Ministry seeks to change minds in abortion debate

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.— It often is said that when it comes to the debate over abortion, minds rarely are changed. A pro-life Christian ministry hopes to transform that line of thought.

Stand to Reason, a California-based educational ministry, believes people who hold the pro-choice position can be converted to the pro-life cause, provided they are presented with a reasonable, persuasive argument. That's the goal of Stand to Reason's "Making Abortion Unthinkable: The Art of Pro-Life Persuasion" curriculum—teaching pro-lifers how best to persuade people to oppose abortion. By doing that, the ministry says, lives will be saved.

Gregory Koukl founded Stand to Reason in 1993 to help believers "think more clearly" about their faith and defend their faith. The pro-life curriculum is but a small part of the ministry, although it is one of its top sellers. Koukl and former Stand to Reason staffer Scott Klusendorf developed the curriculum after years of successfully teaching others how to defend the pro-life position.

"We came to the conviction that there was a fruitful way of dealing with the abortion issue that would produce results," Koukl, the ministry's president, told Baptist Press. "In fact, it already was producing results for us and changing minds of people who otherwise were hostile to the pro-life view, or at least were in the middle."

The Making Abortion Unthinkable DVD and VHS curriculum is intended for small groups, while the CDs, MP3s and cassettes are geared more toward individuals. All of them focus on the logical arguments behind the pro-life cause, including the scientific and philosophical cases. Koukl and Klusendorf—now president of Life Training Institute—are featured on the curriculum.

Although issues such as privacy, rape and incest often complicate the debate over abortion, Koukl believes the issue is rather simple and can be boiled down to one question: What is the unborn? All the side issues, he said, eventually lead back to that one question.

"You can't be for or against the killing of something if you are in the dark as to what the thing in question is," Koukl said. "If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification for abortion is even necessary. If it's just a blob of tissue, you don't have to come up with privacy arguments and economic arguments and rape and incest arguments. Those are moot. But if it is a human being, those arguments aren't adequate, because we don't kill human beings for the reasons people have abortions.

"Abortion kills a living thing. Whether or not it's right to kill any living thing depends entirely on what that living thing is. If it's an ant, a spider—no problem. If it's the little boy down the street because you're mad at him, then that's wrong."

The language used in abortion discussions is important, Koukl said. He intentionally uses the word "unborn" in an effort to keep from stacking the deck in either direction, while avoiding terms such as "baby" and "fetus." Koukl also believes that graphic images from abortions can be effective—as long as people are given warning and offered the chance to look away. But those images must be coupled with a reasonable argument, he said.

"Unless you have a good argument, then your approach doesn't have integrity," he said.

Pro-lifers have made progress in recent years, Koukl said, in part because of 4-D technology that now allows people to watch the baby move in real time.

"Technology allows us now to see into the womb in a quite vivid way, so that people can no longer kid themselves that the life being taken is not the life of a human being," he said. "... It's not a magic bullet in the sense that it's not the one thing that's going to persuade everybody, because some people don't care. But I think there is an intuition that is sparked in people when they actually get to see in the womb, and they realize, 'Gee, that's what I have said is OK to kill.'"

The debate over partial-birth abortion also has helped pro-lifers make strides, Koukl said, adding that there has been a "measurable blip" in polling data on the side of pro-lifers because of it.

"People who want to know what a partial-birth abortion is can't help but visualize it when it's explained. When they realize that it's barbarism, then it's a common sense notion that traveling seven inches down the birth canal is not going to change an unwanted mass of tissue into a valuable human being. There's no magic there," Koukl said. "If partial-birth abortion is barbarism, then stuffing that baby a little further up the birth canal doesn't change the moral nature of the act. I think people get that."

"Making Abortion Unthinkable" is available online at www.str.org or by calling 1-800-2-REASON.