Opposite Poles?

We think Conor Friedersdorf is right (see below). People aren't as different on abortion as they sometimes appear. One idea: Don't let labels like "pro-choice" and "pro-life" be walls preventing genuine dialogue. Asking questions about abortion in specific circumstances and stages of pregnancy can help a lot.

Pray with JFA (September)

 Outreach at The University of Kansas (KU) - September 2018

Outreach at The University of Kansas (KU) - September 2018

Pray for Recent and Upcoming Events (Partial List): 

Pray for wisdom for the team members who plan JFA’s event schedule. Pray for the health of our trainers that they might keep active in the field. Pray for each person we train and each person with whom we converse at outreach, that God will kindle new affection in their hearts for women in distress and for the smallest humans on earth.

  • Sept. 23 (Fort Collins, CO): Interactive Seminar — Colorado State University (CSU)

  • Sept. 23 (Lawrence, KS): Interactive Workshop — University of Kansas (KU)

  • Sept. 24-25 (Fort Collins, CO): Kiosk Outreach — Colorado State University (CSU)

  • Sept. 24-25 (Lawrence, KS): Kiosk Outreach — University of Kansas (KU)

  • Oct. 7 (Minneapolis, MN): Interactive Workshop — University of Minnesota (UMN)

  • Oct. 8-9 (Minneapolis, MN): Kiosk Outreach — University of Minnesota (UMN)

  • Oct. 25 (Del City, OK): Interactive Seminar — Christian Heritage Academy

  • Oct. 28 (Norman, OK): Interactive Seminar — Trinity Baptist Church

  • Oct. 29-30 (Norman, OK): Outreach Event — University of Oklahoma (OU)

Featured Resource for September - “What Is the Unborn?” and “What Is Abortion?” Web Pages

Our “What Is the Unborn?” web page features the most important information you can share in conversations to demonstrate that the unborn is a living human being. Our “What Is Abortion?” web page helps viewers wrestle with accurate videos, images, and descriptions of what abortion does to unborn children. Both of these pages is written with the pro-choice reader in mind so you can pass the pages on to start a conversation. Both pages have been recently updated to include new links and information. Take a look!

Featured Conversation Starter for September

Use the recent post, “Liz Harman’s Interview: A Lesson I Didn’t Expect to Learn” to start a conversation about unintended pregnancy and abortion in a natural way. This post features a reflection from JFA Trainer Joanna Bai after a video of a pro-choice philosopher defending abortion was mocked by many viewers when it was posted last year. Note Joanna’s
willingness to say she learned something through the process. Note also the questions she poses at the end of the post to get a conversation started. You can share her experience with a friend to help your friend see that you are interested in different viewpoints and aim to be intellectually honest.

Interns in Action

Susanna interacts with “Rachel” at OSU. See “Of Men and of Angels” below for the story.

Having driven from Virginia to Kansas to begin a JFA internship on September 1, 2017, Susanna found herself four days later in Indiana at Purdue University creating conversations. Sensing that conversation was a passion of the JFA team, she jumped in with both feet. By the time her internship ended in June 2018, she had logged over 100 conversations with students on college campuses. In one of those conversations, she talked with “Rachel” (pictured, right) at Oklahoma State University (OSU) and shared the story in her reflection, “Of Men and of Angels” (below).

Kaitlyn interacts with students at WSU in the first week of her internship with Justice For All.

These conversations didn’t happen by chance. JFA’s training team (supported by hundreds of monthly and annual supporters) worked hard to arrange all of the logistical details so that these events could take place.

Throughout her internship, Susanna also jumped with both feet into another JFA passion: training advocates. She learned to deliver the speaking for whole sections of JFA’s workshops and seminars. And she did it like a pro.

Susanna didn’t stop there. She went on to teach JFA material to 30 members of an outreach-oriented mission team at Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, New Jersey in July 2018 during three workshops she organized by herself. She’s now a student at George Mason University and one of the inaugural class of fellows in the new JFA Fellowship program. She’s working to partner with JFA as she creates outreach events on her campus.

