A Friendly Approach

Posted on February 5, 2019 By

by Richard Stith

I think we should be careful to be positive and praise all the folks who support one of our key issues, while still gently encouraging them to broaden their opposition to violence.

Here’s an example of how I’ve been trying to apply this approach locally. A theater here in town is putting on Keely and Du, a 1993 play considered by pretty much all the reviewers as pro-abortion (an abortion-seeking rape victim, Keely, is kidnapped, handcuffed to a bed for 5 months, and lectured by a male Fundamentalist [and to a lesser degree by her female nurse, Du] on the nature and goodness of life and motherhood). The director even invited the pro-abortion National Organization for Women (NOW) to the first performance, let them distribute literature, and made NOW representatives guests of honor at the opening night party afterwards.

We considered demanding that the theater be consistent and let us distribute pro-life materials (a picture of a 16-week baby, a list of gestational milestones, and the “you are strong” flyer with sources of help that we hand out in sidewalk counseling). Instead, however, we just asked them if we could come into the theater from the bitter cold with our stuff. They said “yes.”  


Leafletting at the play, left to right:
Rosemarie Stith, Pat Tuttle, Pat Garcher, and Mike Garcher

Later I wrote the following review, which they posted on their Facebook page: 

Hey Mike,

Here is that blurb you asked me to put together to try to draw more people to the play. 

Feel free to use it any way you wish. 

Since I am known among local pro-lifers for my strong anti-abortion views and activism, 

I hope my endorsement will attract those folks in particular.

Best of luck. You guys have just done a terrific job with this play. 


PS Thanks again for letting us distribute our pro-life literature to those coming in the door. I do think it provides a context which allows them to appreciate the drama to an even greater extent.


Clip of Keely & Du from YouTube

NOW has celebrated Keely and Du and pro-lifers have opposed it, I suppose because the playwright presents the chief anti-abortionist as a domineering lawbreaker. But at the same time the arguments against abortion are candidly presented, so I think that disagreeable personage was needed for balance. As a law teacher here in Valpo for over 40 years, I know that you can’t set up a debate with all the arguments on one side. Both debate and drama require tension in order to be powerful, which this play certainly is.

Moreover, underneath the clash over life and maternity, something beautiful slowly emerges: female solidarity in the face of patriarchal oppression. This emerging solidarity doesn’t take sides on abortion. Instead, it gives everyone something hopeful to hold on to at the end of the play.

Protests by the NOW folks and others have now driven us back outside for the final three performances, but I think we’ve made some good inroads into the minds of the staff and of many patrons. The green-haired woman director made a special point of shaking my hand and expressing her deep appreciation for my letter.

I think a scolding approach would have been far less successful.


For more of our posts by Richard Stith, see:

Equal Concern for Each Human Being, Not for Each Human Issue

Open Letter to Fellow Human Rights Activists

When “Choice” Itself Hurts the Quality of Life

For more posts on similar themes, see:

Defining Reproductive Justice: An Encounter

Tips on Dialogue

Progressive Prolifers at the Progressive Magazine 100th Anniversary Celebration 



  1. Peggy Ruscio says:

    minds and hearts, and communication. CIVIL DIALOGUE works better than name-calling and scolding or condemning. Thank you.

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