Is the Pro-Life Movement Vulnerable To Internal Sabotage?

Nations can defeat enemy after enemy on the battlefield, only to collapse due to unseen internal forces. Is this happening within the pro-life movement?


Forewarned is Forearmed


Mark Crutcher
President, Life Dynamics Incorporated

Troy Newman
President, Operation Rescue

One of history’s most consistent lessons is that nations can defeat enemy after enemy on the battlefield, and then collapse from the inside due to forces they didn’t even know existed. It is also a reality that this potential is present in every arena of human interaction including socio-political movements.

Today, there are powerful indications that such a cancer is spreading rapidly within the pro-life movement. If we ignore this threat or fail to take it seriously, any potential for protecting the unborn and their moms will come to an end and over four decades of pro-life effort will be wasted.

Mission Drift

During the years when things were going badly for the pro-life movement, a significant number of our people came to believe that the odds against us were so overwhelming we could never win. Eventually, this perception became so widespread that it created a bunker mentality in which crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) and sidewalk counseling appeared to be the only avenues open to us. As a result, there has been a massive diversion of pro-life resources away from traditional pro-life efforts and toward CPCs and sidewalk counseling.

Let us make it clear that the authors of this report have always been, and will always be, unwavering supporters of these two efforts. We have spoken at their events and helped them raise the funds necessary to do the noble and difficult work God has called them to.

But the pro-life movement needs to recognize that the mission of CPCs and sidewalk counselors is to stop abortions not abortion. And that is a distinction with major ramifications.

Consider the Underground Railroad in 19th century America. This was a system of secret routes and safe houses designed to help slaves escape to places where slavery was not permitted. It was a completely unselfish effort operated by people who were willing to risk their own lives to help others. But it did not address the underlying issue of legalized slavery and if the battle against slavery had become focused on the Underground Railroad, slavery would still be legal today. That same dynamic applies to the pro-life effort.

The important thing to understand is that sidewalk counseling and CPCs are the pro-life movement’s equivalent of the Underground Railroad. This characterization does not diminish their importance in any way, it is simply an acknowledgement that they were not designed to end this holocaust and they are not capable of doing so. Remember, the pro-life movement’s ultimate goal is to see that the life of every unborn child is protected by law. And the harsh reality is, even if we had the ability to open a CPC on every street corner and put dozens of sidewalk counselors in front of every abortion clinic, that would not provide legal protection to even one unborn child. The result would be that hundreds-of-thousands of them would still be killed every year.

So even though we have a moral obligation to support the heroic work of the CPCs and sidewalk counselors, their efforts to prevent individual abortions must not come at the expense of the larger effort to end abortion. In practical terms, the work done by sidewalk counselors and CPCs is an invaluable addition to the pro-life effort, but if we allow it to become a substitute for it, this battle will never end and the unborn will never be legally protected.

The Millennial Conundrum

In America today, teenagers and young adults who self-identify as pro-life outnumber those who self-identify as pro-choice, and the gap appears to be growing. This represents a dramatic reversal from the past and the pro-life movement is justifiably encouraged by this. However, there is a serious problem associated with this phenomenon that is hiding beneath the surface.

Most of these young people are very bright and very energetic about the pro-life cause, but in the majority of cases they have been grossly under-educated about it. As a result, they are low-information believers and, as such, they can be easily swayed. This is especially troubling given that the abortion lobby is on high school and college campuses all over the country with aggressive programs specifically designed to pick these kids off.

The current leadership of the pro-life movement needs to accept that when the time comes for us to pass the baton of leadership to this next generation, if they are not prepared to receive it, that failure will be ours not theirs. And as much as we may not like hearing it, as it stands now the overwhelming majority of these young people have not been prepared for the challenges they will face.

The clock is ticking on this situation and we had better make their education our priority and we had better start doing so immediately. At this point, our most pressing responsibility is to make sure that they understand the uncompromised pro-life position and know how to defend it. They also need to learn the movement’s history and the dynamics of the battle. Our successes and failures are their starting point, so they need to be aware of the ideas, strategies and tactics that have already been tried, which ones worked, which ones didn’t, and why. They must also be shown that pro-life education is not a destination but is, instead, a never-ending journey. People who are effective in this battle never stop learning whether they’ve been involved for 30 minutes or 30 years.

