Equal Rights Institute trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly, and argue persuasively.
We want pro-life advocates to dialogue well with pro-choice people, and clear-thinking goes hand-in-hand with good dialogue. Even when two people are being polite, their conversation will get stuck if they can’t find clarity on where they disagree and why. We are going to help pro-life advocates to reason well about difficult arguments, but also to ask the right kinds of questions so they become better at understanding different views.
Part of reasoning well is being willing to evaluate arguments honestly. It is very easy to go into an argument with your conclusion already decided, but doing this opens yourself up to self-deception. We encourage pro-life advocates to be open-minded, even about abortion. While this may sound like we aren’t confident that abortion is wrong, it is quite the opposite. One should only exhibit stubbornness and an unwillingness to go where truth leads if you’re afraid you’re wrong. We want to see productive dialogue between people who disagree, and open-mindedness makes productive dialogue possible.
Making good arguments is an important part of persuading someone that abortion is wrong, but there’s more to it than that. We want to train pro-life advocates to ask the right kinds of questions so they can learn what the person really thinks; when to speak, and when to listen; and learn how to explain their view in a way that the person will understand.
While our mission statement summarizes why ERI exists, our vision is a list of specific things that we intentionally set out to do to fulfill our mission. It’s not an exhaustive list of everything that we are ever willing to do. But it is a fairly complete list of what we’re trying to do as of 2020, and we aren’t going to add to it until we have the staff and resources to accomplish more things while not letting these things fail.
Here is the vision of Equal Rights Institute:
- We seek to be respected for the quality of both our content and our character.
- We create high-quality content based on specialized knowledge, extensive experience, and unique research and development. Our materials are designed to be accessible to the broadest possible section of the pro-life movement (both religious and secular), as well as to people who do not identify with the pro-life movement.
- We prepare pro-life individuals to speak meaningfully and productively about abortion with those who disagree.
- We equip groups to inspire top-down change on the national, state, and local levels with our content and through consultation work.
- We model how to treat people who disagree with us or who are considering abortion.
- We provide a healthy company atmosphere and prioritize work-life balance.
- We leverage social media and technology to expand our reach so the greatest number of people can benefit from our materials. We grow our company and individual platforms to engage positively with followers, critics, and influencers.
- We endeavor to mobilize the church to actively help eliminate abortion.
- We actively aid efforts to shut down abortion facilities through independent work and partnerships with other individuals and organizations.
- Integrity: We act truthfully and honorably, both in public and private. We speak with transparency to our audience, donors, and staff.
- Humility: We recognize that there is always more to learn, so we foster openness to new ideas and have a desire to learn from past experience, each other, and people who have different perspectives.
- Innovation: We are unconstrained by the way things have been done before. We are continuously researching, testing, and iterating to determine what dialogue techniques and arguments are the most persuasive in today’s cultural landscape.
- Excellence: Whatever we do, we will do well, delivering exceptional value to those we serve.
- Humor: We believe laughter is a gift that enriches the human experience and helps to create an instant connection between people of different walks of life, which is why we have chosen to incorporate it into our content and work environment. While we take our work very seriously, we try to not take ourselves too seriously.
- Prudence: We make decisions carefully after evaluating how our choices will affect the future of the organization and the broader pro-life movement.
Our strategy to accomplish our mission includes but is not limited to:
We engage in platform speaking events across the country to spread practical dialogue tips, rigorous philosophy and relational apologetics. These include platform speeches at universities, conferences, and Pregnancy Resource Center banquets as well as longer seminars at colleges and churches.
As of May of 2021, we have spoken to 25,103 people at 202 speeches and 18 seminars in four countries and 24 states since ERI began in 2014!
To learn about ERI’s speakers, including President Josh Brahm’s speaking, and to check their availability for a single event or series of short events, click here.
Our core content is published in two online courses:
- Equipped for Life: A Fresh Approach to Conversations About Abortion
- Sidewalk Counseling Masterclass: How to Save Babies & Families in Front of Abortion Facilities
We also write articles on practical dialogue tips, relational apologetics, pro-life apologetics/philosophy, and current events. Many of our students first engage with our content by finding one of our articles online. As of May 2021, the Equal Rights Institute blog has over 200 articles on it and has been visited by over 243,000 unique readers since we launched in 2014! We also get to see instant measurable results through the testimony of those who’ve read the blog. Click here to read some of them.
Here are some of our most popular articles:
- Ben Shapiro’s Response to Abortion in the Case of Rape: A Case Study in the Differences between a Debate and a Dialogue
- Fellow Pro-Lifers: Please Stop Sharing This Straw Man Meme
- Refuting Pro-Choice Memes: Responding to Snark with a Winning Argument
- Autumn in the Sovereign Zone: Why “It’s My Body, I Can Do What I Want” Won’t Do
- How to Turn the Tables on Four Pro-Choice Arguments
Emerging demographics are engaging with podcasts, including long-form podcasts, more than reading articles. We’re meeting them where they’re at by publishing discussions, interviews, answers to listener questions, live speech audio, and organizational updates through our public podcast feeds. As of May 2021, our podcast episodes have been downloaded 99,400 times! Click here for links to subscribe to both of our podcasts on several platforms.
Our most recent addition is the setup of a professional video studio in our office in order to more efficiently create high-quality and free video content for our students. As of May of 2021, our YouTube channel has gained over 93,500 video views totaling 8,800 hours of pro-life content watched!
