The JFA philosophy team has been utilizing an argument that should be used by the entire prolife movement because the results have been amazing.
One of the best parts of my job is the work I do partnering with Justice For All. I’ve spent four years being trained by Steve Wagner to do many of the things he does for JFA in Wichita, from facilitating seminars and outreaches to coaching mentors.
Steve shared an argument with my brother Tim last year that he heard from J.P. Moreland and is featured on page 67 of Scott Klusendorf’s book, “The Case for Life” that I haven’t seen very many pro-life advocates utilize. So the three of us have been emphasizing it in campus dialogue, and over the last year we’ve been discussing how we might train our volunteers to use it.
The results have been amazing. Equal Rights Institute and Justice For All are now teaching this argument in all of our seminars.
It’s called the Equal Rights Argument.
We’re asking pro-choice people if they agree that all human adults have an equal right to life.
When they say yes, we ask them, “Doesn’t that mean there must be something the same about us?” We’re asking pro-choice people if they agree that all human adults have an equal right to life.
In other words, if we all have an equal right to life, then we must all have something in common that demands that we treat each other equally, and we must have that property equally. It can’t be something (like size or intelligence) that comes in degrees, or it wouldn’t explain our equal right to life.
When the pro-choice person agrees with that conclusion, we simply ask them what is the same about us.
I think the natural temptation for a pro-life advocate who is ready with an answer to this question is to share that answer at this point. But we’d rather let the pro-choice person consider the question for themselves, and only offer our answer when they ask for it.
In my experience people aren’t annoyed by the Equal Rights Argument questions. They tend to see the value of the questions, but need to take some time to think about it. We wait patiently, and if they give an answer, we engage it. But if they have no idea, we then ask if they would like to hear our answer. Nearly everybody says yes.
Our answer is that we all have humanness in common. That’s something that doesn’t come in degrees. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of thing.
And if being human is what gives us intrinsic value, then that explains a lot of data. It explains why all the adult humans have an equal right to life, even though we have so many differences. It also explains why things like racism and sexism are wrong. Those things focus on a surface difference that doesn’t morally matter, and ignores the thing we have in common, which IS what morally matters!
Some philosophers have alternative explanations for our equal right to life. It’s my view that all of these alternative explanations have major consequences, in that they either entail an equal right to life for a bunch of animals, or they deny a right to life to human infants. I’ll explain this more fully in a follow-up post.
I’ve been using this argument on campuses this year and the results have been incredible. I’ve never seen an argument persuade so many people that abortion is wrong.
I’m going to start regularly posting stories of actual dialogues where I used this argument, so you can see how this works in a real-time conversation.
*Originally Published October 1, 2013
I’ve recently become friends with Tim Thiesen, the President of the Fresno County Republican Assembly. He attended a function that I spoke at and we exchanged ideas and then he had me on his TV show.
Last week he asked me to give him a 30-second sound bite that he can use and give to candidates that would explain the basic pro-life position. Below is what I sent him, a combination of Steve Wagner’s 10-second pro-life apologist and the Equal Rights Argument.
30-Second Pro-Life Sound Bite
I am pro-life because we know the unborn are alive, because they’re growing. We know the unborn are human because they have human parents, and I think human beings like me and you are valuable.
In fact, I think all human beings have an equal right to live, because they all have something special in common: they’re human. That’s why racism and sexism are wrong. Racism is wrong because it focuses on a surface difference that doesn’t morally matter and ignores the thing we all have in common, which is the thing that does morally matter: that we’re human.
And because the unborn are clearly human, they should be given an equal right to life as well.
Original Post by Josh Brahm: November 2013
1. Communication is KEY!
From a very early age, let your children know that you are there for them, and keep an open line of communication – from mundane, everyday topics to the tough issues and “hot-button” topics. This makes YOU, as the parent, the “go to person” for advice, and allows you to retain that position as your child’s key teacher. You can help them process through tough questions they may have, allowing them to ask questions, and work out their worldview in regards to abortion (or other topics).
2: Be Educated
Do you know how RU-486 works? Do you know state laws regarding abortion? Educate yourself on abortion procedures so that you can accurately explain them (medically) if the topic comes up. There are some wonderful human development videos available at EHD.org. It’s not necessary to use graphic pictures, but if a teen asks what an abortion does to the baby, there are medically accurate abortion images available online. Become empowered and equipped by being knowledgeable. Being educated also means knowing what resources you have available in your community! Be prepared with the local Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) location and familiar with the free services they offer.
Remember, it’s not a one time teaching lesson, it is a conversation that takes place over many moments. Be sure that your teen is also equipped BEFORE situations arise. Don’t wait for your teenager to come home and say that her best friend is pregnant and looking for an abortion clinic. They should already know how to communicate a caring and compassionate response to their friend and encourage them to seek help at the PRC. Your teens have a large sphere of influence in their community. (School, sports programs, etc.) When they know about the free and confidential services available, then their community will know too!
3. FOR, not Against
Parents need to know (and articulate) what they are FOR (life), not what they are AGAINST. The conversation is positive and constructive when we share from the standpoint that we are for life … that we are for women, as we recognize the devastating consequences that many women encounter through abortion. This also can create a dialogue for the “why’s” and give them a foundation of sound criteria to choose for themselves. This dialogue can include sharing information about fetal development from a young age. The “where do babies come from?” conversation can have tremendous impact when partnered with not just the “where,” but the amazing intricate and miraculous transformations that occur within the womb prior to birth. If a friend or family member becomes pregnant, your child can follow along with the pregnancy and find out what is happening to the baby at each stage of development.
4. It’s All About the ISSUE
When you’re talking to your teens, remember to never attack people, instead focus on the issue. While the root of the issue goes so much deeper than just abortion, it is important to know that many women who have obtained an abortion will also say they that they felt like they “had no other choice.” It affects so many lives beyond the mother and her unborn child. (Refer to #3, if necessary… focus on the value of life…all life.).
5. The Three C’s – Compassionate, Caring, Confidential
Remember to always be compassionate, caring and confidential. Your teen may be sharing about a friend or a friend of a friend. You need to be compassionate and show that you care. Remember when you were young and certain that your parents didn’t understand? Close the generation gap and try to see it from their point of view.
Now the potentially tricky part: confidential … you are giving compassionate and caring advice to your teen, not the friend or friend of a friend. You probably don’t have all of the story or an accurate story. Don’t push the rumor mill by going to other parents or the friend of a friend’s parent. Instead, coach your teen on how to be responsible, and to encourage their friends to have communication with their parents. You also do not want to lose the trust of your teen. Our best advice on “confidential” is to ask yourself one simple question…”Is this MY STORY to tell?”
We understand that the life and safety of human beings may be at stake in this matter. Thoughtfully consider the risks involved before making quick decisions on ANY matter of confidentiality.