common ground

Prepare for Conversations with "The Power of Common Ground"

In his newsletter for September (“The Power of Common Ground”), Jeremy Gorr shares a great model of using common ground in a real conversation. You can use his letter to equip yourself with questions that will help you find common ground with others regarding abortion. He also discusses an approach to finding genuine common ground that avoids compromising one’s beliefs. In a footnote, Jeremy mentions JFA Director Steve Wagner’s book, Common Ground Without Compromise, which you can get for free at www.commongroundbook.com. That book features 25 questions you can use to begin a conversation with agreement instead of hostility.

Is Every Child a Work of Art?

We really like this shirt design. Here are a few questions it brings to our minds.

What do you think?

  • Do you think every human being is a work of art?

  • Can optimism like this provide some common ground which can help with the discussion of solutions for unintended pregnancy?

  • If you think every human being is a work of art, how does that inform your position on when human rights begin?

  • Do these questions affect your position on abortion?

  • Is it helpful to use / allude to artwork in order to create dialogue about abortion, or does it seem manipulative to you?

About the T-Shirt that Inspired this Post:

The picture above is a t-shirt design made available through Abort73, and created by artist Tori Higa.  The drawing of a little girl alludes to Frida Kahlo, an unexpected source of inspiration for a pro-life message like the one written directly underneath it.  Michael Spielman, the founder and director of Abort73.com explains: 

In referencing Kahlo's likeness on behalf of a politically incorrect cause, my hope is to continue her legacy of challenging perceptions and turning stereotypes on their head. You may look at our new design and see nothing but a cute little girl; I see an opportunity for dialogue and introspection—with a cautiously optimistic nod to the future. 

To read more about the purpose and origin of the design, see Michael Spielman's article, "Frida Kahlo and the Art of Abortion."

Justice For All was inspired by a similar concept when creating "The Art of Life", an open air exhibit which made its first appearances at Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2016. (See images below, or read about all the panels by clicking here.)  Responses to JFA's new exhibit have spanned a wide range, from support and excitement to disgust and anger.

What do you think (Part 2)?  

  • Is it helpful to use / allude to famous artwork in order to create dialogue about abortion, or does it seem manipulative to you?

  • What other works of art have influenced you when thinking about the meaning and value of life?

  • If human beings are a work of art, do you think that means there is an “artist”?

Damien Hirst Sculptures Back on Display in Doha

One Tiny Free Speech Board Comment

This free speech board was full of responses to our Stop and Think Exhibit Outreach at Colorado State University in April 2017.  But wait...

...Hiding in the upper left-hand corner, we found the following very tiny gem: 

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"We can't have a real, productive conversation about this until we acknowlidge that most pro-choice people love children and most pro-life people love women.  What we disagree on is definitions.  Virtually no one thinks its okay to murder babies, but if a fetus is not defined as a baby or an individual then Pro-life people seem heartless.  Virtually no one thinks it's okay to force a woman to do something with/to her body against her will, but if a fetus is not defined as part of a woman's body, but a person, pro-choice people seem heartless. 

"Now let's talk!  Recognizing that you and I can disagree about this definition + both be loving people!  Let's talk science!"

- Anonymous, Colorado State University, April 2017 (spelling and punctuation preserved)

What do you think of this person's "way forward"? 

Our favorite line here is, "Now let's talk."  What do you think?  We want to listen.  Share your opinion in the comments box below, or share your opinion at our 7conversations Twitter page


See more photos from this outreach in JFA's April 2017 - CSU gallery.

"I'll never know you. I never got a chance..."

The letter and rose, shown below as a part of JFA's Stop and Think Exhibit, were originally found on a JFA Poll Table at Colorado State University in 2004.  This panel was first displayed at Colorado State University in 2016 in approximately the same location where the note was originally left.

Photo by Katherine Clark

The letter reads:

Dear Rilegh,
I will never know you
I never got a chance
But I love you so much
She was never going to tell me about you
She was going to pretend you never existed
When she told me
I was truly speechless
Iv never cryed myself to sleep before
But for the past 2 weeks
It’s the only way I’m able to sleep
Theres this void in my life now
a bottomless hurt
that I’ll never know you
you, my first child
I’ll never see you grow
I can’t bring you back
I don’t even know where you are
So I gave you a home
You’ll be with me forever
I love you so much
Your Father
Rest in Peace

Many women and men (such as the writer of this letter) deal with grief following an experience with abortion.  No matter where you currently stand on the moral question of abortion, consider these questions for a few moments:

  • How do you feel when you read this letter?  Can you empathize with the writer's experience?
  • Do you know anyone who has had an experience with abortion?  Have you ever asked if he/she would like to talk about it? 
  • How do you think that the current US laws and social norms related to abortion affect people struggling with grief after abortion?
  • Do you believe that a father's wishes should have more weight than they currently do in an abortion decision? Why or why not?
  • The writer intended this letter for his child, but states that the mother "was going to pretend [the child] never existed."  Do you believe this father really had a child?  Why or why not? 
  • When in development does the unborn deserve legal protection?

