As a Catholic and a feminist, I am unapologetically pro-life. I recognize that every single human being is made in the image of God and is therefore deserving of being treated with love and dignity. As someone who has taken basic biology, I know that an individual human’s life begins at conception. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that doesn’t acknowledge the dignity of every human, and the unborn are one of the vulnerable populations whose dignity is disregarded. I sincerely believe that we can change that, but there are things that pro-life advocates need to stop doing.
1) Treating post-abortive women poorly
Yes, the decision the women made was wrong, and there is no denying that they ended a human life, but these women still need to be treated with respect. Some women don’t even realize the gravity of what they did; they might not realize that they ended the life of their child. Other women may be grieving what they did. Still others may be bitter and defensive and calling them things like “murderers” will only push them further away. If you go so far as to say you wish a post-abortive woman was aborted, you have caused nearly everyone involved (pro-life and pro-choice alike) to lose respect for you. I am not saying we should deny the reality of abortion, but we need to still acknowledge the inherent dignity each of these women possesses and treat them with respect.
2) Failing to recognize that society enables (and encourages) women to make these choices
We live in a culture that actively dehumanizes the unborn and encourages abortion. The rhetoric surrounding the unborn is abhorrent: parasite, clump of cells, tumor. There are ridiculous euphemisms like “healthcare.” Society tells women who face unexpected pregnancy that the strong decision is to have an abortion. The pro-choice movement is fighting to normalize abortion, and the days of “safe, legal, and rare” have transformed into “safe-ish and legal.” We can also look at the limited resources available to women experiencing crisis pregnancy. These factors don’t completely excuse the decision, but they certainly play a huge role.
3) Failing to understand that pro-choicers sincerely believe they are helping women
I think the tendency for both sides is to view the other side as having evil motives. If we approach a conversation with pro-choicers with the understanding that the vast majority of them genuinely believe they are doing what is best for the women (and oftentimes, the child, too), it will let us have a much more civil conversation. Abortion is an incredibly emotional topic, but to have an effective conversation, we need to communicate calmly and respectfully. If we secretly view the other person as a villain, that is going to shade the conversation.
4) Overusing the Margaret Sanger argument
Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), supported some horrific things, but that is very rarely relevant to the discussion on abortion. Just because a person does a lot of bad things doesn’t mean their argument is necessarily bad. Just because someone is a really good person doesn’t mean their argument is right. There are a lot of people who do bad things on the pro-choice side, but there are also a lot of bad people on the pro-life side. Don’t get caught up in an argument about the quality of people (or rather, what they do) on either side; focus instead on the quality of the arguments.Don’t get caught up in an argument about the quality of people (or rather, what they do) on either side; focus instead on the quality of the arguments. Click To Tweet
5) Refusing to find common ground
Trent Horn addresses this well in his book but simply put, there is no shame in acknowledging common ground. In fact, that can advance the conversation. Yes, there are those ridiculous pro-choice people who will take that agreement and claim you are giving in, but if they are so argumentative that they think any sign of agreement is a weakness in your points, then it is probably time to step away from the conversation anyways.There is no shame in acknowledging common ground. Click To Tweet
6) Giving in too much
That being said, don’t concede to things you don’t agree with. I think the most common issue I see if a pro-choicer saying “if you were really pro-life, you would support free contraception.” Rather than going into detail on why this statement is wrong, I’ll just say don’t be pushed around by someone who is pro-choice telling you the proper way to be pro-life.
7) Not knowing the facts on contraception
Please, stop with the ridiculous statements about contraception that can be easily disproved. Not all chemical birth control are abortifacients. IUDs don’t shred organs. Contraception numbers can be skewed. For example, condoms are said to be 98% effective, but that number is only for people who use condoms perfectly; in reality, that number is more like 82%. If you don’t know something about contraception, admit that you don’t. It is much better to admit a lack of knowledge than to spout incorrect facts that will discredit everything else you said.It is much better to admit a lack of knowledge than to spout incorrect facts that will discredit everything else you said. Click To Tweet
8) Bloody abortion signs
I know there are mixed perspectives on this within the pro-life movement, and I welcome conversation on this. My perspective is it is certainly beneficial for people to see the real impact of abortion, but don’t force anyone to look at gore. Gorey signs on the side of the road can distract drivers or scare children. It could be painful for a woman who miscarried or regrets her abortion. Pro-life advocates argue that they are ineffective and actually encourage a woman to continue with her plan for abortion. I also think that in some (not all) situations, it actually objectifies the child who presented in the photograph.
9) Ignoring secular arguments
As Catholics, knowing God doesn’t want us to do something is enough of a reason (and really the only reason that matters), but that doesn’t fly in today’s secular society. Fortunately, there is an abundance of secular arguments that are effective in discussing the problems with abortion. Abortion isn’t just a religious issue; it’s a human rights issue.Abortion isn’t just a religious issue; it’s a human rights issue. Click To Tweet
10) Trying to win arguments instead of souls
I have issues with this myself. I know that I land a point that leaves someone who is pro-choice absolutely speechless. The problem is winning arguments doesn’t do anything if we aren’t also changing minds. Find a balance between having persuasive points and engaging the people on the other side. You might not be the person to change their minds, but you could lay the groundwork that will ultimately lead them to the truth, or even just give them a different opinion of pro-life advocates.
11) Source selection
I totally understand that a lot of pro-life sources provide reputable information, but the second someone sees “life” in the title of the webpage, your argument is shot. Don’t let them complain about your source; make them address the argument and refute the facts. Try to find resources that are reputable, peer-reviewed journals or that a pro-choice advocate would find agreeable.Don’t let them complain about your source; make them address the argument and refute the facts. Click To Tweet
12) Not knowing how to respond
Unfortunately, the pro-life movement is frequently put on the defensive. Fortunately, there is an abundance of resources that help you to learn and understand pro-life defenses. Take the time to know how to articulately express your beliefs and address common responses from pro-choice advocates. Though we have the truth on our side, we need to articulate it well.
13) Using lame arguments
Though we may have some good intentions, what we say can have negative consequences. We need to avoid bad phrasings like talking about how the child could’ve been president rather than affirming their inherent human dignity or more subtle things like saying “giving up” for adoption rather than “placing” for adoption. These things, though they seem minor, do matter.
14) Forgetting about other pro-life issues
Obviously, abortion is the biggest pro-life issue, and it makes sense that it should be the largest priority for the pro-life movement. However, that doesn’t mean we can completely disregard other pro-life issues, especially when it comes to voting. We should take into account the death penalty, euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and unjust war.
Despite these flaws in the pro-life movement, we have a lot more on our side that the pro-choice side: we know the truth about abortion, we are fighting for the rights of vulnerable humans, and most importantly, God is on our side. If we work on addressing these flaws, we can change hearts more effectively and ultimately change the culture. We can overturn this culture of death!If we work on addressing these flaws, we can change hearts more effectively and ultimately change the culture. Click To Tweet