Ask Questions

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  10/25/1999
 

So what do you do when your friend, relative, neighbor or co-worker says he or she is "pro-choice"?

A simple key to having a fruitful discussion with an abortion supporter is to ask the person questions. After all, you want the person to think, and a good question forces the other to think through his/her response. It also lets people know you are interested in what they really think, and in learning more about what they think and why they think it, you will be better able to lead them the right way.

It is easy for others to decide that they do not want to listen to you. But it is much harder for them not to want you to listen to them! Everyone likes to be listened to. So ask some questions and listen! Once the other person knows you are listening to him/her, it helps to keep the conversation calm, and leads the exchange beyond the level of slogans.

It is amazing to see how shallow a person's position on abortion can be. People easily identify with nice-sounding slogans without really thinking through their position on the controversy. You will find out how true this is if you ask a person who identifies him/herself as "prochoice" to explain the meaning of the phrase. "What does that mean?" Then stop, look at the person, and wait for a response. Here is a sample exchange, taken from an actual conversation:

a. When it comes to abortion, I'm pro-choice.

b. I see. Could you tell me what you mean by that?

a. Well, a woman should be able to choose whether to continue her pregnancy.

b. Well, in your opinion, how far into the pregnancy should she have that choice?

a. She should decide.

b. Yes, you are saying she should decide, but for how long?

a. Well, it is better if she decides early rather than late.

b. Why? What makes it better? And if it is, say, the seventh month, should she still be able to choose abortion?

Notice that in this exchange, the pro-lifer did not launch into an explanation of why "pro-choice" is a meaningless phrase, which it is, or of why freedom is subordinate to life itself, which it is, or even of what choosing an abortion actually does. What the prolifer is doing here is asking the pro-choicer to face up to his/her own position. What does it mean? What position do you actually take? If you go back over the brief exchange, you will see that this could even be a conversation between two "pro-choicers," one of whom is simply trying to understand the other's position, which very well could be similar to his own. This approach is extremely valuable, because one cannot make you understand his position if he does not understand it himself, and to attempt to understand one's own position, when that position is wrong, can help one discover the truth.