Share your thoughts on any of these questions in the comments section below or at our @7conversations Twitter page.

(See also JFA's "Healing after Abortion" page for more resources for helping friends with abortion in their past.)

Identifying with her uncertain future

"Uncertain future" from JFA's Art of Life Exhibit.

This panel from JFA's Art of Life Exhibit features "La ofrenda" ("The offering") by Mexican painter Saturnino Herrán (1913).  It may not be possible to know exactly what is pictured here, but since the marigold is a flower frequently associated with death in some Latin American and Hispanic cultures, this may be a funeral procession.  We can imagine that the woman and children pictured may be grappling with an uncertain future after the death of a husband and father.

Let's consider the woman who finds herself pregnant unexpectedly.  Many times she is facing a very uncertain future.  Will I be able to care for this baby?  What will happen to my prospects for a career or even my prospects to be able to eat and provide for myself if I give birth to a baby?  Will I be able to handle the pains of labor?  Will I be able to find a loving adoptive couple to care for this baby if I am not able?  Will I lose my scholarship and then be forced to work in menial jobs for the rest of my life because I had to abandon my education?  Will I be dependent on others instead of being able to care for myself?  Will my friends abandon me?  Will the father of this baby stick around or will he just move on because I'm no longer desirable to him?

Unless we've been in a situation of unplanned pregnancy, it may be difficult for us to identify with these sorts of feelings that a woman faces when she finds herself pregnant unexpectedly.  But we must try to identify with her and understand how difficult it is from her perspective to think about carrying the child to term and giving birth.  Do you agree that it is helpful to give attention to these fears a woman has when she faces the uncertain future a pregnancy presents to her?  How should this change the way in which we discuss abortion?  Do you agree with the panel above that makes the claim that facing an uncertain future is better than killing a child by abortion? 

(For more information about the painting, including a link to a high resolution image of the painting, see JFA's Art of Life Exhibit page.)

MIA : What do you think?

The images in this post are from one mysterious panel of Justice For All's Stop and Think Exhibit.  The female symbol is juxtaposed with the familiar acronym for missing in action, MIA, in pink.  Then the panel asks:

According to The Lancet, millions upon millions of girls around the world are missing due to sex-selective abortion and infanticide.  Are you saddened by this or do you find yourself indifferent?  Is this phenomenon an expression of women’s rights or a violation of women’s rights? 

What do you think?  Why?

Note: For more information about the claims made on this panel, see the Stop and Think Exhibit page.

Note: This is one of a series of posts encouraging dialogue on abortion.  Whatever your perspective on abortion, please note that Justice For All promotes respect for people with differing views and condemns all abortion-related violence.  Please feel free to share this post on social media, and feel free to comment below.

Women's March - Fertile Ground for Dialogue on Abortion

A panel on JFA's new  "Stop and Think" Exhibit . The text reads: "Embrace"..."the Future of Feminism."

A panel on JFA's new "Stop and Think" Exhibit. The text reads: "Embrace"..."the Future of Feminism."

"Women's Rights are Human Rights, and Human Rights are Women's Rights."  This is the motto for which millions gathered in solidarity, this past Saturday, at Women’s March events around the globe.  However, one particular demographic that is passionate about that message of equality was officially ostracized from the events: pro-life advocates. 

The official Unity Principles of the Women’s March on Washington (and affiliated “sister marches”) includes this statement:  

We believe in Reproductive Freedom… This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion…for all people, regardless of income, location or education.[1]

In the days leading up to the march, many pro-life women spoke out about a contradiction within the principles of the Women’s March on Washington.  Rebecca Weiss, who calls herself a “pro-life feminist,” wrote in her Jan. 16 Patheos blog post:

I would like to say this to my pro-choice sisters:
We who are pro-life can not be excluded from feminism simply because we believe that the life of the unborn human is worthy of protection. We agree with you that women are driven to abortion because of social injustices, that these social injustices need to be eradicated, that women do deserve to have access to health care and bodily autonomy, that we need to work hard to oppose rape culture, and that women ought to have access to a variety of choices. We differ only on the question of when the life of [a] developing human must be protected from violence. It should be appreciated that, when we draw a circle around “which lives deserve protection” – we are the ones who are drawing the widest, most generous circle. [emphasis added]

JFA Trainer  Rebecca Haschke  talks to a UCLA student (May 2016) in front of one JFA poll table asking: "Can feminists be pro-choice?" The poll question's unexpected phrasing prompts many conversations about human equality and the pro-life position.