Finally, we cannot pass the baton to this next generation until we have made certain they fully recognize what’s at stake. This is not a game, it is a life and death struggle. No one gets a participation trophy and there is no such thing as a moral victory. There is winning and there is losing. That’s it.

Internal Sabotage

Socio-political movements are always vulnerable to being undermined by people who appear to be allies but are, instead, guided by either stupidity or hidden agendas. That situation currently exists in the pro-life movement and it is causing us to be poisoned from within by four classes of people: Grandstanders, Neofems, Oblivious, and Defectors.

The Four Classes of People Sabotaging the Pro-Life Movement

When evaluating this threat, it is not necessary to think that the damage these people cause is always intentional or driven by malice. In some cases it is and in others it isn’t. But regardless of its motivation, internal subversion has a greater capacity to destroy the pro-life effort than any of our external enemies.

In any environment, including the pro-life movement, the first line of defense against internal sabotage is to recognize the forces behind it.

Grandstanders are people who show up in the pro-life movement from time to time to proclaim that their convictions are more pure than anyone else’s and their commitment to the cause is more sincere. Armed with an inexhaustible supply of self-righteousness, they will readily accuse those who’ve been on the front lines for decades of not being truly pro-life, not having any idea what they are doing, and only being involved in the pro-life effort for fame and fortune. Among the current crop of Grandstanders, some have actually stated that their intent is to destroy the existing pro-life movement.

The bottom line to Grandstanders is that they are obsessed with the need to feel superior to the traditional pro-life movement. This, combined with the fact they have anointed themselves as the patent-holders of all truth, makes them virtually impossible to reason with.

Neofems are people who would be a part of the hard-Left’s feminist cartel if it were not for that cartel’s myopic fixation with legalized abortion. So by default, they became part of the pro-life movement – a group they don’t really like or trust and with whom they have almost nothing else in common. This has left many of them with a level of frustration that tends to manifests itself as anger and bitterness.

Long before the Neofems came along, there was already a feminist presence within the pro-life movement – primarily Feminists for Life. Although people in this organization generally embrace the same Leftist political ideology as the Neofems, they have been able to maintain their commitment to those positions without compromising their commitment to the unborn. This is a talent the Neofems do not have and appear to have no interest in acquiring.

The most important thing to understand about Neofems is that they make unreliable allies. Their overriding loyalty is to feminism and whenever that ideology conflicts with their pro-life sentiments – as it often does – it is the unborn they will abandon. When push comes to shove, these people are always more feminist than pro-life.

The Oblivious is a group of people that promotes itself as the new and future face of the pro-life movement, even though they have no skins on the wall that would justify such a claim. We characterize them as the Oblivious because, in most cases, they are frighteningly ignorant of the issues surrounding abortion or the history of the battle to end it. To put it bluntly, this is a group of people who don’t know what they don’t know and act as if ignorance expressed loudly enough is a substitute for knowledge.

As an example of this, consider that in the early 1990s the American abortion rate was over 1.7 million a year; there were more than 2100 free-standing abortion clinics in the country; and polls were finding overwhelming public support for the pro-choice position. Today, the abortion rate is less than one million per year despite a much larger population; there are about 70% fewer abortion clinics in the country and the rate at which they are closing is accelerating; and for the first time, more Americans label themselves pro-life than pro-choice. The problem is, even among the Oblivious who are aware of this, most have no clue how it was accomplished, no interest in learning how it was accomplished, and no respect for those who accomplished it.

Defectors are people who once worked in the abortion industry but have now come over to the pro-life side. Obviously, such conversions could be a major asset for the pro-life movement if they were properly handled. Unfortunately, that is seldom what happens. Instead, our tradition is to put these people on public display and parade them around the country like trophies, while we simultaneously install them in positions of national pro-life leadership.

To appreciate the sheer idiocy of this, imagine that an al-Qaeda or ISIS soldier defected and said he wanted to join the United States in its fight against Islamic terrorism. There is no doubt that our government would – and should – collect whatever intelligence they could get from him. But regardless of how sincere they believed his conversion to be, they would never make him a leader in the Department of Homeland Security, nor would he ever be allowed to sit in on high-level counter-terrorism strategy sessions with the FBI or CIA.

