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.
If I hear the words “Zoom meeting” one more time, I think I might scream. Let me tell you, doing college over Zoom is NOT FUN. Nope. Not at all. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful to be able to go to school without endangering my classmates and professors, but nothing about college is the same when everything you love doing gets shoved online. From classes to clubs to music to sports to a social life, college students all over the country have been finding creative ways to bring some sense of normalcy to the “Zoom University” experience.
But for collegiate pro-life advocates like me, there is one really big thing that we can’t do on Zoom, no matter how creative we get: outreach. Thousands of colleges have moved their education entirely online this semester, while the many who have retained some in-person experience have prohibited gatherings of student organizations and displays that could cause any form of congregating. My club and hundreds of other Students for Life groups around the nation are trying to engage a student body we can’t physically talk to! And it’s already difficult to recruit and maintain members, let alone when the number of productive things we can actually do on campus is almost zero…or so you might think.
A few weeks ago, I had an amazing Zoom call brainstorm session with Garrett, the Vice President of Case for Life at Case Western Reserve University. Garrett and his club have been dealing with an even more challenging situation than the one I find myself in at St. Olaf College; most of them aren’t permitted to come to campus, tasking Garrett and his fellow officers with trying to run an effective pro-life club from their laptops sitting in all corners of the United States. Spoiler alert: they’re doing a pretty fabulous job. But when Garrett reached out to me for more ideas, we combined my own experiences in the past 9 months with Students for Life at St. Olaf plus his stories from Case for Life to come up with some tips for what to do when your pro-life group can’t do outreach during COVID-19.
Josh responds to three pro-choice people who pushed back against our recent video about the Responsibility Objection, one of the pro-life counter-arguments to Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous violinist thought experiment. Is this pro-life argument a red herring? Did we strawman Thomson?
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.
“Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one!” We’ve probably all heard this evergreen slogan before from a pro-choice advocate. There are even shirts and bumper stickers for it. Just like “no uterus, no opinion,” it’s short, it’s snappy, and it can catch new or young pro-life people off-guard in how to respond. It’s a popular comeback I’ve personally heard many times when discussing abortion in-person or online. And it frustrates me to no end because it’s a terrible pro-choice argument. There are many far better pro-choice arguments that can be made, yet this is an easy go-to for many pro-choice advocates. It also frustrates me because by using it, the pro-choice person has revealed they not only have a fundamental misunderstanding of the pro-life viewpoint, but also that they are probably not interested in serious discussion—they are just seeking to shut down the conversation by pulling out this slogan.
The other day, I saw a clip from an old White House Press Briefing. Reporters were barraging the press secretary with leading questions, reciting statistics that directly challenged the effectiveness of the new policy, and presenting contradictory quotes that the press secretary had said literally the day before.
But the press secretary calmly took in the critiques, acknowledged the flaws, and ended the event by saying “Thank you so much for bringing these problems to my attention. You all have made some really great points today, and maybe we should be rethinking this policy!”