Effective Communication of the Pro-Life Message

by Clinton Wilcox:

Few controversial issues are more contentious than the abortion issue. And with all the accusations flying amongst politicians, television shows, news outlets and other forms of media, it can be difficult to sort through all the emotional rhetoric to decide which position is the correct one.

Pro-Life MessagingSo I’d like to address my fellow pro-life advocates. If you’re like me, you understand how important it is to share the pro-life message effectively and persuasively but have difficulty adequately expressing your views. The conversation can go off into many different directions, if we let it, due to the psychological and emotional complexity of the issue. But the moral equation is really quite simple: if it is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings, and the unborn are innocent human beings, then it is wrong to intentionally kill the unborn.

Greg Koukl (in his booklet Precious Unborn Human Persons), gives us an illustration: suppose your five year old child walked up to you with your back turned and asks, “can I kill this?” If your back is turned, you’re not going to give an answer until you find out what your child is holding. Whether we can kill something depends on what that thing is.

So the central question in the abortion debate is: what is the unborn? If the unborn are not valuable human beings, then there is nothing morally problematic in taking their lives to make things easier for the parents-to-be. But if the unborn are valuable human beings, then we can’t justify taking their lives for any reason that wouldn’t justify the death of someone outside the womb. The most important thing in any conversation on abortion is to keep the conversation focused on what the unborn is. This helps to clarify the issue and prevent you from following irrelevant red herrings while trying to determine whether or not abortion is moral or should be legal.

The unborn are one of us from fertilization. This is supported by the science of embryology and by philosophy. Embryologists consistently agree that the unborn are human beings from fertilization. The stages of zygote, embryo, and fetus are just early stages in a human being’s development, just like newborn, infant, toddler, and adolescent are. There is a continuity of human existence from fertilization to natural death.

Often pro-choice people will rely on difficult situations in order to justify abortion. There are certainly difficult situations, like poverty, fetal disability, etc. These should be approached with care. We care about all human beings, the unborn child and his/her mother.

But hardship does not justify murder. To see why we can’t justify abortion due to difficult situations, use a technique that Scott Klusendorf and Greg Koukl have dubbed ‘Trot Out the Toddler.’ Apply that situation to a toddler and ask the person if we would allow a parent to kill their toddler for that same situation. For example, would we allow a woman to kill her toddler so that she can feed her older children, or because parents have a right to privacy? Of course we wouldn’t. So if the unborn child is a valuable human being, then we can’t justify killing the child for this same reason. Trotting Out the Toddler will help keep the conversation focused on that central question.

And by the same token, pro-life people often go off on irrelevant rabbit trails. We shouldn’t let a pro-choice person take us there, and we should respect our intellectual opponents enough not to take them down any. It is true that abortion harms women. It is most likely true that abortion raises a woman’s risk for breast cancer. It is true that you’re killing a potential Beethoven or cancer-curer. But absolutely none of these reasons affects the moral equation. It’s equally true that you may be killing a potential mass murderer or rapist, and all surgeries carry an element of risk. As my friend Josh Brahm says, there’s a difference between what’s wrong with abortion and why abortion is wrong. These can be important conversations to have, but the rightness or wrongness of abortion rests on what the unborn is. That should be the focal point of your conversation.

If you keep the technique of Trotting Out the Toddler in mind, as well as the need to keep the conversation focused on the central question of what the unborn is, you’ll find that the moral question is really quite simple. Your conversations will stay focused and any apparent complexity will have been greatly simplified.

For as Greg Koukl has told us, if the unborn are not valuable human beings, then no justification for elective abortion is necessary. But if the unborn are valuable human beings, then no justification for abortion is adequate.


NOTE: The preceding article has been influenced by Life Training Institute and Stand to Reason.

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