A lot of people who gather outside of Planned Parenthood to protest abortion, like those who stand near the intersection of Shields and Elizabeth, often bring their own children to protest with them. These children are typically too young to understand the cause, and their opinions of abortion are heavily conditioned by their parents’ beliefs and actions. What if those children grow up and decide that they feel differently about the concept of abortion than their parents do? Or even worse, what if they grow up to protest abortion, only because that’s what their parents said was right? I do understand parents wanting to share their values and beliefs with their children while helping to shape their identity, but it is unfair to to bring them to a protest that they don’t fully comprehend that could lead to the formation of forced and uninformed pro-life perspectives.
We can compare this to the example of how some parents try to force their religious beliefs upon their children, which is appropriate, given that religion is a major motivator for the abortion protesters. During a presentation that took place at Harvard University in 2003, Oxford Scientist Richard Dawkins argued that religion is a “societal norm that stems from children’s psychological tendencies.”
“It’s their unique obedience that makes them vulnerable,” Dawkins said. “Society provides a breeding ground for the ‘virus’ of religion by labeling children with the religion of their parents. Children, in turn, absorb these beliefs because they are conditioned to do so.”
Dr. Gordon Coates, author of many publications including the Wanterfall eBooks series, explained the more general nature of parent-child conditioning in the section of the Wanterfall text titled The Ramifications of Emotions.
“Combine operant conditioning with saturation exposure of the young mind to the beliefs and attitudes of the parents and other family members, and what do you get? You get the beginnings of conditioning of the child’s mind – for some of the influences are sure to persist, and to affect the child’s beliefs, stored emotions, attitudes and consequent reactions in the future,” Coates said.
These two statements are exactly my point. The parents who bring their young children to abortion protests are conditioning them to form opinions and attitudes on the basis of “my parents said this is right”. Children so often learn by example or parental modeling, which is not appropriate for a concept as complex as abortion, because it requires extensive critical thinking from the individual. Opinions about abortion should not be learned by a “monkey see, monkey do” sort of phenomenon. Also, because these children are not able to speak for themselves on the subject in the midst of a protest due to a lack of true understanding, their parents are essentially using them as props. Whether it be to enhance the emotional impact of the idea of “murdering” an unborn child by holding their own with one arm and an anti-abortion sign with the other, or to expose them to the environment and attitudes that their parents want them to adopt, it’s not right.
Collegian Columnist Haleigh McGill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.