More conversations. More advocates. Two passions. Susanna explored and exemplified both. That’s also our aim for Kaitlyn, the intern we just welcomed to Wichita a few weeks ago. In fact, during the first two days of her internship, Kaitlyn was with the JFA team on the Wichita State University (WSU) campus creating conversations with students. Now she’s preparing to teach sections of a JFA workshop on October 7 in Minnesota. Like Susanna, Kaitlyn has jumped with both feet into both of JFA’s passions!

Please pray with us for both Susanna and Kaitlyn. We thank God for their dedication to the JFA Internship program, to creating conversations, and to training advocates on into the future. We also thank God for your partnership that makes it possible for our interns to learn to change hearts and minds for a lifetime.

“Of Men and of Angels” by Susanna Buckley (March 2018)

Out of the corner of my eye by Oklahoma State University’s Chi-O Clock, I recognized her. Just moments before, she had walked past me. I had smiled and she had smiled back, but then she kept walking. Now, she was returning in my direction, slowly. I turned and smiled again, “Would you like to sign our poll table?” As if noticing it for the first time, “Rachel” agreed. (See a picture of this conversation on the reverse.) After she finished writing on the “Yes” side of the “Should Abortion Remain Legal?” poll, she waited around to talk to me about her view.

We introduced ourselves, and she said abortion should be legal because of the many difficulties that people discover along the way in pregnancy. I agreed that there are many possible complications and difficulties involved in pregnancy. Rachel then cautiously voiced her belief that the unborn isn’t human. She asked me what I thought about abortion.

Gently, I said, “Before I tell you what I think, can I ask you more questions?” She happily agreed.

“You said you don’t think the unborn is human. Do you mean that in a biological sense or a philosophical sense [i.e. that the unborn doesn’t share our intrinsic value or basic right to life]?”

She grinned. “I just came from a human development class, and I failed philosophy; so let’s talk about biology!”

Carefully and respectfully, she and I went back and forth for a few minutes while I clarified the specifics of her position. Through the answers to five questions, I discovered that she believes the unborn is just a mass of cells in the first two weeks of pregnancy. According to her professor, “You can technically get in there and find human DNA, but it’s not a human yet.”* We discussed this and ended up agreeing that the unborn is biologically human from conception. It was her understanding, however, that the unborn was not significant in value until the third week of development when the new heart and brain are in communication, and he or she starts to look more human in appearance.

I felt that we were getting into the territory of philosophy, so I transitioned us. “Rachel, you asked me what I think about abortion. I think we should value human life in all stages of development, even those humans in life stages to which I am not personally attracted. I cannot relate much to the unborn from conception to three weeks of age, but it is still important to treat it like the human that it is and respect life all the way through development, even to old age. That includes the two-week embryo, all these students around us, and you.”

She paused and stared at me for a moment. When she spoke, she said, “Let me just say, that is the most sensible pro-life view I’ve ever heard. Every other time I’ve had this conversation, the pro-life person just screamed expletives at me and derided me for being a ‘liberal.’”

I expressed sadness at the way she had been treated in the past, and I thanked her for sharing her experience. She went on to say how nice it was to disagree in a free way with me. She had grown up in a liberal environment, I had a conservative upbringing, and we were looking for truth together.

Thinking back on this exchange, I Corinthians 13 has new context for me. Even if I could speak with the tongues of men and of angels, having the most knowledge and scientific facts at my disposal, but I do not love the person I’m talking to, it’s more than worthless – it is that obnoxious sound that hurts, and you wish would just stop. For Rachel, I was the first person with whom she disagreed who had allowed her to express her opinion without attacking her. I hope I’m not the last.

Thank you so much for your support which enables me to create a different kind of conversation about abortion with students like Rachel on college campuses all around the United States.

* Explore biological evidence for the humanity of the unborn at JFA’s “What Is the Unborn?” page, and learn why this professor’s statement was problematic on two counts. (Biologically, it’s false. Also, “human” is ambiguous.)

