The Ultimate Guide to Replying to your Pro-Life Uncle

The Ultimate Guide to Replying to your Pro-Life Uncle

By Thắm Nguyễn

On September 1st, 2021, Texas’s Heartbeat Bill started to take effect. According to the bill, abortions are banned once a fetal heartbeat is detected—usually after six weeks of pregnancy—with no exemptions in cases of rape or incest. The bill is especially dangerous to women as it denies their legitimate freedom to make their own reproductive decisions as well as threatens their overall well-being. Pro-Lifers, however, tend to believe that this bill is beneficial, and should be supported at all costs. Pro-Choicers’ attempts to convince these Pro-Lifers of the significance of legalizing abortion are usually in vain as interactions between both sides often turn offensive and aggressive. This article, therefore, is brought to life as a guide to transforming such unfruitful discourse into informative and educational conversations about abortion. It is important to note that what this article aims is not to help you violently shoot down Pro-Life arguments. After all, Pro-Lifers are not evil monsters: they may just really think that they are protecting women. What this article really tries to do is to give you suggestions of how to untangle Pro-Lifers’ confusion and provide them with information so that they can probably reconsider their standpoint. Without further ado, let the conversation begin!

*Pro-Life refers to the advocacy of a fetus’s right to gestation to term and birth.
*Pro-Choice refers to the advocacy of a woman’s freedom of choice regarding the decision of terminating a pregnancy.

Your Uncle: “Life begins at conception, so aborting a fetus is the same as killing a born human.”

Reply: Do you know that millions of frozen embryos at fertility clinics are discarded due to the need to fertilize far more eggs than planned to use when performing in vitro fertilization, resulting in the practice of indefinitely freezing surplus embryos (Denver, 2019)? Do you also know that even when conceptions happen in casual sexual intercourse, a large number of fertilized eggs are not implanted in the wall of the uterus but passed out, with a mortality rate as high as 60% (Jarvis, 2016)? If life really begins at conception, this would mean fertility clinics and people who have sex have murdered many. On that note, if you want to criminalize abortion for this reason, you may have to criminalize fertility clinics and even natural sexual intercourse as well. It is believed that a fetus is not the same as a born human, hence abortion cannot equate to murder.

Your Uncle: “I don’t think so. Abortion is deliberately killing someone, while the aforementioned situations are either medical requirements or unintentional deaths. I believe that life is sacred and the right to life ought not to be violated, even at the expense of someone else’s convenience. Justifying abortion for reasons based off birth-related maternal risks or child-rearing entailed hardships suggests that a child’s right to life is outweighed by an adult’s inconvenience, which is unacceptable.”

Reply: I understand what you mean, but have you ever considered this thought experiment by Thomson in 1971? “You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with a famous but unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own … [If he is unplugged from you now, he will die; but] in nine months he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.” In this case, is it morally acceptable for you to unplug yourself from this violinist? Even though the violinist is a person with a legitimate right to life, most people would agree that your consent to be connected with him should be an act of kindness rather than an obligation. If the violinist’s personhood and right to life do not warrant him the right to use your body, a fetus’s hypothetical personhood and right to life should not warrant it the right to use its mother’s body.

Your Uncle: “Hmmm… Even if that is true, abortion is still unfair because unborn children are punished for the mistakes and irresponsibility of their parents.”

Reply: Let’s dissect this problem under two situations: when women engage in consensual sexual intercourse and when women are impregnated against their own will (e.g. in the cases of rape).

In the former situation, you may say that before having sex—even with contraceptives, adults should be and are often already aware of the risks of pregnancies associated; hence, they should accept and be responsible for the consequences of their own actions. However, do you really think it is really better to give birth to the child if the mother is not yet ready physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially? Giving birth may mean that the mother will suffer from physical and mental health issues and financial struggles, and the child will end up living under poor conditions that prevent him/her from healthy development. On that note, both the mother’s and the child’s life can be worse.

In the latter situation, even though it is obviously not the mother’s fault, you may still think that the fetus is not at fault either and should not be punished for someone else’s mistake. If you think it is unfair for the child if it is aborted, is it fair for the mother if she has to be responsible for something that is not her fault? Why does the victim have to suffer the consequences? That is not to mention the mother, in this case, can also experience health issues and financial struggles just like in the previous one.

Your Uncle: “You seem to worry about the mother’s health before, during, and after giving birth, but don’t you know that abortion can also cause long-term physical and mental health issues for the mother? Even worse is the fact that these adverse effects can be greatly escalated when abortion is allowed since abortion would become more accessible and prevalent.”

Reply: I’m glad we are both genuinely concerned about the impact of abortion on mothers. But did you know that legalizing abortion would make it much safer for mothers, and protect their futures in the long run? Firstly, the legalization of abortion can make sure that women have access to safe procedures. A study by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization pointed out that 20 million unsafe abortions are performed every year and that 67,000 women die as a result of complications from those abortions, mostly in countries where abortion is illegal (McArdle, 2007). Secondly, the ban on abortion can threaten the future of young women. There exists the probability that one day in the future they may get raped or their contraceptives may fail, and if they get pregnant, their life would turn upside down. From hopeful and aspiring young women with dreams and ambitions, they have to postpone—or worse, give up—their aspirations to give birth to and raise their children when they are not ready to do so. What do you think if this happens to your daughter, sister, or friend? It is important to keep in mind that Pro-Choice is not synonymous with Pro-Abortion. Abortion can lead to unwanted effects, but there are often no easy options for mothers to choose from.

