How to Dialogue with Those Who “Choose the Middle” of the Abortion Debate

Michele Hendrickson - 19 Oct 2021


This fall, the second-annual Pro-Life Movement Stakeholders Briefing gathered about 80 pro-life leaders from across the country. Representatives from state and national pro-life organizations met in Washington, D.C. for a time of networking together reviewing the latest findings on the Moveable Middle Research commissioned by Students for Life of America. In search of a persuasive messaging campaign directed at millennial women who identify as “in the middle” on abortion, extensive qualitative and quantitative research was conducted between 2019-2020.  

This year, the findings were published and top line messages were created with proven results that move the middle toward the pro-life position. Because the findings of this research would benefit the entire movement, we knew we could not keep this to ourselves! Our goal at Students for Life is to build unity in the movement, leading the coalition to end abortion.  

Here are some of the top highlights of what we’ve learned so far in the Millennial Women’s Moveable Middle Research 

Key Finding: The Moveable Middle Woman Chooses the Middle with Intention

The women surveyed were determined to remain in the middle on the abortion continuum. Women in this cohort characteristically claim that they wouldn’t personally undergo an abortion, but they feel that sharing their personal discomfort with abortion is tantamount to judging other women or telling them what to do. Being in the middle affords them room to justify their own or someone else’s abortion based on circumstances.  

Key Finding: The Pro-Life Brand Is Damaged and the Pro-Choice Label has Issues, Too

Pro-life advocates have long been caricatured in pop culture as angry and out of touch, and respondents generally felt pro-life advocates did not seek to listen or understand. However, when asked to describe both pro-life and pro-choice sides in a visualization exercise, women often described them looking very similar. Researchers commented on this phenomenon, saying: “Even though we asked them to project, what many of them did was demonstrate how overtly they sought to reject both sides by NOT differentiating. They worked very hard to avoid polarization and taking sides… visually, that is.” 

Key Finding: Woman-Focused Messaging Is Most Effective in Shifting Women in the Middle

The top three messages were: “Being a mom doesn’t mean you have to give up your dreams — we can empower moms to include their children into reaching their educational and career goals,” followed by “Before supporting anyone having an abortion, we should know what really happens to the baby and the risks to the mom from the procedure,” and then “Circumstances shouldn’t make women feel like they have to have an abortion. Women deserve to be empowered to choose life.” 

Looking ahead, more research is currently underway as we explore the same concept of moving the middle, but with millennial men. Attendees at the Pro-Life Movement Stakeholders Briefing received an inside look into the initial Phase 1 findings for what messages can most persuasively move men toward the pro-life position.  New advertisements are being designed in hopes of public release in early 2022. 

The Pro-Life Movement Stakeholders Briefing left us all energized for what is next in our movement. It was inspiring to witness such influential leaders all in one place and hear about the amazing work taking place in our nation. After decades of building momentum, we are in a strong position now more than ever to truly move the middle and abolish abortion. 

You can read the full report of the research and view the top-rated mind-changing ads here.

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