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WHAT'S THE ISSUE?
The abortion controversy is not a debate between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti-choice. It's not about privacy. It's not about trusting women to decide. It's not about forcing one's morality. It's about one question that trumps all others.
EMILY NEVER SAW IT COMING. A fifteen-year friendship was on the brink of disaster over one word. Abortion.
She met Pam at a Christian college, and the relationship paid off immediately. Emily excelled at language and history, while Pam was a math and science whiz. Together they could tackle any required course, and they did. Both graduated with honors a semester ahead of their classmates. Within a year they both married their college sweethearts. Later, when kids came along and budgets got tight, they swapped baby clothes and enjoyed occasional sack lunches together. Even when a job change forced Pam to move fifty miles away, they still managed to meet for coffee at least once a month. Emily looked forward to her times with Pam. She needed escape from the kids, not to mention the endless grind of household chores. Pam was easy to talk to, optimistic, and always lifted Emily's spirits. Sometimes they shared prayer requests.
Now Emily wondered if they would ever feel connected again. For the hundredth time that night, she replayed the conversation that started it all.
Pam: Emily, did I tell you that my niece, Sarah, is pregnant?
Emily: What? You mean the one in California? We've never met, but you talk about her a lot.
Pam: Yes, that's the one. You'd love her. She's nineteen and a freshman at college. Sweet, sweet girl. Smart as a whip and drop-dead gorgeous. I would have never thought ...
Emily: Did her parents have any clue she was in trouble?
Pam: None. Sarah attends church religiously and never had a serious boyfriend before Jack. They met over the summer and attend the same university. He swept her right off her feet.
Emily: What about his parents?
Pam: Seldom home and very liberal. Sarah told Jack she wanted to wait, but with no adults around, well, you can guess the rest.
Emily: I don't have to. Have they talked to their pastor?
Pam: Well, Sarah has one, but Jack's not the churchgoing type. He's very liberal, like his parents. Says Christianity is a bunch of fairy tales, a crutch for the weak.
Emily: You mean she's romantically involved with a non-Christian?
Pam: Yep. I tried to warn her, but she insisted she could change him. Even now, she thinks he'll change if given enough time.
Emily: Oh dear. Since when has that ever worked? We used to call that missionary dating.
Pam: Yeah, only in this case, the "missionary" is pregnant. And her mission "project" wants out. He'll pay for the abortion, but that's it.
Emily: But what if she doesn't want one? What if she keeps the child?
Pam: I guess he won't stick around to find out.
Emily: What a loser! He's going to bolt no matter what she does. What's she thinking?
Pam: Right now, only about keeping him, whatever it takes.
Emily: How about her parents?
Pam: Funny you ask. They're supportive but think Jack has a point.
Emily: What? You mean they think abortion might be an option?
Pam: Jack told Sarah that if she has this baby, she'll never finish college and won't make enough money to support herself. She'll also forfeit a promising modeling career and cause her parents untold embarrassment in the community. Her dad's a deacon, you know. Maybe Jack's on to something.
Emily: What did you say?
Pam: Only that Sarah stands to lose a lot and needs to think about what Jack said.
Emily: What do you mean by that? You aren't saying you buy what Jack's telling her, are you?
Pam: Personally, no. I oppose abortion and would never have one. But if Sarah thinks it's the right decision for her at this time, it's not my place to judge. I've never walked in her shoes.
Emily: Pam, I'm shocked. How could killing an innocent human being ever be the right call?
Pam: I personally don't think it is. Like I said, I don't like abortion one bit. I hope she keeps the baby. But it's not my decision. If you and I don't like abortion, we shouldn't have one. But Sarah may feel differently, and we shouldn't force our views on her.
Emily: I still don't understand. How can a Christian ever say abortion is okay just because it would solve a difficult life problem?
Pam: No, no, you've got me all wrong. I hate abortion. Like I said, I personally think she should keep the baby. That's what my preference would be. But she has to decide for herself what's best in this situation. It's not my place to say what's right or wrong. None of us are in a position to judge. And you certainly don't want the government getting involved in her personal life, do you?
Emily: Pam, it's not about that.
Pam: Consider the consequences, Emily. If abortion is made illegal, Sarah and girls like her will be forced to get dangerous illegal abortions. They'll get thrown in jail if caught. I can't even imagine that. And if they're raped, they'll be forced to give birth to a child that will forever remind them of that terrible event.
