Andrew Kaake (pronounced like “cake”) is the Lead Editor at Equal Rights Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree in classics and political science, cum laude, from Amherst College, where he wrote a thesis on the topic of C.S. Lewis and natural law philosophy. He completed his master’s degree in bioethics at Trinity International University, studying the philosophical underpinnings of controversies about life, death, and technology and trying to create ways to communicate that information to others. During his studies at Trinity, he worked as a research assistant for The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity.
Andrew wants the pro-life movement to help foster a culture that seeks truth and embraces logical consistency. “What I believe about humanity and personhood clearly impacts what I think about abortion, but it also holds implications for how I should (and, more importantly, shouldn’t) dialogue with other people who disagree with me.”
There’s a post making the social media rounds in which a liberal pastor takes pro-life people to task, essentially calling the religious ones fake Christians. In so many words, he states that pro-lifers advocate for unborn humans out of convenience and hatred.
“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.
Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.
Let’s be clear: this is a baseless attack on all pro-life Christians. Dave Barnhart’s argument is fundamentally that because we don’t abandon unborn children to support his pet political agenda, we’re fake Christians. He implies that pro-life people don’t love “people who breathe” and, because Christians must love other people in order to love Jesus, we’re just claiming to love Jesus and lying to ourselves and others. Unfortunately, many people seem to think this hot take is a profound take-down of the pro-life movement.
Normally at ERI, we promote relational dialogue and give people the benefit of the doubt even when it isn’t merited. In this case, a public figure has called into question the ethics and sincerity of an entire class of people. I’m not in a dialogue with him. My job is to refute his empty rhetoric, and I’m taking the gloves off to do it.
Editor’s Note 12/15/20:We’ve expanded the conclusion to clarify how we use thought experiments in conversation.
Editor’s Note 12/11/20: We’ve changed the original adjective about the worldview we discuss here from “weird” to “unorthodox”, which has a less negative connotation.
Here’s the bad news up front: sometimes you’re going to get stuck in a conversation about abortion because the other person has a strange worldview. This is what happens, for example, when talking to someone who defends act utilitarianism or moral relativism. Their worldview justifies abortion, and also a number of really problematic things, and the only way through is to help them see that the problems in their position are too much to merit defending.
In other words, your goal is to wake them up from a bad worldview by showing them why it makes ethics a nightmare.
By way of example, let’s examine a comment responding to one of our podcasts that was brought to our attention by a listener. There is a very odd philosophical position lurking behind scientific-sounding language, so I’m going to clarify the position and show why it’s problematic.
I think the most interesting question you can ask someone who identifies as pro-choice is whether they think abortion should have any restrictions at all. The phrase “pro-choice” means something different to almost everyone, and nothing reveals that quite as quickly as asking about when it’s okay to restrict abortion. For example, I was surprised to find out that two students from a college Planned Parenthood club were uncomfortable with third trimester abortions. Clearly, they weren’t just following the party line!
Maybe one of the most common responses when asked about restrictions is that “people should be able to have abortions, but they shouldn’t be allowed to use it as birth control.” There’s a certain image they seem to have in mind when they talk about abortion as birth control: an imaginary woman who doesn’t use contraception and keeps coming back for more abortions every time she gets pregnant.
Leaving aside how problematic their mental image might be, this restriction seems like a common ground point; after all, we don’t want women to use abortion as birth control, and they say they agree. But the agreement is only at the surface level. We’re using the same words to mean completely different things. As my contract law professor said, there’s no genuine “meeting of the minds,” so there isn’t any actual agreement.
The abortion-choice lobby has moved on from just dehumanizing unborn persons. They’ve now shifted their primary focus to dehumanizing pro-life people.
It sounds ridiculous for me to say that pro-choice leaders are less concerned about arguing that the unborn aren’t valuable persons. Here’s the thing: unborn humans aren’t visible, and planting doubt or apathy is quite often enough to get pro-choice people to empathize with the visible woman rather than the invisible child. If someone doesn’t seem to be present, if they can’t or don’t speak up for themselves, it is no major challenge to ignore them.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Why We Must Be Openly Pro-Life
Pro-life people have a pesky tendency to be visible and audible. The most effective way to counter this “problem” is to render pro-life people as something other than persons. If pro-choice leaders are successfully able to “other” pro-life people, then the public can ignore us because we are made into something noxious, detestable, beneath consideration. In short, pro-choice leaders are attacking the character and credibility of the pro-life movement in order to force pro-life people into hiding.
This is why pro-life people are so frequently painted as religious crazies or terrorists. Take the recent AKA Jane Roe documentary: a clinic worker refers to pro-life people as “terrorists” because they yell at people and block clinic entrances (things which…aren’t terroristic), but this claim is made out to be respectable because the director displays a clip of actual anti-abortion violence—a person bombing an abortion facility. People don’t listen to what a terrorist has to say because a terrorist’s message is automatically considered violent and evil. If to be pro-life is to be an “anti-choice terrorist”, to use the term my colleague Rachel heard used during women’s studies classes, then it doesn’t matter if we say that pro-choice people are supporting a massive human-rights violation, because good people should avoid being contaminated even by hearing us.
If this strategy succeeds, the pro-life position will be a thought crime. Pro-life people will become political untouchables. We can’t convince people who won’t listen to us; even though we have better arguments, pro-choice leaders won’t have to give an answer if they can silence those who question their position.
Several months ago, we asked people who follow us and a number of other pro-life groups to take a survey about dialogue habits. We wanted to analyze the ways people approached conversations about abortions on different platforms and see if there were measurable relationships between medium, conversation length, and effectiveness.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes.
In total, we received 134 responses from people with all sorts of different backgrounds in dialogue. If you responded, thank you! Because this was a voluntary, non-representative survey sample, the results don’t have ironclad scientific value, but they should still contain valid information about general trends.
The two main relationships we looked at were: 1) conversation medium (social media, private messenger, in person, etc.) and conversation length (number of messages/minutes); and 2) conversation length and how often the other person’s mind changed. We broke the last category up into four parts, based on the intensity of change (no change, minor change, moderate change, and major change).
The next couple of sections are going to be heavy with statistics, so you can skim it if you’re not curious about the data itself and just want to see what it means in the analysis section. If you want to see me show my work or you just enjoy stats, read on.