Thinking Like a Pro-Life Businessperson

The last few days I have been thinking how important it is that pro-life people move beyond outrage, to doing something positive to save lives. Social media gives so many opportunities for us, as they used to say, to “take umbrage” at one thing or another. Personally, I’m tired of it. I have been involved, on and off, in pro-life work for about 43 years. I’ve heard all the horror stories – the pro-abortion clergy, the callous abortionists, the lies that are told, the women killed by botched abortions, the infants born alive and left to die. The stories don’t change much. And then there are the arguments from the other side, which have been answered hundreds of times by much more persuasive ones.

If you’re fairly new to the pro-life movement, these stories and arguments may help you work out your own thinking, and give you the energy you need to do something about abortion. Good! The problem with Facebook, and similar social media, however, is that it gives people some satisfaction in registering their anger or unhappiness with the outrages committed by the other side, but they can then think that they have done enough. Nope. That’s too easy, if you really care about the unborn.

I have also been thinking that we need to take a pragmatic approach, a “business” approach, to saving lives. At Vision for Life, we looked for the main reason that abortion numbers have been falling since the mid-1980s, and we found it: pregnancy help. (It’s not contraception, state laws, fewer abortuaries, or women becoming more pro-life. See for the details.) We know from our work in Pittsburgh that advertising pregnancy help in large urban centers is the most cost-effective way to reduce abortion numbers now. (Our advertising drove the ratios of abortions to births to their lowest level since the State began recording county abortion numbers in 1995. We estimate that as many as 8,200 babies were born over 8 years as a result.) On abortion, it is important to think like business people when considering action. What works best, at the least cost? Abortion numbers are highest in our big cities. Pregnancy help centers are there, but they are largely unknown to abortion-vulnerable women. The annual operating costs for an effective pregnancy medical center are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Advertising a center like this, at a much lower cost, saves more lives per dollar than any other pro-life activity.

I was party to a conversation about a pro-life endeavor that would cost about $150,000 to start up. It was commendable project in many ways. Someone commented that “if it saved just one life, it would be worth it!” I understand what he wanted to say: you can’t put a price on a human life; every life is worth all of our material goods. Each of us matters to God, so much that He came to die for us, to save us. Yet in practice, we do gauge how much we are willing to spend to save a life. (For example, at the end of life, or facing a terminal illness at any point in life, the patient sometimes decides not to undergo the expensive treatment because he knows his time is short, a positive outcome is not assured, and the money could be better spent after he is gone.)

We should be pragmatic. The story Jesus tells about the dishonest steward is very down-to-earth about money, and he chides his followers for not being as shrewd with it as the “sons of this world” (Luke 16:1–9). Oscar Schindler, known to us through the movie Schindler’s List, was an opportunistic German businessman and Nazi Party member who employed more than a thousand Jews. He used the money he made from business to bribe Nazi officials to save his Jewish workers, even moving them from Poland to the safer Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, so they would not be gassed. He spent his entire fortune saving lives. He is the only Nazi Party member who is buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion.

We need to be down-to-earth, as calculating, with abortion: rather than save one life for, say, $600, it only makes sense to save ten for the same amount.

I calculate that it costs us less than $60 in advertising to save one life.

is the Co-Founder of Vision for Life, a non-profit that advertises pregnancy medical centers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Their work has stabilized birth numbers in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) from 2010 to 2019, while elsewhere in PA birth numbers declined by over 6 percent.

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