A while back 180, a documentary seeking to vilify abortion, made waves throughout the pro-life and pro-choice communities. The premise of the documentary is pretty simple- the creator of the documentary, Ray Comfort, starts by asking people how they feel about the holocaust then how they feel about abortion and then tried to convince them their support for abortion is wrong because the holocaust and abortion are the same thing. The creator and supporters are now distributing this film to high schools throughout the country.
Before I talk about the documentary I’m going to give a quick lesson in the art of persuasion. There are the three main aspects of trying to convince people of something: one is emotional appeals (pathos) one is logical appeals (logos) and one is appeals based in the credibility of the presenter (ethos). The more balanced between the ethos, pathos and logos columns a piece is the more effective it is. This film was heavy on the pathos/emotional appeals and had a bit of the ethos/credibility thrown in. It had nothing in the logos/logic column. These types are arguments, while likely to be highly effective in the moment, are unlikely to permanently change the opinions of the people who view it.
Pro-life people will love this film because it supports what they already believe; that abortion is murder. Pro-choicers are likely to react the same way I did; by finding the arguments to be overly simplistic and inaccurate representations of the realities of abortion. People in the middle, people who are uncomfortable with the idea of abortion but who don’t feel it is their place to dictate what other people do with their bodies are really the only people this documentary is likely to have any impact on and even then it is likely to be only a temporary impact. This is because the documentary lacks any real logic and fact based support for its premise. Emotional appeals are very effective in the moment; most people don’t want to think they are akin to Nazis. So of course when you show them the horrors of Nazi concentration camps and then tell them that abortion is the same thing, there is a strong probability they will skip critical thinking and agree with you. After the moment has passed and the opportunity arises for them to think about it rational they will likely go back to their original opinion. This is true for any emotional/pathos based argument.
So it is not because I disagree with the pro-life stance the movie takes that I disagree with it being distributed to high school students. Honestly if they had shown this movie at my high school I doubt anyone would have taken it seriously to begin with, so I see no reason to be alarmed that it will convince high schoolers to not be pro-choice. My issue with the film being distributed in public schools is that it goes beyond anti-abortion propaganda and straight into Christian propaganda. The last ten minutes consist of Ray Comfort asking the participants if they believe in God and Jesus and Heaven and Hell and then if they have broken any of the 10 Commandments. Then he tells them all that if Heaven and Hell exist, they will be going to hell because they have broken some of the Commandments and that they should go home and think about repenting to Jesus. If churches want to host showings for their communities then that is absolutely fantastic and they should feel free to do so; but showing it in public schools is absolutely not ok. It alienates anyone who is not Christian and even some who are Christian by implying that they will go to Hell for having “impure thoughts.” Using the abortion debate as cover for a proselytizing mission really isn’t a new concept, but to hoist it into public schools is ludicrous.
Edited to Add:
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