by Sarah Terzo
When most people think of activism, they think of rallies, marches, and demonstrations. All of these are important and attention-getting activities. But there are many people who find it difficult to participate in them. Many disabled people have trouble with mobility and find traveling difficult, especially since venues may not be handicapped accessible. Others, who may be disabled due to chronic illness, may not have the endurance to be out in public for long stretches of time. Those who have a mental illness may find crowds intimidating, dread a change in their daily routine, or be concerned about experiencing panic attacks or other symptoms in public. Many who are disabled or struggling with a mental or physical illness may feel that there is little they can do to fight for social justice, but as a disabled person myself, I have found important ways to contribute right from a computer at home. Disabled people can be just as valuable as advocates for life and justice as those who are able-bodied. In fact, we have a very important perspective to share.
Social media creates outreach opportunities one can do from home. Sharing Facebook posts or tweets about life and justice issues is a good way to raise awareness. Raising awareness on social media can be easily overlooked, but it does make a difference. Even when people don’t actively comment on posts, they see them, which does have an impact. For example,in a series of surveys conducted in 2011, researchers asked people if they had recently seen a picture of an ultrasound, either on Facebook or elsewhere. Over half of those polled said yes. Researchers controlled for factors such as age, education, and background, and found:
a modest but significant negative impact on support for legal abortion. In other words, Americans who have recently seen an ultrasound are less likely to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases than those who have not.(1)
As this research illustrates, sharing pictures, (and likely memes and articles) on social media does have an impact. On days when a person has little energy or isn’t feeling well, simply sharing something on social media can make a difference. It is also possible to set up a page on Facebook for any life, peace, or justice issue, invite followers, and share articles and useful information about the topic. This is not too complicated to do, and the page will stay active even if you don’t post on it for a while.
One can also research pro-life, pro-peace, and social justice topics from the comfort of home. Many activists don’t have the time to read newsletters and monitor online publications, so they may miss valuable information and resources. I have created the blog clinicquotes.com mainly to share the research I have done. I built ClinicQuotes into a valuable resource that researchers can use. A great deal of research can be done from your own computer. Public libraries often have databases of magazine and newspaper articles going back decades, which can be accessed from any computer. Off course, there are also many online news services to follow, both mainstream ones and those for specific causes.
Disabilities can interfere with concentration and focus, and not everyone has an easy time putting words on paper (or on a computer screen). But for those who can do it, writing can be another valuable method of activism, which can open people’s minds to new perspectives and educate the public on peace and life issues. Disabled people in particular have a valuable perspective to share. Writing, whether on your own blog or for an established publication, is something that can be done from the comfort of home. Also, writing articles can equip other activists with useful facts and information and inspire them in what they do. Writing takes place behind the scenes and away from cameras, but it can be extremely effective.
In my own writing, I started small, on my personal blog, but now I write for Live Action, a well-known pro-life group, as well as other groups. I’ve written hundreds of articles, and some have been seen by many thousands of people. It takes a while to become an established writer, but everyone has to start somewhere. Also, don’t overlook the power of fiction to move people and inspire change.
You also don’t need to leave home to contact senators and representatives and encourage them to support pro-life, pro-peace, and social justice legislation. Making these phone calls or writing these emails is important activist work, but many people who work full time and lead busy, hectic lives do not find the time to do it.
Finally, one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done is talking with abortion minded women and encouraging them to choose life, which I have also done entirely online. I have done this entirely online. I have a number of pages on ClinicQuotes that reach out to women considering abortion. For a little while, I was getting thousands of visitors a day, and my page was ranked number one on Google, right above Planned Parenthood. I got so many emails and posts from women considering abortion that I needed to enlist other volunteers to help write to them. My happiest moment came when four women I was writing to told me they were choosing life in one day, which happened to be the day of the March for Life in 2018. Sadly, my Google ranking has dropped dramatically and I get far fewer visitors to these pages now. Still, I have photos of some of the babies we helped save to look back on.
Many disabled people can't go to abortion facilities and do sidewalk counseling, but we can reach out on Internet forums where women considering abortion sometimes post to ask for advice. Here are a few examples of such forums:
Several of these links are to forums on BabyCenter. Be forewarned, though, that in my experience the site tends to not take pro-life posts well. If you want to provide abortion alternatives to a woman there, reaching out via private message is probably the best approach. The forum at ScarletTeen is not very active, but you can check there periodically. Another place to encounter women considering abortion is Yahoo.Answers. If you search for “pregnancy” or “abortion” and set it to the most recent posts, you will sometimes find pregnant people who are unsure what to do. If you have a yahoo email account, you can reach out to them.
If you do decide to reach out to pregnant women, electronically or otherwise, always make sure you approach them with compassion and understanding, sympathizing with their situation and offering support. I have found that giving information on fetal development can be helpful, as well as offering resources in their community that can help. You can find such resources in these two directories: BirthRight (https://birthright.org/) which also has a 24 hour hotline for pregnant people who need help (1 800- 550-4900) and CareNet (CareNet’s partner website listing pregnancy center locations and other resources can be found at https://optionline.org). CareNet is a Christian ministry, while BirthRight secular. Both groups operate chains of pregnancy centers throughout the US and internationally.
Even if you don’t want to focus on abortion, there is another forum I’ve come across where you can save lives, specifically of people dealing with suicidal ideation or considering suicide. The suicide prevention outreach forum located at https://www.suicideforum.com/ is staffed by trained professionals and gives people the opportunity to both give and receive support. They welcome anyone who has suicidal thoughts as well as anyone who wants to encourage those who are struggling. The forum gives the opportunity to show compassion to those battling mental illness or struggling through difficult life circumstances. SuicideForum is a peer-to-peer forum that is strictly monitored to keep it a safe place. If you feel you have the emotional resources to help and encourage others, posting on the site is a way to make a difference.
Whether it’s advocating for social justice causes, educating others on vital issues, or helping people directly, there are many things disabled and homebound people can do to make a positive difference in the world.
(1) Robert P Jones, Daniel Cox, Rachel Laser Committed to Availability, Conflicted about Morality: What the Millennial Generation Tells Us about the Future of the Abortion Debate and the Culture Wars (Public Religion Research Institute, Inc., 2011)