Emily: I still don't understand. How does any of that make abortion right?
Pam: Think about it, Emily. If your daughter gets in a tough spot, do you want her going to some guy with a rusty coat hanger in a back alley? You never know — she could get pregnant, like Sarah.
Emily: Let's hope not, but even if she does, right and wrong don't change just because we dislike the consequences of our choices. God might have something to say about this, you know.
Pam: Emily, don't think it can't happen to your kids or mine. I seem to remember both of us getting into some tough spots in college.
Emily: Yes, but ...
Pam: So why should it be any different with our daughters? Besides, the Bible never says abortion is wrong. It doesn't even mention the word. I'm sure that's why my pastor never talks about it.
Emily: Wait ... Are you saying the Bible is okay with abortion?
Pam: Again, I just don't think we should force our morals on others, and you aren't going to change my mind about that. Sarah has a right to make her own private decisions. Besides, how's she going to care for this baby anyway? There are so many abused and abandoned kids out there. Who's going to pay for them all? Besides, Sarah could become dirt-poor trying to raise this kid on her own. She needs to think about all this. It's not our place to judge her.
Emily: Pam, let's talk about this later. Nothing I say right now will convince you.
Although the above conversation is contrived, the content of the exchange is very real. When it comes to abortion, many pro-life Christians don't know what to say. They're caught completely off-guard just like Emily was. Sure, they have pro-life convictions, but defending those convictions with friends and coworkers is another matter altogether. Better to stay silent and avoid embarrassment. Who wants to stir up a hornet's nest the way Emily did?
The good news is, you don't have to surrender in silence. There's a better way. Simplify the debate by focusing on the one question that truly matters: What is the unborn?
Emily didn't realize it, but Pam was cheating. Not that Pam meant to — she was just repeating what she'd heard abortion-choice advocates say in the popular media. Nevertheless, she was cheating by assuming the very thing she was trying to prove.
Put simply, each of her objections assumed that the unborn are not human beings. However, instead of proving that conclusion with facts and arguments, she merely assumed it within the course of her rhetoric. We call this begging the question, and as Francis J. Beckwith points out, it's a logical fallacy that lurks behind many arguments for abortion. For example, consider Pam's claim that we shouldn't force our views on others. Do you think she would say such a thing if someone wanted the right to choose to kill toddlers? There's no way. Only by assuming the unborn aren't human can she make such a claim. Or take her objection that government shouldn't get involved in our personal decisions. Can you imagine, even for a moment, Pam arguing this way if the topic were child abuse? Again her objection only flies if she assumes the unborn isn't already a child. If he is one, abortion is the worst kind of child abuse imaginable. Pam also asserts that if we restrict abortion, women will be forced to get dangerous back-alley abortions. We'll take up that specific objection in a later chapter, but notice that it, too, assumes that the unborn are not human. Otherwise she is claiming that because some people will die attempting to kill others, the state should make it safe and legal for them to do so.
I AGREE, IF ...
Nadine Strossen is the former president of the ACLU, and I consider her a friend. She is pleasant, and I enjoy her company each time we debate. I wish more of my opponents were like her.
During a January 2008 Worldview Forum at Malone College (in Canton, Ohio), Nadine and I debated abortion in front of a full house of a thousand students, faculty, and others. The ACLU of Ohio even reserved one hundred seats in advance. This was our second debate in the course of a year. The theme of our exchange was "Abortion: Legal Right or Moral Wrong?"
The coin toss went to Nadine, which meant she got to speak first. She tried to frame the debate with an appeal to reproductive freedom. To paraphrase her case, reproductive freedom means the ability to choose whether or not to have children according to one's own personal religious beliefs. That freedom is necessary if all persons are to lead lives of self-determination, opportunity, and human dignity. She repeatedly stressed our need to work together to reduce the high number of abortions, by which she meant pro-lifers should support tax-funded birth control programs.
Notice the question-begging nature of her claim. She simply assumed that the unborn are not human beings. Would she make this same claim for human freedom and self-determination if the debate were about killing toddlers instead of fetuses?