Liz Harman's Interview: A Lesson I Didn't Expect to Learn

Back in August 2017, my Facebook newsfeed was peppered throughout with mocking criticisms of Elizabeth (Liz) Harman's appearance on Philosophy Time, a series of philosophy-themed interviews featuring actor James Franco and his co-host Eliot Michaelson (see video embedded in this post).  Harman's ideas came under such scrutiny partly because of her position at Princeton University as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values.  I'll admit, after viewing her interview, I was also unimpressed and mystified that someone so distinguished could represent what seemed to me to be to be a totally incoherent position.

Recently, I read a response written by Sherif Girgis, a graduate of Yale Law School and PhD candidate in Philosophy at Princeton.  Girgis disagrees with Harman's argument, which makes the title of his article all the more intriguing: "In Defense of Elizabeth Harman: Taking Pro-Choice Philosophers Seriously."  As a former student of Harman's during his undergraduate years at Princeton, Girgis starts his article with a stinging critique, not for Harman, but for the pro-life advocates who have ridiculed her and her arguments since the release of the video on July 25th.

Reading Girgis' article was a humbling, poignant reminder to me of the importance of listening to understand, even when the ideas a person represents seem completely ridiculous.  All of us, pro-life and pro-choice alike, can learn from this.  I think we can also learn from Girgis's excellent critique of Harman's position - a position which he represents much more fairly than I've yet seen it represented from any other pro-life advocate since the release of Harman's Philosophy Time interview. 

Questions to Consider

  • Have you felt misrepresented in a discussion of abortion? Have you misrepresented someone else's view in pursuit of refuting it?

  • Do you agree with the point of this post that no matter what our view on abortion is, we need more "listening to understand" in discussions about abortion?

Further Reading

Pray with JFA (August)

Pray for wisdom for the team members who plan JFA’s event schedule.  Pray for the health of our trainers that they might keep active in the field.  Pray for each person we train and each person with whom we converse at outreach, that God will kindle new affection in their hearts for women in distress and for the smallest humans on earth. 

  • August 18 (Wichita, KS): Interactive Seminar — St. Mary’s Cathedral

  • August 19 (Wichita, KS): Interactive Workshop — The Mission Church

  • August 27-28 (Wichita, KS): Kiosk Outreach — Wichita State University (WSU)

  • August 26 (Kennesaw, GA): Interactive Seminar — Ratio Christi at Kennesaw State

  • August 27-29 (Kennesaw, GA): Kiosk Outreach — Kennesaw State University

  • August 29 (Kennesaw, GA): Presentation and Open Forum — Ratio Christi

  • September: KS, CO, and OK Events — See link below for details.

  • October: VA, OK, KS, and TX Events — See link below for details.

  • November: OK, KS, and TX Events — See link below for details.

Featured Resource for August: "It's Her Body" Series, Part VI

Last month we featured “It’s Her Body,” Part I of Steve Wagner’s series focused on defenses of abortion which refer to the woman’s body.  This month we’re featuring Part VI of that series (“From a Foundation of Love for Women and Children, We Respond Intellectually to Bodily Rights Arguments”).  In Part VI, Steve outlines a thoughtful response in eight steps, and he includes links to help you prepare for each step of the conversation. 

Featured Conversation Starter for August

Use the recent post, “I Don’t Have the Money,” to start a conversation about unintended pregnancy in a natural way.  This post features a picture and quotation from an Exposures Project on-the-street interview.  You can easily begin your conversation with common ground by expressing sympathy for this woman’s situation.  Most share that sympathy.  Indeed, not having enough money is one of the most common reasons women give for having an abortion.  (For tips on moving the conversation forward from there, see www.jfaweb.org/tott.)

"I Don't Have the Money"

The photo and story below were originally posted by Exposures, "a photojournalism initiative created to share the stories we all have about abortion and its impact on our lives."

Learn More About Exposures: 
www.exposuresproject.com 

See the Original Exposures Post: 
www.instagram.com/p/z8d8R1PWiV

What Do You Think?

  • Do you think serious financial burden is an acceptable reason to get an abortion?  Why or why not?
  • What other reasons (if any) for obtaining an abortion do you think are acceptable ones?   

Note: To see how common this reason for abortion is, alongside other reasons, see our Facts page.

