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Friday, August 30, 2013

Pro-Life 101: "It's Not Human"

*This is the second installment in a series of posts on pro-life apologetics based on the “When They Say, You Say” talks developed by Olivia Gans Turner and Mary Spaulding Balch. If you missed the first one, catch up here.

Did you know that most pro-abortion arguments fall into one of five categories? Over the next several weeks, we will be taking you through each argument and presenting some practical tips for responding well. Whether you’re a seasoned member of the pro-life movement or just a rookie, you’ll find something worth reading!

One of the arguments we hear is that an unborn child is not a human being. This may come up in one of several ways, such as, “It’s just a blob of cells,” “The fetus is only a potential human being,” and “It’s not a person; it has no meaningful life.” Thanks to modern technology, though, not only is this particular attack losing credence, it’s also easy to disprove. Let’s start with some basic facts about fetal development.

Not human? Really?!
Science tells us that from the moment of fertilization, a genetically complete, unique, individual human person exists. Although the baby may look like a clump of cells during his first few days of life, he is not just a “potential life,” he is a life! His DNA contains all the same information it will always have throughout his life. Sex, eye color, height, and his grandpa’s nose are already present; all he needs is time to grow and develop these features.

After about a week, the unborn child, now in the embryo stage, has implanted in the uterus. By the time he is 18 days old, he already has a beating heart and a visible spinal cord. His growth is rapid and almost miraculous. Within just a few weeks, he will have all the body parts he will have as an adult. In six weeks, the unborn child has grown from a single-celled person into a person with definable features and every organ system in place.

Just as an infant does not look exactly like the adult he will become, so an embryo in the early stages of development does not look exactly the way he will at birth. Who are we to say that his life is without meaning? Arguably, the infant needs as much or more care than the unborn child because both are entirely reliant upon outside help in order to survive, but there are few people who advocate for infanticide (sadly, we can no longer say that “no one” advocates for infanticide). We cannot judge a life’s worth based on arbitrary standards of quality or care; rather, we must give each life the same objective value, based simply on its merit as human life.  

It’s important to remember that the vast majority of abortions take place between the seventh and twelfth week of pregnancy—long after the babies have beating hearts and detectable brainwaves. These facts might anger some people, but you can be confident in the knowledge that what you are speaking is true and has nothing to do with opinion, ideology, or religion. “Don’t force your religion on me” falls under this category of argument because it has the same answer: No matter what you believe about the existence of God, it’s indisputable science that at fertilization, a new life comes into existence.

One of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal is the ultrasound image. Within the last several decades, the use of the ultrasound has gone from nonexistent to routine practice. As technology improves, so do the images of the unborn children. Today’s pregnant mamas can take home 4D ultrasound videos of their babies yawning, stretching, and sucking their thumbs! This is one reason why it is so important that all pregnant mothers have the chance to view an ultrasound of their baby. In your own conversations, have an ultrasound image or fetal model available to show people. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and although your picture and words may not change minds, they may plant seeds in peoples’ hearts. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pro-Life 101: Using Our Language to Frame Our Arguments

"Did I really just say that?!"
Anyone familiar with the abortion debate knows the discrepancy in the language those on each side use. Even if you’re not always consciously aware of the differences, you’ve probably noticed that some people say “fetus” while others say “baby.” The language we use helps frame our arguments, and today we’re going to tell you some simple ways that your vocabulary can strengthen your pro-life witness.

You may be aware that when the mainstream media talks about the pro-life movement, they don’t say “pro-life.” At best, we are “anti-abortion,” but often we are just “anti-choice.” See what they did there? It’s that simple to turn a positive connotation into a negative one. This is just one example of how language shapes our arguments, and it illustrates just why we, as pro-lifers, need to be so careful with the words we use. Without even meaning to, what we say can work against us. For example, how often have you said “pro-choice?” Our opponents are NOT “pro-choice,” they are “pro-abortion,” and to say otherwise implies that abortion IS a choice.

Since it’s easy to get caught up in their terminology without realizing it, let’s look at some of the common words and phrases to avoid in pro-life situations, as well as other things to say instead.

