Olivia Gans Turner and Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D.
Editor’s note. This appeared in the December 1997, edition of National Right to Life News and was part one of a five-part series, “When They Say… You Say.” The series addressed the importance of carefully selecting the best language to convey our pro-life message. The series’ authors indicated that “regardless of the particular words chosen, all pro-abortion arguments fall into one of five categories.” Once we have identified the argument and placed it in the appropriate category, we will be better able to effectively counter the argument. This is the latest installment in our year-long “Roe at 40” series where are reprinting some of the best and most representative NRL News stories going all the way back to 1973.
The first basic category is, “It’s not a human being/person, it’s just a blob of tissue.” Within this you would place all the following pro-abortion arguments:
1. The “fetus” is just a part of the woman’s body
2. It’s not a baby
3. An egg and a sperm are also human life; the “fetus” is only a potential human being
4. It’s not a person, it has no meaningful life
5. Don’t impose your religion on me
6. Life begins at birth
7. No one can really know that life begins before birth
The list can go on, but the basic argument is that the unborn child is not a human being, from the moment of fertilization.
The response should always contain scientifically accurate facts about the generic biology of every member of the species homo sapiens. It should then apply those facts to the unborn child.
The primary focus of your answer is to restore a very real human face to that baby.
When you do answer this question be aware that your response will probably answer other pro-abortion objections as well, since the core of the entire pro-abortion argument rests upon dehumanizing the baby. You will have defined the real crux of the debate if you can solidly defend the scientific reality that these are unborn members of the human family. How?
One simple but effective way is to start with a few “fetal facts.” Highlight the extraordinary amount of new and ever-growing information we now have about the unborn child’s life. Memorize at least three facts about early fetal life, such as that the heart begins to beat at 18 to 21 days after fertilization; that there are brain waves at six weeks; or that at eight weeks all body systems are present, including little fingers and toes!
At this point in your answer it is important to remind your listener that most abortions take place between the eighth and eleventh week of the pregnancy — about six weeks after the baby’s heart has started to beat.
Don’t be sidetracked by pro-abortion comments that typically come up. The most common is to dismiss the undeniable facts of prenatal life as merely a “religious” issue. Do not allow your questioner to discount the scientific facts of life with misleading beside-the-point rhetoric.
In fact, it is precisely because of modern scientific understanding about life in the womb that there are people of all faiths, and no faith, working in the pro-life movement. The cause of the unborn is the ultimate human rights issue. While it may be tempting, and may in some settings even appropriate, to engage in a discussion of the theological origins for a person’s pro-life position, usually the religious arguments are just another attempt by pro-abortionists to evade the powerful truth you are presenting.
Remember, as you go about establishing the humanity of the unborn, encourage common sense to prevail. For instance, since the baby is genetically unique at fertilization, it is impossible to say he/she is just another part of his/her mother’s body.
Another theme often put forward is that a baby isn’t one of us until there is “meaningful” life, or until “ensoulment.” Once again, recognize the sidetracking going on. Help your listener to realize that it is dangerous to apply an arbitrary yardstick of usefulness or other “quality of life” judgment to determine who will be recognized as human beings with the right to life and who won’t be. Such illogical prejudice opens the door to redefining any of us out of existence based on someone else’s idea of what is “meaningful” life.
The simple answer to all these related questions begins and ends with the irrefutable scientific fact that at the moment of fertilization two separate cells form one new life, genetically distinct in every way from every other human being on earth. The color of our eyes, the shape of our hands, even where we put on weight and when we will go bald was programmed into that one tiny cell that we all began our lives as.
Stick with the “fetal facts” on this one. Throw in a little humor and horse sense along with some well-developed images of tiny little faces sucking tiny little fingers. It will not be hard to tear down walls of apathy or ignorance.
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