Responding to the Question of Rape with Wisdom and Compassion

This article is an expanded version of a piece I wrote for Life Matters Journal, in which I answered a question from one of LMJ’s readers. This reader asked for help responding to the question of rape:

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes.

One of the most common questions I get about being pro-life is “But what if the mother was raped?” I stand for all life, even life that was created through rape or any other difficult situation. How can I explain that to a pro-choicer in such a way that I don’t come across as callous or uncaring about the mother’s situation?

~ Troubled in Tuscaloosa

I love the way this question is worded. You clearly care about showing that you don’t only care about the child, but that you rightly care for the survivor of rape as well. Many pro-life people don’t communicate that very well when they talk about rape. They come across as if they have something we call Fetus Tunnel Vision.” I think the question of rape is the most common example of this. Immediately we say, “The child’s right to life shouldn’t be dependent on how it was conceived!” I agree with that, but who does this skip? The mother.

My friend Steve Wagner at Justice For All has made a huge impact on the way I think about how pro-life people should respond to rape. He says:

When a pro-choice person brings up the issue of rape, they’re not terribly concerned at that point if the unborn is human. They want to find out whether you’re human.

Can you see how horrible rape is? If not, please don’t tell people you’re pro-life. I’ve trained people before who understood the definition of rape, but they didn’t understand what rape is. There are other pro-lifers who cannot hear the word “rape” and let themselves acknowledge how horrible rape is because they feel like they’re losing debate points or time. There’s too much of that out there and it’s hurting our movement.

So, here’s what we should do instead. We should first acknowledge the horror of rape.

“How Should I Initiate an Abortion Dialogue with My Pen Pal?”

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes.

I received an email from a follower I’ll call “Mike” who wanted some advice on how to initiate a dialogue about abortion with his pen pal. I thought some of my tips might help you if you’re trying to figure out how to use relational apologetics.

I’ve removed some of the details from Mike’s email to help protect his identity. 

Mike wrote:

Hi, Josh.

Since you spend a lot of time writing about how pro-lifers ought to communicate their views when conversing with others, I thought I’d email you with a question I had. I’ve been emailing a pen pal of mine for a few months now, and we mostly talk about our own lives and mutual interests. We’ve never discussed the abortion issue before, and it’s not something I really want to bring up, but I also want to be able to discuss other topics without worrying about whether or not it will eventually lead to a full-blown abortion debate.

Funnily enough, we’re both interested in bioethics, and she’s asked me what bioethical issues interest me the most. I’m not really sure if I should use this as an opportunity to mention my views as a pro-lifer and consistent life ethicist.

Thank you for your help. I really appreciate it.

I’d use the bioethics common ground to tread a little into abortion waters. Say that the bioethical issue you’re most interested in is the ethics of abortion, and that you’ve actually been a little worried that mentioning that might make things awkward. Say that you’d be really interested in her take on that if she’d be willing to share it. Say that you’re not one of those obnoxious pro-lifers that shouts opinions at people. You’re interested in both sides learning from each other and having respectful dialogue. You would especially like to do that with a friend since it gives more opportunity for learning from each other, since you can both research each other’s statements and then go back again for clarification.

And then let her take that where she wants to. If she doesn’t want to get into it, respect that. She may love debating that stuff though, and now you have a great launchpad into that topic.

Question: Do you have any advice for Mike? Post it below in the comments!

“Would That Dialogue Tip Work Equally Well for Pro-Life Women?”

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes.

We published an article today called “Don’t Be Too Nice,” where we encouraged pro-life advocates to hold people to a higher standard of etiquette if they get nasty.

A pro-life friend of mine whom I met in Canada last year asked a really great follow-up question on Twitter:

That’s a great question. Far too many times I’ve been at a pro-life outreach event and I’ve seen female colleagues and volunteers being treated with noticeable condescension from male students, especially if these females are on the shorter side. Sometimes I’ve walked up and joined the conversation and immediately received noticeably more respect. This is horribly unjust. I’ve particularly noticed this appalling behavior from male students that study philosophy. They assume women haven’t thought about it as deeply as they have, so they take on this completely unearned role of a teacher.

I know women can call people to a high standard of etiquette in dialogue, but they probably have to be especially careful to not come across like they’re just personally offended. We call people to being polite and reasonable because good dialogue isn’t possible without it, not because our feelings are so sensitive that we can’t handle someone being rude. Be extra clear that their behavior is unacceptable because it shuts down rational dialogue; it isn’t that you’re some sexist concept of a poor sensitive woman that can’t have a conversation without getting emotional.

