Choosing Unity: The Pro-Life Movement after November 8th

Yesterday I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my closest childhood friends. Our conversation quickly turned to the election because he and his wife have been agonizing over what to do with their votes. These are very godly, very pro-life people. They take this decision seriously and are still trying to figure what to do. My guess is that they will probably begrudgingly vote for Trump, and I won’t.

And that’s okay. We will still love each other after the election.

The question I’ve been concerned about lately is: can pro-life people do the same with their friends and colleagues who make different voting decisions next month? Or will the pro-life movement face an unprecedented and catastrophic level of division?

I told my friend yesterday, “I just want this election to be over. We’re all sick of it. But here’s my hope for what happens next: I hope that all of the people who have agonized over this decision can come together afterward, even though some of their friends also agonized over the decision and made a different choice.”

This election has been a uniquely divisive one. It’s probably the toughest election pro-life advocates have ever had to deal with. We are all doing our best in an awful situation.

I’m not saying both sides are right. On the question of whether to vote for Trump, there is an actual right decision and an actual wrong decision, but it is admittedly very difficult to determine which decision is right. I definitely have an opinion, but I believe reasonable and virtuous people can disagree.

Responding to the Astute Observation That I Am a Man

Any time I go to a college campus to do a pro-life outreach, I can count on three things: 1) I will forget to wear sunblock, 2) I will not drink enough water, and 3) I am going to be reminded that I cannot get pregnant. Inevitably, then the pro-choice person will ask, “how can you have an opinion about abortion when you can’t get pregnant?”

While I do not consider this to be a significant intellectual challenge, it does make for a very important rhetorical challenge. I have seen the fate of many a conversation hang on how well the pro-life man responds to this question. His goal cannot merely be to give a logically valid response. In order for the conversation to remain productive, he must be reasonable, and he must be winsome. [Tweet that!]

It should be obvious that saying men can’t have an opinion about abortion is, at a strictly logical level, merely an ad hominem argument, an attack against the person. It is also about as clear an example of sexism as I have ever seen. But the pro-choice person that is inclined to use this argument does not see it that way. Logically speaking, it is that way, but trying to convince her of that is quite a gamble in my experience.

Avoiding an Embarrassingly Common Pro-Life Mistake

Don’t you hate it when your honest clarification question is mistaken for the start of a fallacious argument?

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Almost every time in the last year I’ve talked with pro-choice students at a pro-life outreach, I’ve had an exchange that goes something like this:

Pro-Choice Student: The fetus isn’t even a person.

Tim: We agreed earlier that a newborn is a person. Do you think a fetus is a person right before birth?

Pro-Choice Student: *sigh* I know where you’re going with this, you’re going to try to trap me by asking if it’s a person right before that, or right before that.

Tim: No! I’m so glad you said that because that gives me the opportunity to clarify. The argument you’re describing is a logical fallacy, it’s one of the worst pro-life arguments I’ve ever heard, and if any pro-lifer out here makes that argument, I’ll prove them wrong on your behalf. I’m not trying to trap you, I’m just trying to figure out what your position is. What is it that makes us persons?

Unfortunately, because of how common this pro-life mistake is, the pro-choice student is expecting our conversation to go something like this:

Pro-Choice: The fetus isn’t a person.

Pro-Life: When do you think it becomes a person?

C: It isn’t a person until it can think.

L: So would you say it’s a person at birth?

C: Sure, it can think at birth.

L: Well, how about the day before it’s born?

C: I don’t know, maybe.

L: How about the day before that?

C: I think I see where this is going…

L: And how about the day before that? You just have to push back a little at a time to prove that there isn’t a difference between a newborn and a fetus. If the newborn is human, and there isn’t any big change in any day of its development, then it must have been human at the beginning.

C: Well I think there’s a big difference between the day it can think and the day before that.

L: Okay, then let’s talk about the day it can think. How about one second before that? The difference in the fetus from second to second is miniscule. So how can you say it is not human one second and human the next?