Trump, Cuomo, Kavanaugh, and “It’s Her Body”

Introduction to the "It's Her Body" Series

Even before President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on July 9, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was signing pre-emptive orders aimed at protecting women’s “constitutional legal protection to control their own bodies” after Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

There’s nothing like the feeling that the legal right to abortion might be in jeopardy to motivate people to start talking about abortion again.  Indeed, the “Should Abortion Remain Legal?” poll question is our most reliable tool for causing pro-choice advocates to stop and share their opinions with us.  In one sense, that’s unfortunate, because many haven’t ever thought much about whether or not the unborn is a human being and whether or not abortion is wrong.  Without these prior questions resolved, the discussion of the law is premature.  Still, it does make people stop.

The increased buzz about abortion because of the Kavanaugh nomination will likely make people more willing to share their opinions about abortion.  Beyond buzz and discussion, though, I think it’s difficult to say what a more conservative Supreme Court might do with Roe v. Wade and its progeny if a case were to come before it in the next few years.  Hadley Arkes has voiced some serious concerns about whether even the justices who seem most conservative are willing to make the moral arguments that are essential to protecting unborn children.  (See “Another Pro-Life Victory?” and “The Moral Turn” in First Things.)  So, having conservative justices and a case to rule on may be only half that battle.  If the Court strikes down Roe but not for the reason that abortion kills a human being, it’s true that many states would likely outlaw abortion, but those with the most abortions (such as California and New York), if allowed to make whatever law seems best to them, would likely keep legal abortion alive (irony intended).  This underscores how we cannot hope to protect unborn children for the long-term through the Court alone, apart from another key strategy: seeking to change the hearts and minds of the strong majority that is tolerant of legal abortion. 

In any case, we can hope the Supreme Court drama will make it less awkward to discuss unintended pregnancy and abortion with people in our churches, the parents of our kids’ friends, and teens just entering college.  I predict many of these will follow the same familiar path Andrew Cuomo just trod.  We’ll hear “it’s her body” and its variants not only from those who think abortion is morally neutral, but also from those who say they are strongly against abortion...for themselves.  (Indeed, isn’t “I’m against abortion, but I think it should be legal” the most common pro-choice position?) 

In my article, "It's Her Body," and the accompanying blog posts, I outline a timely approach to these “it’s her body” arguments.  My approach might surprise you.  It may seem to you to be too sympathetic at a time when we need firm, even strident, proclaiming of truth.  Here’s what I’m up to: It doesn’t hurt our case against abortion one bit to find common ground with “it’s her body” statements as much as we honestly can.  Once you read my letter, I hope you’ll agree this approach is not only morally good but also has the best chance of helping those who disagree become receptive to the truth of our position, clearly and confidently presented at the appropriate time.  Because “it’s her body” statements require careful attention to relational complexity, intellectual complexity, and the meaning that a person is intending, the P.S. of the enclosed letter includes links to blog posts that fill out our approach and give you a good start at being ready to discuss “it’s her body” statements when they are surely to come up in the coming months.   

This approach is part of JFA’s attempt to integrate love and truth in every moment of every conversation.  Just as we shouldn’t “love” the woman at the expense of the child, we also shouldn’t “love” the child without concern for the woman.  We aim instead to love every human being.  This includes the person with whom we’re speaking.

I hope you find this article and the accompanying blog posts helpful.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

It's Her Body

Some of JFA’s recent outreach exhibit panel designs feature images like this one in order to communicate concern for women and sympathy for their experiences of pregnancy.  See the Stop and Think Exhibit page for exhibit designs and commentary.

Part I of a Series

I was in the middle of a conversation with a few young women who had stopped to sign our “Should Abortion Remain Legal?” poll at Colorado State University in April.  They were putting their mark on the “Yes” side.  I asked a few questions, and each began to explain the limitations she would put on abortion at different times and in different circumstances of pregnancy.

Another young woman stopped and interjected, “It should be legal up until birth.”  Without much prompting, she gave her reason: “I have a right to do what I want with my body.” 

At this moment, I wanted to launch into a precision set of questions and counter-arguments to show this woman and those standing nearby that her right to her body doesn’t entail a right to kill another human by abortion.  I have been thinking, writing, and teaching about appeals to bodily rights for more than 15 years.  I was ready. 

