After going through the fire of 3,000+ conversations with pro-choice people, we’ve learned a lot of things that create an environment in the conversation where the other person is more likely to change their mind. These are some of those nitty-gritty dialogue tips.
“No uterus, no opinion.” Yeah, we’ve all heard that one before. I spent years training my male pro-life club members how to respond to the charge that men shouldn’t have an opinion about abortion. It came up in every single outreach we did; I’d overhear my co-president Joshua or male club members like Oscar having to defend why they should even be allowed to open their mouths about this controversial topic in the first place.
But then something happened that I never saw coming: pro-choice people started telling ME that I shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion about abortion. Um, I’m a woman! I have a uterus!! It took me a little time and a lot of clarification questions to figure out what was going on.
Name-calling isn’t new. It’s been a classic bullying and teasing tactic amongst children for centuries, and while our education system tries to eradicate such childish behavior before adulthood, we’ve clearly failed on this one. If you’ve sneaked a peek at any social media website, you’ve certainly noticed that adults show about as much maturity as your average middle schooler in this department. The abortion debate, in particular, brings out the worst in people, and you can find a whole host of names and labels being thrown around from “anti-life” and “baby killers” on the one hand to “anti-woman” and “forced-birthers” on the other.
While few pro-choice people are actually using terms like “forced-birthers,” many have adopted the term “anti-choice” in order to avoid referring to us as standing for life. Many pro-life people have decided to reclaim the term in response, openly embracing their view as being “anti-the-choice-to-kill” or something like that. A few weeks ago, we received a comment on our YouTube Channel pointing out precisely that:
This comment really got me thinking: How should we respond when someone calls us “anti-choice?” When is it helpful to debate labels, and when is it really just a distraction from the issue at hand?
One deeply unfortunate requirement for publishing useful online content is staying informed of current events. I generally despise the modern news media—not even primarily for its ideological slant, but because the constant churn of the “news cycle” and the need for more negative fuel is partially responsible for making those who watch it become worse people.
Fittingly, one of the places this is most evident is in the comment sections of online publications, particularly those which address politics. If news media itself attracts shrill demagogues, the comment section is home to screeching sycophants. If the publication in question has any ideological inclination, commenters largely consist of the most vitriolic elements of that base and provocateurs from the opposition.
My days as a keyboard warrior are behind me. I generally consider comment-section arguments in general to be nearly worthless, and this is most true of comment sections on news publications. Although I haven’t commented in ages, I still read comments too often, either to look for people to agree with my thoughts (a rare occurrence) or because I dislike myself and apparently desire needless emotional harm (much more frequent).
In this case, I delved into the comment section of an article for research. I’m cynical by nature, and believe comment sections are cesspools, but I was surprised by just how awful the comments I discovered proved to be. This was the worst comment section I’d seen, but I have no reason to believe it is particularly atypical or that it doesn’t represent our partisan furor accurately.
I’m going to respond to several screenshots from the article in question, and along the way I hope to provide some tips for those who want to engage with others on the internet. Again, it’s bad and uncensored, so consider this your warning before you proceed.
I suppose no one likes to be wrong, but I have a particular revulsion to it. (I’m sure there’s some deep-seated reason for that which my wife, the mental health counselor, could explain, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.) As much as it’s in my power, I try to avoid being incorrect about anything.
Yes, I’m lots of fun at parties.
Of course, one could fairly wonder how my intolerance for being wrong squares with open-mindedness, which is held in very high esteem at ERI. The answer is this: I think most people conceive of open-mindedness in a way that doesn’t recognize the importance of holding strong convictions in the first place.
In a series of papers—”Lady Parts,” “Were You a Part of Your Mother,” and “Nine Months”—Elselijn Kingma develops and defends the parthood view of pregnancy: that human fetuses are literally a part of the gestating woman’s body.
If your mouth is slack and your eyes are squinting, yes, that was my first reaction, too.
If you have moved on from straight-up confusion to worrying about the implications for the abortion debate, that was my second reaction.
But let me invite you to move through reactions one and two and into reaction three: this claim is super interesting, plausible, and makes the case against abortion stronger.