Finding common ground in the abortion debate

There is almost certainly no issue that evokes more anger than the topic of abortion. People on both sides of the issue frequently resort to name-calling and valueless retorts that are meant more to put the other person down rather than to reach any common understanding. When we resort to this path, nothing constructive happens. Instead, we need to look for some common ground and discuss matters cyellingalmly and respectfully. I had an example of that very recently. I was in a discussion on Facebook with a woman who was obviously very much pro-abortion and she started out by using many of the well-rehearsed soundbites that are meant only to disparage and not to lead to constructive argumentation. After some back and forth where I refused to follow suit and kept responding to her attacks with calm argumentation, we did end up reaching some common ground. She mentioned how men who take the time to father a child have to also be there for the child once the baby is born. Many times men get a woman pregnant and then run to the hills. I absolutely agree with her on that! Certainly, if you’re going to father a child you better be there to take care of the child as well. I told her I understand that a woman whose baby’s father will not be there for her is in a difficult situation, but when the solution we come up with is to kill the baby, we have to say “Stop! That is not an acceptable solution! find another!” Sadly, the woman chose to end the discussion there, but we were at least on amicable terms by the end. If the conversation had been able to continue I would have wanted to say the following to her: it is certainly true that men have to take responsibility for their actions, but so do women. In the overwhelming majority of abortion situations we are not talking about a woman who was abused or raped or became pregnant after being in involved in sexual activity that was against her will. Most of the time the women were willing participants in the sexual act and thus they must take equal responsibility for what happened. If you’re going to engage in the act that leads to the conception of the new life then you better be willing and ready to accept the ramifications of that decision, which is that you may become pregnant, and if you do become pregnant and did not want to be, then either you raise the baby your choice brought into existence or you give it to someone who will raise it, but the baby should not be asked to pay the ultimate price by giving up its life so that the mother can have an easy solution to her misdeed. I don’t know if she would have agreed with me, but I know that she would at least have been open to hearing me out.

In the above case the woman was pro-abortion for ideological reasons. Other times it is more personal. Let me share with you a conversation I had many years ago with a young woman while I was in college. I had written a letter to the school newspaper against abortion and that evening in my room I received a phone call from a very irate collegiate who was screaming into the phone with venomous comments about all the horrible things I allegedly thought of women simply because I was against abortion. Within a minute or two a friend of hers got on the phone and was a little more levelheaded. She apologized for her friend’s behavior and at least attempted to discuss the issue calmly and rationally. She said to me, “Let’s imagine you go to a party in school and you are drinking and you do some drugs, you end up having sex with a boy and you get pregnant. Do you expect the girl to have that baby?” I said “Absolutely!” She asked, “Why? She didn’t realize what she was doing.” I replied by saying, “There was an awful lot of irresponsible behavior going on there. If you go to a party and you drink and do drugs and you can’t control yourself, you’re responsible for what happens to you in those situations, and asking a child to give up its life just because you were careless one night is totally unacceptable.” She then asked me if I had a girlfriend. “Yes” I responded. “Well suppose you got your girlfriend pregnant, wouldn’t you want her to have an abortion?” I said to her “Well that would never happen because my girlfriend and I are not sexually active. We both believe that the sexual act is the seal of the covenant of marriage and we choose to abstain from sex until we are married.” She then responded “Well then suppose you are married and you wife got pregnant and you didn’t want to have a baby?” I answered “I would never get married if I did not think I could welcome a child, because one of the reasons for marriage is to raise children and have a family. And if I was ever worried about taking care of another baby, I would do whatever it takes to provide for my child, and if I reached the conclusion that I could never be able to provide for it properly, I would give it up for adoption, but I would never kill it!” She then said “Wow! If everyone believed what you believe there would be no need for abortion!”

I had awakened in her the understanding of taking responsibility for your actions, but she still was not convinced that abortion was wrong. We then continued the conversation with other things and she tried to use the arguments that the fetus is not a human life yet, so therefore abortion is okay. I responded to her “Well, we could argue back and forth as to when life begins and neither one would probably be able to prove the point. But even if I were to grant your point or it could be proven definitively that the fetus is not yet a human life, do you agree that, left to run the course that is already in action, the fetus eventually will become one?” “Certainly!” She responded. I said, “So whether the child is already alive or is in the process of becoming alive, haven’t you taken the child’s life either way?” I then said to her, “Imagine this example: somebody is running in a track meet and they won. They are awarded the medal. But you are not happy that she won the medal and so you come up with a fake reason to have the person disqualified that the judges believe, and she has lost her prize. In another situation the person is running to the finish line and you trip them before they get there so that someone else crosses the finish line first and they don’t win. Either way you have made them lose their prize. Does it really matter much whether the person had already won the prize and you took it away or if you stop the person before they got to the finish line? Either way they’ve lost.” The woman responded “But that person can always get up and run in another race.” I answered “Yes, but the child cannot! That was the only chance the child had at life and you took it away from her.” Afterward she confided in me “Wow I see I see your point.” She then said “Well the reason I gave you that example about somebody doing drugs and drinking is because that’s what happened to me. I did that and got pregnant and I had an abortion.” Gulp! If I’d have known beforehand that she was speaking from her own experience I might have tried to soften my point. Anyway, I found out she was Catholic and told her to speak to our college chaplain who was very compassionate and understanding. I told her he could help give her some peace with her decision. She thanked me and said she was going to. I never spoke with her again but we ended the conversation on very friendly terms and when we avoided the name-calling and the sound byte catchphrases that her friend had used we were actually able to make progress. Perhaps I even changed her mind about abortion, and even if I inadvertently exposed her guilt, she could find healing, which she couldn’t do by yelling worn-out slogans.

talkingNo matter what the issue may be, I always urge people to avoid using expressions that are meant only to ridicule and silence discussion and instead engage in constructive dialogue that will help the parties understand each other. We may not come to an agreement and we may not change someone else’s mind, but we will always have a greater understanding of what the person’s concerns are and perhaps be able to address them in a way that may leave room for future progress. Respectful constructive dialogue always leads to a better understanding and increased respect, and maybe will change the other person’s mind . Name-calling and flinging mud never does.

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