By Paul Stark Communications Director, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL)
Editor’s note. This appears in the September issue of National Right to Life News. Please share with your family and friends.
To build a pro-life culture in Minnesota, we can’t settle for only talking to other pro-life people. We must reach out to those around us who do not yet share our view. If we don’t, who will?
But engaging in these discussions can seem daunting. Here are three keys to conversation that will make you a persuasive ambassador for the pro-life view and an effective defender of innocent human life.
1. Start naturally
People aren’t receptive if they feel cornered, so don’t force conversations at awkward or inappropriate times. But when the opportunity emerges, be ready to engage.
Open-ended questions are a great way to get dialogue started naturally and without any pressure. You might mention a current event, a new law, or a recent article or video about abortion, and ask something like “What do you think about this?” or “Did you see the law that passed this year? It legalizes abortion all the way through pregnancy.”
2. Engage graciously
No matter how powerful your message, it won’t really be heard if you don’t communicate it in the right way. Respect is essential. Show respect by listening to the other person, trying to understand their view, and asking questions. Avoid name-calling, anger, and condescension, which only serve to close off the person you want to influence. Try for dialogue, not debate. Aim to win the person, not just the argument.
When emotionally heavy topics arise (like pregnancy resulting from rape), be sure to show empathy and to affirm legitimate concerns, which helps build rapport. If you come across as dismissive or callous toward the terrible circumstances that people sometimes face (such as rape), you will lose your credibility. Always acknowledge the hardship or the injustice before you point out that abortion is not the loving solution.
3. Argue compellingly
The more you know, the better. It helps to know how to articulate your pro-life view and to expose problems with pro-abortion arguments.
You can point to science, which demonstrates that unborn children are members of our species, and to human rights, which belong to all humans regardless of their age or ability. You can show that arguments excluding unborn children undermine equality for everyone, that tough circumstances call for compassion rather than violence, and that the right to bodily autonomy is not a right to harm the bodies of others. For detailed information about making this case for life in a compelling way, visit mccl.org/whyprolife or contact MCCL.
As helpful as all this is, though, please don’t let a lack of such knowledge keep you from engaging. You don’t need to have the answers in order to have a good conversation! When you don’t know how to respond to an argument or objection, the best response is honesty, and the other person will respect you for it. Simply tell them that it’s a good question and that you’ll think about it and get back to them. (You might want to consult MCCL or our website for answers.) This is actually a good way to keep the dialogue going into the future.
Manage your expectations
When you have a conversation about abortion, don’t expect to completely change someone’s mind on the spot. That usually doesn’t happen. Just aim to give them something to think about—to plant a seed that will produce fruit over time with additional conversations.
And remember this: Each positive encounter—each softening of someone’s heart or piquing of someone’s mind—makes a difference. It’s one more step toward the Minnesota we want to be: a state where every unborn child counts.