Writing a strong persuasive essay on abortion

Abortion is a controversial subject. It's a long-running political issue in most countries, and there are people on both sides of the argument with passionately held beliefs that they often express very eloquently. There are all sorts of reasons why you might want to write an essay on abortion, whether it's part of an educational project or as part of a campaign for a group you support, so it's important to know how to get it right.

Many people, no matter how deeply they care about their beliefs, do badly at putting them across to others. In fact it can often be harder to write well about things you feel strongly about. The key is to be aware of the traps you can fall into, and avoid them.

  • Firstly, be honest! It doesn't matter how eloquent and persuasive your essay is; if it contains claims that readers can check, and those claims turn out to be false, your credibility is gone and nobody's going to believe you. Stick to factual arguments. It's fine to say that abortion is denying a potential human being the right to life; it's not fine to say that abortion causes breast cancer, because it just isn't true.
  • Don't misrepresent the other side's beliefs. If you believe in access to abortion don't focus on crazy statements like the US politician who talked about "legitimate rape," because that's not representative. Instead, talk about the real issues caused by pregnancies as a result of rape and incest. If you oppose abortion don't accuse your opponents of wanting to kill babies. They don't; nobody wants abortions to happen, but some people believe that sometimes it's the best of a number of bad options.
  • Try not to use emotive words. If you're trying to persuade people that abortion is wrong and you say that supporting it is like supporting murder, you'll just make them defensive. Similarly, it's possible to argue for women's reproductive rights without accusing your opponents of being like the Taliban or treating women as men's possessions. Laying out strong arguments calmly and dispassionately is persuasive; emotion is not, because it just looks like you're riding a hobby horse.

Don't forget who you're writing for. If you're trying to motivate people who agree with you it's possible to add a touch of emotion to your essay and make it work for you, but if you're trying to persuade the other side you need to look at your work from their point of view. Make the effort to get inside their head and think about what would persuade you if you were in their position. Remember, it's not yourself you're trying to convince!