The Great Debate
“Ron is just a man. He will never understand what it’s like to be a woman. He will never be pregnant or go through labor.” These were the opening remarks from Sharon*, a woman representing NARRAL (National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League) in a debate with Ron Norquist in a human sexuality class. I had never accompanied Ron on a debate before, so I decided to witness one firsthand this past Spring at Portland Community College.
Ron was introduced first and had 15 minutes to present his prolife position. He focused his presentation on personhood, addressing the crucial question of “When does a person’s life begin and therefore deserve protection?” He walked the audience through a very logical, factual sequence of conception to birth, showing several colorful intrauterine pictures depicting the developing baby. He left the pictures up during his presentation, as is his usual practice. He has found it to be quite true that a picture is worth a thousand words. In fact, at another debate he had a woman come up to him and say, “I’m prochoice and I don’t agree with all that you said. But those pictures, I just can’t get away from those pictures.”
Sharon then presented her case. Though her opening remarks aimed to discount Ron’s message this actually seemed to backfire on her. Even some of the prochoice students commented they thought her tactic was demeaning and I believe she lost the debate at the beginning. The thrust of her presentation was a woman’s right to choose. She referred very little to the beginning of life and neglected to address the evidence Ron presented.
At one point the woman said to the class, “Now you know that antichoice people believe that you, you sitting right here in this classroom, should not have sex until you are married.” She paused, looked out at the students, and indignantly asked “Can you believe that?!” I was so shocked that I found myself saying “Yes! Do you think that’s impossible? Are we just animals?” By the facial expressions of some of those around me, they seemed to understand my response.
It was interesting observing the class during the presentations. The facial expressions, body language and verbal responses of the class members all indicated there was intense processing of the material presented. I was impressed with how attentive some in the class were while Ron was speaking. Truth was being presented—God’s truth, and seeds were being planted.
I was also impressed with the fact this was a very real spiritual battle. Satan has blinded the eyes of many people and they are not willing to face the truth. One woman told Ron she resented his use of biological facts in his presentation. “I have my truth and you have your truth. I want you to respect my truth as well,” she explained. A belief in moral relativism permeates the college classroom and shows just how blind to the truth our society has become.
A lively question and answer time followed the presentations. In response to her opening statements Ron said “I don’t need to have been a slave owner in the South to know that slavery was wrong. In the same way I can know that abortion is wrong even though I’m not a woman.” The NARRAL woman replied under her breath, “You probably were a slave owner!” Audible gasps followed by those who had heard her comment. This was another example of trying to personally discredit Ron rather than address the real issue at hand.
As we left the classroom, one of the students met us outside. “I just want to thank you, Mr. Norquist, for your presentation. You won hands down. Although I still consider myself prochoice I wanted you to know what a great job you did.” He then went on to share how his mother had been raped and became pregnant as a result. He felt she was justified in having an abortion. That one exception was very personal to him. Ron was able to encourage him and challenge him to keep thinking and studying the issue. It was a very warm exchange and we pray God will continue a work in his heart.
Overall I was struck with the sense that God’s truth had been presented and Ron had been the messenger. He answered the questions thoughtfully, without overreacting even when he was under personal attack. His presentation was based on facts and hard evidence in stark contrast to his opponent. Only God knows the ultimate outcome. Seeds of truth were planted and He brings the harvest.
”It has always been a blessing to have Ron speak in my high school classroom. He is easy to listen to as he communicates from his genuine heart with a good sense of humor. Yet, he is also very thought-provoking as he challenges my students to think through an issue in all its ramifications.”
Mitzie Tillstrom, High school teacher, Damascus Christian School
”Ron has been a guest participant in my ethics and values courses and medical ethics courses for a number of years now. He certainly provokes a good deal of class discussion while clearly articulating the logic involved in the prolife argument.”
Marc Marenco, Professor of Philosophy, Pacific University
*name changed to protect identity
Kathy Norquist was Randy Alcorn’s Executive Assistant from 1997-2015, then worked in Ministry Development up until September 2018 when she retired. Kathy remains on the EPM Board of Directors.