“Helping pro-life people not be weird” is just one goal for Josh Brahm, president of the Equal Rights Institute.
We met in January at the Iowa Right to Life annual event (pictured here) where he was the keynote speaker and I spoke in an afternoon workshop. Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, this intriguing, passionate man is worth your getting to know, because he’s just one of those guys. So, what follows is a Q & A between he and I that I believe you’ll be glad you read:
Josh, why do you do what you do?
When I was 11-years-old, my dad took me to an abortion clinic with a group of men from our church to pray. I was a pretty sheltered, home-schooled kid and had never heard of abortion before. I wasn’t super serious about lengthy prayer sessions at the time and didn’t understand the prayers I was hearing. I just remember thinking it was strange that we were hanging outside of this ugly, brick building. A separate group across the street was protesting with graphic abortion signs. I wasn’t traumatized. I just asked what the pictures were. That day my parents sat me down and told me what abortion was.
A documentarian asked me a few years ago about that day. “What were your emotions that afternoon? Were you angry?” I thought for a second and responded, “No, I wasn’t angry. I was shocked that anybody would want to do that. I was really, really sad. And I knew I wanted to do something about it.”
So I read Francis Beckwith’s first book on abortion, “Politically Correct Death,” and listened to a bunch of early Scott Klusendorf tapes dozens of times, and when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say, “I want to be a pro-life speaker when I grow up.”
What have been some of the ERI highlights this past year?
We’re only a year old, and I know it sounds cliche to say I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, but it’s true! Some of my favorite experiences have been on the road. Since launching, I’ve given 35 speeches to 9,500 people in California, Oregon, Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Canada.
Giving our first seminar with my brother Tim, where we debuted some of our original ideas, was really exciting. Speaking at Biola University about bodily autonomy arguments was an honor.
Giving the speech of my life to 2,400 college students at the Students for Life conference in D.C. was awesome, because we spent a week writing and editing that speech. We were a little nervous about the controversial message I was giving in the last seven minutes of the talk, so experiencing how well it was received felt great.
Even better has been meeting people all over the country who have benefited from my past work. Somebody drove several hours to see me speak in Iowa this year. I’ve actually had an impact on the way he talks to pro-choice people. That feels great because I’m often in an office working on the next project and don’t get to connect as much as I’d like with the people who are having better dialogues with pro-choice people as a result of those projects.
What’s on tap for ERI?
There are 901 Students for Life clubs right now, but many of them don’t have pro-life apologists training them, because we can’t get to all of them! So we’re creating a course that features apologetics in the way that we’ve found to be the most effective. And, it’s much different than it was even two years ago. We’ve honed our methods through the fire of outreach and thousands of conversations with strangers, walking with people in the context of personal friendship and hours and hours of intense, internal, philosophical discussion. We’re taking the most important ideas from that and putting them in this course. That includes apologetics, but also the practical maneuvering we’ve learned through a combination of research and trial-by-error, learning-by-doing.
After we’re done creating that course? We have a few major articles that need to be written. We have four books we want to write in the next decade. I’d like to do more speaking on relational apologetics with my formerly pro-choice friend Deanna.
What do you most want women to know?
I want them to know how many resources are now available if they or a friend ever has an unplanned pregnancy. They are truly not alone and most PRC’s, especially those under the Care-Net or Heartbeat International umbrellas, are excellent at making sure the information they give is medically accurate.
I want them to know that just having a few abortion debates on Facebook does not mean they’ve heard the most compelling pro-life arguments that exist. Just like most memes regarding a political issue “strawman” the other side by merely refuting their weakest arguments, many people are passionate about the pro-life issue, but may not be making the strongest argument for their position. Just as I encourage pro-life people to read the most intelligent pro-choice sources, I encourage pro-choice people to read the most intelligent pro-life sources, like Dr. Christopher Kaczor and Dr. Francis Beckwith.
What do you most wish men knew about abortion?
I would like men to understand why fatherhood begins at fertilization, not birth. I was at church on Father’s Day, sitting in the media booth with a friend whose wife has had multiple miscarriages. He and I have that in common. Well recently, they finally had a baby. And a young guy, a very well-meaning guy, looked at him and said, “Hey, it’s your first Father’s Day!” My friend smiled politely, but after the kid left I told him, “For what it’s worth, this is not your first Father’s Day.”
It is not a philosophical or religious belief that human life begins biologically at fertilization. That’s a scientific fact.
The problem is, a lot of men won’t feel like they have any new responsibilities until one of their children is born. But I argue that they have a responsibility to their child, by virtue of how the child came into being. I believe when people have consensual sex, they’re engaging in an act they know may lead to the creation of an inherently needy child whom they owe compensation.
I believe it was Scott Klusendorf who made this analogy to explain that idea: Imagine there’s a room with what looks like a Coke machine in it. It’s a baby making machine. You push a big button at the top and you have a very pleasurable experience. But every once in a while, a baby comes out of a chute at the bottom. So imagine a guy goes up to the baby making machine, but he doesn’t want a baby. He really wants that pleasurable experience though, so he rolls the dice, as it were, and pushes the button. He gets his pleasurable experience, but then a baby does come out of the chute. It seems really obvious that he can’t just walk away and let the baby starve to death. It’s even more obvious that he can’t directly kill the child by bashing it’s brains in. Why is that? I think it’s because he engaged in an act that he knew may lead to the creation of an inherently needy child, whom he owes compensation.
So I’d like to tell guys that if their girl tells them she’s pregnant, they have a baby now and he needs to take responsibility for his actions and plead for his child’s life. He may need to radically change his life around in order to take care of his family, and while that may be hard, it’s far superior to allowing your child to be killed.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
Have hope. So many pro-life people I meet, particularly those older than 40, have lost hope. They thought abortion would have ended a long time ago and it hasn’t.
But I’m working with the next generation of pro-life advocates — and they’re awesome. They’re bright. They’re creative. And they’re passionate.
If I’m right about what the pro-life movement is lacking the most, then the good news is that we at Equal Rights Institute have a strategy for getting us to the place the pro-life movement needs to be to make abortion unthinkable, and to finally see substantive laws passed to protect the unborn, finally recognizing the equal right to life to all human beings.