To help the audience see the problem, I began my own opening speech by saying the following (paraphrased for brevity):
Men and women, I agree completely with everything Nadine just said. She's right that abortion is a personal, private matter that should not be restricted in any way. She's right that we shouldn't interfere with personal choices. She's right that pro-lifers should stay out of this decision. Yes, I agree completely if. If what? If the unborn are not human beings. And if Nadine can demonstrate that the unborn are not members of the human family, I will concede this exchange, and so should everyone else who is pro-life.
Contrary to what some may think, the issue that divides Nadine and me is not that she is pro-choice and I am anti-choice. Truth is, I am vigorously "pro-choice" when it comes to women choosing a number of moral goods. I support a woman's right to choose her own health care provider, to choose her own school, to choose her own husband, to choose her own job, to choose her own religion, and to choose her own career, to name a few. These are among the many choices that I fully support for the women of our country. But some choices are wrong, like killing innocent human beings simply because they are in the way and cannot defend themselves. No, we shouldn't be allowed to choose that. So, again, the issue that separates Nadine and me is not that she is pro-choice and I am anti-choice. The issue that divides us is just one question: What is the unborn? Let me be clear: If the unborn is a human being, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own inherent moral worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, killing them through elective abortion requires no more justification than having your tooth pulled.
In short, I was willing to buy her argument for freedom and self-determination, but only if she could demonstrate that the unborn are not human beings. I then argued scientifically that the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings, a case we'll take up in the next chapter.
Framing the exchange around the status of the unborn set the tone for the entire evening and allowed me to ask good questions later in the debate. For example, during cross-examination I asked Nadine why the high number of abortions troubled her. After all, if abortion does not take the life of a defenseless human being, why worry about reducing it?
Notice that I made my case in two steps. First, I simplified the debate by focusing public attention on just one question: What is the unborn? Second, I argued for my pro-life view.
This two-part strategy is the same whether your audience has one person or a thousand. Consider Pam's objection to Emily's pro-life stance: "You certainly don't want the government getting involved in Sarah's personal life, do you?" Suppose Emily replied as follows: "Pam, if Sarah were talking about killing her toddler to solve a difficult life problem, would you object to the government telling her she can't do that?" There's no way Pam's going to say yes. Instead, she'll likely say, "Well, that's different — it's not the same thing."
Oh, really? Not the same? How so? As you can see, Pam is assuming that the unborn are not human. Emily's question exposed that assumption and refocused the discussion on the status of the unborn. The strategy is clear: first simplify, then argue. Let's examine those two steps in more detail.
STEP #1: SIMPLIFY THE ISSUE
If you think a particular argument for elective abortion begs the question regarding the status of the unborn, here's how to clarify things: Ask if this particular justification for abortion also works as a justification for killing toddlers. If not, the argument assumes that the unborn are not fully human. I call this tactic "Trot out the Toddler," and it's illustrated in the dialogue below. The purpose is not to argue for the humanity of the unborn (you'll do that later) but to frame the debate around one question: What is the unborn?
Let's revisit the exchange between Pam and Emily. Pam justified abortion with an appeal to privacy. She also said that poor women can't afford any additional children. Again, only by assuming that the unborn are not human do these appeals have any force whatsoever. Here's how Emily might have clarified the issue and exposed Pam's hidden assumptions about the unborn:
Emily: Pam, you say that privacy is the issue. Pretend that I have a two-year-old in front of me. (She holds out her hand at waist level to illustrate this.) May I kill him as long as I do it in the privacy of the bedroom?
Pam: That's silly — of course not!
Emily: Why not?
Pam: Because he's a human being.
Emily: Ah. If the unborn are human, like the toddler, we shouldn't kill the unborn in the name of privacy any more than we'd kill a toddler for that reason.
Pam: You're comparing apples with oranges, two things that are completely unrelated. Look, killing toddlers is one thing. Killing a fetus that is not a human being is quite another.
Emily: Ah. That's the issue, isn't it? Are the unborn human beings, like toddlers? That is the one issue that matters.
Pam: But many poor women cannot afford to raise another child.
Emily: When human beings get expensive, may we kill them? Getting back to my toddler example, suppose a large family collectively decides to quietly dispose of its three youngest children to help ease the family budget. Would this be okay?
Pam: Well, no, but aborting a fetus is not the same as killing children.
Emily: So once again the issue is, what is the unborn? Is the fetus the same as a human being? We can't escape that question, can we?
