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How to talk about abortion

Knowing all the answers isn’t as important as effectively communicating what you do know. 


In order to end abortion, we need to bring people to our point of view, to the realization that every abortion is a tragedy that should be illegal and unthinkable. 


So how do you show someone that abortion is always wrong? 


First, you have to know what he believes. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Good conversation starters include questions such as: “What do you think about abortion?” “Did you know that abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy in California?” “When do you think human life begins?” “Have you ever seen a medical diagram of how an abortion is performed?” (Be ready with a diagram if you ask this!)


This person might agree with you on almost everything already, but he has a misconception about abortion being necessary to save women’s lives. Or maybe he believes abortion is a good thing because he helped a woman procure an abortion. Or maybe he would like to agree that abortion is wrong but he’s always heard that people who are anti-abortion are jerks. (Don’t be a jerk!)


Ask questions, listen, and then respond to what the person in front of you is saying. Don’t answer what the last pro-abortion accused you of and don’t say what the pro-abortion media is getting wrong. You’re not talking to them. You’re talking to an individual with his or her own experiences, thoughts, and questions.


Sometimes you won’t get a chance to say anything. You’ll listen and ask questions and the person will talk on and on and not let you get a word in edgewise. Your role, then, is to be kind and reasonable. If you remain polite when this person rants to you and walks off without listening, you’ve at least been a good ambassador for the pro-life movement. The next time this person encounters a pro-lifer, maybe he’ll give the pro-lifer a chance to speak since you were polite.


Similarly, if someone yells out a car window as they pass, the best answer is to smile. Return any hand gestures with a friendly wave. You cannot convince someone of the truth of your opinion through a rude gesture or witty one-line answer. Remember all the other drivers who are watching and remain kind, peaceful, and confident in the truth of your position. Any time you take a public stand against abortion, you represent the entire pro-life movement. Show that we respect the dignity of every human being, even those with whom we disagree.


If someone is willing to have a conversation, be friendly. Share personal stories about when you learned certain facts about abortion or what made you pro-life. 


Remember that abortion is very emotional, especially for those personally involved, and people may lose control of themselves. Remain calm and assume the person is sincere. 


Seek out common ground. Most people will agree that late-term abortion should be illegal, but you might also find that you like same the sports team from the shirt he’s wearing or that you admire her earrings. If it’s true, mention it. It helps you see each other as human beings and brings you closer together.


Ideally, the conversation will end on a friendly note, so that if you meet each other again, you can continue it. If you’re trying to nail him with your answers or if you close with snarky insults, that’s unlikely to happen.


Be truthful. If you don’t know the answer to something, say so. Offer to follow up with him when you find out the answer. Don't compromise on facts just to get along.


Don’t interrupt. This goes back to listening carefully - how can you know what this person needs to hear if you’re not listening? - but it also has to do with other pro-lifers’ conversations. If another pro-lifer is talking to someone, don’t interrupt the conversation. The other pro-lifer is building a connection with this person and your interruption, although you might have a better answer, could snap that connection and make the person feel like you’re ganging up on him. You can discuss the conversation with your fellow pro-lifer afterward, but don’t interrupt.


Stay focused. People have all sorts of objections to restricting abortion, some of which are addressed below, but you should focus on one thing: the unborn baby is a human being with the same right to life that a born human being has. Acknowledge their questions and objections, but keep the central point in mind.

Some strategies:


Remember that when people bring up differences between “actual born people” and the unborn, almost every difference will fall into one of the following four categories: size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. You can show that these differences are unimportant and do not change someone’s humanity by comparing the unborn to a baby or toddler. 


Size: For instance, someone might say, “It’s just a fetus. It’s just a zygote. You can’t even see it, it’s so small. Why does it matter if a woman gets an abortion?” This falls into the size category, and your tool is to show that a baby or toddler is smaller than an adult, but it doesn’t change the small person’s humanity: “My two-year-old nephew is a lot smaller than me. Sometimes, when I forget he’s visiting with my sister, I almost step on him when I’m not paying attention. But the fact that he’s so small doesn’t make him less human than I am. Why would the fact that he was even smaller before he was born make him less human at that point in his life?” 


