A Life of Great Value: A Reflection from Florida GAP
Submitted by jvanmaren on February 24, 2012 - 8:27am
by Jojo Ruba
I’m often asked what are the hardest pro-choice arguments are to respond to. That’s tough to answer because they give so many bad arguments! Even today, I’ve heard abortion advocates attack pro-lifers’ religion or character or even gender. These ad hominem attacks of course ignore the fundamental issue: what or who is it that abortion kills?
But increasingly, I’ve been hearing the toughest arguments abortion advocates can raise: that human life has no value. Abortion should be legal because even if the pre-born are human beings, they still should be legally killed. These students at least are being consistent and are willing to treat the pre-born child with the same value as the born child. Unfortunately, in their view, both sets of children have equally no value.
This argument isn’t new. Thinkers such as Princeton University philosopher Peter Singer have been saying this for years. But when Singer came out with these arguments, he approached it very carefully, knowing just how much his views made him look like a moral monster, a heartless person who didn’t care if others lived or died. In contrast, more and more students at our Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) displays, question why we would advocate for the protection of human life.
For example, at the University of Central Florida (UCF), a political science grad student said that when we say it is wrong to kill people, we are merely stating preferences. Saying it is wrong to kill people is no more a preference than to say it is wrong to eat vanilla ice cream. He even added that the only difference between the Nazis and the Allies in World War II was that one group preferred to save people while the others preferred to kill them. When I pushed him to explain, he did admit that he also preferred not to have people killed. However, he said the only reason why he did anything objectively good like not cheating, was because his professors make him honest.
It doesn’t stop there. At the University of North Florida (UNF) we held an “open mic,” when a pro-lifer speaks through a microphone and asks passersby to comment or ask questions about the display. The conversations are great because many students get to hear a dialogue about abortion. At the open mic at UNC, one student was adamant that there was no morality and even stated in front of a large crowd that he didn’t believe raping a woman was immoral. Several other students repeated the same thing at Florida State University (FSU).
Now there’s a difference between what students say in the heat of argument and what they really practice in real life. And in conversation, many of these students admit that their views aren’t consistent with their behaviour. Some were spouting an intellectual idea that they defended simply to be consistent with their arguments but not with their lifestyle. When one student said he didn’t think rape was wrong, a pro-life volunteer said he would take a picture of this student and plaster it all over campus so that women would know his views on rape. He quickly backtracked.
But many don’t respect human life because they themselves don’t believe their lives have value. Over the twelve years I’ve been doing GAP, I’ve never met so many people who openly share their hurt with us. Through tears a Florida State student told our volunteer that she was pro-choice because she didn’t want anyone to live her life. Her mother had sold her for drugs and had emotionally abused her.
“Sam” was another student we met at Florida Gulf Coast University. He didn’t care that he interrupted a conversation I was having so that he could berate me for being pro-life. He explained for at least an hour how human life had no purpose or meaning, therefore abortion was not wrong. But as he talked, he began to share his testimony: he had lost his dad and best friend to suicide; he had been homeless and only managed to find his way to college by hard work; and his life was so miserable that he didn’t want anyone else to experience anything like it – that’s why he supported abortion. Yet he was so desperate for attention, he found the time to argue with almost every one of our volunteers, despite being a busy student. The second day of our GAP display, he even came back and began to admit to other volunteers he needed professional help.
And that’s why this is the hardest pro-choice argument to respond to: because logic can’t help us explain to a hurting or confused student that they are a person of infinite worth. Neither science nor philosophy can change their minds. Only genuine love could touch them.
At UCF, one of our volunteers met a young man who was sexually abused by his father, who was also his pastor. He was now gay and very angry at the church and anything associated with Christians, including pro-lifers. When he saw the display, he confronted our volunteer and was so angry that he didn’t even want to be near her as he argued against the pro-life view.
But our volunteer was one of the older women in the group and she had a son about the same age as this student. She began to not only explain our views to him but she did it in a way that conveyed compassion. She shared how she wanted to keep connected with him and offered her contact info which helped eased the tension between them. By the end of the conversation, she was able to pray with him and hug him.
This volunteer understood that though we should always have good reasons for the pro-life view, our main goal isn’t to win arguments but it is to win people over. That means being willing to stop just sharing facts and being willing to share our lives. In that way, these students can begin to understand that human life has great value because we treat them as people with great value. It’s a good lesson to remember: that people need to know that when we say we are pro-life, we are also saying that we are pro-their lives.
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