First, “choice.” This otherwise harmless word is loaded when it comes to our subject. As Americans, we like being able to choose what to have for dinner, the career we want, or where to spend our vacations. “Choice” is good, right? Not when it comes to abortion. Unfortunately, the pro-abortion side has commandeered this word, and since we are not for “choice,” that makes us the bad guys. Try to use words like “option,” “decision,” or “alternative” instead. Using the word “choice” in a conversation about abortion is to adopt their language, and we want to avoid that as much as possible.
Example: Mothers facing crisis pregnancies have more options than abortion.

“Fetus.” Though this is a medical term and means “unborn young” in Latin, today our opponents use “fetus” to detract from the humanity of the unborn. Unless you are having a scientific discussion, avoid “fetus” and use words like “baby” or “unborn child” instead. When people hear the word “baby,” a clump of cells is not what they imagine.

Example: “Just six weeks after fertilization, the baby already has all the limbs and organs his adult body will. He even has detectable brain waves!”

“It.” NEVER refer to an unborn baby as “it.” It’s hard to remember to refer to a baby of unknown sex by anything else, but “it” is one word you should eliminate when referring to a human person. If necessary, pick a name for the baby. Not only does this humanize “Junior,” it also gives him a sex for you to refer to. When you’re talking about the so-called “War on Women,” consider using “her” to refer to the unborn baby; it’s a subtle reminder that the unborn women should be part of the debate, too.

Example: “At fertilization, the unborn baby is not just a clump of cells. He’s a genetically unique human person with his own DNA. All he needs is time to grow!”

“Pregnant Woman” or “Woman.” Call her a mother! After all, if you believe that life begins at fertilization (and you should), then motherhood begins at fertilization, too. This also emphasizes the baby’s role in pregnancy.

Example: “It’s tragic that mothers in crisis pregnancies feel that abortion is their only option.”

“Doctor” and “Clinic.” These words imply that abortion is just like any other medical procedure. For obvious reasons, always say “abortionist” and “abortion facility.” Don’t be afraid to call them what they are!

Example: “Every time I pray at the abortion facility, I pray that the abortionist will have a change of heart.”

Finally, “murder.” Although it’s often best to avoid euphemisms, in this case it’s better to use a more gentle word, like “killing.” Remember, expectant mothers are under a great deal of pressure to abort and are often misinformed about their baby’s development; they don’t need to feel judged by you as a murderer. Keep in mind, too, that we are portrayed as self-righteous, insensitive, and violent. Casual usage of terms like “murder” only contributes to this image.

Example: “When there are so many couples waiting to adopt, why does our culture try to persuade young mothers that killing their unborn children is their best option?”

Although there are more words that we could talk about, you get the point. Ultimately, the important thing to remember is that ANY voice for the voiceless is wonderful, but it’s good to have the tools to effectively present your side, too.

This is the first installment in a series of posts on pro-life apologetics based on the “When They Say,You Say” talks developed by Olivia Gans Turner and Mary Spaulding Balch. 

To read part 2, part 3, or part 4, click on the links!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Celebrating 40 Years of Protecting Innocent Lives!

This year marks North Carolina Right to Life's 40th anniversary, and what better way to celebrate than a party?

Please join us on September 28th as we commemorate this special occasion! Our banquet, featuring Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and National Right to Life President Carol Tobias, will begin at 7 o'clock in the evening at the Embassy Suites in Greensboro.

For guests with VIP tickets, there will be an hors d'oeuvres reception with an opportunity to meet and get a complimentary photo with the lieutenant governor at 6 o'clock. 

Seating is limited, so visit our website for tickets and pricing soon!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tales from Camp Joshua, Part Three

[This is the third installment of our Camp Joshua 2013 series. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.]