Level of development: An abortion supporter might say, “I don’t believe in late-term abortions, when the baby could be born, but if it doesn’t even have brain waves, I don’t think it’s wrong to have an abortion.” You can say, “I’m a guy, so my brain didn’t finish developing until my mid 20s. And when I was a baby, my brain wasn’t doing much abstract thought at all. But just because my brain was less developed, doesn’t mean it was okay to kill me, or more okay to kill me than someone whose brain is more developed. I don’t see why the fact that an unborn baby’s brain has not yet developed to the point of having brain waves makes it okay to kill him or her. By the way, did you know that they’re now able to detect brain waves as early as six weeks?”


Environment: “It’s inside the woman. Inside. Only people who are outside and walking around and breathing air are actual people. Inside, it’s just a fetus.” “Does where we are determine who we are? Does our humanity change with our environment? If you toss a baby in a pool, and he can’t breathe, does he also lose his humanity?” 


Degree of dependency: “It can’t survive outside the woman. It’s totally dependent on her body, so she has a right to get rid of it.” You respond: “A newborn is completely dependent on others. If we put a newborn down on the sidewalk here and left her, she would die. Many adults are dependent on medical interventions or devices for survival. Hey, I don’t know if most college students would survive if their parents refused to take care of them. Does the level of our dependence change our humanity?”

Remember to always bring the conversation back to the unborn child and how he is just as human as a born child.

If someone asks you why you believe abortion is wrong, you can tell him that we know that biologically, a new human life begins at conception. At the moment of conception, when the nuclei of the egg cell and sperm cell fuse into one, a new person with his or her own unique DNA is created. From that moment, the new person begins to multiply his or her own cells and form his or her body - nothing new is added from the outside but nutrition, oxygen, and time. At no point during that person’s development, after conception, does it scientifically make sense to draw a line and define it as the beginning of life. Nor does it make sense to say that only some human beings are people.

Some more common pro-abortion arguments and how to answer them:

  • What about rape?

If someone asks you “What about rape?” often they are simply trying to gauge your level of concern or compassion for women. With this question, it’s best to focus on the woman first and express your genuine and heartfelt concern for her well-being and to state how important it is to support her. 


“Rape is an absolutely horrific crime. It’s hard to imagine what that does to a woman. She will probably be affected by it for the rest of her life. A woman who has been raped should be given all the help possible. 


But an abortion will not help her. An abortion will give the rapist a second victim and could cause further injury - psychological, emotional, physical - to the woman. There’s always adoption, if the mother can’t or doesn’t want to raise the baby. What the rapist did is horribly, horribly wrong, and can’t be made right by committing another wrong and having an abortion. The baby does not deserve to suffer because of his father’s crimes anymore than the mother does.”


  • What if the women needs an abortion or she will die?

“First, let’s define abortion. I understand abortion to be the intentional killing of the unborn child. Does that make sense? Do you agree? 


Now, if a doctor must end a pregnancy to save the mother’s life, he should do his best to keep the child alive as well. His necessary treatment for one patient may harm the other, but there is no situation where intentionally killing an unborn child is a treatment for a mother’s medical condition. In fact, if a woman has a life-threatening condition later in pregnancy, like out of control blood pressure, it’s faster and safer to deliver her baby alive via caesarian than to do the multi-day abortion procedure necessary to deliver her child dead. Even early in pregnancy, when the baby has no chance of survival outside the womb, treating the mother in a way that results in the baby’s death is not an abortion, because the death of the baby is not the goal of the treatment. 


Again, an abortion is the intentional killing of an unborn child - the point is for the baby to end up dead - which is why it's a “failed abortion” if the child is born alive. When a child dies as a tragic side effect of his mother’s treatment, the procedure isn’t an abortion.


To sum up: no one wants to deny necessary life-saving treatment for women, even when it might harm their children. Those treatments are not abortions.”

  • Do you want these unwanted kids to be born and to go into foster care and live horrible lives?

Two things: 1) there’s no such thing as unwanted kids and 2) there’s a difference between foster care and infant adoption. 


