You may need to do this more than once. Your critic may toss numerous objections your way, none of which address the status of the unborn. You’ll hear about rape, severely disabled kids, economic hardship, foster care problems, child abuse, and every other hard-case scenario imaginable. Be gracious, but don’t fall for it. Keep trotting out your toddler. Stay focused on the one question that really matters: What is the unborn? Until that question is answered, everything else is a distraction.

Finally, remember that arguments are seldom won on the spot. Even after you make a compelling case for the pro-life view, critics—even intelligent ones—may balk. That shouldn’t surprise us. Let’s be honest: How many of us upon hearing a powerful rejoinder to one of our most cherished beliefs immediately concedes the point? To the contrary, we typically fight on. Thus, if the argument is won, it’s won later when your critic is alone with his thoughts and quietly abandons his former position.

Conservative columnist and expert debater William Rusher writes that a genuine change of mind on a subject important to us can be painful:

Nobody, when confronted with a really devastating argument against something in which he has hitherto deeply believed, slaps himself on the thigh and shouts, “By gosh, I never thought of that!” On the contrary, the blow will be resented. Very often it will be sustained in obstinate silence. The ego needs time to marshal its defenses—either to try to restore the toppled idol, or to come to terms with the toppling, or (at the very least) to regain its own shattered composure.

It is precisely then, however—in the silent weeks or months after the argument, when perhaps no one else is present and the defeated arguer confronts only himself in the recollection of his defeat—that the argument may truly be said to be “won.” Because then, if ever, is when the loser of the argument will tacitly abandon his former position. He may never admit to having changed his mind at all; but at the very least he will have rearranged his mental furniture, to insure that he does not hereafter sit, so often or so heavily, on that all too demonstrably fragile chair.16

Don’t worry that you can’t change everyone’s mind. Truth is, hard-core abortion-choicers are not your primary customers. You’re after the 60 percent of Americans in the mushy middle who think of themselves as “prochoice” because they’ve never thought seriously about the choice they’re advocating. Your job is to bring clarification and get them thinking. Just keep trotting out your toddler.


1. What do pro-lifers contend about abortion? How does this help simplify the debate?

2. Why is the pro-choice/anti-choice distinction misleading?

3. In what ways are pro-lifers pro-choice? When it comes to choosing abortion, what makes that choice right or wrong?

4. Why do appeals to privacy and choice miss the point in the abortion debate?

5. What does begging the question mean? Why is this a logical fallacy?

6. What assumption seems to lurk behind many of the typical defenses for abortion?

7. How does “trotting out the toddler” help simplify the debate? What is its primary purpose?

8. A friend says, “Poor women cannot afford another child and should therefore have a right to an abortion.” What is she assuming about the unborn? Use a trot out the toddler example to show that the status of the unborn is the real issue in the debate, not the poverty of the mother.

9. When abortion advocates argue for abortion in cases of rape, what are they assuming about the unborn? What question can you ask to expose that assumption?

10. When pro-life advocates say it’s a prima facie wrong to take human life, what do they mean?

11. What does William Rusher say about winning arguments?