By Grace Hemmeke, Right to Life of Michigan Events & Outreach Coordinator
Sometimes good people say wrong things. Sometimes evil people say true things.
Abortion supporters often use the slogan, “No uterus, no opinion!” implying that a man has no right to interfere with a woman’s choices, body, or personal life simply because he is a man. This argument is often heard in government, dressed up to sound something like, “100 years ago, women earned the right to vote, and over the course of the century, the rights to reproductive freedom, a self-sustaining career, and the right to live as we please. But we are not done expanding our rights, and we will not allow privileged men in government to use outdated laws to make our choices for us…”
See the difference? There isn’t any.
This kind of argument claims to refute an opposing argument based on dislike for the opposing debater. This is as silly as saying, “You can’t tell me that the sky is blue because you are a convicted criminal who’s harmed dozens of innocent people!”
Convicted and criminal they may be, but does that mean that every word that comes out of their mouth will be false? It means you should probably consider extremely carefully what they say, if you choose to listen at all, but it does not mean that they are incapable of telling a truth every once in a while.
Truth, it so happens, is not a quality granted to a statement by the speaker. Rather, truth is an inherent quality that cannot be taken away no matter how much the truth teller is detested. Much like a road map, truth shows you something that can’t be changed. The road is here and it goes from A to B. Also like a road map, statements alone cannot move you from A to B, or move another person’s heart from position A to position B. The argument cannot dictate if you should give a lecture, state the truth in a single sentence, or have a heart-to-heart conversation with someone. You must decide based on the circumstances.
I once attended a prolife event where a protesting college student got into a conversation with an elderly prolife gentleman. The student was concerned that prolife laws would prevent women from getting medical treatment for pregnancy complications. Instead of addressing the student’s concern, the prolife gentleman began telling a personal story about a family member who had had pregnancy complications while living in an area which had very prolife laws, to the point that prolife laws did not, in fact, prevent women from getting medical treatment. The story went on for quite some time, and the student (who was refreshingly polite) could not get a word in edgewise, grew irritated, and dismissed the man’s story as personal and therefore not relevant to the conversation.
While the prolife gentleman was telling the truth (prolife laws do not harm women facing miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies), the way he told it was such that it was unappealing to the student. The student wanted a reasoned discussion, not a personal anecdote to which he could not relate. The prolife gentleman, by monologuing, refused a discussion, keeping the student from presenting his points of view. Stories (much like the one I am telling) are not the point of a nuanced discourse but should support the point. Obscuring your point in too much story makes other conversationalists lose track and interest in the discussion, just as shouting at someone would.
There was no doubt that the student had the wrong view of abortion, and the prolife gentleman had the right view. Despite their views, the way they were speaking made the student sound much more winsome than the prolife man. People decide to listen to someone based on the way that the speaker speaks, not necessarily on what the speaker is saying. If a person were to run up to a passerby and shout at them, “Abortion kills a child!” they would technically be telling the truth. They would also have wielded that truth in a totally incompetent way, making the truth of the statement unpalatable to anyone listening.
Arguments get rejected for silly reasons all the time. Pro-abortion women don’t want to hear prolife men and the pro-abortion student didn’t want to listen to the longwinded elderly gentleman. This is not to say that truth itself doesn’t matter. This is not to say that men should be quiet on the topic of abortion so that the pro-abortion group can’t use their “no uterus, no opinion” slogan. But the use of rhetoric is important. For 50 years, the pro-abortion movement has used rhetoric to disguise the slaughter of the innocent unborn as “women’s rights” labelling opposition as “anti-woman”. This kind of spin doesn’t fool the prolife movement, but it has been used to deadly efficacy, resulting in the legal killing of more than 62 million lives.
Rhetoric matters. Conversations about abortion can be deeply personal, are charged with emotion and often political ideology, and have real world repercussions. It’s always best to be polite and courteous, to allow others to talk, and to directly address the issues they raise. It is good to speak in a tactful way, molding your message to resonate with the people around you. However, no amount of rhetoric or tailored messages will be able to change the truth that abortion ends a human life.