That’s about as much insight as I have on this point at the moment, being a man. I’d be really interested to hear from women: how do you deal with this problem? Do you have any practical techniques to offer?

Why Rhonda Changed Her Mind About Whether to Use the Word “Pro-Choice”

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes.

We’ve been talking about language in the abortion debate a lot lately. It’s a subject I’ve written on several times before as well. If we want to be as persuasive as possible, it’s not only our arguments that matter, but the words we use that matter as well.

It’s not always easy for a pro-life person to go from using the label they’ve always preferred to a different one though. When we talk to people we form habits, and getting out of habits is always difficult.

I want to tell you the brief story of a woman named Rhonda who decided to change one of the labels she used to favor.

My Reaction to the Planned Parenthood Video

I’ve been asked a lot about my reaction to the Planned Parenthood video that went viral:

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes.

I posted this on Facebook this morning. There’s a pretty healthy discussion going on in the comments if you want to read that.

I haven’t yet watched the 3-hours of unedited video from the Planned Parenthood sting, but my friend Christina has, and explains in her blog why the including of partial-birth abortion imagery is dishonest.

Christina’s post is persuasive to me. I strongly doubt that abortion practitioners are risking jail-time by performing partial-birth abortions. Instead, they’re most likely killing the child with a shot of Digoxin to the heart, and THEN dismembering the child and donating the organs to research. And yes, that is a blight on any country that allows it.

Whether or not PP is making a profit from this is yet to be seen. Hopefully a thorough congressional investigation will give us a clear yes or no to that very important question.

I think Planned Parenthood is an evil organization. It’s not just this. It’s not even just abortion. It’s layers and layers of evil. In the past they’ve seemed untouchable. Their own employees can come out and claim that PP is committing fraud with your tax dollars, and they skate by every time! That alone should be a sufficient reason to defund PP.

I would encourage you to keep talking about this, but to be careful. From what I’ve read about the unedited version of the video, let’s just say that I would have edited the short-version a lot differently.

We do not want to win debates with deception. We want to win with the truth. We want to win with careful, non-fallacious arguments. I believe those will be more persuasive to people in the long term.

ERI Training Director Timothy Brahm had this to say, which I also think is helpful:

I’m not a lawyer, and I haven’t yet watched the unedited footage. Take my opinions with the salt they deserve.

The short version is: I think even in their best case scenario [the video] looks bad for PP, and I highly doubt it’s a best case scenario.

If everything they said in their response is true, then they are 1) only selling baby parts at some locations, 2) they only sell baby parts with the baby’s mother’s full knowledge and consent, 3) PP doesn’t make profit from this, it’s just out of the goodness of their hearts to help with scientific research, 4) they never, ever, ever do an abortion procedure that’s remotely more dangerous for the baby’s mother in order to ensure they get baby parts to sell, 5) they never sell baby parts from one state to another, 6) everything else is completely legal.

A LOT comes down to 3. I’ll explain why.

At this point, I think 1 is plausible and 3 is extremely unlikely, based on the flyer CMP found. But if 3 is true, then 2 seems more plausible. They don’t have a strong motive to lie to women about it.

If 3 is false, I’m even more skeptical of 2. I don’t have any specific evidence that shows 2 to be false, but I have heard countless stories from post-abortive women about lies they were told from PP staff and abortion practitioners, plus lots of stories from former PP staff about them committing infanticide and all kinds of horrible things. Given that, I’m pretty confident that 2 is false and I really want them to be investigated thoroughly on this point, but I don’t have proof of that to give you.

If 3 is false, it makes 4 more suspect. If 3 is true, then almost surely 4 is true, because they definitely care about women not being injured in abortion. They might not care as much about that as they do about the financial gains, but that probably varies from person to person. Even the most cynical attitude towards the abortion industry would have to admit that it is in the practitioner’s best interest for the mother to not be injured.

5 and 6 are legal questions that I can’t comment on. I want them to be investigated. I don’t know if what they are doing is illegal, because it depends on what the law is. I think it should be illegal, but I’m more focused on the immorality and what it tells us about PP. I want the truth to be discovered, and if they’ve broken the law, I want them prosecuted to the fullest extent.

So 2 and 4 need investigation, and 5 and 6 need legal analysis.

Even if 1-6 are all true though, the callous way Dr. Nucatola talks about it is really unsettling, and the fact that they’ve kept this a secret is pretty suspicious.