For years, pro-life activists have argued with greater and greater effectiveness that abortion doesn’t remove “a clump of cells,” but kills a baby. The advent of 4D ultrasounds, personal fetal monitors, and advanced prenatal technology have made the once mysterious creation of life within the womb a known secret.

Indeed, one is hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t refer to their own fetus as “a baby” (the medical term fetus is simply Latin for “unborn child,” so this reality has long been recognized by the medical community). Yet, abortion remains legal in our country.

Why has the increasing knowledge of fetal development and the humanity of the unborn not led to abortion becoming illegal? In part, because pro-choice activists have changed their messaging from “it’s not a life” to “it’s a life worth sacrificing.”

Instead of denying the medical realities of abortion, they embrace them and spin their work as “compassion.” If the debate is about late-term abortion, abortion activists focus on desperate pre-natal diagnoses that make abortion the “compassionate” alternative to living with a severe disability. If the debate is about first and second trimester abortion, Planned Parenthood talks about the severe difficulties faced by the mother and how abortion is her compassionate way out.

In each of these cases, abortion is spun as the “compassionate” alternative to life.

In a recent debate, pro-life philosopher and professor Dr. Mike Adams squared off against Dr. Willie Parker, a prominent abortion doctor who says that abortion is compassionate care for his patients. While Dr. Adams’ case set out to prove the humanity of the unborn, Dr. Parker openly admitted that abortion kills human beings, but argued that it was the most compassionate choice for the women who come to his clinic.

Dr. Parker’s arguments were reminiscent of an op-ed where a pro-choice activist famously said abortion takes a life, but that it is “a life worth sacrificing.”

This shift in pro-choice rhetoric cannot be ignored. Abortionists like Parker are using compassion to argue for abortion. This means it’s up to us as pro abundant life people to demonstrate clearly that as a society, we should not be providing compassionate alternatives to life, but rather compassionate alternatives to abortion.

So, rather than simply respond to these new arguments by saying, “here’s all the reasons why abortion is taking a human life,” we should meet the opposition head-on and say, “here are the reasons why abortion is not compassionate to the mother, the unborn child, and the father.” The best part about this approach is that it is rooted in truth and is easily demonstrable by Planned Parenthood’s own data.  

According to the Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood’s chief research organization, “The three most common reasons (women have abortions)””each cited by three-fourths of patients””were concern for or responsibility to other individuals; the inability to afford raising a child; and the belief that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents. Half said they did not want to be a single parent or were having problems with their husband or partner.” Guttmacher data also shows that 86% of abortions are to unmarried women and according to Care Net’s national survey on abortion, women who have abortions say the father of the baby was the most influential voice in their decisions.

The question for Dr. Parker and his allies is, “does abortion solve any of the problems that bring patients to your clinic?”

Abortion doesn’t mean that an abusive partner is going to be less abusive. Abortion doesn’t make work, school, or caring for other dependents easier than they were prior to the pregnancy. Abortion only removes the baby from the equation; it adds nothing positive to a woman’s situation. It is a transactional product not a transformational encounter.

If Planned Parenthood wants to provide the most compassionate response to a woman’s difficult situation, why do so little of their services involve things designed to address the root causes of their clients’ problems? Why don’t they offer relationship coaching, job training and resources, or material support for raising children as a single parent? Guttmacher says that most women who have abortions already had a prior abortion. So, if abortion is truly the most compassionate response to a woman’s situation, why does she keep needing them? If it solved her problems, why does she keep coming back?

When pro-life leaders stand across from men like Dr. Parker, we need to ask, “is it possible that there is a more compassionate response to a difficult pregnancy than killing a human life?” After all, we don’t look at a single mother having financial difficulties and say the most compassionate response to her situation is to kill her children. We say she deserves assistance so she and her children can have a prosperous life. These questions get to the heart of the debate as it is framed today. The pro-life movement needs to lead with compassion rooted in sound logic and reasoning, especially when we have such a powerful case to make of how pro-life and pro abundant life people are offering compassion to parents considering abortion.

Every day, the staff and volunteers of 1,100 Care Net affiliated pregnancy centers around the country provide real solutions to women and men facing difficult pregnancies. They don’t ignore the root causes of an unplanned pregnancy, but rather provide realistic alternatives and Christ-centered support to anyone facing a difficult pregnancy decision. Our services don’t end after the baby is born but continue, as we connect clients with local churches so they can receive long-term care and discipleship.

Considering the above Guttmacher data, it is clear that a lack of marriage and father involvement contributes to many abortions. Pregnancy centers across the country are helping men embrace their responsibilities as fathers by offering them the skill-building training they need to become involved, responsible, and committed fathers. They are also talking to couples about the benefits of the institution of marriage and pointing them towards resources – including the Church – that can help them build healthy ones.

As Care Net President and CEO Roland C. Warren puts it, “life decisions require life support.” This support is missing at the local abortion clinic but readily available in pregnancy centers, and increasingly churches, nationwide.

Every day, I see pro-choice writers bemoan the lack of support women will find if Roe is overturned. I see them talk about how women need our compassion in the form of abortion. I never read anyone saying that a 4D ultrasound reveals something other than a human life. Why spend time trying to win a debate we already won? Instead, let’s lead with true compassion. This means that we won’t rely on offensive photos or argumentative language to make our case. It means we won’t treat pro-choice activists like our enemies, but rather pray for them and engage them with the love of Christ. It means we will do the hard work of walking alongside the women and men in our churches and communities facing difficult pregnancies and empower them to choose life and disciple them to find abundant life in Christ.

It means we will live out the logic of our position that every human life begins at conception and is worthy of protection, whether it is the life of the abortion doctor, the life of his patient, or the life of the child in her womb.

If Planned Parenthood wants to debate who is more compassionate, so be it. Pro abundant life people can easily win that debate because we are already doing the work of compassion in communities across America, day in and day out.