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BIS LIVES Blog

What (Not) to Say to Your Pro-Choice Friends: An Exhaustive Resource for Pro-Life Arguments

pro-life arguments that work

One gray, spring morning, some friends and I were praying outside an abortion clinic when a young couple with heavy faces came walking towards us. The man had his arm around the woman, shielding her from what he thought might be difficult protestors. Clinic escorts wearing bright yellow vests met them on the sidewalk and asked if they wanted accompaniment. They accepted, and the group walked together towards the stairs that lead up to the clinic doors.

A pro-life sidewalk counselor smiled at the couple and said hello. He asked them if they were alright. The couple stopped for a millisecond before the father said, “We can’t have this baby. We have two kids at home and can’t afford this one. I have to be a good father.”

“We can help you…” the counselor started empathetically. But before he could say anything else, the emotion of the already-grieving father took over. He was clearly torn, angry, and upset with his predicament. He did not believe that help would be available to his family after the birth of this third child.

“I can barely afford to feed the two kids I have,” he said. Then he reiterated his previous statement, “I have to be a good father.”

With that, he and his wife turned around and walked up the stairs.

The State of the Union

Currently, the United States is in the midst of political uproar surrounding the issue of abortion. Always a hot button issue, abortion’s current prevalence at the forefront of political debates began with the appointment of our newest Supreme Court Justice, Brett Kavanaugh. Though the associate justice has alluded otherwise, State governments are strategically attempting to pass extreme Pro-Life laws in the hopes that they will be challenged all the way to the highest level of the court system, where the infamous Roe vs. Wade ruling can be overturned.

Georgia’s governor recently signed the “fetal heartbeat” bill, which outlaws abortion past the point of a fetus’ heartbeat being detected. In Alabama, the “Human Life Protection Act” was signed into effect. It disallows abortion for any reason (including rape or incest), except when the life of the mother is threatened. Ohio, Iowa, Kentucky, and Mississippi have passed similar laws, while Louisiana and Missouri are making similar moves within their legislative chambers.

The State of Our Social Feeds

All of this has resulted in some major eruptions across social media. Many of our feeds have been affected by the uproar. We find ourselves constantly trying to decide whether to engage on the issue, or to leave it alone (as fruitful conversations via social media are a true rarity).

Even when deciding not to engage, our minds continue the conversation and possible pro-life arguments within our heads. We wonder, “What should I have said? How do I refute that point?”

We Need to Be Equipped with Pro-Life Arguments

It’s a difficult place to be. While it’s easy (and sometimes wise) to avoid the topic on social media, we can’t ignore a conversation when it’s brought to our attention in “real life.” Especially because avoidance of the topic can make us look ignorant of the facts and “religiously-brainwashed,” unable to think for ourselves.

As a former teacher of Apologetics, I’ve spent a fair amount of time arguing for morality from a non-religious standpoint. This includes pro-life arguments. Thus, this piece is meant to be a reference for anyone who doesn’t know what to say when discussing life issues with a pro-choice friend or acquaintance.

Acknowledge the Humanity

First, it’s important to see the humanity in people. We live in a world in which most of us have forgotten how to have civil discourse.

When approaching the subject of abortion, it’s necessary to remember is that this individual with whom you disagree is, in fact, a loving person.

As humans, we’re wired to want what’s right. We’re all made in God’s image, which means we’re all oriented towards love (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 1604, 2331). And all of us are still learning about love—and learning what is the most loving thing to do. We’ve all gotten confused over the course of our lives as to what “love” actually is (CCC 1889, 1939).

People with pro-choice viewpoints are no different. Most of them have taken this stance because society has told them that it’s the reasonable, civilized position.

So when entering into a conversation with these individuals and offering pro-life arguments, be reasonable and civil in every way.

Communicating Without Words

In a culture where arguments over life issues are mostly angry and hostil—from all sides—a kind tone of voice, a smile, and body language that signals openness can go a long way in softening someone’s heart.

Opposingly, a harsh tone, furrowed brows, and heated body language will harden a heart quicker than a fly flocks to roadkill.

If an individual feels attacked, they’ll retreat. If they feel heard and respected, walls around the heart and mind start to recede.

Tone

As mentioned above, keep a loving tone (1 John 4:8-16). One of my favorite quotes from St. John Bosco is:

It’s not enough to love, people have to feel as though they’re loved.

 

In the heat of the moment, we can be tempted to respond with harsh love. But in these cases, that usually does more harm than good. Rechannel that passion. Don’t be a “clanging gong” or a “clashing cymbal.” Keep your tone authentic, calm, and reasonable.

Attitude

Humility, humility, humility.

