While doing activism, one of our foundational conversational tools is the Human Rights Argument. Last Friday, while we were doing “Choice” Chain at Mount Royal University in Calgary, I had a conversation with a young woman who wasn’t sure what she thought about abortion. You may be surprised, but this is actually a very common response, especially from high schoolers or 1st year college/university students. Many of them simply haven’t thought much about abortion.
As I was reading Maaike Rosendal’s new article about in vitro fertilization (IVF), it reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a student during “Choice” Chain. IVF has many troubling ethical implications, and I encourage you to read the article in order to understand how it harms and even kills many pre-born children.
I joined Edmonton Against Abortion in their door-knocking project last Wednesday. The evening temperature was -11°C and I wasn’t sure how many people were going to come to their doors. There were lights on in many of the houses we approached, but either no one was home or whoever was inside wasn’t coming to see who was outside. Instead, we left postcards. We were heading up the walk to our last home of the hour. So far, three doors had opened but the people who met us were too busy, too sick, or too young to have a conversation with us.
While at a pro-life display with Toronto Against Abortion, I asked a young woman what she thought about abortion. The student, Sharon, told me that she was pro-choice. “Is there any particular reason that you’re pro-choice?” I asked, for clarification. Sharon said, “I think that it’s important for women to have a choice about having a child. Especially if they weren’t planning on getting pregnant.” She told me that she was not sure what she herself would do in an unexpected pregnancy.
Alex had stopped, curious at our images and at my question— “What do you think about abortion?”—as he was heading to class.
“I’m pro-choice,” he answered.
“Pro-choice for what?” I asked.
“Uh, just pro-choice. I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Sorry,” I replied, “I don’t mean to be confusing. I’ve talked to a few people today who said they were pro-choice, but they all had different definitions of it. What does being pro-choice mean to you?”
During “Choice” Chain, we often have more than one person listening to our conversations. If I’m standing on a street corner talking with one person, there might be a few others who are waiting to cross the street. My audience is suddenly larger. Or if I’m speaking with a group of people but one of them is doing most of the talking, I need to remember the others are listening as well.
I felt like I was hitting a wall in my conversation with Danny at the Abortion Awareness Project. We had looked at pictures of aborted children, and we had discussed human rights and the difficult circumstances surrounding pregnancy. He would agree with my reasoning, and he even told me, “You’re really good at getting your point across.” Despite that, he kept reverting to his pro-choice position. If he understood the logic of the pro-life position, why wasn’t he convinced by it?
Two days ago, I was standing across from a high school in Calgary, holding a sign showing a 10-week old pre-born child, pulled apart in an abortion. A young man was crossing the street but at such an angle that I needed to overextend my reach, offering my brochure, as I projected my voice, “Hey, what do you think about abortion?”
One of the biggest challenges we as activists face when engaging the public in dialogue about abortion is presenting the pro-life argument in a way that others will be open to accepting it. Often clearly sharing the facts is not enough; I find that I almost have to show them that I am not changing their mind or the way that they see abortion, but rather they are changing their mind on their own and really all I did was guide their self realization. If you ask me, it really is an art.