04 February 2009

Framing the debate

Reading the paper today (The Sheaf), I had a bit of a revelation. The crux of the abortion debate seems to be in ensuring that we know where all parties to the debate stand. The reason our discussion seems so fruitless at times, I think, is because pro-lifers and pro-choicers are arguing from completely different perspectives. Pro-choicers presuppose that there is nothing wrong with abortion, and pro-lifers presuppose that there is everything wrong with abortion. I know- that doesn't seem like a big revelation, but when you think it through, it becomes much more.

There is no way we can dialogue with pro-choicers unless we recognize where they are coming from. If law has taught me anything, it's taught me that we need to use precise language and we need to frame the debate clearly before it even begins. I don't think we do a good job of that when we start conversations with pro-choicers. It's not easy to frame the debate, but if we are going to succeed in our debate and change hearts and minds, we MUST frame the debate.

This is especially important now, because historically the pro-choice movement has done a better job than pro-lifers in framing the debate- they have convinced the majority (the people who've never really thought about the issue) that abortion is perfectly acceptable. When most people start discussing their opinion on abortion they don't even realize that they've already accepted, subconsciously, that abortion is a valid option. Before we can ever convince them to be pro-life, we have to make them see that they are presupposing the acceptability of abortion.

It's not easy- I can't give you a step by step method to do it because every person is different and will respond differently to different questions. All I can advise is to ask short, simple yes or no questions. Make them realize that they are assuming abortion is correct. Once you've established that is their perspective, you can begin the dialogue- and you have to begin the dialogue around that issue. You have to convince them first that abortion is never acceptable. We do that by proving the humanity and personhood of the unborn child.

I am convinced that this is the only way we can win this debate. Abortion has been legal for so long people (generally) don't stop to question it. And to succeed that's what we need to do- we need to make people question what they have been fed for so long. The pro-choicers have framed the debate in terms of women's rights, and reproductive choice for so long. We need to change that in order to win.

And win we must. Lives depend on it.

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