Bonus Episode #1 – “Abortion: From Controversy to Civility” by Stephanie Gray

Stephanie Gray began speaking at age 18 and has given over 800 pro-life presentations around the world. She currently speaks on behalf of her ministry Love Unleashes Life and she authored an outstanding book of the same name – Love Unleashes Life: Abortion and the Art of Communicating Truth.

Stephanie is also author of A Physician’s Guide to Discussing Abortion and she also has an excellent audio recording, distributed via Lighthouse Catholic Media, of a presentation she gave at a Students for Life conference, entitled The New Conversation: Changing Hearts and Minds on Abortion

Stephanie Gray is Faculty at Blackstone Legal Fellowship where she trains law students from around the world to converse persuasively on abortion. She also previously served as the Executive Director and Co-founder of the Canadian Center for Bio-Ethical Reform for 12 years.

We previously had Stephanie on as our guest for show #2, where she shared her personal story for how she awakened to the reality of abortion and embarked upon her life’s work of helping to end it, and show #25, where she shared some background info on her talk at Google and her wisdom on abortion victim photography.

You can find Stephanie at stephaniegray.info.

Stephanie Gray – Google Talk “Abortion: From Controversy to Civility” Outline

I. Introduction – Who inspires you? Why?

a. Often different answers for “who” inspires

b. Common theme for “why” certain people inspire

i. It seems, generally, the people who are inspiring have suffered in some way, or they face some sort of obstacle, or some sort of challenge, or some sort of difficulty, and what sets them apart from those who don’t inspire is how they responded to their suffering, to the challenge, to the difficulty.

ii. They all seem to have three qualities in common:

1. They put others ahead of themselves.

2. They have perspective.

3. They do the right thing even when it’s hard.

II. Inspiring people put others ahead of themselves.

a. Love is universally attractive.

b. Each individual has a battle internally between times when they put others ahead of themselves and times when they don’t put others ahead of themselves (self-interested vs. other-oriented).

i. Story: Captain who abandoned his sinking cruise ship with passengers still onboard.

ii. Story: Captain Sullenberger who was the last person to leave his sinking airplane.

iii. Even if we sometimes fail in being other-oriented, we know that is how we ought to be and that’s the example to follow.

c. Question: If you agree that it was correct for the pilot to put the passengers ahead of himself, to prioritize the needs of his dependents, then wouldn’t it follow that when it comes to the topic of abortion and an unplanned pregnancy, that a pregnant woman ought to prioritize the needs of her dependent, her pre-born child, much like a passenger of an airplane who is in a vulnerable position and needs someone who is more skilled, and older, and capable of helping him or her out?

i. Objection: Passengers are human beings, but embryos and fetuses are not.

ii. Common ground: The comparison is indeed valid or invalid depending on whether or not embryos and fetuses are human beings like the passengers on the airplane.

III. When does life begin?

a. Question: Do you believe in human rights?

b. Question: What about this human’s rights? (image of seven-week human embryo)

i. Objection: Not human.

1. What are her parents?

2. Is the pregnant woman human? Is her partner human?

3. If yes, wouldn’t it logically follow that their offspring must be of the same species?

ii. Objection: Not alive.

1. If the fetus isn’t alive, why do you need to do an abortion?

2. Is the embryo growing?

3. If yes, wouldn’t it follow by virtue of the embryo’s growth that the embryo must be living?

4. And if the embryo has human parents, wouldn’t it follow by virtue of that, that the embryo must be human?

c. Question: If we believe in human rights, then wouldn’t it follow that what we know to be a living human has the same human rights as you or me?

i. Objection: But it’s just a fetus or it’s just an embryo.

ii. Question: What kind of fetus, or what kind of embryo?

iii. The word “fetus” or “embryo” does not tell us what something is, but rather it tells us how old something is.

d. We know when life begins.

i. IVF example. Have we as a society ever heard someone who is in the business of making life, someone who is an IVF specialist, have we ever heard them say, “I just don’t know when life begins?” We know exactly when it begins. The one moment that the IVF specialist is trying to replicate in the lab is the moment of fertilization.

ii. Examples of looking at other species a little less controversial than our own: horse breeders, dog breeders, veterinarians, etc. know when life begins.

