As we enter the New Year, we move ever closer to both the 2020 presidential campaigns and the potential nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice. Both will reignite debate surrounding the United States’ most divisive topic: Abortion. With anti-abortion legislation failing to make it through the courts, much of the pro-life vs. pro-choice battle takes place among smaller groups, or on social media.
Early on Jan. 1, a Twitter debate focussed on whether it is productive to liken the support of abortion to support of murder or slavery. The responses, such as, “It’s not about belief, it is the killing of a human life. We live in reality” and “Abortion is murder. Period. It’s the ending of a growing, living life. There’s no way to justify it or make it better...” made it clear that the pro-life community’s New Year’s resolution should be to change their strategy, look outside their ideological tunnel-vision, and understand their opponents if they are to succeed in bringing those in the pro-choice community to their side.
Any debate surrounding abortion often devolves into two virulently-opposed camps. The pro-life side will usually hold very little room for compromise, given that they view abortion as the ending of a human life, and therefore tantamount to murder. Many on the pro-choice side do not view the embryo/fetus as a human life, and therefore don’t see abortion as equivalent to murder.
The fact that this is ideologically offensive for those who disagree does not mean that this conclusion isn’t logically sound. Despite this, you only have to look to Twitter to see that many people ignore the fact that the pro-choice viewpoint is based on a different definition of life. Instead, many label the pro-choice community as simply ignorant, sinful, or even complicit in murder.
As many conservatives are aware, being called “ignorant,” “stupid,” or “uncaring” by some on the Left rarely encourages them to change their mind. In fact, it often pushes them further away from engaging in productive discourse. Therefore, conservatives who are pro-life must recognize that labeling their pro-choice opponents as evil or immoral will only alienate those they hope to reach.
Setting aside emotional accusations and demonization, the reason that so many debates regarding abortion devolve into fruitless arguments is that the two parties hold fundamentally-different ideological principles. These principles differ at what we will call the key point of difference: The most foundational level of disagreement. In order to change the mind of someone who holds different views, you must first determine the key point of difference. If you can align along the same fundamental principles, you can then progress toward the same goal.
However, if you ignore the key point of difference and focus on less fundamental arguments, you are unlikely to be successful, because the difference in foundational principles remains unchanged. For example, a religious person should not use religious texts to support an argument with an atheist, because they don’t agree on the key point of difference: The existence of God. Therefore, the atheist is unlikely to agree that the religious text holds significance in the debate.
When it comes to abortion, the key point of difference is the definition of life, and not whether abortion is murder. Screaming that “abortion is murder,” and labeling the pro-choice of community as advocates for murder, has no impact on changing the definition of life, and only serves to alienate those who might listen.
If the true goal is to change the minds of their ideological opponents, the pro-life community must make a difficult but necessary change and focus on the key point of difference if they are to have a better chance of reducing the number of abortions in the United States in 2019.