You thought this would be a typical family get-together, but right now you’re sweating bullets.
Everything was going well until Aunty Jane decided to challenge you from across the dinner table: “Tell me why you are pro-life. Why would anyone believe like you do?”
You’ve just been called out in front of the entire extended family. And Aunty Jane isn’t just asking for your opinion. She’s got Christianity itself in her crosshairs. She wants to know if your faith is tough enough to cut it in the real world – and you only have a minute or so to give her something to think about before dessert is served.
Make your pro-life case in one minute or less
You don’t need a graduate degree to say something persuasive. You just need to be clear and on point. Get your stopwatch ready, because I’m about to give you a one-minute case for the pro-life position that works with your skeptical Aunty Jane or even a reporter for the local news. Then, I’ll show you how to defend it.
Here’s your one-minute soundbite:
“Aunty Jane, I am pro-life because the science of embryology establishes that from the earliest stages of development, you were a distinct, living and whole human being. You weren’t part of another human being like skin cells on the back of my hand; you were already a whole living member of the human family even though you had yet to mature.
“There is no essential difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that somehow justifies killing you at that earlier stage of development. Differences of size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency are not good reasons for saying you could be killed then but not now.”
Did you time it? I did. I made that pro-life case in 48 seconds. And you can, too!
But can you defend it?
Yes, you can! And you can do it with three easy steps. Remember: Your job isn’t to close the deal. Ultimately, it’s God who changes hearts and minds. Your job, writes apologist Greg Koukl, is to “put a pebble in their shoe.” That is, give them something to think about that will wear on them until the stop to deal with it.
Step 1: Define your terms
Abortion is the intentional killing of a human fetus. This definition begs no questions and is generally agreed upon by many in the debate.1
Step 2: Set the ground rules
Arguments don’t have gender. People do. There is no such thing as a “woman’s perspective” on abortion that trumps all rational inquiries into the subject. Indeed, many feminists – let alone women in general – don’t even agree on the issue. For example, feminist Naomi Wolf calls abortion “a real death,” while feminist Katha Pollitt thinks it’s no different than vacuuming out your house!
In short, gender is irrelevant. What matter are the arguments that must be advanced and defended.
Step 3: Make your case
The pro-life argument cannot be dismissed as “religious,” though secularists will often try to paint it that way. Arguments are either true or false; valid or invalid. As philosopher Francis J. Beckwith points out, calling an argument “religious” is a category error like asking, “How tall is the number 5?”
In short, it’s not enough for critics to dismiss our case. They must do the hard work of refuting it.
- Christopher Kaczor, The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice (New York: Routledge, 2011) p.8.