But in the pro-life community, we operate on this bizarre concept that when someone defects from the abortion industry, he or she is instantly transformed into some sort of pro-life guru who should be blindly trusted to make pro-life policy, lead pro-life organizations, and map out national pro-life strategies. It sounds preposterous, but the reality is that someone can be butchering babies at any abortion clinic in America today, and three months from now be a rock star in the pro-life movement with an almost cult-like following.

Of course, we always claim to have the purest of motives for doing this, when the truth is that we do it because it feeds our egos and is a fundraising bonanza. But from the standpoint of accomplishing pro-life objectives, it is a naïve and potentially self-destructive practice that dramatically increases our movement’s vulnerability to infiltration and sabotage.

So yes, we should rejoice in the conversion of people who worked in the abortion industry and welcome them with outstretched arms. And yes, we should use whatever verifiable information they provide. And yes, we should help them recover from the psychological and emotional damage they sustained from having worked in the abortion business.   But before that healing process is complete – and that could take years if it ever happens – they should not be put into positions of pro-life leadership. Instead, we should promote from within among qualified people who have been with us all along. There are plenty of these people to choose from and to leap-frog abortion industry defectors over them is, at best, counterproductive and, at worst, a symptom of insanity.

Internal Sabotage Threat Assessment

The most significant problem created by Grandstanders is the infighting they inevitably create within the movement. In the past, this has often caused years of pro-life work and millions of pro-life dollars to be flushed down the toilet.

Fortunately, what we have seen in the past is that Grandstanders cannot get the power that leads to this sort of destruction unless they have credibility with the rank and file pro-life community, and the only way they can get that credibility is by luring the mainstream pro-life leadership into publicly engaging them as equals. As long as we resist that temptation, they will remain isolated and eventually flame out. For that reason, our strategy should be to focus on minimizing the damage they do until that time comes.

The Neofems, the Oblivious, and the Defectors (NODs) are another story, and a much more dangerous one. While it is true that there are still relatively few of them, they are gaining influence far beyond their numbers because they are willing to let themselves be exploited by the secular media.

What we are seeing today is that NODs are attacking the mainstream pro-life community with the same lies and distortions abortion apologists have always used. In fact, NODs direct more of their venom at the pro-life movement than they do at the abortion lobby. When the media saw this happening, they recognized that it could inflict serious damage to the pro-life cause, so they immediately began to portray NODs as this enlightened and idealistic group of pro-lifers who are heroically trying to push back against the “knuckle-draggers and Bible-thumpers” that have always dominated the pro-life movement.

Every NOD knows this narrative is a lie, and some of them are even bright enough to have figured out that they are being played by the media. But they go along with it because it creates an image they want the public to have. They also reinforce this image by including issues under their definition of pro-life that have no connection to ending abortion but are “near and dear” to the liberal establishment and their media lapdogs. For example, many NODs now openly contend that being pro-life requires supporting socialized medicine, raising the minimum wage, restricting or banning gun ownership, cutting military spending, demanding free government child care, forcing employers to provide paid maternity leave, and a catalogue of other “social justice” initiatives.

In effect, what the NODs are saying is that the pro-life movement should fight this war on multiple fronts. This means they are either (a) ignorant of the fact that this is a proven formula for defeat, or (b) their real agenda is not about protecting the unborn. It is also revealing that some NODs are now openly recommending that the pro-life movement should back away from trying to make abortion illegal and, instead, use its time and resources to support government programs that reduce the “need” for abortion. This rhetoric is straight out of the abortion lobby’s handbook and makes it undeniable that NODs are less interested in protecting the unborn than they are in sucking up to the liberal media and making friends within the pro-choice crowd.

No rational person would deny that other social problems are legitimate subjects for discussion. But when a group of people suggest that there is some moral equivalence between these other issues and the mass executions of unborn children, or that the fate of the unborn should be tied to these other issues, those people have surrendered any right to call themselves pro-life.

