If someone asks what you think about abortion, or why you’re pro-life, what do you say? How do you get supporters of abortion to rethink the issue—or even change their minds?
We can put forward our case clearly, concisely, and in a way that appeals to those who aren’t already pro-life. Here are three key points to make when articulating your view.
The first point is a scientific one: The unborn child (i.e., the human embryo or fetus) is a living member of the species Homo sapiens.
This isn’t just something pro-lifers claim. It’s a fact that the science of embryology demonstrates. The unborn child is alive (because she's growing), human (because she has human DNA), and an organism—not a mere part of someone else (like a kidney or a patch of tissue), but a whole individual developing herself through the various stages of life. Each of us was once an embryo and fetus, just as we were once infants, toddlers, and teenagers.
Take note, however, that this scientific point frequently gets confused with a philosophical one. When abortion supporters say things like “the early embryo isn’t human yet because it can’t think or feel,” do they mean the unborn child isn’t biologically human? Probably not. (After all, the biology is clear). Instead, they’re often talking about the philosophical question of how that young human being ought to be treated. Is she “human” in the sense of having value or rights like we do?
That's where the next point comes into play.
2. Human rights
The second key point is a principle of justice (i.e., how we should treat each other): All human beings have human rights. Everyone has value. Everyone counts.
It’s true that human beings in the womb are different from other humans in many ways, but those differences don’t determine our rights. Unborn humans look different from older humans, for example, but appearance has nothing to do with value. Unborn humans are less physically and mentally developed, but toddlers are less developed than teenagers, and we don’t think they count any less. Unborn humans are highly dependent on someone else, but so are many people who are elderly or sick.
Suppose that characteristics like these do determine our value. Suppose, for instance, that mental functions like self-awareness are necessary in order to have rights (as many pro-abortion ethicists think). That standard doesn't just exclude unborn children. It excludes others as well—like infants, comatose patients, and people with advanced dementia.
It also means that none of us are equally valuable. Think about it: We have mental functions in varying degrees. Some of us have more of them and some of us have less of them. If those characteristics give us rights, then some of us have greater rights than others.
The pro-life view casts a different vision. It says that we matter simply because we are human beings—not because of what we can do, or what we look like, or what others think or feel about us, but rather because of what we are. This is why everyone counts, and why everyone counts equally.
If the unborn child is a human being (a fact of science), and if all human beings have human rights (a principle of justice), then that unborn child has human rights too. She deserves our protection.
But pregnancy isn't just about the baby. That’s why this third point is so important: Both the unborn child and her mother deserve our love and support.
Too often, pregnant women face difficult and unfair circumstances. And too often, the life of a child is thought to come at the expense of the mother’s personal autonomy and flourishing. But this either/or framework gets it wrong. Mother and child aren’t competitors in a zero-sum game. They're mother and child, and they can flourish together.
We can help make it happen. Pro-life advocates operate thousands of pregnancy resource centers and other programs across the country. These places provide women and their families with the practical help and hope that they need amid whatever challenges they encounter. But we need to do even more.
Indeed, this is at the heart of the pro-life perspective, and it should shape your conversations with others. The pro-life view recognizes the empirical findings of science (point 1) and is committed to the equal human rights of all members of the human family (point 2).
Above all, though, it must always be rooted in love.
This article appears in the January 2024 issue of National Right to Life News.