Dr. Mistrot's presentation
Saturday night, we welcomed Dr. Jacques Mistrot, a retired surgeon, to speak about stem cell research. While many of us hear about stem cell research in the news, most people don't know much about it, so his talk was one of our favorites. Dr. Mistrot, who has devoted much of his retirement to speaking on bioethics, told us how stem cells can be broken into two main categories, adult and embryonic. Adult stem cells are taken from sources such as bone marrow or umbilical cord blood, and they have been used to treat over 70 diseases to date. Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, are taken from living embryos, destroying those lives in the process. Not only does it take many thousands of embryos to conduct research, but no illnesses have been successfully treated using embryonic stem cells. This, he explained, is why adult stem cell research is better from both a scientific and ethical standpoint, because it has effectively treated all kinds of diseases without destroying embryonic human lives. 

The students enjoying a bit of free time together.
Saturday was such a busy day that everyone was ready for a relaxing evening. The teens grabbed their blankets and pillows, threw on comfortable clothes, and settled down for a movie night complete with popcorn and candy. We watched October Baby, a powerful pro-life film following the journey of Hannah, a young woman who learns she was born after a failed abortion. Because Hannah hadn't even known she was adopted, she struggles to reconcile the life she thought she knew with the one she now has. It's a great movie...even when, despite your best efforts, your DVD player and projector inexplicably show it in black and white with Spanish subtitles! 

The next morning we were up bright and early for the optional church services and breakfast. Afterwards, Sarah Zagorski (Louisiana Right to Life) motivated everyone with her "Pro-Life Activism" presentation. Since the earlier sessions focused on learning the facts and rhetorical tools for effective pro-life persuasion, this one was all about actively using those skills. Our goal is that these students will return to their families, schools, churches, and communities and share what they have learned! 

The next few hours were occupied with lunch, evaluations, and packing. We couldn't believe how quickly the time had gone! It wasn't quite time to go home yet, though. In the afternoon, Dr. Melinda Snyder spoke about euthanasia and how it is a growing problem in the United States. For some vulnerable elderly or disabled adults, basic food and water is often considered extraordinary care, meaning they will die slow, painful deaths by starvation. She pointed out that even though it's a lot easier to defend the rights of a cute little baby, we'll all be elderly someday and in need of just as much love, care, and protection. The teens seemed interested in what she had to say; like stem cell research, the facts about euthanasia and end of life issues aren't as well known or understood. 

Camp Joshua NC officially ended with a small closing ceremony. We told the students how impressed we had all been with their attention, respect, and attitude, and also how glad we were that they had come! We reminded them of their responsibility to use what they had learned, to talk to their friends and family, and to share the pro-life message in whatever way they could. We also told them that the relationships they had formed while at Camp Joshua are absolutely priceless, and to rely on each other in times of discouragement. Finally, we called each student up and gave him or her a certificate of completion. We are so proud of them!

After our closing ceremony

Our first experience with Camp Joshua was so wonderful! We are grateful to all the people who helped make it happen, especially the adult volunteers and, most of all, the teens who sacrificed a weekend of their summer to come. They were an ideal group to work with, and we can't wait to do this again next year!

If you or someone you know might be interested in Camp Joshua, please, tell them about it! We can always use volunteers to help promote our camp, not to mention teens to attend! We will be posting updates as to our progress on our website, our camp website, Facebook, Twitter (@ncrtl), Pinterest, and this blog. Check back often for more details about next year's camp! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tales from Camp Joshua, Part Two

Saturday afternoon, everyone returned to the classroom for the next workshop, The Impact of Abortion. The session overview describes it as follows:

This session will highlight people whose lives have been directly impacted by abortion – abortion survivors, women who have had abortions, former medical professional who have performed or promoted abortions and men who have lost children to abortion will be a part of a panel to express the personal impact of abortion.

While any personal story about abortion is bound to be moving, Hannah Rose Allen, from Raleigh, has an especially beautiful and powerful experience. If you do nothing else today, listen for yourself.  She has a real gift for storytelling, and you will be as spellbound as we were. 