But as I looked at this woman, I hesitated.  I stuttered and said something not too tidy, struck afresh by the fact that this topic affects this person very personally.  Reflecting on it later, I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t had more to say, but then I realized there was something quite right about the approach into which I had fallen.  Rather than saying something intellectual, I think I said something more along the lines of sympathy and concern, a little like this:

“I don’t know if I can fully understand what it’s like for matters so personal as your body and your right to do what you want with your body to be brought up on your campus.  I don’t know what it feels like to consider the possibility of being pregnant or to think about the government placing restrictions on your ability to control everything about your body.  These things are very heavy to think about.  Your right to your body is important.”

I don’t want the conversation about a woman’s right to her body to end there, but I think it needs to start there.  Indeed, my conversation with two of the women who heard this exchange was very productive, I think due in part to the moment in which I chose sympathy over argument.  But the conversation can’t end with sympathy for the woman only, because this woman’s view that abortion should be legal until birth also affects an unborn person very personally (and not just one unborn child, but thousands each day).  If we focus on the unborn, though, without first seeking to understand the woman’s concern for her body, we not only will make practical success in the conversation much more unlikely, failing to build a bridge when we could, but we’ll also fail to accurately describe what’s true.  For what we’re discussing is a person with equal value to the unborn person, and yes, she has a right to her body that we should be the first to champion.  I mean “right to her body” not in the controversial sense of abortion but in the uncontroversial sense that she should be protected from harm, terror, assault, and oppression.  She should be valued as an equal.  In general, individuals and the government should leave her to be free, unless she is causing harm to someone else.

At JFA we’ve been making the point for more than a decade that when discussing abortion in the case of rape, those who are defending unborn children must meet the “relational challenge” first, focusing on the horror of rape and showing sympathy for the woman who has been assaulted, even if this means that we set aside for the moment our agenda of changing a mind about whether abortion should be legal in the case of rape (the “intellectual challenge”).  This is primarily because it is good and right to communicate love, concern, and sympathy for women who have been violated by an evil act of rape.  It also turns out that it’s practically essential.  People are much more likely to listen to our argument against abortion in the case of rape (or any other case) if they can tell that we are genuinely concerned about the evil that occurred in that act.

I’ve realized that anytime a woman defends abortion by referring to her right to her body, we confront essentially the same two challenges.  There’s a relational challenge (“Do you care about the woman’s bodily rights?”) and an intellectual challenge (“Do the woman’s bodily rights include the right to abortion?”).  Let’s say you are a woman claiming you have a right to your body that includes the right to abortion, and I am responding to your claim.  Even though you and I are not discussing assault, per se, we are talking about whether the government should restrict your freedom to do something that you think affects only your body, and so that idea of government intrusion may very well feel similar to assault for you.  Many men will view this in the same way, through the prism of concern for their sisters, mothers, and female friends.  We would do well to consider bodily rights claims through this same prism, letting the beginning of our response be guided by a realization: we are talking about somebody’s body

It’s Still Her Body, Even if it’s
Not the Only Body Involved.

Now, perhaps you are longing at this point, as I am, for there to be a balancing of the scales, a revealing of the truth about the unborn child alongside this sympathy and concern we’ve been showing towards the woman.  We who consider the unborn an equal human being know there is much else to say that brings this “prism of concern for somebody’s body” into proper light.  (See the P.S. below.)  There’s a reason, though, other than limits of word and page count, that I emphasized the woman’s bodily rights in this letter and stopped short of saying other important things about the topic: we pro-life advocates are sometimes too quick to gloss over the woman.  At times we only give lip service to her value (if we mention her at all), and then we proceed with our arguments as if she is (for the most part) not even there.  Let this letter’s singular focus on the woman be a reminder of the need to pause and the need to let every statement about the value of the unborn that follows be colored by the truth that the woman’s body is still her body, even if it’s not the only body involved. 

P.S.

See the entire series on the JFA blog for additional thoughts this letter brought to the surface for me.  I consider these posts to be equally important to this letter, and they are meant to be read in conjunction with it:

How Important Is Your Body to You?

