCLA who identified herself as pro-choice.  After asking more about her view, it turned out that she was only in favor of abortion in the case of rape.  I pointed to the feminism panels on the Stop and Think Exhibit and explained the picture of a first-trimester, suction abortion.  She said that prior to this she had never seen abortion.  I opened up our brochure to show her an eight-week embryo and explained that this was what a human embryo looked like before a suction abortion.  She thought for a moment and then said that she believed that all abortions should be illegal.  - Tammy Cook

***

At UCLA in front of the Art of Life Exhibit, I spoke with two sweet young women, Ani and Angela.  They were both “personally pro-life” but each gave reasons why abortion should stay legal.  Ani, a Christian, thought abortion is justified in certain “hard cases,” while Angela said the question should be left up to the individual pregnant woman, taking into account how she feels about her circumstances and what she believes about when the unborn becomes a human being.  Looking up at the “poverty” panel on the exhibit, the three of us found a lot of common ground as we discussed the difficulty of poverty, especially for single mothers.  The girls agreed with me however that, as difficult as poverty is (e.g. for the woman represented in the painting), it could not possibly justify a mother taking the lives of her already-born children.  After a few more questions, both girls became quiet.  I could tell their wheels were turning.  After a minute, Angela smiled at me, so I asked what was on her mind.  She said, “I thought it was up to the person and the circumstance, but I guess it’s not so much about that – it is a human from the beginning.”  - Catherine Wurts

***

In front of the three feminism signs on the Stop and Think Exhibit, two CSU students, Kevin and Megan, stopped to ask about the exhibit.  Kevin personally thought abortion was wrong but that it should be legal.  Megan felt abortion should be legal in most cases.  Because of the panels set in front of us, we discussed women's rights and the foundational reason that explains why women deserve to be treated equally – our human nature.  The conversation then turned to the fact that the unborn also have this same human nature: “So shouldn’t the unborn be included in the group that is granted equal rights if the unborn have this same human nature?”  Although she didn’t change her mind during our conversation, at the end of the conversation Megan extended her hand to shake mine and said, “Thank you so much for this conversation.  You have given me a lot to go home and think about.”  - Rebecca Haschke

***

We turned some of the Art of Life Exhibit panels into coloring pages and then set up a coloring station.  That quickly became my new favorite spot to start conversations at our outreach event.  (I’ve asked many questions in front of Justice For All exhibits, but “Would you like to color with me?” was new.)  My second conversation that took place at our coloring station was with three high school girls who were just visiting CSU for the day.  As we added our own unique spin on classic pieces of art, I learned about their views on abortion.  At the beginning of the conversation, one of the three girls was pro-life, but by the end of the conversation all three girls were pro-life!  My favorite part of the conversation happened when I talked to the girls about how we have equal rights because we are human and how the unborn should have the same equal rights because she is human as well.  With wide eyes the girls looked at me and one of them exclaimed, “Well, I guess I have to be pro-life now!”  - CK Wisner

***

My first few experiences with these displays reminded me that we can’t ever be totally sure which method or which exhibit will impact the greatest number of people, but when we stand for truth and interact with grace, we can be sure that God will open doors for many lives to be changed through the efforts.  - Jon Wagner