Know both sides, then argue abortion

Thursday, February 5, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:09 a.m. CST, Thursday, February 5, 2009

It was not a case of road rage, just of rage. Not a great way to start the new year.

A black SUV stopped next to me at the traffic light at northbound Old 63 and Conley Road. The driver, a white man who was approximately 60 years old, rolled down his window and waved. I rolled down my window, expecting that the good citizen noticed my tire was flat or my brake lights were out. But no.

“How can you vote Democratic because of your faith?” His face was red with anger and voice trembled with menace. "Democrats have murdered more than 50 million babies.”  

I shut my window. I was not going to have a seven-second philosophical argument that neither party could win. Personally, I have not murdered anyone. But do I remain guiltless?

A window sticker saying, “Because of my faith, I vote Democratic,” stirred his anger. He, like many others, confuses faith with religion, affiliation with morality and pro-choice with pro-abortion. He did make me think my own knowledge of the arguments, brought to the forefront by Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, needed to be revisited.

Let me state for the record that I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice. Abortion should never be the first choice, but must be a choice of the woman and her partner. You might disagree with me, and I respect that, so much so that I took the time to seek out the arguments from both sides.

My college students are required to make two persuasive speeches during the term, both political. Abortion is one of a few prohibited topics. There have been a few notable exceptions; one student did an anti-abortion speech based on the father’s rights. I continually reminded myself that there are few, if any, new arguments on either side of this issue. But what are those arguments?

My research included Web sites and books about abortion and the rights of the fetus and of women, including the 2005 “The Ethics of Abortion.” I read brochures from Planned Parenthood and People for Life. I researched the history and the court rulings in Roe and Doe. I was enlightened. I will hold my position and remain pro-choice.

I found that the moral issues are more sectarian than secular. I found that the arguments, pro-life and pro-choice, are persuasive and most, but not all, are presented logically. Many derive their position only on emotional arguments. “It’s wrong because it’s wrong” is not a compelling discussion.

I found that while all religions respect life, not all sects agree when life starts. I do not want to argue that point here, but to acknowledge that even multiple branches of a parent religious society do not agree.

I also know Democrats who are pro-life and Republicans who are pro-choice. I know atheists who believe that life starts at conception and those who believe life begins at first breath. Both sides seem to dismiss science which has extended the expectancy of life for a premature birth. Science cannot answer this difficult and philosophical question.

I discovered that those who argue with fervor and passion rarely know or understand the arguments of their adversary. “I’m right and you’re wrong” is the keystone of each army.

So where do I go from here? My research was interesting and proved quite fruitful. I may now change my mind and allow the discussion of abortion rights in class with a single restriction; the speaker must argue the opposing side. It is only fair. Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War,” tells us that to be a good soldier for your cause you need to know your enemy as well as you know yourself. Knowing the opposing argument makes your own position stronger.

My nemesis that late afternoon caused me to open my mind and re-examine my personal morality, my personal rights and wrong. I did this with an open mind. I can now confidently argue both sides. Can you?

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Besides the Missourian, David is also a featured columnist for and  He welcomes your comments at

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