How to Persuasively Communicate Your Pro-Life Views
By Steve Weimar 1
Talking about a controversial issue like abortion can quickly turn into a heated argument. Far too often we try to make our points without listening and considering the other person’s point of view. Although one person may “win” with superior arguments or just by being louder and more forceful, neither person comes away convinced of the other person’s view. Many people decide that topics like abortion are off-limits simply because they want to avoid conflict and because “no one is going to change their mind anyway.” But, there is a way to share your views that people will welcome. Instead of a debate, engage in a dialogue.
Explore the Other Person’s View by Listening and Asking Questions
When initiating this type of conversation, don’t begin by making your argument. First, find out what the other person thinks about the issue by listening intently and asking questions. Most people prefer to talk about their point of view rather than listening to your argument. While the person doing most of the talking may feel like they are controlling the conversation, the one asking the questions is actually in control. You’ll find that conversations handled in this manner are less heated and naturally become a dialogue. Instead of having a loud argument that lasts a few minutes, you’ll find that an hour or two can pass in no time.
You want to know why the other person supports the abortion choice. While there are a limited number of common arguments for abortion, people vary on what convinces them. For example, a lesbian outside of an abortion clinic told me (and another pro-life friend) that she fully recognized the humanity of the unborn child, but that equal rights for women outweighed the right to life. It would have been pointless to launch into our pro-life arguments without understanding what made this woman an outspoken advocate of abortion rights.
Ask questions to clarify the other person’s view and have the person defend their conclusions. For example, if someone says the fetus is just a mass of tissue, ask them how they reached this conclusion. Questions can also be used to expose weaknesses in the other person’s arguments and to direct the conversation toward the key issue in the abortion debate: What is the unborn?
Be careful not to let your questions become an interrogation. The purpose of asking questions isn’t to trap the other person, but rather to help that person think through the issues.
Agree Where You Can Agree and Even Strengthen the Other Person’s Argument
It is easier to dismiss a person’s argument by agreeing rather than refuting their argument. You can agree that choice is a good thing, that an unplanned pregnancy carried to term can create a hardship, and
that it’s unfair that a raped woman is faced with an unplanned pregnancy. You can point out that since you’re in agreement on these concerns, there must be something else that makes you pro-life and the other person pro-choice.
Years ago, I called Planned Parenthood to set up a meeting with their media spokesperson. She chose to meet at a local bookstore/coffee shop that was a favorite of liberals in town. For the first 45 minutes, I gave her the opportunity to explain her views. I learned that her reason for supporting abortion rights was to protect women from dying from illegal abortions. Rather than argue how many women died from abortions prior to it being legal, I told her that I wouldn’t want to see even one woman die from an illegal abortion. I strengthened her argument by saying that I would also be concerned about serious injury caused by illegal abortions.
Get Agreement on What the Key Issue Is
In my talk with the Planned Parenthood spokesperson, I explained that what separated our views wasn’t a difference in concern for women’s life or health, but rather how we viewed the unborn. I recognized the unborn as fully human, therefore in each abortion a person dies. I calmly pointed out that in her arguments for abortion rights she referred to the unborn as being a mass of tissue. When I asked what criteria she used to come to that conclusion, she admitted she’d never given it any thought. I offered to join her on the pro-choice side—if the unborn aren’t human beings worthy of protection. The consequences of illegal abortion remained a valid concern, but the status of the unborn became the key consideration.
There was a human element in my exchange with the Planned Parenthood spokesperson. I came across as compassionate and caring because I didn’t dismiss her concern for the lives of women. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that I cared more about the well-being of women than she did.
Present Your Case for Life
Once it is agreed upon what the real issue is concerning abortion, you can offer the scientific evidence—that life begins at conception—and the philosophical case—that there is no essential difference between the born and unborn (Visit www.caseforlife.com and read Scott Klusendorf’s book, The Case for Life).
Use Abortion Pictures Wisely
I’m fairly good at laying out a pro-life case, but words weren’t reaching one of my prior co-workers. Even though I made my best case, she continued to hold to her pro-choice views. I asked her if she would take home a video that showed the child within the womb and the aftermath of an abortion. She agreed and the following workday told everyone in the office that abortion was murder. A few months later, she advised a co-worker that her pregnant teenage daughter shouldn’t even consider an abortion.
Some people can be converted to the pro-life view without the pictures, while, for others, the pictures are essential. Even when words are sufficient to convert, pictures convict. At a recent meeting, all but one of about 50 pro-life activists admitted that pictures of abortion had motivated them to act.
Allow Space and Time For Someone to Change Their Views
Be patient. Explore the other person’s views. Lay out your case for life, and then let the other person work through their own views. Sometimes you’ll see an immediate conversion, but more times than not a person will have to struggle through the issue in light of the new information.
1. Steve Weimar is the Chief Executive Officer for Life Training Institute.