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A New Breakthrough in Reaching Men

ve8QAd   |   September 01, 1999

Right to Life of Michigan has been at the forefront of producing effective pro-life television advertisements to save unborn babies, help their mothers and affect public opinion. They have been running a comprehensive ad campaign since 1994, which has attributed to a drop in their abortion rates.

Right to Life of Michigan has earned the reputation for being one of the most effective statewide groups in the nation. In their ongoing efforts to be even more effective with TV ads, they commissioned a poll to determine who most influences a woman’s decision when faced with an unexpected pregnancy. A telephone survey was commissioned of 300 men and 400 women between the ages of 20 and 30. The men and women were both “abortion conflicted,” meaning they had not decided firmly one way or another on the issue.

The results showed that the father of the unborn baby was the most influential person affecting a woman’s decision whether or not to abort. In fact a vast majority of women look toward the fathers when considering their options.

Eighty percent of the women who responded to the survey feel that abortion is morally questionable. Of these women, 94% view the father’s opinion as important if the relationship is strong. Sixty-eight percent see his opinion as key even if the relationship is ending, and 56% believe that, even in a bad relationship, the father’s opinion has considerable value to her decision. As for the men, 67% agree that the quality of the relationship has an important impact on the abortion decision.

The biggest fear for men in choosing abortion? Regret. The regret of losing a child to abortion as well as the possibility that they may be negatively characterized by society. Specifically, many men regret their silence during the abortion decision. It is then they learn that their silence has been interpreted to be a lack of support and involvement while making a crucial, life-impacting decision. They regret that their silence has negatively impacted their partner.

Even with this fear of regret, the survey shows that 44% of men say they shouldn’t offer their opinion, while 55 % say they should. Even with the surveyed men that lean pro-life, one-third of them would not offer their opinion to their partner. This reluctance to speak out is likely due to how society seems to view men’s role in the abortion decision. The pro-abortion rhetoric has been very successful. The “my body, my choice” rally cry of feminists has placed men at the back of the bus. As a result, many men initially feel that they are giving their partner what she wants by remaining silent, regardless of their own feelings.

Right to Life of Michigan took their research findings to Jim Hanon, President of Compass Arts. Hanon has been responsible for many of their past TV ads. The result was three ads specifically targeted toward men. One ad, appropriately called “Silent Treatment,” shows various young men displaying silent, less-than-positive responses to women who told them they were pregnant. A voice then says, “If this was the only reaction you got when you told your boyfriend you were pregnant, what would that say to you?” While the speaker addresses women, the message is clear to men – women need your input at this crucial time.

Another ad, “Talk About Life,” shows a young man bringing his partner flowers, and later a card. Her reaction to these attempts of affection are less than encouraging. Behind this visual interaction we hear his voice say, “Back when we got pregnant I never said anything about it. That silence ended up speaking for me. Now, nothing I can say can seem to ever fill that silence.”

The final ad shows a man at the kitchen sink washing dishes. We hear a man’s voice say that he never did the dishes. He wasn’t there for her when she needed him. “Then she decided she just couldn’t have our baby. And I feel because I wasn’t around, my child isn’t around either. I do the dishes now, but I can never seem to get them clean.”

All three ads effectively communicate to men and women that men need to be involved in the abortion decision, and if they are, the chance for a positive outcome increases.

Research of audiences that have seen these ads is encouraging with both sexes. Sixty-nine percent of the men and 71% of the women responded favorably. In addition, 60% of women and 57% of men were able to recall these messages. Blind recall of the ads was twice that of those run by the National Abortion Rights Action League.

This breakthrough in how to effectively communicate with men will be of great interest to all areas of the pro-life movement. By incorporating these research findings, crisis pregnancy centers can learn how to reach out to help men who accompany their girlfriends. Having some knowledge of what makes men tick may give sidewalk counselors an added tool toward protecting unborn life. In addition, pro-life educators will be able to communicate to their audiences that men play an important role during an unexpected pregnancy.

If you or your organization are interested in airing these TV ads, please contact Amanda Peterman at Right to Life of Michigan, PO Box 901, Grand Rapids, MI 49509. Phone (616) 532-2300. E-mail

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