What to Say to Someone Who Says “I Wish I Had Been Aborted”

E-mail concept on white background. Isolated 3D imageI got a tough question from a reader this week:

“Josh, what should I say to someone who tells me that they wish that they had been aborted? I hear this a lot from people who had bad childhoods.” ~ Rebecca from Georgia.

I would probably start by saying this:

“That makes me sad that you would say that. It tells me that you must have lived a very sad life. I’d be open to hearing about that if you’d like to share with me.”

Notice that I’m not taking the bait to debate abortion at this point. A statement like that deserves a relational response, similar to the way Steve Wagner trained me to respond to the issue of rape.

My friend Jasmin Aprile said it well on my Facebook page where I invited people to offer their responses to this challenge:

“Find out why they feel that way. Listen to their story. Find common ground with the difficult circumstances they may have experienced, be it poverty or abuse or growing up without a dad. I would say building the relationship is the top priority.”

I might also recommend he get professional counseling. While his statement doesn’t necessarily mean he’s suicidal, it’s a fair guess that he is probably very sad. There is help for depressed people, and some just need a gentle push in that direction.

What if you feel like it’s appropriate in the situation to make an intellectual response? One important point you can make is that while it’s one thing for someone to wish they had been aborted, it’s another thing to assume that EVERYBODY would wish the same thing later in life. I haven’t talked to very many people who think that every human should be killed before birth for their own sake or the planet’s sake.

I ask, “Do you think we should assume that everybody will have such a sad life that they would regret being born?” Most people, after they think about it, will admit, “No. I suppose most people are glad they are alive.” They should at least be given the benefit of the doubt!

The pro-choice person might counter with abused children and how maybe we could make educated guesses on which kids would be abused in the future and “mercy-kill” them while they’re still in the womb. This assumes two things: that our predictive powers are a lot greater than they actually are, and that the unborn are not valuable human beings, the central question of the abortion debate. I demonstrate the latter by making this thought experiment:

“Imagine the government decides to really crack down on the child abuse epidemic, and passes a law that Child Protective Services will go to every household with a child once a year. If they determine that X amount of abuse is happening, they immediately euthanize the child. Would you support that law?”

Of course everybody says, “No, we should come up with a better solution, like putting the abused children in somebody else’s custody.”

Precisely. And IF the unborn are valuable human beings too, then if a mother thinks she will abuse her child in the future we should recommend placing the child for adoption.

In my experience, most pro-choice people make a similar statement to the one Rebecca asked about, but with an important difference. Most say the same thing that a man told me while I prayed outside of Planned Parenthood during our first 40 Days for Life campaign.

Hannah at PP croppedIt was only our second day and I hadn’t done a very good job recruiting people, so out of necessity, I had to be there for six hours waiting for someone to come and relieve me. For the last hour or so my wife hung out with me, while pregnant with our oldest son, Noah.

As an aside, I later learned that the Planned Parenthood staff thought Hannah was wearing a fake belly, but as the picture below shows, she was really pregnant, and we gave birth to Noah in the middle of the campaign!

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I even took Baby Noah with me during the last few hours of the campaign. :)

After six hours of prayer on day two of the campaign, my relief finally arrived and I started walking my wife to our car.

Then I saw him coming.

He was storming down the sidewalk and he locked eyes with me and said, “You! I saw you on TV last night! I want to debate!” (He had seen a clip on the news of my speech at the rally we held at City Hall.)

He cooled off pretty quickly after he learned how many misconceptions he had about our campaign, and I had a thirty-minute dialogue with him while my wife drank another bottle of water.

About halfway through our conversation, he said, “I wish that my mother had had the right to abort me.”

Notice the difference between that statement and the one Rebecca asked about: “I wish I had been aborted.” The latter sounds like something a suicidal person would say, or at least someone who’s led a sad life. But if a pro-choice person says the former, maybe they’re simply being consistent!

Think about it. If I’m pro-abortion-choice because I sincerely believe the unborn aren’t valuable persons and/or because I think a woman’s bodily autonomy trumps the child’s right to live, then my views won’t change simply because I’m glad MY mom chose life. I’ll just say, “Well, maybe my mom was in the emotional and financial state where the best thing for her was to parent me. But under different circumstances, I would want her to have had the option to safely terminate her pregnancy. I wouldn’t have known the difference anyway.”

After the man at Planned Parenthood said, “I wish my mom had had the right to abort me,” I’m embarrassed to admit that the instinctive part of me wanted to snarkily reply, “Well, your self-survival instinct is really kicking in, isn’t it!” I’m thankful to say that I only thought that and I didn’t say it.

Instead I said:

“I’m really glad your mother didn’t abort you. I’m glad that she chose life and that we’re able to have this conversation today.”

My friend Anthony Trent said it even better:

“Well, I’m glad you’re here because you have inherent dignity and worth that not even you can take away. Your life is valuable and deserves to be respected even if you don’t believe that.”

I’m happy to report that the man ended our conversation really well. He said, “I’m still pro-choice, although I’m not proud of that. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m glad you’re here!”

There is no way that conversation would have ended so well if he had come at me yelling, “I want to debate!” and I yelled back, “Me too! Let’s do this!” and we went into a verbal yelling match. We would have just been shouting past each other, as so many pro-life and pro-choice advocates do every day.

That conversation went well because he could tell that I cared about him, and because I asked a lot of questions, listened a lot, and found common ground several times.

I’m excited to report that I received an email from a reader who took the discussion question on this topic from my Facebook page and used it as a tool to find common ground while discussing abortion with his pro-choice family members. Take a cue from him and ask one of your pro-choice friends this question: “What do you think a pro-life advocate should say if the pro-choice person in front of them says, “I wish that I had been aborted?”

I bet you will have a great conversation, and you will have the chance to show that you really care about pro-choice people, and not just unborn babies.

The post “What to say to someone who says ‘I wish I had been aborted’” originally appeared at JoshBrahm.comClick here to subscribe via email and get exclusive access to a FREE MP3 of Josh Brahm’s speech, “Nine Faulty Pro-Life Arguments and Tactics.”

Question: What would YOU say in response to either of the two pro-choice statements I discussed in this post? I want to hear from you!

President

Josh Brahm is the President of Equal Rights Institute, an organization that trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly and argue persuasively.

Josh uses speaking, writing and campus outreach to emphasize practical dialogue tips, pro-life philosophy, and relational apologetics.

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