Though each of us has a grasp on the fullness of Truth thanks to our Faith, we do not know everything. If we approach these conversations with a know-it-all, closed-to-any-other-points mindset, it’s apparent to the opponent. Their hearts certainly won’t be changed by that.

I’m not saying to be so open-minded that your brains fall out. Rather, be open-minded in a manner that will allow you to see the humanity behind the reasoning of the other person.

Body Language

Girl…check your face. And your arms. And any other hostile, closed-off way in which you may be positioning your body. Uncross your arms. Unfurrow that brow. Lean in. Smile. Relax. Nod your head when you agree. Make eye contact.

These are are incredibly simple and easy things that go a long way. They do almost all the work of communicating the good intentions behind your pro-life arguments!

Assume Good Intentions

Always remember, people who are pro-choice aren’t cold, heartless beings. They desire to love and support women, to give them “freedom”, and to “empower” them to live the life they want. These are values that are not different from our own as Catholics. We love and support women. We want them to have freedom, to be empowered, to be the fullest version of themselves that God created them to be.

In the end, both sides of this argument want similar things for women—and that is our common ground.

That is what we have to appeal to and return to, time and time again in our pro-life arguments.

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The Talking Points

A big mistake people make when talking to people who are pro-choice is to make it all about God and religion.

As a former Apologetics teacher, I often discussed this kind of dialoguing with my students. An atheist does not believe in the authority of Scripture or religious teaching, so using them as pro-life arguments to support your case is going to fall on deaf ears.

Similarly, when speaking with a Christian who is not Catholic, Catholic Social Teaching is not going to hold the same weight for them as it would for a practicing Catholic.

Thus, the best way to support a pro-life viewpoint is with logic and science (philosophy and biology). This may mean you have some reading and learning to do in order to brush up on these skills.

In the meantime, we have outlined some possible pro-life arguments to use in responding to popular pro-choice arguments.

Pro-Choice Lines and How to Respond with Pro-Life Arguments

Believe it or not, many people think that the pro-life movement’s beliefs stem from judgement of women who are having sex.

Rather than the issue being about the sanctity of all human life, many think (sometimes even subconsciously) that people who are pro-life want to see a woman “suffer” because of her immoral choices.

The best way to help rectify this understanding is to show love, care, and concern for mom directly. In that, you’ll be showing care for baby indirectly. We care about all life (both mother and baby), no matter how it was conceived. Make that obvious in your pro-life arguments.

Pssst: The “What the Church Says”  sections are references just for your education and edification. I wouldn’t necessarily bring these up in conversation unless specifically asked about what the Catholic Church teaches on the matter.

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“An unborn fetus does not have the same rights as its mother.”

Pro-Life Response:

“I think all humans deserve basic rights, even before we’re born. I actually think its a right of all people conceived in this country. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘… all Men are created equal… they are endowed…with certain unalienable Rights… among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….’

The right to life seems fundamental to all the rest. These individuals are more than just ‘something’—they are someone. ”

What the Church Says: CCC 357, 2270, 2273; Jer 1:5; Job 10:8-12; Ps 139:15

Pro-Choice Talking Point

“Nobody knows when life actually begins.”

Pro-Life Response:

“Actually, the definition of ‘life’ is an organism with the capacity to grow and multiply. The moment a sperm contacts an egg, this process begins. Biologically speaking, life has begun.

This is actually one of the main reasons I am pro-life. Biologically speaking, life begins at the exact moment of conception.”

What the Church Says: CCC 357, 2270, 2322

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“If abortion is outlawed, it won’t stop abortions from happening. It will simply force women into dangerous situations like the old ‘back-alley’ abortions.”

Pro-Life Response:

“In some cases, you’re probably right. I think this will happen with some women, but I can’t help but wonder about her reasoning for seeking out the abortion. That has to be a desperate situation. Maybe she feels unsafe. Or too poor. I just wonder if there could be another, better way to help and empower her rather than abortion. I’m working towards a society where women don’t feel like they ever have to consider abortion.

Regardless, just because a woman may still choose abortion, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be outlawed. Murder happens far too often, but that doesn’t mean it should be legalized.

I also think that, in other cases, outlawing abortion will prevent abortions from happening. I know of an American woman living in Poland who was pregnant with triplets. Baby C wasn’t as healthy as the other two and posed a risk to their development. Doctors did not recommend abortion because they couldn’t—it’s illegal in their country. It was incredibly stressful for the family, but all three babies survived and are now healthy, thriving boys. When looking back over the pregnancy, the mom has actually said, ‘I’m glad I had no choice.’

What the Church Says: CCC 2210, 2498

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“I support abortion because I think it’s a choice that belongs to each woman and each woman alone. I don’t like the idea of the government forcibly preventing women who want abortions from getting them. It’s a lack of liberty. ”

Pro-Life Response:

“I don’t want to violate anyone’s right to privacy, and I don’t like the government’s involvement either—I wish it never came to that.