We should not overlook the fact that equating abortion with these other issues is a strategy that the abortion lobby and the media has always used to neutralize the abortion issue. Now, it is being used by pro-life frauds who are looking for an excuse to support pro-abortion political candidates. So when a Hillary Clinton says she will work for federal legislation that requires McDonald’s to pay its 16-year-old counter help $15 an hour, these people can champion her as pro-life despite her stated commitment to keep abortion-on-demand legal right up to the moment of birth and paid for with tax dollars.

The Final Analysis

By their nature, internal subversives present a classic “good news / bad news” scenario. The bad news is that, when undetected, they can destroy any entity in which they are found. The good news is, the instant they are exposed, their power begins to evaporate. In this case, the Grandstanders and the NODs cannot survive within an informed pro-life community. That makes our course of action obvious, but to carry it out we have to acknowledge five realities.

First, what the Grandstanders and NODs are attempting is a hostile takeover of the pro-life movement and, regardless of what they claim, a significant percentage of them are not pro-life. Grandstanders are not trying to save babies they’re trying to save themselves, and NODs are attempting to emasculate the pro-life movement so they can convert it into a social service agency. If either group accomplishes their objective, any meaningful effort to legally protect the unborn and their moms will be over.

Second, we must demonstrate the will and the discipline to expose any individual or organization within the movement whose actions and/or rhetoric indicate that defending the absolute right-to-life of the unborn is not their sole mission. Remember, this is not a war between the pro-abortion forces and the pro-life forces. It is a war between the pro-abortion forces and the unborn. Given that reality, we cannot allow this conflict to be ruled by personalities or by who seems to be a nice person and who doesn’t. The stakes are too high.

Third, those of us in the current pro-life movement have to accept some responsibility for the environment that gave rise to these subversives. There have been times when we became so caught up in the day-to-day conduct of the battle that we lost sight of what the battle is about, and that opened the door for Grandstanders and NODs to creep in. To prevent that in the future, we need to routinely stop and remember our commitment to the principle that human life begins at the moment of fertilization and that the life of every unborn child – under all circumstances and at every stage of development – is entitled to the same legal protections as every other living human being. The moment that ceases to animate everything we do, we become part of the problem.

Fourth, our failure to educate and equip the new people coming into the movement has made them sitting ducks for both the abortion lobby and the subversives who have invaded the pro-life movement. As stated earlier, our efforts to correct this situation must begin immediately. Otherwise, the influence of the Grandstanders and NODs on this next generation – combined with the abortion lobby’s campus campaign – will devastate the pro-life effort.

Finally, we must recognize that purging the movement of the cancers outlined in this report is not just our right – it is our duty. If the current leadership of the pro-life movement leaves these problems for the next generation to solve, history will one day look back and say that we presided over the beginning of its end.

The question each of us must ask ourselves is, did we really come all this way over all these years, to end up with that on our headstones?


  1. Matt C. Abbott says:

    A very good article!

  2. Darlene Pawlik says:

    I cut my teeth in the pro-life movement with Life Dynamics’ bold *No Exceptions – *No Compromise stand. What position could possibly be any more true than that? This is the second time, the Life Dynamics team has decried derision within the movement, that I have seen. It’s truly heartbreaking. There are really bad people out there, killing babies, lobbying for laws that permit and subsidize the same and yet, time and energy is being spent to evaluate the greater or lesser superiority of archetypes. To what end?
    Mark’s words will never leave me. He said, “The calvary is not coming. We must do all we can to end this evil.” Let’s go.
    My friends and I testified at our state house today. Some of my friends are standing at the gates of hell with 40Days for Life. Others are manning the pregnancy centers, and more are sharing life saving stories in every available venue. From churches to schools to street corners and statehouses, damning commentary will not dissuade us from following the example of rescuing those drawn to the death, but it serves only to diminish morale within the movement as a whole.

  3. for accusing others of having venom, you seem to have enough of your own.

  4. Bill Fortenberry says:

    Mark and Troy, I deeply appreciate your “commitment to the principle that human life begins at the moment of fertilization and that the life of every unborn child – under all circumstances and at every stage of development – is entitled to the same legal protections as every other living human being.” In the second point of your final analysis, you stressed the need “to expose any individual or organization within the movement whose actions and/or rhetoric indicate that defending the absolute right-to-life of the unborn is not their sole mission.” I agree that this is important, but I noticed that you only exposed the neofems in this piece. Would you mind giving us a few specific examples of groups or people who are in the other three categories of internal saboteurs?

