Pro-Life 101: A User-Friendly Guide to Making Your Case on Campus by Scott Klusendorf (San Pedro, CA, Stand to Reason Press, 1999, 37 pp, $6 in Canada)Reviewed by Mike Mastromatteo
The Interim

Campaign Life Coalition’s effort to establish a new youth wing is especially timely with the release of Pro-Life 101, Scott Klusendorf’s new book on pro-life argumentation.

The director of bioethics at the California-based Stand to Reason organization, Klusendorf’s primary objective is to train and educate the next generation of leaders to bring articulate, well reasoned pro-life arguments to the secular marketplace. The author has quickly gained a reputation as a leading pro-life educator, and his experience is put to good use in Pro-Life 101.

Students in particular find it difficult to debate the abortion question without a clear understanding of the essential truths of the pro-life position. This book helps readers avoid the pitfalls in debating right-to-life issues in the public square. Klusendorf has led seminars throughout the U.S. and Canada with his unique combination of pro-life debating techniques and strategies to counter pro-abortion justifications. Obviously, he is doing something right, for in recent months pro-abortion leaders have begun to find excuses not to take on Klusendorf in open debate.

Pro-Life 101 is essentially a condensed version of one of Klusendorf’s right-to-life presentations. It is aimed at a student reader, but it remains a valuable reference for any pro-life supporter looking for an easily understandable summary of pro-life principles, and responses to pro-abortion rationalizations.

One of Klusendorf’s chief aims in the book is to simplify the abortion issue. This is a valuable asset in Pro-Life 101, for most abortion supporters attempt to justify their position by arguing that abortion is a complex issue that defies easy solution. Klusendorf urges readers that bearing in mind the humanity of the unborn child overcomes all the verbal smokescreens thrown up by abortion supporters. “All our opponents must do is demonstrate conclusively that the unborn are not human and I will walk away from this debate, forever,” Klusendorf writes. “So will every other pro-lifer.”

In the middle section of the book, Klusendorf presents an easily understood format for making a pro-life presentation to a secular group. It is here that Klusendorf offers his “SLED” test to illustrate the unborn child’s status as a human being. SLED is an acronym for Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency. None of these conditions, Klusendorf points out, is reason for regarding the unborn as anything less than fully human.

The presentation section includes five central arguments that abortion supporters use to counter the pro-life position. Klusendorf effectively that these arguments are nothing but efforts to deflect public attention from the truth about abortion. In many examples, Klusendorf points out, for example, that radical feminists and others cite rape as one justification of abortion. Aside from the fact that few actual pregnancies result from rape, this argument is a case of using worst-case scenarios and emotion to disguise the true nature of abortion. Klusendorf calls this “cashing in on the tragedy of rape victims” to justify wide-open access to abortion for any reason.

Because the book is aimed at a young audience, Pro-Life 101 features a section on helping a friend through a crisis pregnancy. Many university students will be called on to assist a classmate or friend who may be considering an abortion as a solution to unwanted pregnancy. Klusendorf offers a step-by-step approach to guiding these people to a pro-life alternative. This becomes a practical and effective conclusion to Klusendorf’s overall effort.

Pro-Life 101 has been endorsed by several leading pro-lifers, including Father Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life International, and British Columbia pro-life leaders John Hof and Ted Gerk. Klusendorf has managed to keep the selling price low for students ($6 Canadian). He has also included selected Canadian material to make the book more relevant to students in this country.

While Pro-Life 101 does not gain points for visual production values, it remains a valuable new effort. Klusendorf’s overriding objective is greater sympathy for the pro-life position in the secular media. Students taking advantage of the author’s clear thinking and persuasive argumentation will find themselves well suited to overcome the current climate of pro-abortion distortion and untruth.

Copies of Pro-Life 101 can be obtained from Stand to Reason, P.O. Box 6568, San Pedro, CA 90734. Online: