Yesterday was the Women’s March on Washington. It was beautiful to see women gathering all across the country to speak with a common voice. I have friends who participated with eagerness. I know others who questioned its purpose. And I know some, like my friend Shannon, who wanted to participate but felt excluded because of their Pro-Life stance on abortion. Hers is just one of many stories I’ve heard from women, holding opinions on both sides of the abortion issue, feeling isolated and excluded from a community of women because their stance on this topic separates them from the dominant culture around them.
Like most complex topics, when it comes to abortion there are intelligent people arguing it from many different angles. And while plenty of folks seem quite certain that they have the “right” answer, the reality is there are valid arguments on both sides.
Will you, for a minute, set aside your own convictions, pull out your imagination, and try with me to put yourself in the shoes of someone standing on the opposite side of the picket line?
Pro-choice women care deeply about women’s health. They have well founded concerns about what will happen to women who seek abortions illegally if this practice were to be abolished in the US. They see a world history that has treated women as second class citizens and they deeply desire that women maintain freedom to control their own bodies. They fear for children who will be brought into a world when parents don’t have the emotional or financial resources to provide for them.
Pro-life women believe that a baby’s life begins at conception, with this in mind how could they not fight to preserve these lives with the same diligence as they would for the lives of children who are one, or ten or sixteen years old and in danger. They fear for the trauma that women will experience after having aborted a child, grief and depression that can set in even decades later which is often devastating to the woman and her family. They worry about women being coerced by family and un-supportive partners into abortions that they don’t truly want. And they are concerned about the medical consequences of abortion.
Pro-choice women are not Pro-death as their opponents like to think, and Pro-life women aren’t Anti-choice. Each side is simply looking at this delicate conversation from a different angle and starting with a different set of values.
There is social and medical science to support arguments on both sides. There are religious beliefs and cultural traditions that can lead to drawing conclusions in either direction. There are heart wrenching testimonies from individuals to support both perspectives.
I am not an advocate for taking a moderate stance. If you do your research and feel passionate in one of these directions than certainly speak up, protest, donate, take action. But don’t make an enemy of those who disagree with you and don’t shut them out of your life. Don’t assume that they aren’t equally motivated by love, and data and respect for human kind. Don’t assume another is a misogynist or anti-feminist or sacrilegious just because she falls on the opposite side of this issue. We all want what is best for women and for our country and we all have no choice but to work together to achieve it. So let’s be the first to sit down with someone who holds a different view and give them a listening ear and an open mind. Let’s go out and speak up for our side with all our heart but let us never loose sight of the fact that what binds us as women is far greater than what divides us.