I wish everyone rejected abortion out of love and respect for all life. Women should be so supported that they never feel they needed abortion as an option.

I also agree that we, as women, should have lots of choices in life. But I also think there are exceptions. For example, I don’t think parents should be given the choice to abuse or neglect their kids. I don’t think anyone should be given the choice to drink and drive. Would you agree?”

What the Church Says: CCC 1723,1755, 1756, 2273

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“There should be an exception to the abortion laws for women who conceive in cases of rape or incest. No woman or child should have to carry and bare the offspring of someone who wronged her so barbarically. She shouldn’t have to be reminded of the incident each time she looks at her growing belly—or worse, the face of her child who may resemble the man who raped her.”

Pro-Life Response:

“No one should have to endure rape or its consequences. I wish no one was ever raped.

In cases of rape, the woman is certainly a victim, but what about that baby? Isn’t he or she also a victim? I think she is, and her life shouldn’t be taken from her because of her father’s assault.

There are so many women who chose to give birth to their child in these circumstances, and they assert that it was an incredibly healing experience for them. And there are amazing individuals within our communities who were conceived in rape. Their stories are incredible and testify to the point that all life is valuable.”

What the Church Says: CCC 357

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“When the mother’s life is on the line, I think she has a right to an abortion.”

Pro-Life Response:

“Mother and baby have equal rights. If the mother’s life is in danger, I believe that she absolutely has the right to seek medical care for herself. There is always a way to do this without an abortion being involved.

Doctors should give the mother life-saving treatment, even if it indirectly results in the tragic loss of life for her child. I see this differently than an abortion, because in this case, the action is not taken to directly and purposefully end the life of the child. It’s a tragic side-effect of life-saving treatment for mom.”

What the Church Says: CCC 2250, 2271, 2274-2275

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“What about in the case of parents who just learned their unborn baby has a life-threatening health problem? An abortion eases a lifetime of pain for both them and the child.”

Pro-Life Response:

“These scenarios are terrifying. Anything that involves this kind of life-changing news is scary. But I don’t believe that abortion ‘eases’ anything about it. It simply cuts a life short.

If my sister was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I would be devastated and heartbroken. But I wouldn’t shorten our time together. I’d want to embrace it, and spend as much time with her as possible. I think she’d want that too.”

What the Church Says: CCC 1703, 2274-2275

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“I’m personally pro-life, but I don’t believe I should impose my religious beliefs on anyone else.”

Pro-Life Response:

“I am 100% in support of religious freedom, but I also don’t see abortion as a religious issue. I see it as an inalienable right for everyone. Being pro-life means you probably believe that a fetus is indeed alive, and that abortion ends that life.

If you believe your own child has a right to life, shouldn’t you be granting those same rights to the lives of the children of others? Shouldn’t we be fighting for their rights since they can’t yet fight for themselves?”

What the Church Says: CCC 1703, 2273, 2294

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“Pro-lifers aren’t really ‘pro-life.’ They’re simply ‘pro-birth.’ They don’t care about the quality of life of mother and child after the baby is born.”

Pro-Life Response:

“I’m really sorry this has been your experience, but I don’t think that’s true of all pro-lifers.

In fact, I agree with you that mom and baby need help for much longer than just the nine months of pregnancy. Did you see this tweet and all the responses it got? A lot of people support moms in difficult situations!”

What the Church Says: CCC 1435, 2208, Mt 25:31-46

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“There are already too many kids in the foster care system. And the system itself is rotten. It would be better for these children had they never been born.”

Pro-Life Response:

“I’m really concerned with children who find themselves in foster care. And I agree, the system really needs an overhaul.

But that’s actually a totally different topic than abortion. People being in need is not a reason to deny life to totally different human beings. Especially since there is absolutely no shortage of parents who want to adopt newborns. I also know there are a lot of people who grew up within the foster care system who still think their lives are worth living, regardless of the hardships they’ve faced.”

What the Church Says: CCC 1703

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“It’s the woman’s body, so it’s 100% her choice. No one can tell her what to do with her body.”

Pro-Life Response:

“Speaking anatomically, the baby is actually not a part of the mother’s body.

In fact, a lesser known function of the placenta and the umbilical cord is to keep the circulatory system of mom and baby separate. If their blood were to intermingle, it would cause serious health problems for mom and baby.

Thus, a better biological understanding of the placenta and the umbilical cord actually highlights that the baby is not a part of the mom, but a being that is 100% separate.

Mom’s body is certainly affected by the pregnancy, but there is another body there that does not belong to her. I think that person has just as many rights as his or her mother.”

What the Church Says: CCC 1703, 2294

Pro-Choice Talking Point:

“I know several women who have had an abortion and they’re glad they did.”