“If a pregnant mother decides to place her child for adoption, everything is arranged beforehand and her baby is adopted at birth. The baby never enters the foster care system. In fact, there are around two million families, waiting, hoping, and praying for a chance to adopt a baby. There aren’t enough babies to go around.


The kids in foster care are wanted, too. They’re in foster care because their parents, who wanted them, cannot care for them and the government took them away. The parents might be doing a bad job of parenting - they might even be in jail or on drugs - but they want their children and the government will try to reunite the families. For most children in foster care, the parents still have legal parental rights and the foster families cannot legally adopt the kids, even if they want to. 


Finally, are you saying we should kill people who might have bad lives? Do you think people who had painful childhoods are better off dead? Are you suggesting we force abortions on people who we think will be bad parents? We have legal abortion and yet we still have kids in foster care - obviously abortion is not a solution to foster care.”


  • What if a woman has no one to support her and no way to support a child?

“We will help her. Pro-life people will help her. If she’s willing to place her child with an adoptive family, we will adopt and raise the baby. If she is pregnant and needs help, just call up the nearest pregnancy care center or the national OptionLine number - (800) 712-4357 - and we’ll get started connecting her with all the resources she needs.”


  • How many children have you adopted?

This isn’t really an argument, but you’ll hear this almost every time you take a public stand against abortion. It goes along with questions like: “Have you ever been raped?” “Have you had an abortion?” And: “You’re probably religious, aren’t you?” The common theme of all these “arguments” is that they attack you as a person and don’t address the issue of abortion at all. 


You can try answering with something like, “Well, I also oppose killing puppies but I’m not caring for every stray dog in the world. Or even one. Is it okay with you that I oppose killing puppies anyway? Am I not allowed to oppose it unless I take care of all dogs?”


For questions about your experience with abortion, sexual assault, or pregnancy, you can say something like, “I’ve never been a slave or owned a slave, but I oppose slavery. Am I not allowed to oppose injustice without having experienced it?” ​

  • If you make abortion illegal, women will do it anyway and it will be more dangerous and thousands of women will die.

“People do all sorts of illegal things - does that mean we should just get rid of all of our laws? Of course not. Our laws deter most people from committing crimes. Before abortion was decriminalized in the United States, women did have abortions, but the number was far smaller than the number now. The lives of thousands and thousands of babies (and women!) would be saved if abortion were criminalized again.


Also, should we allow people to hold the law hostage by threatening harm to themselves? What if I got a group together and we said we were going to stab ourselves unless drunk driving is decriminalized? Should we decriminalize drunk driving for the safety of my pro-drunk-driving group?”

Read more about the dangerous illegal abortion argument here.


  • Abortion is safer than childbirth.

That’s just false. 


“The studies that “prove” this “fact” are comparing numbers that aren’t comparable. The studies count a woman who dies from almost any cause during or soon after pregnancy - it could even be after an abortion - as a maternal death, while only counting the abortion-related deaths - those that actually get reported - as deaths from abortion. “

Read more about this claim here.

  • My body, my choice!

Because this is just a slogan, it’s hard to know exactly what someone means when she says it. She may mean that the unborn baby is attached to her and so the baby counts as part of her body and is not his own person. Or she may mean that she has the right to do whatever she wants with her body, even if it involves killing the human being inside of her. Or she might not have really about thought about what the slogan means. 


It’s good to start with a clarifying question. Ask her whether she thinks a pregnant woman is carrying a human being inside her uterus. If she says no, ask her what makes the embryo or fetus different than a born person and follow the size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency points from above. If she says, yes, she does think a pregnant woman is pregnant with a human being, ask her why the woman should be able to harm other people with her body. Point out that most of our laws restrict what we can do with our bodies because of the possible negative impact on other people. For instance, drunk driving is illegal because we might harm other people - does she think we should legalize drunk driving? How about other laws? Are laws prohibiting her from sexually abusing a child infringing on her body, her choice?


For more advanced arguments and tips on how to be a winsome advocate for the unborn, check out Equal Rights Institute’s blog, Youtube channel, and other social media accounts. 

Newborn Baby
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