PBS302H: The Vanishing Pro-Life Apologist

Other ideas / To Sort

Key question: What is this about? It's not about laws or education, it's not about AVP or no AVP, this debate is about focusing on the child or focusing on the mother. Some of this ideas don't fit and should be filed elsewhere. — Blaise Alleyne 2024/03/06 11:42

This was a great conversation:

FIXME Alexis insight: Heart Apologetics is the bridge between apologetics and Paul Swope's research and insights

FIXME http://blog.secularprolife.org/2019/09/should-we-make-abortion-unthinkable-or.html?fbclid=IwAR2eNIKY5W98SyLknqDyBIkp_j57LSilnWGL7pDFWfsSBEPF-ra9L9UJXG8

Francis Beckwith

http://www.firstthings.com/article/1998/10/october-letters (also with a response from Paul Swope)

  1. Mr. Swope is mistaken in thinking that Americans in general have accepted the pro-life view that the unborn are fully human even though they still support legalized abortion
    • It is true that polling data have consistently shown that a vast majority of people see abortion as wrong, even morally wrong. But in public discourse they relegate abortion to a question of personal preference, something they do not do when it comes to behaviors they consider seriously wrong, such as spousal and child abuse, torture, and human slavery
  2. One can question whether the research cited by Mr. Swope is an example of good social science, and whether the inferences he draws from this data are justified
    1. Mr. Swope does not have counterfactual knowledge of how the world would have been if the pro-life movement had not emphasized fetal humanity from its genesis. Perhaps his approach seems to work because the pro-life movement's emphasis on fetal humanity has helped impede a worse situation.
    2. Even if Mr. Swope's approach “works” in reducing the number of abortions, it does not follow that our culture is becoming pro-life. His emphasis on appealing to the pregnant woman's self-interest (rather than her moral obligation not to kill her own child) in order to persuade her not to have an abortion may result in nurturing the type of mentality that makes abortion more acceptable even though it may become (for a time) rarer in practice. After all, there are some cases where abortion may benefit the pregnant woman. Mr. Swope has no principled argument against that sort of abortion.
    3. Because Mr. Swope admits that women who have abortions oftentimes rationalize what they are doing, how can he trust these women to give an adequate assessment of their own reasons for the abortions he admits are the result of the perverse deliberations of self-interested moral agents?

“Mr. Swope is right that we should do more than stress the humanity of the unborn, but we should not do less. In my judgment, there are three things that must be done in order to facilitate cultural change.”

  1. we must persuade our fellow citizens that the unborn are full members of the human community
  2. we must show that if the unborn are human persons, one cannot be “pro-choice” on abortion and at the same time maintain that the unborn are fully human, just as one cannot be pro-choice on slavery and at the same time say that slaves are human persons
  3. we must show, both in word and in deed, that living virtuously and not autonomously is the essence of the moral life. Mr. Swope seems to stress autonomy, the first principle of the abortion culture, rather than virtue, the moral goal of the Gospel of Life.

Paul Swope's reply

I am reminded of the famous line in My Fair Lady, “Why can't a woman be more like a man?” Indeed, why can't women be more like Professor Beckwith? I very much agree with Prof. Beckwith's pro-life convictions, including his trenchant analysis of the moral myopia of our culture. However, I would suggest his comments may display a lack of sensitivity to the difference between moral argumentation and personal persuasion.

If a woman stands on the ledge of a twenty-story apartment building about to jump, believing that this act will end her pain and despair and thus be somehow in her “best interest,” how should I respond? Should I read to her from the code of canon law about the objective moral sin of suicide? Am I caving in to her lower tendencies and “nurturing an unprincipled self-interested culture” by instead reaching out to her in compassion, hearing her fears and gently speaking to her of a better self, of hope for her future? The ads of the Caring Foundation do not appeal to raw selfishness, nor do they violate pro-life principles; they simply urge women to listen to their own voice of conscience, and to see the choice of motherhood as more courageous than the choice of abortion. This more “woman-centered” approach has also been adopted by most crisis pregnancy centers, who clearly have the best interests of the woman and child at heart.

