I once asked a group of pro-life high school students, “How many of you would tell your parents if your sister was going to kill her two-year-old?” Immediately all their hands shot up. “Okay, how many of you would tell your parents if your sister was going to have an abortion?” Not a single hand went up. I asked them why, and some responded, “Well, it’s so private,” or “It’s not my place to judge.”
“But guys,” I said, “what’s the difference between killing a two-year-old outside the womb and a two-month-old in the womb?”
One of the students looked at the ultrasound image on his pro-life T-shirt and said, “I guess . . . there is no difference.” These students called themselves pro-life, but they weren’t ready to act like the killing of the unborn was wrong until someone prodded them into thinking hard about it.
Adults get caught in this mindset, too. Do you know anyone who is expecting a child or is about to become a mother? If you thought of a pregnant friend, you’re wrong. That pregnant friend is not expecting a child and is not about to become a mother: She already has a child and she already is a mother.
While it is subtle, if we treat the unborn differently than we treat two-year-olds, then we have already bought into our culture’s mentality that the unborn don’t matter unless they are wanted, and even then they don’t matter much.
The only remedy is to make a firm resolution to act like our belief that abortion ends the lives of human beings is really true. But this will not be easy. We will have to heed the call of Pope St. John Paul II to “be not afraid” and graciously make our opposition to abortion known in our schools and workplaces. The problem is, it’s hard.
I’ll admit: I’m scared to talk about abortion in public. My colleagues are often scared. And we are the trained advocates. Imagine people without training! They’ve got to be terrified. I can refute pro-choice arguments, but sometimes I just don’t want to. At those times I don’t want to refute an argument because I just want my hair cut. Or I just want my dinner. Or I just want my teeth cleaned. I don’t want to answer the question, “What do you do for a living?”
See, most people don’t ask you “What do you think about abortion?” because the topic is so unpleasant. But when I was a full-time pro-life advocate, I always looked for creative ways to answer the standard small talk question, “What is your job?” My stock response was to say “I speak on bio-ethics” and then hope the conversation went somewhere else.
But in all those cases I was being selfish. I cared more about feeling comfortable than doing what was right. I’m not saying we should lecture everyone we meet about abortion. That would violate the pro-life apologist’s cardinal rule of not being weird. There is a time and place for every conversation, but we should not be afraid to talk about abortion.
It’s okay to get emotional, as long as we don’t let our emotions override our reason or ability to be gracious. At times it will be frustrating when people seem like they won’t listen or care. That is because people are complex and act not just with their heads but with their hearts. If people are emotionally attached to legal abortion, it will be difficult to persuade them that it should be illegal unless we can reach them on both an intellectual and an emotional level.
Once while I was on a campus in California I talked with a young woman for about an hour. We had covered almost all the arguments listed in the previous chapters, and both of us were becoming frustrated, because it seemed like the discussion was going around in circles. Suddenly, I noticed that she had a small, blue-and-white Israeli flag pin on her backpack. We talked a bit about Israel and our Jewish relatives, and I made the point that just as Jewish people throughout history have been dehumanized because they were unwanted in the eyes of others, I didn’t want the unborn to be treated in the same way.
Within a few minutes the entire tone of conversation changed. She told me, “This has really changed my mind on abortion. There’s a lot I have to think about now.” I was amazed that this simple example, hardly different from the other examples I used earlier in our conversation, had caused her to radically change her worldview. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21) This young woman now cared about the unborn because I was able to connect them to something she cared about. God could use my arguments to move not just her head but her heart as well.
It’s important to remember that it is rarely just one conversation with a stranger that changes someone’s mind. Rather, it is a long, gradual process of dialogue with a friend that is the most effective way to lead someone to truth.
A pro-life advocate can spend a lifetime reading books, but if he never speaks to another person, then all of his study will be in vain. But if he speaks to other people with arrogance and not out of love, he will be, as Paul says, “a resounding gong” and have no worthwhile effect. It would be better for him to emulate the saintly octogenarian who prays, quietly and on her knees, with a smile on her face and a rosary in her hand, on a daily basis outside of an abortion facility.
But if he can “speak the truth in love,” then he should allow God to use him in that way. Indeed, God has set before all of us divine appointments, or conversations with friends and even strangers where we can move their hearts toward caring for unborn human beings. Let’s have faith and keep those appointments, appointments whose effects may be known only in the life to come.
from “Persuasive Pro-Life”