When Catholic apologist Trent Horn headlined our Pro-Life: An Awakening Conference in September, he spoke of the pro-life fight as one "to restore the right to life of the unborn". He reminded us that pre-born humans did once have the legally protected right to life and so we must cling to the hope that it WILL be restored once again.
Pro-life strategy has changed a lot in 44 years. Gone are the days of Operation Rescue laying down in front of an abortion clinic for weeks on end. Now we see 40 Days for Life prayer campaigns. Sidewalk demonstrators are being replaced by sidewalk counselors. Even apologetics are changing. Religious arguments have become a faux pas of the movement, instead being replaced by reason, logic, science, and more secular philosophy.
The face of the pro-life movement has changed, but opposition looks quite the same. If last weekend's Women's March wasn't evidence enough, just head on over to Facebook and take a gander at the comment thread of any recent article from the mainstream media with even a hint about women's rights.
As you head to the March for Life this week, remember that while the opposition has not changed, you must remain on the path that has improved the pro-life image in recent years: that of a well-reasoned, calm, collected, gracious Pro-Life Ambassador. How do you become an ambassador, you say? Just follow these 5 simple rules, detailed by Trent Horn throughout his book, Persuasive Pro-Life: How to Talk About Our Culture's Toughest Issue:
#1 Don't be weird.
So, what does this mean? This means don't be intentionally weird or over-the-top. Don't be unnecessarily grotesque or scary. Don't wear a head stone as a costume with "Here Lies Your Abortion" on it. We don't need to be hyperbolic about abortion in any way - the actual act and medically accurate descriptions of the various procedures speak for themselves. When the cameras are rolling on you this Friday (and it looks like they will), have a dignified message on a sign you may be holding and smile so people can see that you are a real human being and not an anti-choice boogeyman.
#2 Make your evidence bulletproof.
Science has revealed a lot of truth in the past 44 years. There's no need to lie about when babies can feel pain or at what stage of development all organs are in place. Again, as stated above, there's no need to lie about anything; the facts speak very loudly. However, be wary of where you obtain your evidence. While pro-life news sources are great for firming your own resolve, they get a big eye-roll from pro-choicers (trust me, I used to be one). Instead use the CDC, Guttmacher Institute, or Planned Parenthood's own reports to make a case for the realities of the abortion industry.
#3 Ask questions instead of making statements
Should you run into a pro-choice person at the March, refrain from engaging in shouting or debate. Instead, try a dialogue. Ask lots of questions, so you can understand where the other person is coming from and to prove yourself trustworthy. When you ask questions, you can actually see an illogical argument come around to its unavoidable conclusion without having to make a point of your own. Avoid Fetus Tunnel Vision when someone asks you about rape or a woman facing a crisis pregnancy while in destitute poverty. Along with Trent Horn, the masters of dialogue, in my very humble opinion, are the guys at the Equal Rights Institute. Check out their video course on pro-life apologetics, specifically designed to improve your person-to-person conversations, the Equipped for Life Course*.
#4 Agree whenever possible
Common ground is your friend. Facebook comment threads may not convey this, but the overwhelming majority of Americans actually support limits on abortion to the first trimester and vehemently oppose late term abortions for most reasons. It doesn't betray your pro-life bona fides to agree with a pro-choice interlocutor about these things. Remember #3 above? Ask someone if they believe that abortion should be allowed at any point in the pregnancy, up until birth. If they say no and perhaps offer that abortion should be illegal after 14 weeks, agree with them that you wouldn't want to see abortion after 14 weeks. Then follow with a question: "Let me ask you, though, what's the difference between a 14 week fetus and a 13 week fetus?" Use common ground to challenge someone's view in a much more gracious way than some of the shouting matches you may have engaged in in the past.
Don't listen just for your next opportunity to talk; actually listen. A person's reasons for supporting legalized abortion may be much more complicated or nuanced than you think. While the pro-life position may be cut and dry for you, it may not be that way for other people. Actually listen, with an open-mind, to what the person you are speaking with has to say so that you may respond with compassion and grace. Listening helps you to avoid the dreaded logical fallacies of ad hominem attacks and straw men as well! Don't take my word for it, though, here's an actual quote from someone who recently completed our Persuasive Pro-Life book study:
"I have also been enjoying this book. Not only is it helping me to become more pro-life than ever, it is inspiring me to ask more questions. Questions about politics, government, God.... And more often than not, God answers my prayers and enlightens my mind, whether it be through tough interactions on Facebook, readings, or conversations with others. I am finding that I can apply these strategies in general conversations, but not to be right, but to better understand the person I'm speaking with. I can't tell you how many times I have asked someone to clarify what they meant by a certain word only to find out I interpreted it the wrong way!! Each person we talk to is just that: A person. If we are to be pro-life, we have to believe that and treat others accordingly, with the respect they deserve as a person with feelings and experiences that we don't have. "
On Friday at the March for Life, remember the words of St. Paul: "If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1). Silence the cymbal; be an ambassador instead.
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Trent Horn was our very first speaker to join us at our Annual Pro-Life Symposium here in Southern Maryland. He is a Catholic apologist that frequently makes the case for the unborn and helps us to do the same.
LIVE SPEECH AUDIO:
2017 2nd Annual
Southern Maryland Pro-Life Symposium