My article stated clearly that other pro-life approaches, such as teaching fetal development, are not to be abandoned. In fact, it is a lack of sophistication in varying our message to suit different audiences and objectives that has handicapped our movement. A thirty-second ad with the objective of reaching women of childbearing age is simply not the place to teach about abstract moral obligations. I passionately wish that all Americans shared my and Prof. Beckwith's embrace of moral absolutes, but given the facts to the contrary, we should utilize whatever positive and persuasive message is available that will help a woman make the choice that is in the best interest of both herself and her child. Nor is this approach just a short-term fix that undermines the longer-term solution to our cultural problems: speaking in a compassionate and personal manner will always be at the center of transforming our culture.

To Ralph Gillman: It is fair to say that the ads of the Caring Foundation are more emotive than analytic. At the same time, the goal is to help women reconsider, or “rethink,” their position. Those who suggest these ads merely cater to short-term emotions do not appreciate the strategy at work. We do not avoid focusing on the fetus because the fetus is not important or to let the woman “off the hook.” Instead we build from the fact that women know, deep down, that abortion kills; we move on to the next step, which is to help women listen to their own voice of conscience. Yes, we should “just get people to think,” but to think for themselves is the goal if behavioral patterns are to change.

Scott Klusendorf

The Vanishing Pro-Life Apologist: Putting the Life Back Into the Debate (1999)

There is merit to what both say. Pro-lifers must do more than stress the humanity of the unborn, especially with those facing the terror of unplanned pregnancy. This is why crisis pregnancy centers are so important. It is also true that for some abortion-minded women, appeals to self-interest may dissuade them from killing their babies.
But Swope and Matthews-Green are not saying we should reframe the debate in the narrow context of crisis counseling. Rather, they are telling the pro-life movement in general to speak less of the fetus and more to the self- interested needs of women. Although both have made important contributions to our cause, I think they are mistaken for the following reasons.
  1. It is simply not true that the pro-life movement has won the debate over the status of the fetus
    • “Swope and Matthews-Green are confusing what the public says with what it truly believes. People hold contradictory and incoherent views on abortion precisely because they don’t really believe that the unborn are fully human, despite their rhetoric to the contrary. As philosopher Francis Beckwith points out, why do women only kill their fetuses when confronted with practical difficulties, rather than their already born children, if they truly believe their fetuses are fully human?”
    • “[…] When people tell me they personally oppose abortion but think it should be legal anyway, I ask a simple question to audit their core beliefs about the unborn. I ask why they personally oppose abortion. Nearly always, the response is, 'I oppose it because it kills a baby,' at which point I merely repeat their own words. 'Let me see if I’ve got this straight: You say you oppose abortion because it kills a baby, but you think it should be legal to kill babies?' Those who are intellectually honest respond with stunned silence before conceding, 'Gee, I never thought of it like that.' But many others reply glibly, 'Well, it's not the same thing.'”
  2. A strategy centered primarily on the self-interest of the woman sets a dangerous precedent for the pro-life movement
    • True conversion on any ethical issue requires moral and intellectual assent. How can there be moral and intellectual assent if nothing in the ads speaks to moral or intellectual issues? What you get in this case are not true converts to the pro-life position, but self-interested converts who may readily abandon their newly found pro-life views. As one abortion rights leader put it, “The overwhelming majority of Americans are against abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and their own personal circumstances.” That is the heart of the issue.
    • “In fact Care Net, the nation's largest affiliate of CPCs, reports that 80 percent of clients seen by its centers are not abortion minded.”
    • Gregg Cunningham of the CBR: “I'm glad that some women can be loved into loving their babies, but I won’t let that fact blind me to the reality that there are many others who will kill their babies if they are not made more horrified of abortion than they are terrified of their own crisis pregnancies.”
  3. Downplaying the truth about abortion patronizes the very women we are trying to help
    • Swope is right that pro-lifers must address the woman’s emotional concerns but wrong to say that we must downplay the truth about abortion in order to do this. Are we to conclude that women can’t look at abortion objectively?
    • Naomi Wolf (feminist author and abortion advocate): “The pro-choice movement often treats with contempt the pro-lifers' practice of holding up to our faces their disturbing graphics…[But] how can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy. Besides, if these images are often the facts of the matter, and if we then claim that it is offensive for pro-choice women to be confronted by them, then we are making a judgment that women are too inherently weak to face a truth about which they have to make a grave decision. This view is unworthy of feminism.”
    • As unpleasant as it seems, breaking people's hearts over abortion is often an indispensable predicate to changing their minds. Pictures change the way they feel, and facts change the way they think. Both are vital. “I wish it weren't so, but whatever might be a CPCs reasons for categorically rejecting the use of graphic depictions of abortion, those reasons had better be more important than the lives of the babies who will die because of that policy,” writes Cunningham.
  4. Downplaying the truth about abortion is totally unnecessary and strips the pro-life movement of its most powerful tools of persuasion
    • We can win if we force abortion advocates to defend killing babies. The national debate over partial-birth abortion (PBA) is a case in point.
      1. First, public opinion has shifted modestly in our favor. [Compare this to contemporary debates in the US: PPSellsBabyParts, or the Pain-Capable Abortion bans, or dismemberment abortion bans]
        • At a National Abortion Federation meeting in 1996, Kathryn Kohlbert cautioned delegates that if the debate over partial-birth abortion focuses on what happens to the unborn, their side will get “creamed.” She urged focusing exclusively on the woman:
          • If the debate is whether or not the fetus feels pain, we lose. If the debate in the public arena is what’s the effect of anesthesia. [on the fetus], we’ll lose. If the debate is on whether or not women ought to be entitled to late abortion, we will probably lose. But if the debate is on the circumstances of individual women, and [how] the government shouldn’t be making those decisions, then I think we can win these fights.
        • graphic depictions of abortion have put our opponents on the defensive.
      2. shift in public opinion has led to legislative progress
        • See dismemberment ban, pain-capable bans, or Gosnell and the medical standards legislation, see John Oliver's piece on pro-life laws in 2015
        • Swope replies that his strategy does not necessarily apply to legislative or political change, but only to reaching the general public. […] Most legislators, especially those who are pro-abortion, are not going to support pro-life legislation in the absence of intense pressure from constituents. What changed the minds of constituents in this case was not concern for the self-interest of women, but the brutal reality of abortion.
      3. both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have issued reports condemning partial-birth abortion
      4. PBA legislation has raised the issue of fetal pain, further calling into question the morality of abortion
      5. the PBA debate has undermined the credibility of abortion advocates in general. Simply put they were caught lying, and even their staunchest supporters in the media felt cheated
The partial birth debate damaged the pro-abortion side because it focused on what abortion does to the unborn. Pro-lifers did two things right. First, we forced abortion advocates to defend the indefensible. Second, we marshaled factual evidence to show that our opponents were lying. That’s the essence of effective pro-life apologetics as we approach the twenty-first century.

