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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Art of Persuasiveness

Abortion is an injustice. Pro-life people are passionate about ending it. Those are good things. But they are no excuse for name-calling. Unfortunately, some pro-lifers make really mean and nasty comments toward pro-choice people. This needs to stop and I intend to show you why.

Consider a recent talk by atheist writer Phil Plait, colorfully titled "Don't be a Dick." As a Christian I don't agree with everything in the talk, but I am sharing it because I agree wholeheartedly with the general message of the speech. Plait was speaking to atheists and telling them not to be jerks to religious people, but his message can be applied to any area of contention.

I believe the pro-life position is true. But at least as important, if not more so, than being true is being persuasive. What good is being right if you can't persuade anyone to your point of view?

As Plait asked in his speech, when was the last time someone changed your mind by getting in your face and calling you a brain-damaged idiot? Conversely, how is it you expect to be able to change a pro-choice person's mind by calling them an evil baby-killer?

No, we cannot and should not downplay the wrongness of abortion or ignore its victims. Having that conversation may be uncomfortable when talking to post-abortive people, but the hope is that they will come to the realization that what they did was wrong so they can get past it. How do you expect that to happen if you open the conversation by calling the person a murderer? The short answer is, it won't.

Not all post-abortive women (and men) are murderers. There are any number of reasons people have abortions of varying moral culpability: Undoubtedly, many women do have abortions knowing full well what they are doing. But not all women are the same. Our society has failed them by providing false information about the unborn child, and abortion "counselors" have exacerbated that failure. Sometimes a young girl is pregnant and scared and thinks abortion is her only way out. Many women and girls are coerced into abortions by their boyfriends and/or parents. But whatever the situation, the key question is: what is the most persuasive? Is it more persuasive to call a pro-choice person a baby-killer, or to make your case as to why abortion is murder and help them realize what it is they are really supporting?

Jesus once said to "love your neighbor as yourself", and to "treat others as you would have them treat you." These statements have given way to a new belief that the mere act of speaking the truth is loving in and of itself. But telling the truth can be loving or unloving, depending in large part on the speaker's attitude. Ask yourself: are you truly interested in seeing the person in front of you reject a false belief and accept a true one? Or are you mainly concerned with being right? Love requires respect. It means taking the person seriously and trying to understand their position, even if you vehemently disagree or find their ideas to be ridiculous. Isn't that how you would want a pro-choice person to treat you?

As pro-life people, we have much to gain—yet there is much to lose if we fail to concern ourselves with being persuasive. There are unborn children at stake. Shouldn't we put our pride aside and engage in persuasive, productive conversations? We have science and philosophy on our side, but we also have intense stereotypes and caricatures to overcome. Name-calling only reinforces those caricatures and makes it more difficult to convince pro-choicers to drop their support of abortion.

This article appeared, in a slightly altered form, on the Secular Pro-Life blog, as well as on the LifeNews blog with the title Calling Pro-Abortion People Names Won't Change Their Mind (I didn't come up with the title, otherwise I would have used "Pro-Choice" instead of "Pro-Abortion").

11 comments:

  1. The problem i have with both the pro-life and pro-choice positions is that they are both extreme. Personhood for an embroyo is extreme position because you take away bodily autonomy to the woman. Late term abortion right is also wrong for it violates the unborn right to life. If i had it my way this is what i would like to see the law be:

    1st trimester- woman's rights supersede the unborn
    2-trimester- unborn superside woman (unless medical emergency)
    3-4 trimester- unborn rights supersede the woman (possible personhood at this level of development)

    I really do not understand why this middle of the road position is hardly ever spoken about, its always all or nothing with both sides and is very frustrating in my opinion. Their has to be a middle ground where both can come to an agreement. Yes an abortion is regrettable but should not be completely banned, nor should it be a free for all until 9 months. That is my position, and i believe it to be the most compassionate to both mother and the unborn.

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    1. Saying that a woman may kill her child is not compassion. If the unborn are persons from fertilization, as pro-life people argue, then your position is not one of compassion. It is one of totalitarianism over a human life. There are other people involved in the discussion, such as Wayne Sumner, who take a more middle of the road position. But the reality is that the pro-life position is not an extreme position, it is reflective of reality. There is absolutely no reason to deny that the unborn are persons from fertilization (and the only reason you have is because you want to deny them rights, you so far haven't given me one good reason why they are not persons, especially in light of the arguments I've given that they are).

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  2. I already stated that I do not believe in zygotes being given personhood rights by doing that you have to take the right away from the woman her bodily autonomy is then violated. I will not be persuaded in that matter.

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    1. You have not stated why. Americans who held black slaves in the 19th century argued that you can't give blacks personhood rights because it would take away the rights of white plantation owners. Obviously, that was a lame argument, just like it's a lame argument to argue that we can't grant personhood rights to human embryos/fetuses because it would take away the rights of the pregnant woman. You need an actual argument regarding the embryo/fetus him-/herself as to why they should not be considered persons. All you're arguing right now is we should define personhood by what is convenient for us.

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  3. black slaves do not live inside their planation owners bodies, black slaves are autonomous fully developed human beings. Embroyos and zygotes (especially zygotes) are not developed sentient human beings. I believe personhood is not just assigned because the DNA of an embroyo is human, that is not enough in my opinion to give it personhood. I would agree to give a fetus personhood in the 2nd trimester as I stated my position above.

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    1. That's irrelevant to the question of personhood, though. For example, a black toddler could be kept on a plantation as a slave, but that black toddler is not fully developed. So were white plantation owners fully justified in keeping black toddlers as slaves?

      What is it about sentience that grounds personhood, in your opinion? Also, you say you would agree to give a 2nd trimester fetus personhood rights, but that contradicts your statement above, that one must be a fully developed sentient being to be a person.

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  4. Iam not hard fast firm on when to assign personhood. I state that I don't object to personhood at 2nd trimester if the law were to change in that manner.

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  5. In truth iam not sure when personhood should be assigned. I just don't agree with it being at zygote stage. I will leave it at that

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    1. How can you know that zygotes aren't persons unless you know when the personhood stage begins?

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  6. My dilemma with personhood for a zygote or embryo is that it is inside another person. It is not irrelevant because another persons autonomy is at stake. In my opinion this is a problem . It is one if conflicting rights. To assign rights to one you have to take them away from someone else. It is a conundrum to say the least. In my heart I wish no harm on either but the law has to choose whose rights come first?

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    1. I agree, there's a conflict of rights here. But I think it's easily resolvable -- for the pregnant woman, we are talking about bodily autonomy. For the unborn human being, we are talking not just about bodily autonomy, but about life. Since taking away someone's life is a more grievous harm than taking away someone's bodily autonomy, it seems the unborn's right to life should be respected. Couple that with the fact that if a woman engages in sexual intercourse, then she tacitly waives her bodily autonomy because she engaged in an act that created a naturally needy human being and placed that human being in a state of dependence upon her, then I think it's clear which one's rights we ought to respect.

      I don't see why being inside another person makes a difference morally. Consider a science fiction scenario: In the movie Fantastic Voyage, a crew in a submarine shrink down microscopically to go inside the body of a scientist and repair damage to his brain. If being inside the body of another person causes someone to be not a person, then when that submarine crew were inside that scientist would you say they lost their personhood? If the agency that put the crew up to going inside that scientist had decided to self-destruct the submarine instead of allow them to leave the scientist's body, would that have been morally permissible?

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