“I’d rather be aborted.” “I wish I was aborted.” I’ve had people say this to me in conversations. I’ve seen this statement on a sticker on an electrical box outside Planned Parenthood. I’ve seen it written on Justice For All’s Free Speech Board.

These kinds of statements demand a careful, compassionate response, not a quick retort or an argument. 

Sometimes I’ve heard pro-life people respond to these types of statements by saying something like, “Well, if you were aborted, you wouldn’t be here.” For many people, that was precisely the point they were trying to make: “I wish I was dead.”

The Relational Response

For someone to say they’d rather be dead speaks to something much deeper that needs our attention. A person’s view on abortion and how she views other vulnerable human beings is important, and we do need to dismantle bad ideas and worldviews that defend violence against innocent human beings. 

It is equally important though to care for her personal life and experience. If she can’t see her own value and would rather be dead, it’s likely she is going to have a difficult time understanding the incredible value an unborn child has. In my experience, most conversations about abortion aren’t purely intellectual. It’s not just about presenting good arguments. While it is important to give good arguments that defend the equal rights of unborn human beings, there is so much more that is a part of talking to another person. 

For those that may be disagreeing with my response so far, I’d like to clarify that I’m not saying people must understand their own worth before they can see value in others. I think it’s possible for people to not see themselves as valuable and still respect and honor someone else’s right to life. What I am saying is that the fact that the person may not value her own life is an important piece of the conversation, and it’s not something we should ignore. 

The “I wish I had been aborted” statements could be coming from a suicidal place. They could also be a way someone is trying to describe a painful part of where she is at currently. Pain and suffering wear on people and can lead them to use language that expresses a desire to die even if they may not literally mean that. 

The personal, painful places in people’s lives often come up when I’m talking to people at universities across the country. While it can be challenging to deal with the emotional trauma people have, I think it’s a good thing to understand those parts of people’s lives because those experiences matter. They inform how this person sees the world and how she views other people. 

The truth is better understood and more easily received when people know we love them. Taking time to listen carefully to others and being slow to speak is a special gift we can extend to everyone. 

Be willing to go slow with people. 

Listen to what they are saying. Listen to what they are not saying. Watch their body language and their expressions. Their stories and reasons for why they hold the views they do are worth listening to. 

I think if we start with this relational approach with people, we will reach their hearts and that in turn can reach their minds making them more inclined to hear the intellectual statements/arguments we will make. This can play a great part in influencing how they think about the value of their life and preborn children. When we do this, I believe we will not only help people by helping bear their burdens, but we will also help foster a world that is safer for vulnerable human beings in the womb. 

An Intellectual Response

Once we take care to be relationally sensitive to the “I’d rather be aborted” statement, we need to focus on a question that is often overlooked in conversation: “What is the unborn?” That is a question that we must answer when discussing abortion because the whole issue largely hinges on how people answer that question. 

People for and against legal abortion do not disagree that issues like poverty, abuse in foster care, not feeling ready for a child, etc. are important. What we disagree about is how many people are involved in these situations. If abortion is not killing a human being like you and me, then only one human is involved, and abortion should be legal. But if the unborn is a human like you and me, then in every pregnancy we have more than one human being – the mother and the child – and both of them should be protected legally from violence. 

Once we clarify this, I think it’s interesting to think about the “I’d rather be aborted” statement in terms of “forcing” a particular view of suffering on someone else since the result of abortion is a dead human being. Generally when people use the “forcing a view on someone else” language, it’s not accurate since “force” involves some kind of violence or threat of violence. Oftentimes people are accused of this when they are just having conversations and exchanging ideas in the public square. 

But abortion is violence. It ends the life of the human fetus. If one person says she’d rather be aborted, that view of life and suffering should not be forced on an innocent child via abortion. 

One person may believe it’s better to die than suffer. Maybe she wishes she had been aborted. As stated above, that desire is important to discuss and not dismiss. Given we have more than one human being involved in pregnancy though, it’s important we consider the rights and perspective of the other individual. 

Maybe the unborn child will appreciate and be grateful for her life even in the midst of suffering. Maybe she will see her suffering as an opportunity to overcome and be stronger. We don’t know given that we cannot communicate with her. Yet. So who are we to force a particular view of suffering (that it is worse to suffer than to live) on her by killing her before she even gets a chance to express what her will and desires are? 

If we can clarify that the preborn child is human like you and me, then it doesn’t make sense to use future suffering or someone’s own suffering to justify killing her. What makes us think that we have the right to look at someone else’s life, judge how much she might suffer, and then kill her so she doesn’t have to go through the suffering? Someone else should not be given the power to look at your life and end it based on how they view your future suffering or the best ways to address suffering. In the same way, we cannot and should not make that call for someone else’s life. 

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Rebekah is a Training Specialist with Justice For All. You can follow her work at jfaweb.org/rebekah-dyer


The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.