Pro-Life Response:

“I am not assuming this is untrue. But I do question its validity long-term for these women. I’m not trying to take anything away from their personal voices, I’m just curious as to whether that will be the case for the remainder of their lives.

There are many secular studies which show the negative effects abortion has on women psychologically, the most comprehensive of which concludes an 81% increase in mental health issues. And this seems to be true based on the women who have needed help in regards to healing because of the experience.

For every woman who says she doesn’t regret her abortion, there are others who say they do. Some of them are the strongest advocates against abortion now because of their past experience.

Here are a couple of resources—both pro-life and pro-choice—that speak about the effects abortions have had on women. Obviously, pro-life sources highlight the negative effects, pro-choice groups downplay them. The important thing to notice, though, is that negative side effects are noted by both sides.

What the Church Says: CCC 1756, 1768

The ¼ Ratio Success Rate

Friends, don’t be pressured into thinking that the first conversation with a pro-choice friend has to cover every single point.

In fact, you may not even do anything besides listen and agree with certain points during the first few conversations. Your pro-life arguments may have to wait for another time.

In case your pro-choice friend happens to make a point that stumps you, don’t be afraid to ask, “Can we talk again after I’ve had time to think and study on this more?”

It’s actually more beneficial if you can make this an ongoing occurrence and build a loving relationship with them. After all, “love never fails.” 

Get them to love you, and they’ll follow you anywhere.

 

Being Worthy Witnesses

The most consistent thing we can do for the pro-life movement is to be a witness for truth. This means lovingly taking a stand for life.

Speaking up for the unborn is vitally important. Each time I present pro-life arguments, I hear the words of St. Bernadette Soubirous, “My job is to inform, not to convince.”

I do not expect to change anyone’s heart—I can’t do that. Only God can do that, and only if the individual is willing.

My exchanges with people who are pro-choice should resemble the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. Only ¼ of the seeds scattered fell on good ground, took root, and bore fruit. Regardless, the sower sowed everywhere.

So go scatter with love and care.

What (Not) to Say to Your Pro-Choice Friends (+ Pro-Life Arguments that Actually Work) #BISblog // Click To Tweet

More Resources for Pro-Life Arguments that Actually Work

What’s My Pro-Life Line?

Secular Pro-Life

Rachel’s Vineyard: Healing from Abortion

Hope After Abortion: Project Rachel

“I’m Personally Pro-Life, But…” (video)

Radiance Foundation (founded by Ryan Bomberger, who was conceived in rape)

“I am Not the Residue of the Rapist. I am the Resilience of my Birth Mom” (video)

“It Is Never Necessary to Intentionally Kill a Fetal Human Being to Save a Woman’s Life”—Many Doctors’ Perspectives

Pro-Life Management of Ectopic Pregnancy

Twitter thread: “What have you personally done to support lower-income single mothers?”

Silent No More (video testimonies of post-abortive mothers)

Grace Bellon is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She’s a lover of bearded men, rich coffee, cheesy puns, cuddly doggies, and Catholicism. You can find out more about her here (warned ya she liked cheesy puns).

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    see mary read
    June 1, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you for this post. So much good information on how to discuss this topic. It is a challenging/perplexing time with some states passing pro-life laws, while other states, including Illinois, where I live, are passing extreme abortion rights bills. The reminder to have conversations from a place of civility and love is important, especially because news coverage is often so combative.

    • Reply
      Grace B
      June 1, 2019 at 10:12 pm

      Agreed! While as Catholics we believe in objective truth, it does not give us the freedom to be so fired up that we forgot about love! We’re allowed to like and be friends with people who think differently than we do!

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    June 1, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    Thank you for writing this!

    • Reply
      Grace
      June 9, 2019 at 8:42 pm

      You’re welcome!

  • Reply
    Whitney
    June 2, 2019 at 3:27 pm

    Thank you so much for this resource — it is so important to be able to have more fruitful conversations with pro-choice friends.

    Something to add in regards to the issue of rape… Access to legal abortion might actually contribute to the existence of “rape culture” in that it takes away the natural consequence of the act. If a rapist believes that a child will, in all likelihood, result from an attack, then wouldn’t he be less likely to act on his impulses?

    And something to add in response to the argument of the broken foster care system… As of right now, there is a significant amount of money (both public and private funding) that goes towards supporting abortion clinics. What if we were able to divert these funds to fixing that broken system?

    Just some additional food for thought!!

    Again, thank you so much for writing this piece.

    • Reply
      Grace
      June 9, 2019 at 8:45 pm

      Both are great points to add! I agree completely! Sometimes when writing a piece like this, it can be hard to remember everything and hit every point! Thanks for the “addition” — hope others see it too!

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