Hannah Rose Allen on the "Impact of Abortion"
When Hannah Rose was only 19, she found herself pregnant. Ashamed and alone, she chose to have an abortion. Her depression and pain brought only more bad decisions, and mere months later, she was pregnant again. Although she scheduled another abortion, God touched her heart and gave her the courage to choose life for her child, whom she named Lily Katherine, meaning purity. Lily, she knew, was the innocent vessel that God used to bring Hannah Rose back to Him. After a normal pregnancy, Hannah Rose went into labor, only to hear her doctor tell her that her baby's life was already gone. Although she still grieves both her children (she named her first baby Luke Shiloh), Hannah Rose is grateful for the time she had with Lily, and marvels at how a person who never took a breath could change her life so much.

By the end of Hannah Rose's talk, many of us were in tears, so we took a short break before moving onto our next session, Abortion Alternatives. Michelle Reeves, a pregnancy resource center director, did an awesome job describing what resources they offer pregnant moms who come to them for help. Michelle clarified North Carolina's adoption laws, explained some of the myths and stigmas surrounding adoption, and passed out a list of "positive adoption language" that we can use in conversation. Every pro-lifer knows that the language we use matters, and adoption is no exception. For example, telling someone she can "put her child up for adoption" makes it sound like a process she has very little control over. Instead, telling her she can "make an adoption plan" helps her to feel involved in the decisions she's making for her child. Michelle emphasized that while adoption is a wonderful choice, it's always a painful sacrifice for the birth mother and shouldn't be downplayed.

The afternoon ended with another group discussion, a presentation about pro-life legislation from our president, Barbara Holt, and a group photo. Everyone looked great in their green Camp Joshua T-shirts! We were glad to have an official camp photo, especially since we still couldn't quite believe the camp was actually happening! We are so glad it did. 

Camp Joshua NC, 2013
This was such a wonderful group of people!

If you missed it, make sure you read Part One in our Camp Joshua 2013 series, and watch for our next post soon!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tales from Camp Joshua NC, Part One

What a busy few weeks it’s been! Besides all of the excitement at the legislature, NCRTL was pleased to host its first Camp Joshua July 19th-21st, and we are finally able to tell you all about it! 

Camp Joshua was such a success, and so much fun for everyone involved! The weekend kicked off on Friday night, when the campers arrived, settled in, and got to know each other at dinner. Then they played a game of “Pro-Life Jeopardy,” which led right into their first workshop, Abortion 101. Afterwards, we had a long group discussion about abortion and fetal development. The students asked such thoughtful questions!

Some of the prize-winning posters!

Although we’d only been there for a few hours, after our discussion we were all ready for a little bit of fun. Commence the poster contest! The teens really blew us away with their enthusiasm and made more posters than we anticipated. Although it made our classroom look great when they were all hung up, it also made judging much harder, too! We gave out numerous prizes for the winning posters of categories like “Most Artistic” and “Best Message.”

On Saturday, the real work began. Because Camp Joshua is only a 48 hour weekend camp, the students have a lot to learn in a short period of time. They all did a fabulous job of staying alert, paying attention, and asking questions. We couldn’t ask for a better group! The main focus of the morning was the art of pro-life persuasion and how to effectively convey the pro-life message. Speaker Sarah Zagorski, from Louisiana Right to Life, explained how to address the questions from their most basic root: Is the unborn a living human person or not? She also shared her moving personal story about her troubled childhood in an abusive home and her eventual adoption into a loving family. She reminded students that we all have a personal story that we can use to win hearts for the pro-life cause, but it must be supplemented with sound knowledge about the life issues.

Having been equipped with the facts and tools for effective dialogue, the students took to the stage. Each team performed a skit showing off their understanding of the material they had learned. Practice is the key to mastery of a concept, and we are confident that these students have it down! One team focused on a dramatic presentation of a conversation about life outside of an abortion facility, while the other team took a more comedic approach and staged a scene at “Planned Pizzahood.” Needless to say, everyone was impressed with them both!

Team 2: Their "Planned Pizzahood" skit 
had us all giggling.
Team 1: The scarf represented this young woman's
shame and uncertainty due to her unplanned pregnancy.

We were all excited by our first Camp Joshua’s great start! As you can see, it was a busy weekend and one blog post just won’t do it justice. Click here to read Part Two, and visit our Facebook page to see more pictures from our camp!