Part II of a Series

I want to ask you a question: How important is your body…to you?

How important is it to you that you’re healthy?  If you go to the doctor because you are in pain, and she does some tests, and you’re not sure what the diagnosis will be, well… Maybe there’s nothing wrong with you, but maybe something is really wrong.  Do you worry?  Having a healthy body is pretty important to you, isn’t it?  You don’t even have to think about it to answer.

Do you care about your body?  Even in the best circumstances, when everyone and everything in one’s presence is trusted and safe, each of us has a basic concern about what happens to his or her body.  But when our bodies are in the presence of something which feels unsafe or someone we don’t trust, we are especially aware of our bodies and our concern for them.

What about laws and the government?  How important is it to you that the government and laws “stay away” from your body?  Do you want the government to refrain from putting unnecessary limitations or restrictions on your body?  Do you want to be protected from the government putting you in prison without justification or restricting your basic rights?  We all care deeply about our ability to move around, to assemble with others, and to speak freely.

Still, I think most people believe in a few reasonable restrictions on peoples’ bodies.  As one person in Oklahoma said to me, “My rights end where your rights begin.  There’s a civil rights bubble around each of us.”  I think a lot of people believe that, but even still, most of us don’t want the government putting a lot of unjustified restrictions on our bodies.  We definitely don’t want the government forcing us to do things with our bodies that we don’t want to do.

In light of this, consider these defenses of legal abortion: “It’s her body,” “She can do what she wants with her body,” “The unborn is a part of her body,” “The unborn is in her body,” and “The unborn is dependent on her body.”  What word pair is common to all of these?  Her body.  And the most common abortion defense of all only makes this emphasis more personal: “My body, my choice.”   

What’s the common word in all of these statements?  Body.  Her body.  My body.

In future posts in this series, I’m going to outline JFA’s approach to these bodily rights statements, including seeking to clarify what the person means by her argument and sharing analogies that help point out the truth about the limits to a woman’s bodily rights.  But this intellectual approach is only part of the puzzle, and as important as philosophy surely is, I am now realizing that as we make our arguments we must continue to express great sympathy and understanding for the woman’s concern for her body. 

I suggest that regularly in the midst of the discussion, we pause to reflect: Remember how important your body is to you. 

Then, remember that this dear person to whom we are speaking, if she’s a woman, has one of those bodies we’re discussing.  She can’t disassociate herself from her concern about her own body, at least not without purposeful effort.  But all of us can understand that right?  Even a man can understand the feeling of caring about one’s own body.

See www.jfaweb.org/blog/bodily-rights to read more posts in this series.

Focusing Only on the Woman for a Time Is Not Compromise

Part III of a Series

I’ve now written two posts in this series focused on the woman’s right to her body and the value she has as a person.  I’ve made the point that discussing what her right to her body entails must be accompanied by a sort of healthy recognition that we’re talking about somebody’s body.

You may worry that making this recognition somehow chips away at or cheapens our concern for the unborn child.  No, I’m not forgetting the unborn child.  Don’t worry.  But I am attempting to take seriously what it means to have a body and to have another person’s body inside one’s body.

Focus on the woman or focus on the unborn child?  It doesn’t have to be one or the other.  But I am arguing that in order to show concern for the woman’s real right to her body, in order to communicate to the pro-choice advocate the real value we believe the woman has, we might have to be okay with not mentioning the unborn for a moment.  This is a small concession, and I don’t think it’s a compromise.  Currently, the typical pro-choice advocate sees most pro-life advocacy as only about the baby.  There is truth in their perceptions, even though I think this characterization of us as mostly anti-woman is wildly off the mark. 

I’ve been working for years to respond to arguments about the woman’s body, and I have rarely, if ever, paused to reflect on the person I’m in fact discussing.  Without much fanfare, I’ve been discussing the physical organism, the body, to which she is more deeply connected than she is connected even to the unborn child inside of her.  For, of course, she isn’t connected to her own body through a placenta or umbilical cord or by “sharing space.”  She is directly connected to her body as her own.