IV. Personhood

a. Philosopher Peter Singer has a definition of personhood that excludes pre-born and some born children: a person is someone who is rational, conscious, and self-aware.

b. Objection: Even if biologically the embryo and the fetus are human, philosophically they are not persons and that’s why we can justify abortion.

i. Questions:

1. Why isn’t a one-celled embryo rational, conscious, or self-aware?

2. Why doesn’t the embryo at fertilization have a brain?

3. The one-celled human embryo doesn’t have a brain because of how old she is. She hasn’t had time to develop a brain.

ii. Contrast with an ameba.

1. Why isn’t an ameba rational, conscious, or self-aware?

2. Why doesn’t the ameba have a brain?

3. An ameba has no brain, not because it hasn’t developed it yet, but because it is not within its nature to develop a brain.

4. An ameba is not rational, conscious, or self-aware because of what it is vs. a human embryo who is not rational, conscious, or self-aware, because of how old she is.

c. Who gets human rights? The necessary criteria is simply being human, not being human at a certain age.

i. Question: Should personhood be grounded in how old we are or should personhood be grounded in what we are?

ii. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

1. “All members of the human family have the right to life.”

2. Article 6: “Everyone has a right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”

3. Adopted in the late 1940s in order to not repeat the injustices of the Holocaust.

iii. When do we become persons? It’s helpful to look at the timeline from the moment of fertilization to the moment of birth.

1. If we draw the line of personhood anywhere after fertilization, we’re ultimately basing it on a developmental stage, or based on an age, which would fly in the face of human rights doctrines which are not to acknowledge human rights based on abilities, or age, but instead acknowledge human rights based on being human.

2. We know at the moment of fertilization, the one-celled embryo has all the genetic material distinguishing her from the mother and the father. From that point forward her appearance, abilities, and age change, but her human identity distinguishing her from everyone else remains the same.

V. Dependency

a. Objection: If someone doesn’t want their infant, any of us are capable of caring for the infant, but if someone doesn’t want their fetus, none of us are capable of caring for the fetus. Therefore, a woman should have a right to have an abortion.

b. Question: Does the greater dependency of the fetus make the mother less responsible, or more responsible?

i. Civil societies tend to prioritize weaker people, rather than stronger people.

ii. Story: Car in river. Who do you think he picked first? Why?

iii. Only the mother can care for the fetus.

iv. Story: Rwandan genocide survivor. (shows image of Rwandan victim photography and image of abortion victim photography)

1. How do you feel about this comparison?

2. Abortion is worse. At least we could try to run away.

c. The greater a human’s vulnerability, the greater another’s responsibility towards that individual.

VI. Inspiring people have perspective

a. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

i. As a prisoner and psychologist, he observed that someone can have a similar experience and still choose a difference response to the experience (ex. guards and prisoners).

ii. The last of the human freedoms that can never be taken from us is the freedom to choose how to respond to the situation that we’re in.

iii. Despair = suffering without meaning

b. Nick Vujicic

i. Instead of thinking about what his lack of limbs prevents him from doing, he started to think about what his lack of limbs enabled him to do.

ii. Story: Brooke

iii. His obstacle is now his opportunity

c. How can we change our perspective in an unplanned crisis situation (ex. poor prenatal diagnosis)?

i. Though experiment: Imagine someone you love dearly, on the opposite end of the country calls you today and says “I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and I’ve been given four-weeks left to live.”

ii. Question: Would you wait until week three, day six to hop on a plane and go say goodbye to the person you love, or would you take the next flight out and savor every moment of every day for the next four-weeks with the person you love?

iii. When we have a minimal amount of time left with someone we love, we want to maximize the minimal time. We don’t want to cut short the already short time we have.

VII. Inspiring people do the right thing even when it’s hard.

a. Circumstances that a pregnant woman can be in and the reasons that could prompt someone to have an abortion.

i. Rape

ii. Health problems for baby

iii. Poverty

iv. Education

v. No support

vi. Age

vii. Unwantedness

b. Everyone can agree these situations would be hard.

c. Question: What ought we do when circumstances are hard?

i. Imagine same circumstances with a born child. Still hard.

ii. Question: Would we ever allow someone to end this child’s life because circumstances for the parent are hard?

iii. We ought to do the right thing even when it’s hard.

d. Story: Leanna

i. Kidnapped and raped at age 12.

ii. “I saved my daughter’s life, but she saved mine.”

e. Story: Veronica and Amelia

i. Amelia’s respiratory issues

ii. “We stop look at ourselves as individuals with needs, and instead we begin to look at how we can serve another and therefore love another and with doing that comes learning to love ourselves.”

f. Story: Debbie

i. Regrets abortion and tells her story

ii. Saves lives