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Trotting Out a Toddler

“Trotting out a toddler” is one of the most effective tools in the pro-life toolkit. It takes practice to do it right though! The basic idea is to make an analogy between abortion and killing a toddler. Don’t expect the analogy to change anyone’s mind on its own. Most pro-choice people feel that there’s an important difference between abortion and killing toddlers. The point of the analogy is just to bring those differences to the surface. Discuss the differences directly to have a meaningful, productive conversation.

Person 1: Every child deserves to be wanted. Person 2 (our hero): I agree. Children should grow up in happy homes. Let me ask a question; bear with me. If a two-year-old is unwanted, should he or she be killed? Person 1: Many embryos die naturally. Abortion has the same outcome. Person 2 (our hero): True enough. But centuries ago, the child mortality rate was very high. It still wasn’t okay to kill toddlers back then. Person 1: Yes, of course killing toddlers is wrong. But a fetus is different than a toddler. Person 2 (our hero): I’m glad we agree killing toddlers is wrong. I agree there are a lot of differences. Can we talk through the differences that you think matter? Person 1: I support abortion access because I think women should have choices. Person 2 (our hero): I think people should have lots of choices in life, but there have to be some limits. E.g., I don’t think parents should be given the choice to abuse their kids. Would you agree? Person 1: The decision to get an abortion is between a woman and her doctor. Person 2 (our hero): I don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy. Let me ask a question. It may seem irrelevant, but please bear with me. Suppose a doctor starts offering infanticide “services.” How should we respond? Person 1: Sometimes, abortion is in the child’s best interest. It’s better to die than to suffer. Person 2 (our hero): I want to alleviate suffering too. To be clear, if a toddler has a life full of suffering in front of her, should we should kill her? Person 1: Pregnancy leads to worse performance in school. Person 2 (our hero): I’m concerned about this too. Let me ask a question. It might seem irrelevant, but please bear with me. If a teen mom’s grades start to suffer because of her two-year-old, may she kill her child? Person 1: A woman’s choice to get an abortion is none of your business. Person 2 (our hero): I don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy. Let me ask a question; bear with me. If I overhear parents planning to kill their two-year-old, should I intervene? Person 1: What about a mom with many kids who can’t take care of another? Person 2 (our hero): I want moms and kids to thrive. But let me ask a weird question; bear with me. If a mom with many kids is struggling, may she kill her two-year-old? Person 1: Adopted kids have hard lives. Abortion is a kinder option. Person 2 (our hero): I want to alleviate hardships too. Let me ask a question. It might seem irrelevant, but please bear with me. If a two-year-old’s parents die in an accident, should we kill her? Person 1: You’re a man, so you can never truly understand what women go through. Person 2 (our hero): I totally agree. Let me ask a question; bear with me. Suppose I find a woman drowning her toddler. I don’t know what she’s going through. Should I intervene? Person 1: Abortion is okay as long as it’s not painful to the fetus. Person 2 (our hero): I’m glad we agree abortion is wrong when it’s painful. Let me ask a question; bear with me. Should we let a mom kill her two-year-old after anesthetizing her? Person 1: Pregnancy can derail a woman’s career. Person 2 (our hero): I’m concerned about this too. I don’t want to hold women back. Let me ask a question; bear with me. If a mom’s career is suffering because of her two-year-old, may she kill her child? Person 1: People with disabilities have hard lives. We shouldn’t bring more into the world. Person 2 (our hero): I want to alleviate hardships too. Let me ask a question; bear with me. If someone becomes disabled at age 2, should the parents kill her? Person 1: The fetus is a trespasser. Person 2 (our hero): I think I see what you mean. I wish nobody were ever pregnant without wanting to be. Let me ask a question; bear with me. If I find a stowaway toddler on my boat, may I throw her overboard? Person 1: Some women can’t afford a child. Person 2 (our hero): I agree. Poverty is a serious, concerning hardship. Let me ask a question; bear with me. If a mom can’t afford to continue raising her two-year-old, may she kill her child?
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