I’ve published a number of articles about my clearly pro-choice stance on the abortion issue. So I was pleased when a woman who defines herself as pro-life asked if I’d like to meet for a conversation. As we talked I realized there were many things we agreed on.
We both thought it troubling that politicians would use the situations of vulnerable women as a way to win points for their particular party. We wished politicians of every affiliation could work together instead, to create the kind of conditions in our country that would mean fewer women would be in a situation where they would consider abortion.
It didn’t seem right to either of us that it was still primarily male politicians who make decisions about women’s reproductive health services. We talked about how women can end up with complete responsibility for their children if they decide not to have an abortion because some men neglect their financial and parental responsibilities to the children they father.
We both saw a need for good sex education in schools. The media is filled with graphic sexual material and children need factual information presented in age-appropriate ways. I talked about how pediatricians who care for pregnant teens are often shocked at the lack of accurate information their patients have about sex. The woman I was chatting with said she and her husband had been open and honest with their kids answering questions about sex and providing appropriate reading materials. But when her adolescent daughter came home after some health classes about reproduction and intimate relationships at school, the woman realized they had left out some important things in their family conversations.
We agreed that a solution to the abortion issue wouldn’t happen overnight and that we need to take incremental steps to try to decrease the number of abortions in Canada. I talked about how the state of Colorado had provided free confidential birth control to teens and had reduced their abortion rate by 42% as a result. My companion hadn’t heard about that and was duly impressed.
We both personally knew women who’d had abortions or had needed to make the tough decision about having one. We agreed that hearing their stories had a major impact on our views about abortion.
We also agreed the actions of the more radical fringes of both the pro-choice and pro-life movements had probably hindered the process of the two factions trying to find common ground. My companion talked about watching over-the-top celebrations marking the protection of abortion rights. She mentioned those who advocate for allowing abortion even during the last weeks of pregnancy. I talked about people who stand outside abortion clinics terrorizing the women going inside and those who want to prevent rape victims from having abortions.
We both agreed marches where crowds gathered as a way to support their views on abortion might not be the best use of time and energy. So many things need to be done to help women facing unwanted pregnancies. So many things need to be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Shouldn’t people focus their time and energy on doing those things?
Although I call myself pro-choice, and the woman I was talking with calls herself pro-life we had numerous ideas about abortion that were actually quite similar. I wonder if other people in the two camps on the issue wouldn’t discover the same thing if they were to sit down and talk respectfully with one another? Neither of us changed our mind on where we stood on the abortion issue during our conversation but we did find common ground.