Your Uncle: “You have a point there, but you cannot deny the negative effects abortion can have on women. It is reported that some women had Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome, reduced fertility rate, increased chance of miscarriage in later pregnancies, higher risks of breast cancer, and more. Some may even abuse abortion as a contraceptive method.”

Reply: I understand your concern about the adverse effects of abortion on mothers’ health, and I assure you that Pro-Choicers care about them as strongly as you do! It is exactly the reason why we don’t think a ban on abortion would help. A study shows that abortion rates are similar in different countries whether abortion is legal or not (McArdle, 2007). Banning abortion doesn’t necessarily promise a better future for women. It can even worsen the adverse effects of abortion as more people may opt for illegal, unsafe abortion procedures. I’m certain that this is not something you would want either, right?

Your Uncle: “Surely, I don’t want anything bad to happen to either the mother or the baby. But… why do fetuses have to feel the pain they do not deserve?”

Reply: To be honest, Pro-Choicers share the same concern about fetuses too! Fortunately, the majority of abortions are carried out before fetuses are able to feel pain. A study by the University of California at San Francisco concluded that fetuses probably can’t experience the feeling of pain until the 29th or 30th week of gestation, long after most abortions are performed (Lee et al., 2005). Since abortion does not inflict any pain upon the fetuses, it would be unreasonable to deny a woman’s right to abortion for such reasons.

Your Uncle: “If it’s true, it will be a huge relief for me. But why would these women abort their babies if there is an option for adoption? There will always be families out there who are seeking fosterage.”

Reply: I agree with you that adoption is a very promising alternative to abortion. Nevertheless, it is crucial to take into account what adoption actually looks like in real life. In Vietnam, the number of children in need of a replacement family far outnumbers the number of those in foster homes with adoption agencies (Thanh Nhung, 2016). This suggests that the practice of adoption in real life is not as easy and simple as you think. That is not to mention some parents are reluctant to give their children up for adoption due to worries that these children may feel abandoned, live under poor conditions in orphanages, or experience mistreatment by the adoptive parents. These worries are real and can be coupled with the parents’ moral misery when giving up their own children, leading to people’s hesitation in choosing adoption over abortion. It may be potentially better to terminate the pregnancy before the parents and the child undergo later misery.

Your Uncle: “I never thought about it from that perspective before. But what about other effects of abortion? Abortion can be used as a tool for eugenics, which can promote discrimination and endanger human genetic diversity. Furthermore, without the ban on abortion, the decision of whether to abort a baby becomes so easy and comfortable that it takes little time and effort to determine the fate of a fetus, leading to more reckless, less informed decisions. When a choice is respected more than a life, life itself becomes objectively trivial and deprived of humanity. This is concerning since people may choose not to help someone else in emergencies because of the inconvenience involved. In this sense, banning abortion will uphold the value of human life, and collectively and correctly calibrate our moral compass.”

*Eugenics is the practice of deliberately selecting wanted heritable characteristics to “improve” future generations’ genetics.

Reply: Your concerns are totally valid. In fact, as Pro-Choicers, we are also worried about the same things. However, we don’t think that an abortion ban is an effective solution for all these issues. It will not thoroughly address the underlying problems behind the mentioned issues. The real problem behind people’s so-called eugenics practice, irresponsible decisions, or indifferent attitude is not the legalization of abortion but the education on sex, birth control, crime (e.g. rape and incest), and the effectiveness of contraceptives. Prohibiting abortion only scathes the surface of these issues; long-term progress can only be realized when the underlying problems are detected, acknowledged, and tackled.

Final words

It is worth noting that the purpose of this “guide” is not to get you in a verbal argument with Pro-Lifers but to suggest some ideas you can use to help sway those unpersuaded by the importance and necessity of giving women the freedom of choice over abortion. Well-informed Pro-Lifers are usually well-intentioned: they advocate for things they believe would most benefit humankind. For which reason, when engaging in a conversation with a person standing on the opposite side, remember the vital importance of civility and humility. After all, whether you win the debate does not matter. What truly matters is that Pro-Lifers take time to listen, comprehend, and possibly rethink and reform their beliefs.


Denver, C. (2019). At fertility clinics, abandoned human embryos could number in the millions. Catholic News Agency.

Jarvis, G. (2016). Early embryo mortality in natural human reproduction: What the data say. F1000 Research, 5, 2765.

Lee, S., Ralston, H., Drey, E., Partridge, J., Rosen, M. (2005). Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence. JAMA. 294(8):947–954.

McArdle, M. (2007). Department of awful statistics. The Atlantic.

Texas State Capitol (2021). Introduced Version - Bill Text.

Thanh Nhung (2016). 15.000 tre em duoc nhan lam con nuoi. Bao Dan sinh.

Thomson, J. J. (1971). A Defense of Abortion. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 1(1), 47–66.