Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Message to Pro-Life Advocates in Light of Gosnell's Shop of Horrors [Josh Brahm]

This guest post is provided by Josh Brahm, a contributor to this blog. Josh is the Director of Education at Right to Life of Central California’s Fresno/Madera office, and host of the vodcast “Life Report: Pro-Life Talk | Real World Answers.” Get more of Josh’s unique perspectives on pro-life topics at

This has been a really bad publicity week for abortion providers. First the national controversy over the horrors that went on behind the scenes at “Doctor” Gosnell’s abortion facility. Now an Associated Press story is implying that Live Action is getting ready to release videos exposing several Planned Parenthood employees of covering up sex trafficking with various PP health services. All of this while Abby Johnson’s tell-all book “Unplanned” has been on’s Top 100 Bestselling Books List for two weeks. Abby’s book is hardly the first book to be written that exposes what goes on at many abortion facilities (see here, here, and here), though it will probably forever be the most notable.

As atrocious as Gosnell’s barbaric acts were, and as bad as covering up sex trafficking is…those things are not what make abortion wrong.

Abortion is wrong because it unjustifiably takes the life of a human being.

The shocking nature of these stories is precisely the reason that pro-life advocates must be especially careful in the next few months to consider what they will say if their friend asks, “so, why are you pro-life?”

The lazy way out would be to reply with something like, “have you heard about the freaky abortionists in those places? They keep fetal body parts in jars! How could I not be pro-life?”

This strategy is dangerous even though it may sometimes work.

It is not news to the regular readers of this blog that many people in the postmodern world are more quickly moved by emotional stories and pictures than by logic and good arguments. Thus, you may make some impact on the person you’re talking to with just the above statement about yucky abortionists. You say your piece, they react emotionally to Gosnell’s disgustingness, and you go your separate ways.

“But, why would that be bad, Josh? The whole point is to make the person rethink their pro-abortion-choice views, right?”

Yes, and this is where wisdom comes in. It’s not necessarily a choice between bad and good. It’s a choice between good, better and best.

While you may make a marginal impact on that person, if he later considers the issue more carefully, he will realize that Gosnell’s checkered past does not make or break the case for abortion rights. It just proves that some people do really sick things when they’re not kept accountable.

(Gee, I thought Christians already knew that…)

Instead, if you had made a stronger case for life, (I like to start with Steve Wagner’s 10-second soundbyte,) that person would have left, put the same amount of thought into the issue later, and would have been unable to dismiss your argument so easily.
An important clarification: this does not mean stories about Gosnell and the Live Action investigations have no significance. It takes stories like this to awaken the moral sensibilities of people in the mushy middle.

I believe there are minimally-committed pro-abortion-choice people that will read the Grand Jury Report on Gosnell, and learn that the reason he was left alone by the state authorities that already knew about the conditions of his clinic was because they didn’t want to put any “barriers up to women seeking abortions.” The pro-abortion-choice person may be shocked to see the effect legal abortion has on well-meaning people, and then (here’s the key) look closer at the abortion debate. Ideally they will compare the best arguments the pro-life side has to offer, and the best arguments the pro-abortion-choice side has to offer, and then change their thinking.

I make a similar argument when defending pro-lifers that utilize graphic pictures in their pro-life presentations. Abortion is not wrong because pictures of it are gross and bloody. But the pictures are true and they awaken our sensibilities, restoring meaning to the word “abortion.” This is important, because many people hear the word “abortion” and think of a benign medical procedure that makes a woman “unpregnant.”

However, we must remember the most effective way to use graphic pictures. It’s not just taping a huge graphic sign to the front side of your house and waiting for people to become pro-life. It’s using them in an environment where you can also offer a scientific and philosophic case for life. I do this regularly with pro-life presentations and while participating in a Justice For All or GAP exhibit. (Warning: links include graphic images.)

That’s my point. Stories about current events are some of the most effective ways for pro-life advocates to start conversations with their pro-abortion-choice friends in a way that is neither awkward nor forced. If using a story like Gosnell’s will get a non-weird conversation started on abortion that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, by all means use it!

But don’t stop there.

Make sure you get a chance to make a strong philosophical case for life before the conversation ends.

What I am recommending to my fellow pro-life advocates is to not get lazy and primarily use gruesome stories like Gosnell’s when making a case for life. Your argument will fall short every time.

Abortion is not wrong because many men and women regret their abortion later. Abortion is wrong because it unjustifiably takes the life of a human being.

Abortion is not wrong because one of the babies killed may have eventually cured cancer or written the next great Broadway musical. Abortion is wrong because it unjustifiably takes the life of a human being.

Abortion is not wrong because it may have a negative effect on our economy or may have helped cripple the Social Security program. Abortion is wrong because it unjustifiably takes the life of a human being.

Abortion is not wrong because the nation’s leading abortion provider Planned Parenthood does many other icky things, including promoting promiscuity in teens, promoting violence against pro-lifers and selling fetal body parts. Abortion is wrong because it unjustifiably takes the life of a human being.

Abortion is not wrong if some of the people working for Planned Parenthood help to cover up statutory rape or alleged sex trafficking, or if they lie about the facts of fetal development. Abortion is wrong because it unjustifiably takes the life of a human being.

And abortion is not even wrong because some of the people who perform abortions commit horrific acts only paralleled by the scariest of horror movies.

Abortion is wrong because it unjustifiably takes the life of a human being.

NOTE: At the author's request, the post above was edited slightly @1:26 PM for clarity sake. The phrase "human person" was replaced with "human being."


  1. Josh,

    Thank you for the insight. I agree with all the points you make. A perspective of this issue I haven't yet seen discussed very much is how this story illustrates the depravity of Obama's decision to vote against Illinois' version of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act which would have ensured that these horrific acts would indeed be illegal. In other words, our country elected (likely in ignorance) a president a who has been complicit in such actions by refusing to support legislation outlawing this very type of infanticide.

  2. These abuses don't show why abortion is wrong -- they show that it is so wrong that it damages everybody around.


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