C: I don’t know how to explain it but I’m not persuaded.

The Biology Professor Who Hated Our Outreach Exhibit

The highlights from my debate with a college professor who thought we were a bunch of religious extremists with a deceptive fetal development display.

This last weekend I led a Right to Life of Central CA sponsored Justice For All seminar and outreach at Fresno City College. We had a great turnout at the outreach but a lot of our volunteers wanted to listen in on other dialogues before trying it themselves, so I spent part of the morning doing one of my favorite things: talking to pro-choice people.

Allow me to show you the outreach tools we set up.

AHA Attacks Justice For All for “Not Treating Abortion Like Sin”

I have, for the most part, avoided commenting publicly on Abolish Human Abortion. (From what I hear, fewer and fewer people take them seriously as their anti-Catholic views become more public as well their extreme arguments that the pro-life movement is to blame for abortion being legal.) I feel the need to say something now though, because they just publicly attacked my friends, and they did it with particularly bad reasoning. This blog is about helping pro-life people to become more persuasive and less weird, so let’s attempt to apply some clear thinking to AHA’s attack on Justice For All.

AHA attacks JFA

Click here to see the Facebook post for yourself.

The link is to a video of AHA-member Danny Ehinger talking to a pro-life student who had gone through a previous JFA training, who expressed some concerns about AHA’s activism methods. The student explains that he’s all for getting people talking about abortion, but he felt like there were better results when JFA came on campus because some good conversations had taken place, whereas on this day the classroom discussions were a lot more heated and tended to end with students screaming and nearly getting kicked out of class.

The student expresses a concern about little kids seeing the signs, and encourages AHA to use more questions on their signs to create dialogue as opposed to just putting statements on their graphic signs.

Danny interrupts him and makes a very shrewd debating move:

So, your main concern, from what I’m hearing, is the other students that are getting angry about it.

The student says, “Yeah…” And Danny says,

And so that’s where we have a little bit of a difference. My main concern is the 3,500 babies who are going to be murdered today.

That is so intellectually dishonest. The student’s main concern that he wanted addressed at the moment was the use of the signs and the effect they had on people as well as their dialogues about abortion in the future. That doesn’t mean the student cares more about that than abortion. If Danny had asked the student, “Are you more concerned about abortion or the students who are offended?” I’m sure the student would have said something like, “I’m more concerned about abortion, obviously, which is why I’m concerned about your methods. I want abortion to end as soon as possible, and this doesn’t seem like the way to make that happen.” Instead, Danny takes the opportunity to act like he’s the only one in the conversation who actually cares about abortion, a moment that will make all the AHA fans cheer when they watch it.

Danny mentions checking out JFA’s website and says:

I’m okay with [JFA’s] premise of ‘We want to talk intelligibly to people and nicely to people.’ However, my question is the root why, why are they doing what they’re doing?

So this is the analogy I kind of came up with. Imagine if you’re in class, okay? And, there’s 50 students. And you hear gunshots, you see gunfire in your class. You hear people are being killed, okay? Half of the class gets up and says, ‘That’s wrong! We have to stop it!’ The other half of the class gets up and says, ‘No, you should have a right to do it!’ The teacher gets up, and this is what I think Justice For All is doing, ‘Let’s talk about this intelligibly.’ Is that the right behavior when there’s a gunman shooting kids?

And when the student goes to say, “That’s different,” Danny ignores him and restates the original question, which unfortunately gets the student to accept Danny’s premise.

Later, Danny adds this point:

What we need to do as Christians is stop talking about something. Because when we say, if I told you, ‘Do you like this grass?’ We could have a talk about it and we’re elevating the grass, kind of, to a place of it could be good or it could be bad… When our premise is ‘Let’s go and spread how to talk about abortion, we are making abortion higher than it ought to be. What we should be saying is, ‘Abortion is wrong and we ought to end it.’

Here are four problems with AHA attacking JFA with these arguments: