Aristotle wrote that a good argument needs three things: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos appeals to the audience’s trust in the speaker, logos appeals to the audience’s appreciation for facts and logic, and pathos appeals to the audience’s emotions. Sometimes I think Pro-Choice arguments get a little logos-heavy, at the expense of pathos. Yes, reproductive rights are crucial to preserving public health and the economy. Of course the right to privacy is in our Constitution and must be upheld. But if we on the Pro Choice side are so focused on “abortion rights make sense,” we leave room for the Pro-Lifers to think they have the only moral high ground. When we fight emotions with logic, we do not fight effectively. And we have so much potential to win these fights: there are so many ethical reasons for abortion rights! I just think these reasons can seem so obvious that we occasionally forget to direct our arguments to the heart. Deep in our archives, I found a letter to President Ronald Reagan from two rabbis sharing their abortion story. However, they don’t just share their own story; they make a beautiful case for the humanity of abortion. It rebuts the classic pathos-drenched “baby murderer” argument elegantly and heart-wrenchingly. Read and pass it along to your friends looking for some inspiration about the importance of our cause.
By Kendall Reingold
May 13, 1985
President Ronald Reagan
The White House
Dear Mr. President,
It is time to talk about the human element in the abortion issue. Enough of the graphic demonstrations on the part of the so-called “pro-lifers”; enough of the so-called experts pointing dramatically to ultrasound pictures of a “silent scream.”
We, too, are screaming – but not so silently anymore. A year ago, on the eleventh anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, we made the most difficult decision of our lives. In our fifth month of pregnancy, the happy promise of new life was shattered by several ominous sonograms and diagnostic tests. We went for second, third, and fourth opinions. For advice we sought out our families, our clergy, our consciences. We were desperate to hear of even a glimmer of hope from the doctors, but it was not to be. Finally, after many days of deliberation, we decided to abort the pregnancy.
On the night we spent in the hospital, we turned on the television and heard you, our President, addressing a group of Christian broadcasters and attacking the “inhuman murderers who callously destroy thousands of unborn babies.” Mr. President, no human being who has not undergone this procedure can understand what goes on in the minds and hearts of those who have. For whatever reason we elect to end a pregnancy, the trauma we feel is pervasive, searing, and….very human. The doubts and questions we weigh against certain facts produce enough anguish to last a lifetime, and we certainly need no violent reminders.
If the protestors and domestic terrorists would put down their placards and their bombs, they might look us in the eye and see a vastly different picture than they expected. They would see frightened, saddened, caring souls, frustrated beyond endurance with this constant intrusion into the most private parts of our lives.
You don’t have to show us pictures of fetuses in jars – we held our own shortly after the abortion. Don’t talk to us of their pain: we worked for five years as volunteer chaplains on the Pediatrics floor of Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and watched countless children die in agony. The lucky ones survived, enduring a torturous cure. Our baby would have died at birth, with pain sensors much more sophisticated at its full gestational age than at the sixteen weeks when we aborted our pregnancy.
What solace we found came from our family, friends, and the support of a wonderful hospital staff. Doctors and nurses, trained to soothe and to heal, understood that we were the patients, and cared for us accordingly. We will never forget them. Moreover, the procedure was lengthy: had the proper medical facilities not been available, [wife’s name redacted] might have died from the blood loss, and the reality of women’s nightmares of the past might have been ours as well.
It has been over a year since the abortion, and we are now in our seventh month of new pregnancy. We have no guarantees that this child will live to a ripe old age, or will be without faults or blemishes. We never asked for guarantees, and we never demanded a “perfect” baby. All we want is for it to have a chance: a chance to feel pleasure as well as pain, a chance to know life before it faces death. This is the choice we have made, and we thank God we had the right to make that choice.
If you do not approve, we do not ask that you follow in our footsteps. But don’t tell us that we do not understand the issue or the tragedy: we pray that no one in our family will ever need to understand as fully and as personally as we do now.
Mr. President, we, too are screaming – but no longer will we scream in silence.