After speaking on abortion at a recent event, a Christian man asked me why I didn’t say, “Abortion is murder.” For the record, I did state that abortion kills an innocent human being, that it’s wrong, and that it should be illegal. It’s true, though, I never used the word “murder,” even though I believe abortion is a type of murder.
When I teach on abortion, I’m not merely conveying facts or giving a motivational speech. I’m trying to train my audience in the art of pro-life persuasion. In other words, I’m teaching pro-lifers how to convince others of the pro-life view. In order to do that effectively, one must understand abortion-choice advocates, their thinking, and how they might respond to what we say.
Simply saying abortion is murder might be personally satisfying and get you high fives from other pro-lifers, but it isn’t likely to help a person move towards the pro-life view. They may not believe the unborn is a human being or that she has the same right to life. Therefore, the claim that abortion is murder skips a few logical steps.
For example, imagine an atheist tells you, “Christianity is a fairy tale.” Obviously that wouldn’t be persuasive, but you definitely wouldn’t think his statement was reasonable because it came out of the blue. There were no logical steps that led to that conclusion. Their statement assumes that Christianity is false, but they haven’t shown that to be the case. In that situation, you might be unwilling to continue the conversation. If they want to claim Christianity is a fairy tale, they have to first give reasons why Christianity is false.
In the same way, pro-lifers must first show that the unborn is a human being and that abortion kills that being before they can claim it’s murder. Jumping to the rhetorically explosive claim (from the perspective of someone who favors abortion) that abortion is murder is more likely to shut down their willingness to dialogue.
The same is true when referring to abortion as a holocaust. Between pro-lifers, we can all agree that the 50+ million innocent human beings killed through abortion is a holocaust. People not persuaded by the pro-life view, though, don’t see it that way. To them, it sounds like an unjustified claim. If we want to say abortion is a holocaust, we should first show that abortion kills an innocent human being and present data that indicates how many abortions have occurred in a particular time period. If they believe your evidence, then taking the next step by claiming abortion is a holocaust will be more believable.
Again, I think abortion is murder and believe its legalization has resulted in a holocaust. When I’m training pro-lifers how to dialogue with people who aren’t pro-life, though, I usually teach them not to use terminology that will alienate our friends who disagree.