Again, notice that Emily has not yet argued for the humanity of the unborn or made any case for the pro-life view whatsoever. She'll do that later. For now all she's doing is framing the issue around one question: What is the unborn? That is the crux of the debate, and it clarifies many of the toughest questions, including the rape objection.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Case for Life"
Copyright © 2009 Scott L. Klusendorf.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part One Pro-Life Christians Clarify the Debate,
1 What's the Issue?,
2 What Is the Unborn?,
3 What Makes Humans Valuable?,
4 Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Morally Complex?,
Part Two Pro-Life Christians Establish a Foundation for the Debate,
5 The Ground Rules, Part 1: Can You Name My Claim?,
6 The Ground Rules, Part 2: Is Moral Neutrality Possible?,
7 Foundations: Does God Matter? (Or Am I Just Matter?),
8 Dead Silence: Does the Bible Justify Abortion?,
Part Three Pro-Life Christians Answer Objections Persuasively,
9 From Debate to Dialogue: Asking the Right Questions,
10 The Coat Hanger Objection: "Women Will Die from Illegal Abortions",
11 The Tolerance Objection: "You Shouldn't Force Your Views on Others",
12 The Single Issue Objection: "Pro-Lifers Should Broaden Their Focus",
13 The Hard Cases Objection: "Rape Justifies Abortion",
14 The "I Don't Like You" Objection: "Men Can't Get Pregnant" and Other Personal Attacks,
15 The Bodily Autonomy Objection: "It's My Body, I'll Decide",
Part Four Pro-Life Christians Teach and Equip,
16 Equip to Engage: The Pro-Life Pastor in the Twenty-First Century,
17 Healed and Equipped: Hope for Post-Abortion Men and Women,
18 Here We Stand: Co-Belligerence without Theological Compromise,
19 Can We Win? How Pro-Life Christians Are Making an Extraordinary Impact,
Appendix: Training Resources,
What People are Saying About This
"Scott Klusendorf has produced a marvelous resource that will equip pro-lifers to communicate more creatively and effectively as they engage our culture. The Case for Life is well-researched, well-written, logical, and clear, containing many pithy and memorable statements. Those already pro-life will be equipped; those on the fence will likely be persuaded. Readers looking to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves will find much here to say. I highly recommend this book."Randy Alcorn, author, Heaven; If God Is Good; and Hand in Hand
"Scott Klusendorf takes the insights and methods for defending the right to life he so effectively communicates in his teaching presentations into a book that provides a clear and cogent biblical rationale for the sanctity and dignity of life, born or unborn. This is a great tool for the layman who knows he or she is pro-life, but doesn't understand the presuppositions on which his or her beliefs are based or who doesn't feel equipped to defend or discuss the issue with others."Charles Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview
"The Case for Life is a veritable feast of helpful information about pro-life issues, the finest resource about these matters I have seen. It is accessible to the layperson, and it lays out a strategy for impacting the world for a culture of life." J. P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
"The Case for Life has set a new standard for pro-life apologetics. Accessible for the layperson, Scott has articulated and refuted every major and minor pro-choice objection to the pro-life position." Barbara Shackelford, Executive Director, A Women's Pregnancy Center, Tallahassee, Florida
"Scott Klusendorf's accessible, winsomely-written book presents a well-reasoned, comprehensive case for intrinsic human dignity and worth. Klusendorf not only equips the reader with incisive, insightful responses to pro-abortion arguments, he also presents a full defense of the biblical worldview." Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University
"This book will equip the reader to articulate both a philosophical case and a biblical case for life and to answer intelligently and persuasively the main objections to the pro-life position. It is easy to follow and hard to put down." Patrick Lee, McAleer Professor of Bioethics, Director, Institute of Bioethics, Franciscan University of Steubenville
"The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage Culture by Scott Klusendorf is prophetic and practical. It is prophetic in the sense that it makes a clear and undeniable argument based on truth about human value. It gives a biblically informed pro-life view. It is practical because it provides pro-life advocates a toolbox for offering understandable defenses for the unborn. It shows how to logically answer objections and move a debate to a dialogue. As a pastor, I was challenged, informed, and inspired to confidently and graciously make a difference in my generation for the cause of life."Jimmy Dale Patterson, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Newman, Georgia