Abortion is an injustice. Pro-life people are passionate about ending it. Those are good things. But they are no excuse for name-calling. Unfortunately, some pro-lifers make really mean and nasty comments toward pro-choice people. This needs to stop and I intend to show you why.
Consider a recent talk by atheist writer Phil Plait, colorfully titled "Don't be a Dick." Plait was speaking to atheists and telling them not to be jerks to religious people, but his message can be applied to any area of contention.
I believe the pro-life position is true. But at least as important, if not more so, than being true is being persuasive. What good is being right if you can't persuade anyone to your point of view?
As Plait asked in his speech, when was the last time someone changed your mind by getting in your face and calling you a brain-damaged idiot? Conversely, how is it you expect to be able to change a pro-choice person's mind by calling them an evil baby-killer?
No, we cannot and should not downplay the wrongness of abortion or ignore its victims. Having that conversation may be uncomfortable when talking to post-abortive people, but the hope is that they will come to the realization that what they did was wrong so they can get past it. How do you expect that to happen if you open the conversation by calling the person a murderer? The short answer is, it won't.
Not all post-abortive women (and men) are murderers. There are any number of reasons people have abortions of varying moral culpability: Undoubtedly, many women do have abortions knowing full well what they are doing. But not all women are the same. Our society has failed them by providing false information about the unborn child, and abortion "counselors" have exacerbated that failure. Sometimes a young girl is pregnant and scared and thinks abortion is her only way out. Many women and girls are coerced into abortions by their boyfriends and/or parents. But whatever the situation, the key question is: what is the most persuasive? Is it more persuasive to call a pro-choice person a baby-killer, or to make your case as to why abortion is murder and help them realize what it is they are really supporting?
The old Biblical saying about "speaking the truth in love" seems to have given way to a new belief that the mere act of speaking the truth is loving in and of itself. But telling the truth can be loving or unloving, depending in large part on the speaker's attitude. Ask yourself: are you truly interested in seeing the person in front of you reject a false belief and accept a true one? Or are you mainly concerned with being right? Love requires respect. It means taking the person seriously and trying to understand their position, even if you vehemently disagree or find their ideas to be ridiculous. Isn't that how you would want a pro-choice person to treat you?
As pro-life people, we have much to gain—yet there is much to lose if we fail to concern ourselves with being persuasive. There are unborn children at stake. Shouldn't we put our pride aside and engage in persuasive, productive conversations? We have science and philosophy on our side, but we also have intense stereotypes and caricatures to overcome. Name-calling only reinforces those caricatures and makes it more difficult to convince pro-choicers to drop their support of abortion.
[Editor's note: for more information about persuasively making the pro-life case, visit the Equal Rights Institute.]