NRL News

On the lookout for the moral uneasiness that abortion elicits in people of good will

by | Feb 15, 2021

By Dave Andrusko

“The bottom line is no woman is going to want an abortion after seeing a sonogram.” — Francesco Angelo, medical director of the Family Planning Center in Mineola, as quoted in the New York Times.

Years ago Prof. George McKenna wrote one of the best essays on abortion I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, titled, “On Abortion: A Lincolnian Position. ” Is his message relevant today? Yes, if anything, more so than it was when his essay first appeared in The Atlantic Magazine.

 “People’s moral intuitions could not be repressed,” McKenna wrote, with respect to the abomination of slavery. “[T]hey would surface in all kinds of unexpected ways: in winces and unguarded expressions, in labored euphemisms, in slips of the tongue. Lincoln was on the lookout for these, and he forced his opponents to acknowledge their significance.”

Such “moral intuitions” are alive and well. Uninvited, they tap on the windows of our souls today with regard to another abomination—abortion–just as loudly and persistently as they did in the mid-19th century when slavery was legal. 

In our heart of hearts I would argue that almost all of us know that both slavery and abortion are moral cancers and that neither is “rooted in the soil of American Democracy.”

Much of our job can be encapsulated in this formulation: successfully bringing to the surface the uneasiness, the moral discomfort that abortion elicits in people of good will. It’s not a question of instilling this in people; it’s already there, as the quotation from the abortion clinic operator that begins this post demonstrates.

Our task is to help people to recognize that this tap-tap-tapping on their hearts is not something to be ignored or repressed but acknowledged for what it is: the better angels of their nature at work. We could talk at length about activating pro-life work on behalf of the unborn and the medically fragile but today we’re  pondering how we win over people who are not currently in our Movement. 

They maybe browsing, so to speak. Just taking a quick look, not intending to get involved.  How do we reach them? Often this is completed very informally. Put another way, this is about how to soften the soil that may otherwise be too hard for the “seed” – – the truth about the unborn – – to take root.


Given an audience of skeptics, “arguing” the case for life is in almost all circumstances a non-starter, if by that we mean  we think we can intellectually force feed, if not browbeat people, into coming our way. By no means does that mean you should be unprepared (see below).

Rather, if you see yourself as a salesman or saleswoman, the most important thing that I’ve learned in my over three decades involvement in this Movement is that you can’t close the deal if you can’t get in the door.

It’s not necessarily what you or I say (especially initially), but who we are and how we present ourselves that almost always will decide whether someone will give any consideration to the first words out of our mouths. If we come across as angry know-it-alls, why would anyone want to be in our presence one nanosecond longer than he or she has to be?

And what is so surprising is how often abortion or a related issue comes up.

If Lesson One is be the kind of human being you’d like to be around, 

Lesson Number Two is to know your stuff because opportunities will occur. Indeed, something not dissimilar happened in an adult Sunday School class I teach and in a discussion with friends of my children on a surprisingly large number of occasions.

Lesson Three is that with the exception of hard-core pro-abortion types, you will be utterly amazed how many people are “permeable.” Fewer people than you might think are locked into a thought-out, well-reasoned position. They have a smidgeon of information and a “well, I think…” way of looking at the issue.

I’m not saying they will run over to our corner at the drop of a hat. What I am saying is that, approached respectfully, they will not run away, a far more important truth.

What is really intriguing here, by the way, is that it is not uncommon to talk to people you’ve known for years – – people who have never agreed with you or anything – – and suddenly you find common ground for a respectful discussion.

Lesson Four is that our culture is awash in possibilities to gently, matter-of-factly, persuasively make the case for the unborn. Nowhere is that more apparent that through the conscious-raising potential of ultrasounds.

They carry a powerful pro-life message: that there’s a creature in there who looks amazingly like a baby post-birth.

We can and we should steep ourselves in the basics of fetal development – – the ABCs of our common developmental journey – – so that we can converse intelligently. But no words coming out of our mouths could ever match the impact of that commercial where the mom joyfully, almost reverently “watches” her unborn child. 

Whew! And that, of course, is why the Abortion Industry hates ultrasounds so.

A final thought that we all know intuitively. Do not expect people who disagree with us to consider the humanity of the unborn when it’s clear we minimize, if not dismiss altogether, their humanity.

The unborn child, the abortion survivor, and the elderly woman in a nursing home are most deserving of care and protection irrespective of whether you and I make their case in a winsome way. But human nature doesn’t work that way. 

If our audience finds us or our approach unappealing, the real loser will be the defenseless human beings for whom we are trying to recruit new defenders.

And as we have written dozens of times, there is no more encouraging news than the surge in pro-life sentiment among young people and young adults which shows no sign of abating. While they have heard the pro-abortion mantra their entire lives, they simply aren’t buying. (While many adults will salute the Politically Correct Flag when it is run up the flag pole, it’s my experience that most kids scorn PC thinking. )

They know the pain, the hurt, the disillusionment that so often accompanies an abortion. They can’t be snowed: abortion kills babies and hurts women.

And it is the innate idealism of youth that compels them to challenge a self-centered, inverted mentality, the kind that says women and men first, children last.

Appeal to that idealism. It will win them over and they will carry the day.

Categories: Abortion