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A pro-life conversation guide for the holidays

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It is notable that the Christmas season is already being promoted, despite the fact that Thanksgiving is still several weeks away. This is evidenced by the prevalence of Christmas decorations and ideas for gifts. The following advice on promoting the cause of life in an effective and non-offensive manner remains my preferred approach. However, I would suggest that (7) be moved up to (1).

The holiday dinner table provides an ideal setting for engaging in congenial (and hopefully!) conversation about current events and issues. Those who advocate for the protection of unborn human life should be prepared to seize opportunities as they arise. The following suggestions are designed to assist individuals in effectively discussing abortion with family members and friends who may not espouse a pro-life perspective.

(1) Be able to clarify the issue

When presented with an argument or justification for abortion, it is necessary to consider whether it is valid to kill obvious examples of rights-bearing human beings, such as newborn babies, toddlers, teenagers and adults. If this is not the case, it is assumed that the being killed by abortion, the unborn (i.e., the human embryo or “fetus”), is not an intrinsically valuable human being, like toddlers and teenagers. This is a circular argument, whereby the very conclusion that is being defended is assumed to be true.

For example, a woman should not have the right to choose to drown her toddler in the bathtub. The question at hand is whether the unborn, like a toddler, deserves full moral respect and ought not to be killed for the convenience or benefit of others. If this is the case, then the termination of an unborn foetus by abortion, like the killing of a toddler for the same reasons, is a grave moral wrong.

(2) Articulate the pro-life argument

The pro-life position is that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. This position is supported by modern science, which demonstrates that what abortion kills is a human being, a member of our species. It is also supported by a foundational moral principle: the equal fundamental dignity and right to life of every member of the human family.

The science of embryology demonstrates that the unborn child from the moment of conception is a distinct, living and whole human organism. It is a member of the species Homo sapiens, the same kind of being as each of us, but at a much earlier stage of development. This fact is consistently and unambiguously asserted by embryology textbooks and leading experts.

From a moral standpoint, there is no discernible distinction between human beings at different stages of development. The unborn differ from newborns in several respects, including size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency. These differences are not significant in a way that would justify killing the former. For example, a five-year-old child may lack the physical and mental abilities of a 10-year-old, but this does not diminish their value or entitlement to respect and protection.

Each individual possesses a fundamental right to life, not on the basis of acquired characteristics or abilities that may be unique to some human beings but not others, but rather on the basis of their intrinsic nature as a being. Consequently, all human beings, including the unborn, are equal in their fundamental dignity and possess the right to life, which may not be taken without just cause.

(3) Be able to respond to common objections

The claims made by abortion advocates about the number of women who died from illegal abortions are, in fact, wildly overstated, as NARAL co-founder Dr. Bernard Nathanson frankly admitted. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 39 women died from illegal abortion in 1972, the year before the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. In contrast, 24 women died from legal abortion, with the procedure having been legalised in some circumstances in some states. The decline in maternal mortality observed in the decades preceding the Roe v. Wade decision was the result of advances in modern medicine, rather than the legalisation of abortion.

Should one be unable to respond to a challenge, it is advisable not to allow it to cause undue distress. It is advisable to be candid and indicate that you will respond to the challenge once you have conducted further research and reflection on the matter.

(4) Familiarise oneself with the facts of fetal development

In addition to being aware that the life of a human organism, a human being, commences at the moment of conception (see above), it is beneficial to gain an understanding of the specifics of the development of human beings within the womb. These facts serve to reinforce the humanity of the unborn child for many people. For instance, the heart begins to beat approximately three weeks after conception, a period during which many women are unaware of their pregnancy. At approximately six weeks, it is possible to detect brain waves. By the 20th week of gestation, a substantial body of evidence indicates that unborn children can experience excruciating pain.

The remarkable intricacy of prenatal human development is “beyond the comprehension of any existing mathematics,” asserts renowned medical imaging expert and mathematician Alexander Tsiaras.

(5) Be aware of the potential harms of abortion to women

The health risks associated with abortion, both physical and psychological, have been extensively documented. It is advisable to familiarise oneself with a few facts.

For instance, numerous studies have indicated that abortion may potentially elevate a woman’s susceptibility to breast cancer. Moreover, while no woman who has undergone an abortion ultimately regrets that decision, a significant number of women who have chosen to terminate their pregnancies subsequently express regret. A 2011 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, the most prestigious journal in the field, found that women who have had abortions are at an 81% increased risk of developing mental health problems. This represents the largest quantitative estimate of mental health risks associated with abortion available in the world literature.

(6) Be aware of the alternatives to abortion and the compassionate support available for women.

Both motherhood and adoption are ethical and life-affirming options. In the United States, there are approximately 3,000 pro-life pregnancy care centres that are prepared to assist pregnant women in need. A plethora of programmes are available to assist women and others in coping with the consequences of abortion.

(7) Be winsome

Those who espouse the pro-life position must be kind, respectful, fair-minded and willing to listen and respond thoughtfully to those who disagree. It is inadvisable to refer to someone as “pro-abortion” in conversation, as this is often at odds with how they perceive their position and may hinder productive dialogue. It is imperative to demonstrate compassion towards pregnant women who are confronted with challenging circumstances and those who have undergone abortions.

(8) Asking questions

In lieu of merely relying on assertions and assuming the burden of proof, it is advisable to pose strategic questions that challenge the opponent’s position and prompt him to reflect. It is advisable to prompt the individual to justify their assertions. To illustrate, if the individual in question asserts that a baby becomes a person after birth, it would be prudent to inquire as to how a mere trip through the birth canal, a shift in location, can alter the identity or the right to life of the infant. Should a pro-choice advocate profess a personal opposition to abortion but a belief that it should remain legal, it would be prudent to inquire as to the rationale behind this stance. It is evident that the reason for this personal opposition, namely that abortion results in the killing of a human being, is precisely the reason why abortion should not be permitted under the law. (It is recommended that the ‘tactical approach’ developed by Greg Koukl and employed in Chapter 9 of Scott Klusendorf’s The Case for Life be utilised.)

It is unlikely that a change of opinion will be achieved immediately. Nevertheless, it is possible to engage in a cordial discussion and present the individual with a point of reflection. This should be the objective.

This was published on the blog of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), which is the state affiliate of the National Right to Life. Paul Stark is the communications associate at MCCL.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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