  5. This article lacks generosity and instead of seeking common ground makes uncharitable assumptions about those who are allies in the prolife effort. While I appreciate your desire for prudence, I feel this is a terrible way to address the problems you perceive. Jesus Himself saw no issue with making Peter a leader of the Church after his colossal failure so perhaps you might consider that with regards to your attitudes towards defectors. Addressing people as cancers is NOT an effective way to win this battle – it’s just the sort of infighting the devil laughs over. Truly a shame. I am a feminist and prolife and I can tell you that those who are on the fence and likely to be swayed to the prolife cause are listening to the very people you are deriding here.

  6. Beverly B Nuckols, MD says:

    How I wish you had not decided to take a negative attitude! There is no room in our movement to talk of “purging” opponents of abortion.
    I believe you owe pro-life feminists an apology.

  7. Kimberly Bush says:

    He’s right. I have seen it first hand.There are people in the pro life movement who will work against you. I used to be part of a sidewalk counseling group. I wanted to make a difference, so I educated myself on abortion and the side effects, both mental and physical. When I stood in front of the abortion clinic, I came armed with pamphlets and important phone numbers to give to the young women of where they could get help, and I brought articles with me to show the girls the harm Planned Parenthood actually does to young women. But it seemed like the group I joined was just there to pray and not engage much with the young girls going in and out. They didn’t seem to bring important information with them like phone numbers where the girls could go for help and so on and so forth. Seemed like all they carried were there prayer beads. I’m not knocking prayer, but these people were not fully prepared to educate the young women enough to sway them against having an abortion. Not saying that none of them saved lives because there was one woman in the group that had saved about 16 babies, but that same woman also sabotaged me. She was also the leader of the group. And what she did was that she had me lead the group in saying the rosary, knowing that I did not know how to say the rosary and when I made mistakes, she began scolding me in front of the whole group. One day there was a large group there and when I messed up the rosary, she talked to me like I was so stupid that I left in tears. I tried to rejoin the group a year later, but there were a couple of jerks I couldn’t stand to be around. Long story short, the leader of the group was afraid I was gonna steal her thunder, so she sabotaged me. I never understood this. We were there for the babies, but egos got in the way.

  8. Mark Crutcher and Troy Newman know that of which they speak. Some of us have been there and are still afoot. Victory will come only by reviewing the past and the present as this wisdom does, and then keep moving forward with 360-degree peripheral vision. Not one degree less.

  9. Part of the problem may be calling ourselves “pro-life” instead of “anti-abortion.” Pro-life sounds better precisely because it is softer sounding, vague, and easy to identify with. Many people who actively support legalized abortion call themselves pro-life by some form of mental gymnastics or other.

    Anti-abortion, like anti-slavery, by contrast is clear, hard and divisive, but for that very reason tends to keep out the Grandstander and NODs.

  10. I found this article rather disconcerting. It reminds me of when you take a new job somewhere and make a suggestion and are told “we have always done it that way.” Yes, I agree we need to be careful whom we think are allies, but at the same time, change is going to happen to any organization and that always threatens those “who have always worked here.” I think this could have been a better article with more citations, meaning actual examples of attempted hijacking of the anti-abortion movement. Also, please make some concrete suggestions or concrete actions (project plans in my nomenclature) to right the ship. Your conclusion was a bit nebulus and not very specific as to what we are to do.

  11. Excellent expose about our 45 year history of successes, failures, challenges and opportunities. I appreciate the SWAT approach and know it’s imperative to constantly course correct to avoid distractions and detractors, NOD’s & Grandstanders, keeping our focus on the mission: Life uncompromised and unapologized. Please keep the faithful in the loop, Mark and Troy. God bless.

  12. Interesting general discussion, but I didn’t see that it named names or gave examples. Therefore, it wasn’t a concrete agenda upon which to act. If the author wants foot soldiers in the fight, specific direction must be given.

  13. Interesting and well-written. Agree with about everything, especially characterizing the battle as between abortion-choosers and the unborn. This especially helps to keep focused on the real issues and not get clouded with other social issues. No other issue is as important as saving the unborn.

