5 tips for Pro-Life conversation
If you follow Live Action’s educational work, you will notice a recurring theme in our approach to the abortion conversation: focus on the humanity of the unborn. Abortion is wrong because it kills innocent people and killing innocent people is wrong.
I know this simple, underlying fact gets easily lost in the rhetoric, but it is our challenge and our duty as pro-life activists to keep perspective. I hope to share with you some tips that will help us do that.
Tip 1: Be nice!
Ad hominems, or personal attacks, are not your friend. Your goal is not to win an argument, but to gain a person. Don’t be mean about your beliefs; after all, I did not change my position on abortion because someone called me a name. Personal attacks are intellectually weak.
In this pro-life shindig, I get insulted often, and honestly, it’s ineffective. Just recently, I was talking to a classmate who called me an anti-choice extremist. Of everything she said, this is what I remember most. As people who value humans, we don’t want our listeners to leave feeling insulted. Even if they call you names, resist the temptation to respond likewise. Take in mind that sticks and stones can break my bones but ad hominems can never hurt me.
Tip 2: Don’t chase the goose
Don’t let red herrings, or changing the topic, stray you away from the main point of the conversation: that abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills innocent human beings. Just as I wrote this article I got bamboozled and fell victim to the red herring trap. Someone I was talking to online said she supported abortion because, although the unborn are definitely living and definitely human, they don’t have a right to life because they’re not persons. Now, what I should have done, what with all my extensive knowledge and experience (not!), is to have stayed on topic: “What I hear you saying is that you support a procedure that kills a definitely living and definitely human being.” What I did instead was get lost in the goose chase trying to explain personhood, which, although obvious to me that every human is a person, is a stickier situation and not as easy to prove. It’s better to stick with the hard, scientific data.
If they say the world is overpopulated, don’t get into it about how it’s really not. It doesn’t matter. We don’t kill humans as population control. If they say more women will die from back-alley abortions, don’t go into statistics about how it’s not true. It doesn’t matter. It is not ok to kill humans just because “it will happen illegally anyway (for more on this topic see my Facebook note Self- Induced Abortions).”
When it comes to the wild goose chase, refuse. Stay on topic. Abortion is wrong because it kills innocent people. Killing innocent people is wrong. And, as Alex Hitch said to Albert Brennaman when he taught him how to dance, “this is where you live. Right here. This is home.”
Tip 3: Tact + you= true love
Be tactful. Don’t start conversations with, “are you pro-life or pro-death?” This is the same as saying, “I’m ready to attack you if your beliefs are different than mine so put your guard up and don’t hear the heart of what I’m saying.” We know you’re pro-life. We know you’re passionate. Show that passion through respectful, meaningful conversation.
No one is ever going to say, “I’m pro-death, yes. I’m anxious and open to hear your views on the issue now.” Nobody is pro-death- with the exception of weird, psychotic killers- and most pro-choicers are not weird psychotic killers.
Avoid such titles and name calling. They are ad-hominems, and believe it or not, they don’t work to soften people’s hearts about the issue. Even when using terms like “Planned Deathhood,” “abortion mills,” or (Gosh-forbid) “anti-life,” be wise to note who it is you’re talking to and how effective you will be with your listener. Even if we feel the terms are true, we want to be discerning that they won’t shut you out entirely because of the offense. That doesn’t mean don’t speak the truth; it just means use your words wisely.
Tip 4- The truth should be in the pudding (hopefully, sugar-free)
Whoever makes a statement bears the burden of proof. Right now, I’m having a stimulating conversation with someone who made the statement, “I think bodily autonomy is a condition for personhood.” I asked her what evidence she had to make her claim (again, foolishly chasing the red herring goose), to which she responded, “What evidence do you have that it’s not?” She made the ludicrous claim, not me! Why do I have to prove the obvious? That’s like somebody saying that the world will end tomorrow by alien invasion.
“What evidence do you have to say this will happen?”
“What evidence do you have to say it won’t?”
I still gave her some of my thoughts about the matter, but I didn’t forget to ask her about hers because she’s the one who made the claim. Again, the goal is not to make her realize how much smarter and more moral I am than her, but to get her to think about her own beliefs. Perhaps she will find new perspective; perhaps not, but at least the possibility was offered.
Tip 5- Don’t forget to pray, Ray
Most importantly, if you are a believer, pray for your pro-choice listeners. Let the Holy Spirit minister to them about the truth. Even if you feel like you gave bad points or they stumped you, the goal is for God to speak to them in ways you never could. Also, praying for those we speak to inspires us to be more loving.
Lastly, I want to hear from you. Were these tips helpful? Do you have any questions? Do you disagree with anything in this or any other Live Action article? Have you experienced any of the things we talked about here? Lemme know!