Today I want to pass along four tips I gathered from Trent Horn’s book, Persuasive Pro Life: How to Talk about Our Culture’s Toughest Issue for when hard cases arise in discussion on abortion.
The hard cases in discussion on abortion include the life of the mother, the health of the mother, rape, incest, and fetal abnormalities. These are hot-button issues that the advocates for abortion always center their talking points around. They are often successful in drumming up sympathy for pregnant women experiencing any of these circumstances. The abortion advocates point to these examples as proof as to why abortion ought to be legal in our society.
How ought pro-lifers respond when these difficult cases arise? What follows are tips I surmised from chapter 10 of Horn’s book on this topic. If you are able to recall these in discussion on abortion, then you won’t be left perplexed in reply to these hard cases.
1. Empathize, Empathize, Empathize
The first tip is to empathize when is discussion on abortion. As Horn says in his book, “When people ask about abortion in the case of rape, they usually don’t want to know if the unborn are human; they want to know if you are human” (pg 195, emphasis original).
Share heartfelt anger and empathy over the instance of a rape. Discuss what you think ought to happen to rapists and how they ought to go to jail.
Agree whenever possible when in discussion on abortion. Tell your counterpart you agree you think it would be to raise a child with a severe abnormality. Tell that person that you too do not want any mother to lose her life during a pregnancy or at child birth.
Again, you won’t convince anyone the unborn are human if you cannot prove you are human.
2. It is Usually a Good Idea to “Trot Out a Toddler”
The Catholic Answers apologist describes the tactic of “Trotting Out a Toddler” earlier in his book. The idea when in discussion on abortion is to convince the other person of the humanity of the unborn and are thus worthy of protection. If they can be convinced that the unborn are human and deserving of legal protection from death, then we have just made a convert to the pro-life side.
“Trotting Out a Toddler” involves giving the example of a toddler, say a two-year-old, when in discussion on abortion. Ask the abortion advocate if whatever they are arguing for ought to be applied also to a toddler or other young, born child.
If they say the unborn can be killed if they were conceived by rape, you can give the example the former Justice for All member gives in his book. Suppose a wife makes love with her husband and then the next day is raped. She finds out later she is pregnant and the doctors run a test concluding her husband is the father of the child. However, two weeks after the baby is born, the doctors call her back to inform her they made a mistake and the rapist is actually the father. Would the mother then be permitted to kill her baby?
Hopefully, everyone in that instance would agree that the child remains innocent and ought not to be murdered.
Once you agree on that in your discussion on abortion, you then ask your counterpart the crucial follow-up question when “Trotting Out a Toddler:” if the two-week-old baby ought not to be murdered, then why should the innocent baby in the womb be killed in the case of rape (or incest)?
Hopefully you will show them that the only real difference because a born baby and an unborn baby is merely time. They are simply at different points in their development, but they remain human all the same.
3. Realize Many Abortion Supporters Are Not Raging Fanatics for Death to the Preborn
Not everyone who supports abortion in the instance of rape or incest or other hard cases would also support it in all nine months of pregnancy for any reason. In fact, as Horn points out, most people want to see restrictions placed on abortions. Yet, they want to leave open the opportunity to obtain an abortion to those caught in these difficult cases. In fact, Horn titles Chapter 10 of his book, “The Conflicted” to highlight how some people are torn between opposing abortion in general, but also wishing to remain compassionate towards mothers caught in difficult circumstances.
Winning an argument at the cost of pushing a soul further away from the truth is not worth the exchange. The trick in discussion on abortion is to remember that our struggle is a spiritual one. We are wrestling against the devil and his minions. Abortion supporters deserve our pity and we ought to try to persuade them to the truth by use of charity and compassion. We won’t win anyone over otherwise.
4. Remember, These Exception Cases Do Not Disprove the Need for the Rule
Given the small percentage of mothers who conceive by rape or incest (a total of about 1% of all pregnancies) and the rarity of the other hard cases, Horn makes this observation: “Even if the arguments from hard cases were successful, they would justify only a small percentage of abortions and it would be disingenuous to use them to justify legal abortion through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason—or no reason—at all” (pgs 204-205, emphasis added).
Horn goes on to make the analogy of the speed limit when driving. It would be absurd to argue speed limits should be removed on roadways just because on rare occasions those speed limits are broken when someone dying is rushed to the hospital.
There are exceptions to most every rule. Yet, exceptions do not negate the legitimacy of the rule but prove it, since the rule is the unit of measurement.
Horn argues that even if abortion were morally permissible in these hard cases—and it isn’t—that does not mean abortion is moral in the 95-percent-plus of instances when abortion is sought each day in our society.
Again, I encourage you to pick up Trent Horn’s new book to read the rest of Chapter 10 and the rest of his work.
Please sound off below if you have any comments on these tips.