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Pro-Life Theory and Discussion Tactics
Pro-Life Tutorial
Preface Structure Background
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Why Study Pro-life Philosophy?

A Scenario

Consider the following (fictional) scenario, which takes place in the student plaza of a college campus. Ashley is a member of the pro-life student group and is distributing flyers with facts on fetal development to passersby. She is approached by Janet Jones, a middle-aged English professor who has taken offense at her actions.

So, what is this flyer?

Prof. Jones: So, what is this flyer?

Ashley: It has facts on prenatal development. See, an unborn baby’s heart starts beating at day…

Prof. Jones: Let me ask you this: what is your agenda?

Ashley: I’m sorry?

Prof. Jones: Is there a group you’re a part of?

Ashley: We’re University Students for Life.

Prof. Jones: “For Life” … do you mean that you’re anti-abortion?

That's awfully naïve of you...

Ashley: Yes, we are opposed to abortion.

Prof. Jones: That’s awfully naïve of you to think that everyone shares your religious beliefs.

Ashley: Uhhh…

Prof. Jones: If you don’t want to have an abortion, that’s fine. But the decision that other women make is none of your business.

Ashley: We just don’t think that killing innocent babies should be legal.

Prof. Jones: No one’s talking about killing babies. That’s infanticide.

Ashley: But abortion kills babies, too.

Prof. Jones: That’s just your opinion.

Ashley: No, it’s a scientific fact. Look, the heart starts beating at day…

Prof. Jones: If you don’t think women have a right to control their bodies, that’s between you and your God. But please stop forcing your offensive, male-dominated religion on the rest of society.

Ah, when life begins.

Ashley: Umm … I think this is all a question of when life begins.

Prof. Jones: Ah, when life begins. Who can say?

Ashley: We think it begins at conception.

Prof. Jones: That’s just your opinion.

Ashley: But look, the baby’s heart starts beating at day 18. Science has shown that life begins at conception.

Prof. Jones: But we need abortion to keep population growth in check. Do you know what it’s like to live in the crowded slums? Or in a third-world country?

Ashley: Uhhh…

Good day.

Prof. Jones: No? Then I’d appreciate it if you stopped telling those women that coat hangers in the back alley are their only option.

Ashley: Adoption is an option…

Prof. Jones: Don’t be naïve and start spending your energies doing something worthwhile—like ending world hunger.

Ashley: Um, ending world hunger is a good idea, but…

Prof. Jones: Then do something about it. Good day.

How This Tutorial Can Help

If you’ve been involved with the pro-life movement, especially on a university campus, that exchange probably sounds familiar. It is certainly familiar to us. The pro-choicer controls the course of the conversation, deflecting any challenges with a deft change of topic. The well-intentioned but under-prepared pro-lifer, disoriented by the barrage of diverse and completely unrelated arguments, responds with generic and largely ineffective talking points.

Two students conversing.

The tragedy is that Ashley could easily have dominated the conversation. Instead, chances are that she feels uncomfortable and a little flustered by the end of it, though she is unsure whether she could have done better. The good news is she could have. Looking back at the conversation, we can count several strategic errors she committed and opportunities she missed. The goal of this tutorial is to give pro-life apologists like Ashley the tools they need to handle these interactions persuasively and gracefully.

Next: Structure