I realized a while ago that debates are pointless. All they do is try to prove the other person wrong rather than bring about greater knowledge of the good. Think about it – the nature of a debate is to locate the weakness in a person’s argument so that you can exploit it to the benefit of your own argument. This does nothing to open your mind – or theirs – to the topic that is actually at hand. Furthermore, rather than listening to what the other person is actually saying, what the meaning is in their words, debate lends itself to merely listening to the words and finding their fault, not seeing their truth. Consequently, when you are solely focused on proving another wrong, even if you “win” the debate, you have done little to change their minds. Most people hold on even tighter to their original belief once it has been proven wrong (don’t believe me? Look up the University of Michigan’s 2005-2006 “Backfire Study”!). What’s the point in that? You might have shut them up, but for what end?
So I don’t debate anymore. I don’t have a problem with the practice of it, but I’m not interested in it because I am much more interested in the hearts and minds of those with whom I am speaking. And, I have discovered, if you truly want to win a dispute, you will be focused on the hearts and minds of others. If you win the heart and mind of your opponent to your side, then you have grown in holiness and truth, rather than just argumentative prowess and the ability to prove one another right or wrong.
I believe that this sort of conversation is especially necessary in a movement such as the pro-life movement. What we are up against is so loud, so controlling, so evil in nature that merely proving our opposition wrong won’t accomplish much. In fact, we’re already seeing that it doesn’t do us much good (as seen by scientists and “ethicists” arguing for “post birth” abortion: http://liveactionnews.org/outrageous-ethicists-argue-for-acceptance-of-after-birth-abortions/). They took our argument and said “you’re right. So what if it’s a person?” We proved them wrong and they bit the bullet.
If we want to end the culture of death, we need a different approach. We need something that will show these people that pro-lifers are people, too. We need something that will show them we are normal; that we love them. Only then will they be open to the meaning of our words, not the weaknesses in them.
In one of my first philosophy classes my professor told us “you will never get anywhere unless you understand what the other person is saying. Don’t assume that they are being dishonest. Rather, look at what they are saying and ask yourself ‘what must they be thinking or assuming for what they are arguing to be true and rational?’ Only then are you legitimized in disagreeing and arguing with them, because only then do you give their argument credence.”
We need to listen to pro-choicers.
After all, as the old saying goes, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Pro-choicers don’t feel loved by us because they don’t feel listened to by us. Why do they scream? Because, on some level, they must think that that is the only way to get through our thick skulls why it is that they are right.
What would happen if we listened to them? What if we heard what they are actually saying, not what we think they are saying, not what we want them to say? What they are actually saying. What do their words mean? What must they be assuming for what they say to be true and rational? We especially need to listen to pro-choicers because of the evil that influences and directs their movement. Only in listening can we locate the pain and fear which motivates their movement and excites their passion. Only when we understand their fear can we respond to it with the appropriate love that dispels all fear and sin and leads to life and joy.
What do pro-choicers say? Why do they call themselves “pro-choice”? I think the answer to what they believe – and therefore why they say what they say – is in the name they have chosen for themselves.
Pro-choicers are always saying confusing things like “don’t go back,” “my body, my choice,” “freedom to choose,” “reproductive freedom,” “being in control of my body,” and referencing “back alley abortions” and “the coat hanger method.” Finally, my personal favorite, and the most confusing of all, “no one is ‘pro-abortion,’” in response to the pro-life habit of referring to them as “pro-aborts.”
All of these things have always sounded completely loony to me. What are these people talking about? If you are advocating a “choice” and the “choice” you advocate for is the right for an abortion, how can you say that “no one is pro-abortion”? But if we take a second to open our minds to them, all of these statements give us a clue to the pro-choice mindset. What’s more, these sayings don’t give us simply an insight into their minds. They show us how pro-choicers understand a world without abortion.