We published the Equipped for Life Course on practical dialogue tips and apologetics in 2016, and we published the Sidewalk Counseling Masterclass in 2019. The first course includes 38 lessons (making up about 5 hours of video content), along with group activities for students to digest the material together by answering questions or doing practice together. The second course includes 16 lessons (making up about 7 hours of content), a workbook with organized notes, easy to follow step-by-step instructions, FAQ’s, and 40 practical tips. Both courses include access to a private Facebook group where students can interact with our staff and each other. As of May of 2021, 2,867 people have enrolled in at least one of our online courses!
ERI staff engage in campus outreaches, giving us an opportunity to field-test new arguments or new ways to communicate old arguments. We love R&D and a college campus is our lab. When we learn from these experiments, we can develop better training for our students to improve their conversations. We will continue to experiment and train pro-life advocates in making the arguments that are most persuasive to the pro-choice college students of today.
Frequently Asked Questions
How would you summarize the problem or need your organization is working to address?
Pro-life advocates are often unpersuasive due to mediocre dialogue skills and an insufficient understanding of the way pro-choice people think about abortion. As a result, individual conversations about abortion are often off-putting and unconvincing. Meanwhile, the pro-choice movement is able to influence young people to sympathize with their position unopposed by any articulate opposing argument.
The political climate is incredibly divided and tribalistic. There has been a cultural shift of political discourse from face-to-face conversations to anonymous debates online. This lack of human connection and stimulating articulate discourse has created a need for civil conversation which is authentic and productive.
What is your organization aiming to accomplish?
- Train pro-life advocates in dialogue skills, greatly improving their ability to communicate with pro-choice people in a clear, relational manner.
- Train pro-life advocates to navigate the complex political territory of issues surrounding abortion so that dialogues can be productive even if they are between people with incredibly different worldviews.
- Train pro-life advocates to identify hidden premises in pro-choice rhetoric and thinking so that they can bring clarity to the conversation, find genuine common ground, and bring down walls which are preventing the other person from hearing the pro-life message.
- Train pro-life advocates to understand the strongest pro-choice philosophical arguments as well as the most persuasive counter-arguments.
- Train pro-life advocates to cultivate relationships with people who have different beliefs, for the sake of genuine friendship and for discovering truth together.
- Train pro-life advocates in the most effective sidewalk counseling techniques, so they can save more lives and help more families outside of abortion facilities.
What are your organization’s capabilities for accomplishing your strategy?
- We have invested in many outreaches on college campuses for our staff to collectively have thousands of conversations with pro-choice students so we can better understand how they think about abortion, which pro-life arguments they find convincing, and which barriers they have to becoming pro-life. Throughout this experience we have seen many minds change, shaped our philosophical content to register with the psychological perspective of pregnancy in our culture, and developed persuasive dialogue strategies.
- Our staff share an ethos which prioritizes understanding pro-choice culture, worldview, and rhetoric so that we can understand the real reasons why people disagree with the pro-life position, rather than assuming why they have come to believe what they do. This approach helps us to analyze our training content through a robust, critical lens from the opposing viewpoint.
- ERI has invested in an office space that includes a custom-built video and podcasting studio so that we can produce high-quality video and audio content. We film in 4K and use professional-grade audio equipment to ensure that the appearance of our final product matches the same standards as the innovative ideas we share.
How will your organization know if you are making progress?
- Our enrolled online course members are surveyed both before and after they view our content. We measure factors such as how often they participate in sidewalk counseling and ask whether or not they intend to participate more frequently after completing our training.
- In the year 2020, we’ve seen a 22% increase in students enrolled in at least one of our online courses as compared to 2019.
- In our post-course survey for the Equipped for Life course, 88.7% of members reported that ERI training accounts for half or more of their overall growth as a pro-life advocate.
- We track our analytics across social media platforms, subscribers to our content, video views, and podcast downloads. We anticipate growth and if we do not see consistent growth, we adjust our methods accordingly according to marketing research. For example, we post on social media during the optimal time of day and highest user frequency day of the week to have the maximum impact on our followers.
What have you accomplished so far and what’s next?
- In our first five years of ERI, we produced two online courses with 46 total lessons for over 11 hours of training content.
- Our blog has over 200 articles and has been read by over 221,000 individual readers.
- We have invested resources into creating a professional video and podcast studio in our Charlotte office.
- In order to grow our platform, we want to focus on producing more frequent public content on our YouTube channel and podcast feed. This goal is achievable for our organization because we have purchased the equipment and studio.
- We plan to hire a development director who can help us exponentially grow our organization by streamlining our fundraising strategies and network.
- We plan to hire an audio and video specialist who can help produce and edit our content so that our creative professionals can reallocate their skill sets to better suit their specialties.
- We plan to hire more creative professionals with marketing and communication skills to manage our social media and assist in content creation.
Are you hiring?
We are careful to not grow our staff faster than we can manage. Having said that, we do have positions we’d love to see filled. Learn more about them here.
Does ERI use graphic abortion images?
We rarely talk publicly about the topic of abortion images. This isn’t because we don’t have opinions; it’s because there is almost no other topic that is as effective at dividing well-intentioned pro-life advocates.
We do use them in our outreach brochure, but we only use them with the person’s consent. You can read more about why we use images this way in our article, Abortion Images: A Case for Disagreement without Division. We hope it helps you understand where we’re coming from, while also showing that we have a lot of respect for our friends and colleagues who use images differently than we do.
Why did ERI move to Charlotte?
We moved our main office from Fresno, CA to Charlotte, NC in the summer of 2016. This helps us to be more productive when traveling, since Charlotte has a better airport and many of our speaking events take place on the east coast.