With that reality in mind, I can no longer simply proceed as if this discussion of what her real bodily rights entail is a purely theoretical argument.  I can no longer proceed as if we simply need to get to the right answer about that argument, as important as that is.  Questions such as, “What rights and responsibilities does she have?” and “What limits can be legitimately made by law upon the actions of her body?” and “What is right?” are all important, to be sure.  Concern for the woman’s body doesn’t erase these other concerns.  We can’t love the woman and be sympathetic about her experience and simply ignore the question at hand, “Can you ask a doctor to kill the unborn child in her body?”  We must find a way to love both as equal human beings. 

I’m not arguing here for focusing on the woman to the exclusion of the unborn child.  I’m saying that I can no longer in good conscience simply think about, teach about, and respond to the statements and arguments regarding a “woman’s right to her body,” without giving some reflection and time to the fact that she has a special connection to her body, and all of our discussion affects her in a way it doesn’t affect us who don’t have her body.  I’m arguing that giving focus to the woman will gain us a hearing for our thoughts not only about her, but also about the unborn child.  Both the woman and the child are often forgotten in these conversations. 

Remember how important your body is to you.  This is not only about the woman, of course, but it is at least about the woman.  It would be a great progress for the woman to whom we are speaking to feel clearly the value we believe she has.  If we hope to kindle affection for unborn children as valuable human beings, one necessary (though not sufficient) step is to kindle affection for the woman experiencing unintended pregnancy. 

See www.jfaweb.org/blog/bodily-rights to read more posts in this series.

Practical Suggestions for Concern and Common Ground Regarding Bodily Rights

Part IV of a Series

I’ve made the point in the previous posts in this series, that when someone defends abortion by saying, “It’s her body,” the first thing we should do is find common ground and show concern for the woman and the uncontroversial aspects of her real right to her body.  Here are a few additional practical suggestions for finding common ground and showing concern for the woman when her bodily rights are the topic of conversation:

  • “How does it feel for you to discuss this topic?  I’m not sure I can understand what it’s like to discuss this, but I’d like to try.”
  • “Is it difficult to be open-minded, considering what’s at stake for you?  Can you describe for me what you feel is at stake with your legal right to abortion?  How does this discussion affect you?”
  • “This is a really difficult experience we’re talking about, and one that the woman understands in a way I cannot as a man.  She has a body that has the ability to have another body inside of her.  And then she sees all of these people arguing about what she can do or not do.  She feels conflicted, perhaps, about what is inside of her when she is pregnant.  She may feel conflicted about the circumstances in which she got pregnant and the man who contributed to her becoming pregnant.  But now here she is, pregnant...and in a very real sense, she feels alone with her body and what’s happening within her body.”
  • “There are many different ways in which women are oppressed and their bodies are not respected.  The last thing I want, as a proponent of human rights, is for her real right to self-determination to be unnecessarily or unjustly restricted.  I think we need more advocacy and action against rape and domestic violence and other forms of assault against women.  These ways of treating women must be stopped.  I am committed to giving my time and money to being a part of the solution.”

Here’s another thought you should consider: When someone says, “I have a right to my body,” there’s a possibility that the person is not really intending to make an argument.  The person may be intending to say something more emotive, something more like a desperate cry of self-preservation. 

I think the same is true, by the way, with many statements that seem to us to be justifications of abortion, but which pro-choice advocates are intending more along the lines of shows of sympathetic concern.  Sometimes when people mention poverty or single parents or other situations in which it’s understandable that a woman wouldn’t want to be pregnant, I think the person is really just processing and emoting with language, and is not really intending to give reasons in the sense of argument and logic. 

So it may be with the statement, “It’s her body.”  We can’t assume an argument is intended by those words.  Sure, an argument is definitely lurking in the shadows, even if its not intended, and we need to be ready for it.  I think the communication that’s intended, though, is something simpler: “Her body is affected by pregnancy a lot, and I care about her.”  We can surely agree with those sentiments.  Let’s pause, then, to hear the heart, and only move forward to clarify and respond to the intellectual arguments once that concern has been laid as a foundation stone in the conversation.

See www.jfaweb.org/blog/bodily-rights to read more posts in this series.