  14. This is a hard, although necessary, assessment of the pro-life movement and cause. I have seen the damage NODs cause, not only in the pro-life cause, but in others as well. It’s nothing new. Satan has no new strategies, he just recycles old ones. To this end we must realize that we MUST be single issue when we vote (No, there is nothing wrong with that!), when we speak of social justice issues, etc. EVERY social issue leads us back to the unborn and how we treat them. That treatment is the battleground where the idea that everyone deserves life is fought.

    I believe we are training some future leadership through groups life Students for Life, and I hope organizations like them will read and ponder this message. We must never let pro-death ideas infiltrate in any way.

    Thank you for this crucial wake up call.

  15. @DOTCOM_MOM on Twitter says:

    In early 2012, I had an interesting conversation with someone at March for Life headquarters. Someone I had *thought* was just an elderly volunteer. A new provider at the time, I had called to find out how I could be of help from home. We talked for nearly 1.5 hours. Toward the end of the conversation, I asked the woman, who’d informed me she’d been on the front lines since Roe, “Why do you think, after 40 yrs & modern technology on our side, the Prolife movement hadsn’t won the battle yet.” She lamented, “the Prolife movement is too divided. Until proliferation are as 100% united as pro-aborts, we will keep losing.” Not understanding *how* it was divided, I asked her to explain. She said, “there are people who *say* they’re prolife, but support abortion in cases of rape, incest, life of the mother. There are people who *say* they’re Prolife, but support contraception & same-sex marriage. There are people who *say* they’re Prolife, but fight against exposing abortion through images. As long as this division continues, abortion will remain law of the land.”

    About 1.5 hours into the conversation, I said, “I’m sorry, you’ve been so generous with your time and I don’t even know your name.”

    She replied, “My name is Nellie. Nellie Gray. And yours?”

    Guaranteed, She is cheering Mark & Troy on for shining a bright light on this problem within the Prolife community.
    Well done!

  16. Barbara Renner says:

    I read this article after my Church’s Easter Vigil having heard my Pastor’s warning that in the current climate of non attendance there will be Churches on the chopping block in the not so distant future . While this might appear to be off topic, I believe that the lack of respect for each and every life from conception to natural death that became codified by Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton have exempted the self serving from any responsibility for their fellow man. Church attendance is down because , many have given them selves permission to be “good people “by their own design. By the same token being Pro Life has taken on a whole gamut of meanings, some contingent on how a person wishes to be viewed by others rather than wanting to end abortion.I don’t think examples have to be given for people to recognize for themselves their true intent. Working for Social Justice for those who remain after the abortion Holocaust may assuage some peoples guilt but the truth is the extermination of 6 million Jews was accomplished by those who were self invested . The right to life is my single issue and I know that to back peddle and give up on overturning the legislation that has destroyed 45 + years of pre born children to selfish, misguided choice is an anathema to me. As my Pastor said we can vote with our feet ,return to regular Church attendance and decide if you truly respect all life and are willing to actively support the Pro Life stalwarts who will not rest until the unborn are valued again.

  17. Barbara Renner says:

    When the resolve of some weaken it is time for those who value each life to double down . Never allow the Pro Life message to be adulterated, never give up ,never give in to the abortion Holocaust!

  18. Bev Cielnicky says:

    Thanks to Troy and Mark for their insightful article. We of Crusade for Life have been in the pro-life movement for over 45 years and see the passing of a Constitutional Amendment for Life as the only answer. If all of pro-life would get behind this effort, abortion would
    be illegal in every state forever just like slavery was gone forever when the 13th Amendment was passed!

  19. Timothy Trewyn says:

    I am not sure where this article puts the emerging American Solidarity Party, a political party largely based on Catholic Social Teaching. We commit to human dignity from conception to natural death. That is a commitment to oppose abortion, but it also a commitment to the other three principals of the party: to the conservation of the environment (quite literally the common ground of all humanity); to social and economic justice; and to the pursuit of peace. Specialization is necessary for success, but a political party must take a comprehensive approach to the issues of life. Prolife as described here, seems to necessitate an alliance with the love of money, i.e., the Republican party. The American Solidarity Party holds out a comprehensive vision of justice, and ideally no compromise with other forms of evil to achieve its ends. Human dignity applies to all, from conception to natural death.

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