While at a pro-life display with Toronto Against Abortion, I asked a young woman what she thought about abortion. The student, Sharon, told me that she was pro-choice. “Is there any particular reason that you’re pro-choice?” I asked, for clarification. Sharon said, “I think that it’s important for women to have a choice about having a child. Especially if they weren’t planning on getting pregnant.” She told me that she was not sure what she herself would do in an unexpected pregnancy.
Many people will bring up difficult circumstances, such as suffering or cultural pressure, to justify abortion; however, it is even more common for people to bring up the right to choice and bodily autonomy as the justifying factors. Abortion supporters typically brand themselves not as “pro-abortion” but as “pro-choice.” As pro-life advocates, we need to show people that our right to bodily autonomy does not include the right to harm or kill others.
“I would agree with you that the right to choices is important–especially choices about our own bodies,” I said to Sharon. “I think, for instance, that you and I should have the right to go to a bar and drink, even if drinking isn’t very healthy.” She nodded in agreement. “Imagine though,” I continued, “that after having a few drinks, I then get behind the wheel of my car. Would you still support my choice?”
“No, of course not,” she answered. “Why not?” I asked. “Well, because then you could harm other people.” “Yes,” I answered, “you wouldn’t support that choice–not because you don’t respect me, but precisely because you value other people’s safety.” I then pointed to the bloody 10-week aborted child in my pamphlet, and asked her, “So what about this choice? Doesn’t abortion harm another human being?”
Sharon thought about this question and looked at the photo. She then told me that later in pregnancy, the fetus seemed really developed and human, but abortion should still be acceptable earlier in pregnancy. “Earlier on, aren’t they not very developed?” she asked me.
We then discussed embryonic development as we looked at photos of first-trimester children — some healthy and alive, some dismembered by abortion. I shared with her some embryology facts, such as the child’s brain waves being detectable just after 6 weeks, and her heartbeat beginning at just 3 weeks. We continued talking about level of development and whether it should impact our human rights. She eventually agreed that human rights should begin as soon as a human being’s life begins–at fertilization.
To close the conversation, I asked Sharon if she still thought that abortion should be acceptable at any point in pregnancy. She replied, “When I came over here I was thinking about how important it is for a woman to have the choice. But I believe even more strongly that the baby shouldn’t be punished–nothing should be done to the baby.” I then emphasized to her the importance of supporting women during challenging pregnancies, as so many women entered abortion clinics precisely because they felt like they had no other choice. Sharon shook my hand, and although she had been pro-choice just 15 minutes earlier, she left our conversation completely pro-life.