FIXME dialogue example, put in modern context of CBR/LTI/CCBR and our UTSFL focus on apologetics and dialogue in activism

Greg Koukl


Clearly, the word “abortion” has lost almost all meaning to most Americans. Many imagine a rather benign procedure that does little more than extract a formless tissue mass from the mother's uterus. Gregg Cunningham, director of the Center for Bioethical Reform, points out, “until you level the playing field, you may as well be talking about stock options.”

Our challenge is that we live in a culture that thinks and learns visually. This profoundly effects how people resolve moral issues. […]

How do we restore meaning to the word “abortion” with people who think and learn visually, who are wooed by stories and anecdotes and not by arguments? Abandoning our core message is not the answer, especially when so many Americans have yet to seriously consider it.

Instead, we must visually awaken moral sensibilities. Pro-lifers must move the debate from the abstract question of choice of the mother to the concrete issue of the death of the child by using visual aids that allow people to see what abortion is.

Advocates Victim Imagery

Some discourage using graphic visual aids on grounds it substitutes emotion for reason. This objection misses the point. The question is not, “Are the pictures emotional?” They are. The real question is, “Are the pictures accurate?” We ought to avoid empty appeals to emotion, those offered in place of good reasons. If, however, pictures substantiate the reasons rather than obscure them, they serve a vital purpose. Truth is the issue.
Regarding graphic visual aids, pro-lifers make one of two mistakes. They either spring them on audiences with no warning, or they don't use them at all. There is a third alternative–use them wisely.

When using dramatic visual aids like Harder Truth, explain to your listeners in advance that the video contains graphic pictures. Advise them to look away if they prefer not to watch. When talking to a Christian audience, mention that our Lord is eager to forgive the sin of abortion, and that our purpose is not to condemn anyone, but rather to clarify what is actually at stake.