Let’s start with “no one is ‘pro-abortion.’” I believe that pro-choicers agree with pro-lifers. When a woman finds herself in a crisis pregnancy, she often doesn’t feel like she has a choice. She has an abortion because she has no choice. This has always been a pro-life argument against abortion, but what do pro-choicers say?
Pro-choicers see a woman who has a child she wasn’t expecting or doesn’t want as suddenly shoved into and chained to a life she doesn’t want. Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, this newly made mother finds herself in a world where her dreams and goals have become victim to her fertility. She finds herself in a position of incompatibility – motherhood and her dreams are incompatible, and this thought is so distressing that this woman becomes miserable. In fact, this woman finds herself in such a dark place that she would rather risk her life in a back-alley or “coat hanger” abortion, with the hope that by doing so she may get her life back, than spend her days trapped in the confines of baking and lonely motherhood. Her only choice to avoid this bleak outcome is to have an abortion. No, she does not have a choice, but by pursuing an abortion she is ensuring that she will have choices later on.
A world without abortion, for pro-choicers then, is a very dark world. A world where women have no choices other than being baby making machines, trapped in a 1950s-esque existence, without the pretense that this life is somehow fulfilling. To be pro-choice, for pro-choicers, is not to be pro-abortion, but rather to be pro-all-of-the-choices-that-the-woman-now-has-because-she-is-not-trapped-in-the-confines-of-1950s-fertility. “Pro-choice,” just sounds catchier and is easier to say. By having an abortion, a woman can remain in control of her life and body, rather than submit her life to the whims of her fertility or her failed contraception. Rather than become a baby-machine, she is free to use her body to pursue her dreams when she makes the decision not to allow her fertility to control her by having an abortion, something she tried to do responsibly through a contraception that has since failed her.
To pro-choicers, a world without abortion is a horrid place where women can’t pursue their dreams. To them, it’s a world where a woman must do as a man says for the simple reason that he is man and she is woman. It’s a world where motherhood traps women in a bitter, small life. Where women are used with no respect shown to their wishes, their desires, or their bodies. To be pro-choice is to recognize that the woman must not be punished for one mistake by losing all of her hopes and dreams.
Pro-choicers honestly believe that this is what a world without abortion looks like. And if they were right, I wouldn’t blame them for hating it. I hate it. No one wants to live in such a world. Of course they want to avoid such an existence – I do too.
Thus, I begin to understand why pro-choicers hate pro-lifers so much. Pro-choicers think that we see a world without abortion in the same way as they do, and we advocate for it. They think that we want to go back to a time where women listened to men for the sole reason that he is man and she is woman. They honestly believe that we want women to give up everything they’ve worked hard for and be confined in a kitchen, watching out the window as their dreams fade into dust. No wonder they see themselves as the truly compassionate ones. If that’s how you view a world without abortion and you see other people advocating for that world, then I don’t blame you for hating the other side. I don’t blame you for hating that world. I would hate that world. I would detest someone who argued for a “woman, know your place!” society.
What a sad and scary world these people must live in. To have an abortion, then, is truly a decision made out of fear – “I fear that if I don’t have an abortion, I’ll never be able to pursue my dreams. I’m afraid I’ll never be happy.”
What we as pro-lifers must do, what we are called to do, is to make it clear to our pro-choice brethren that we get it. We understand. We realize how it is that they see world without abortion, and we don’t want that either. We must find this common ground. We must show them that we see a world where a woman’s fertility is not contrary to her success. Where a woman can live in harmony with her body and her baby. Where all rights are respected because a child’s right to life is not in conflict with his mother’s right to pursue happiness. Where we need not be afraid, nor make decisions out of fear, because we are beloved children of God who knows us and has a plan for us, as the Lord promises in Jeremiah 29:11: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
What we owe to ourselves, to our movement, and to our lost and frightened pro-choice brethren is a recognition of what a world without abortion really would look like. We must define it. We must recognize what we are fighting for; what we believe we can accomplish. We must show the world that a world without abortion is truly a good world, a happy world, a world of freedom.