By Grace Hemmeke, Right to Life of Michigan Events & Outreach Coordinator
One line we often hear from prolife supporters is, “I don’t understand how anyone can support abortion.”
This segment of Good Debates will focus less on specific arguments, and more on why people support abortion at all. At the end of the day, we’re talking to people, not robots. People have opinions based on a set of values, experiences, and education. These components of human identity are deep seated and usually don’t change—even when presented with a perfect argument.
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say that there are only three reasons someone would support abortion.
First: some people support abortion because they genuinely believe that abortion is either good or a necessary evil.
Those who insist that women “shout your abortion!” fall into this category, along with well-intentioned yet mistaken folks who believe that “abortion bans will make it difficult to treat women for dangerous pregnancies.” People in this category tend to be ideologues who have a general worldview which leads to the belief that abortion is moral or should be legal. This is the kind of person who might support abortion on religious grounds or based on an argument for women’s rights. To them, abortion isn’t personal, it’s merely an abstract that they want to defend.
A conversation with this kind of person lends itself to more abstract and logical discussion, where you may have good opportunities to politely challenge some of their deeper beliefs. In this culture, people have been told for 50 years that abortion is good, and some may not have thought deeply about why they support it. This is your chance to talk about their conflicting beliefs or about what the process of abortion entails.
Second: some people support abortion because they have a personal connection to it.
This connection relies on a specific experience and includes women who have had abortions, those who are related to someone who had an abortion, or know someone who was raped, in an abusive situation, didn’t want a pregnancy, couldn’t afford a child… the list goes on. Those personally attached to abortion will often use stories and anecdotes as reasons to back up their arguments and probably will not be convinced by crystal clear logic or graphic stories, as that would require them to change a deeply held belief about themselves or someone they love. For instance, if a person believes abortion is good because their sister had an abortion, then they cannot accept that abortion is evil without subconsciously accepting that their sister did something evil. No one wants to think evil of their sister and this effect is amplified a hundred times if the sister was in some sort of bad situation, whether it be financial stress or sexual abuse leading to the pregnancy.
When talking with this kind of person, it’s important to remember that their emotions are not something to be crushed or ignored. Prolife debaters will change no hearts and make no friends by smashing logic over the heads of wounded or mistaken people. Extend compassion, ask if the person is aware of other options for unwanted pregnancies, and show that the prolife movement is neither shaming nor judgmental of women who have had abortions.
Third: some people support abortion because they profit somehow from the cultural and legal acceptance of abortion.
This kind of person is usually only represented in extremely formal and high level debates, and not often the sort of person that prolife advocates come into contact with on a regular basis. This category of person includes abortionists, politicians, people directly connected with abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood, or the pro-choice academic world.
If you have the chance to talk with a pro-choice politician or professor, it might be a good idea to let them know what percentage of their constituency really wants abortion and to what extent. This is also a chance to hold a teacher or leader accountable and tell them that they have an obligation to defend life even if they are facing opposition. Recognize that many of these people are looking out for their own self-interest, and they likely will not change their beliefs.
When we understand someone, we can have a conversation with them that goes beyond repetitious slogan shouting. Instead of beginning a conversation by trying to convince them why you’re right, start by asking them why they’re right. You’ll learn how they think, and what they think about women, children, the family, the law, and what healthcare is all about. After all, we are facing a culture which has been lied to for 50 years, gaslit into believing that women need abortion, that abortion is good, that it is a right, that it is a choice, that men have no say in it, and that abortion is empowering.
In order to show them the truth, we need to ask about their beliefs. Talk with your neighbors. Listen to them. Let them tell you what they think. Ask them why.