Talking about abortion is tough. It’s tough when talking with people we agree with not to be too agreeable, to completely ignore the arguments of the other side in our casual dismissal of them. We walk away from these conversations feeling self-satisfied, even smug, reassured in our position. But we do not walk away stronger, with the added clarity of thought that comes from being challenged.
Talking about abortion is really tough with people who don’t agree with us. Our hackles rise, our stomaches churn, and a part of us just wants to lead with, “How can you possibly be ok with killing another human being simply because it’s unwanted?” We can walk away from these conversations fuming, upset, feeling justified in our anger and despair, wondering how our words failed to get through.
We too often fail to take just a moment to stand in the other person’s shoes and realize they are feeling exactly the same way about us.
So how can we move past simple agreement or heated argument, and move into serious, passionate debate where minds may actually be changed?
Realize first that you enter the discussion with a goal to change a mind, not the intention of truly listening, assessing the information, and possibly changing your mind. You know you are in the right on this one. And the person you are talking to goes into the conversation with the same mindset.
If you recognize at the outset that you are unlikely to change their mind in one conversation, you can calmly present your case, then let it be. Let them walk away with the memory of what you said, not the memory of how you acted. Imagine them blogging about your conversation, or how it would play out on YouTube. Don’t give them the benefit of harsh, unkind words and a raised voice. Leave the door open to further conversation, should they ever want to follow-up with you.
Be bold, uncompromising, and clear, yes. But do not be hateful, accusing, or one-sided. Hear their arguments, truly listen to what they are saying. Answer specifically; really respond rather than just reacting. Be willing to participate in a real conversation, with the goal of having a lasting impact after the interaction is long done.
In her piece On Changing Minds, ProWomanProLife co-founder Andrea Mrozek says, “We all need time to make good decisions. We all, I think, go back and forth with our decisions. Unplanned pregnancy does not allow for this. You can go back and forth, back and forth, but if you choose abortion, it is final and there is absolutely no undo button. If you choose life, can you decide not to parent? Absolutely. But if you choose abortion, you don’t ever get to reconsider.”
Neither pro-choice or pro-life adherents do a pregnant woman any favours by pressuring her to make a decision without giving her time and space. Similarly, we do ourselves no favours in the abortion debate by hoping each conversation we have about abortion will result in a changed mind and heart. It’s going to take time, but, as Elvis Presley said, “Truth is like the sun. You can can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.”