Fellow Pro-Lifers: Please Stop Sharing This Straw Man Meme

“My body, my choice” is possibly the most common slogan in defense of abortion right now and an embarrassing number of pro-life people completely misunderstand it. Consider the following popular meme:

meme

Hilarious right? Aren’t pro-choice people stupid? Aren’t they logic-impaired?

No. Please stop.

To what is “my body” referring in the “my body, my choice” slogan? Pro-life people far too often incorrectly assume that it is the body of the unborn. If that was the case, then yes, it would be a dumb thing to say. Let’s call this the Scientifically Ignorant View. That is almost never what pro-choice people mean. They mean the parts of the woman’s body that are affected by pregnancy, such as her uterus, vagina, ovaries, etc. Those are indisputably her body parts and pregnancy affects them.

The pro-life mind is naturally inclined to be focused on the unborn, and understandably so. They are being killed daily by the thousands. Almost nothing justifies killing a human person. But to most pro-choice people, even if the unborn is a human person, women have the right to kill the unborn if they are inside her body. This is the Bodily Rights View. Shouting that the unborn is a human being does nothing to respond to the Bodily Rights View. Absolutely nothing.

Pro-Lifers Aren’t “Forcing” Women to Stay Pregnant

Image: Man forcing a woman to do something.

Pro-choice advocates constantly describe the intentions of pro-lifers with the word “force.” “Pro-lifers want to force women to stay pregnant, force them to have babies, force them to go through pregnancy, force them to be a parent.” All of these statements are common, and all of them are false.

The word force implies a threat. It implies violence. It implies aggression. It’s a tragic irony given that the aggression, violence, and threatening behavior doesn’t come from pro-lifers, it comes from doctors killing babies.

The pro-life position is simple: you don’t get to kill people, very young embryos are people, so you don’t get to kill embryos. It’s very straightforward.

It is true that by saying “don’t kill the embryo,” other things naturally follow from that, such as “go through pregnancy, give birth, and either raise the child or give him to someone else who will.” But that isn’t the same as forcing someone to do these things.

If it sounds to you like I’m just playing semantical games, consider the following case:

How to Turn the Tables on Four Pro-Choice Arguments

Imagine you and a good friend decide to play a game of chess. As you sit down, your friend takes your queen off the board and puts it back in the box with no explanation. You say, “Uh, what are you doing?” Your friend replies, completely unironically, “Only I’m allowed to have a queen. You’re playing white, I’m playing black, so you get to go first. It basically evens out.” Inexplicably, he genuinely believes that giving his side of the board an extremely unfair advantage is actually fair, and he has managed to rationalize to himself that it’s fair.

Turn the Tables

How would you convince him that it gives the black side too much advantage? I’d just rotate the board 180 degrees and tell him, “Okay, if you think it’s really fair to both sides that whoever gets to go first doesn’t get a queen, I’ll just play black now. Your move.”

I think of this as forced empathy. In the analogy, your friend isn’t doing a good job of fairly evaluating the relative advantages of going first and having a queen. By turning the tables, you force him to get into your shoes and respond to his own arguments. You could tell him, “Hey, I know it might seem tough to not have a queen, but you get to go first, you get all the initiative, so just make good use of it and you’ll overcome the problem of not having a queen.”

Forcing someone to argue against their own unfair arguments is the most efficient way to help someone to realize that their arguments are actually unfair.

Many, many pro-choice arguments are actually unfair arguments. They’re cheating. They’re giving the pro-choice person an unfair advantage in the conversation. The problem is that oftentimes they don’t know they’re cheating. These arguments are often driven by unfair rhetoric that the pro-choice person has actually bought into.

People become emotionally attached to rhetoric. They hear a vacuous phrase and it just clicks. It feels so right to them. In order for them to change their minds, they need more than just a counter-argument. They need to understand that their rhetoric is empty. The best way to do this is to rotate the table 180 degrees and make them get into your shoes.

Here are four examples of unfair pro-choice rhetoric, and the ways I turn the tables.

Ben Shapiro’s Response to Abortion in the Case of Rape

A Case Study in the Differences between a Debate and a Dialogue

Editor’s Note – 5/31/17: The Ben Shapiro video Tim comments on was uploaded to the Shapiro Facebook page on April 10th. Four weeks later we published this piece from Tim, encouraging pro-life advocates to avoid imitating some of the things Shapiro does in their one-on-one dialogues regarding rape. Two weeks after that, we captured the audio from the video so that we could use the relevant clips in the podcast version of this article. However, by the time we captured the audio, the video had been edited by an administrator of the Ben Shapiro Facebook page. As a result of that edit, one of the sentences that appears in the post below is no longer in the video.

So here’s what we’ve done. We’ve made the font of Tim’s paragraph setting up the now-deleted sentence as well as the quotation itself dark red. It was in the original video, but it’s not there now. If it was edited because Shapiro and/or his people were concerned about the tone, we would agree with that concern. Their edit doesn’t substantially affect this piece though, because the first quotation from that section is still there, and is still sufficient to warrant the critique Tim gave.

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Ben Shapiro speaking in Pasadena.

Picture by Gage Skidmore and use is allowed through a Creative Commons license.

A few weeks ago, Ben Shapiro released a video of himself after a campus speech in which he responded to a question about abortion in the case of rape. It was undeniably effective and many pro-life people shared it.

I can’t imagine any reasonable person suggesting that the pro-choice student got the better of him in their exchange. But I am concerned that pro-life students may take the wrong message from the video.

Shapiro is an incredibly skilled debater, and a Q&A after a speech is clearly a setting for debate, not dialogue. A speaker’s primary responsibility in that setting is to convince the audience, not the person with whom he is arguing. My purpose in this article is not to criticize Shapiro for debating the way he does, it is to explain why it would be a huge mistake to emulate Shapiro’s debate strategy in a one-on-one conversation (and, to be fair, I have no idea how Shapiro handles a one-on-one conversation without an audience).

Here are the three ways pro-life students should dialogue differently than Shapiro debates:

Bodily Rights Arguments Necessitate Extremism

Bodily rights arguments for abortion are always extremist arguments, at least in the way people present them. No bodily rights argument that I have ever seen (or even heard of any pro-choice advocate making) leaves room for abortion exceptions.

Not all pro-choice people are extremists.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester. A 2012 Lozier Institute poll found that 77% of their respondents believed sex-selective abortions should be against the law. Most people, even pro-choice people, believe there are circumstances when abortion should not be legal.

But almost all pro-choice people use extremist arguments.

What is an extremist argument?

By “extremist arguments,” I don’t mean “arguments that extremists often use;” I mean arguments that necessarily lead to an extremist position. I am not saying that having an extremist position means you must take extremist or violent action. I am just saying if you make an argument that logically requires an extremist position and you don’t take that extremist position, you’re being inconsistent.

For instance, suppose someone said, “Having dark skin makes you a non-person, but I really like lots of people with dark skin and I think people ought to be nice to them.” They’re advocating for being nice, but “having dark skin makes you a non-person” is an extremist argument. The logical conclusion of that argument is that anyone who has dark skin should not be legally protected, that it is morally justified to enslave or kill such people. It doesn’t matter how kind, compassionate, or well-meaning the person is who says it; the argument is extremist.

People are welcome to try to justify abortion with extremist arguments, but they should expect to be gently challenged to hold a consistent view. If you’re making an extremist argument, you should be consistent and hold the extremist view that comes with it.