JFA Trainer Rebecca Haschke talks to a UCLA student (May 2016) in front of one JFA poll table asking: "Can feminists be pro-choice?" The poll question's unexpected phrasing prompts many conversations about human equality and the pro-life position.

In this statement, Rebecca did a great job of modeling one of the Three Essential Skills we teach at every JFA training event–finding common ground.  In fact, she focused on one of the central pieces of common ground between pro-life and pro-choice advocates – the belief that all humans, male and female, should be treated equally.  From there, she could make her case for the protection of the unborn based on the same foundation: their common humanity.  Many pro-choice advocates have never seen the pro-life worldview in this light, as the position most concerned with the inclusion of vulnerable.

Justice for All trains pro-life advocates to share this message of equality using what we call “The Equal Rights Argument.”  With the recent buzz surrounding the Women’s March on Washington, you have a powerful opportunity to create heart-changing dialogue about abortion.  We're here to help you get started.

Resources:  Creating Dialogue on Equal Rights

Can Ten Seconds Change Minds?

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It all started at 1:40 AM at a stoplight on Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach, California.  My July newsletter tells what happened there and how one good thing that came of it was a sound bite that is still making an impact on how people think about abortion 13 years later.  The short letter, Ten Seconds Can Change Minds, includes stories of real conversations from JFA trainers Jeremy Gorr and CK Wisner.

Here are a few additional notes on the topic of the letter:

  1. See more of the conversation with the women at the stoplight in an excerpt from my original write-up on the incident (a one-page reduction of my August 2002 newsletter): Got Ten Seconds?
  2. Admittedly, there are some limitations to the "10-Second Pro-Life Apologist."  Even though it has a logical structure similar to a syllogism, it shouldn't be expressed by pro-lifers as an air-tight argument to which no responses can be made.  I use the "10-Second Pro-Life Apologist" instead in the same way a soccer team uses a kick-off.  The sound bite just gets things started.  It helps me to put something on the table and then shut my mouth to allow the other person to talk, to respond, to think with me.  In this sense, it is purposefully incomplete.  It invites questions.  So, I suggest to pro-life advocates to take care in the amount of weight they give to these three sentences, expressed on their own, without clarification.  In other words, don't toss the "10-Second Pro-Life Apologist" out there as if just in saying these three sentences, it should silence all debate.  No, on the contrary, it is meant simply to get productive dialogue started.  One of the main limitations is the fact that these three sentences only implicitly make reference to the fact that the unborn is a whole organism.  In my view, this is an essential clarification pro-life advocates must make in their conversations about the unborn.  So, the unborn is not just living (like any cells or tissue of any species) and is not just human (like HeLa cells) but it is a special sort of living, human tissue that is integrated and organized in a specific way - the same way that you and I are integrated and organized, as a whole organism.
  3. To illustrate the above point, note, for example, the way in which PZ Meyers misunderstood the intended purpose in using a version of the "10-Second Pro-Life Apologist" by Kristan Hawkins, the President of SFLA; note also the detailed critique of the PZ Meyers piece by Clinton Wilcox.
  4. Exercise 3 in JFA's Interactive Guide teaches you to use the "10-Second Pro-Life Apologist" in conversation.  You can see how I would clarify the "organism" point (see Note #1 above) in the "Imitate" section of Exercise 3.  Get the Interactive Guide here.
  5. If you’ve enrolled in our “Learn at Home” program by completing the exercises at www.jfaweb.org/learn-at-home, the "10-Second Pro-Life Apologist" should look familiar to you.  It comprises the first ten seconds of the one-minute sound bite featured in Step 2.
  6. The 10-Second Pro-Life Apologist has been referenced and utilized by many pro-life advocates and organizations, including SFLA, Trent Horn, Amy Hall, Brett Kunkle, and Josh Brahm.
  7. Has the "10-Second Pro-Life Apologist" helped you in your conversations about abortion?  Share your story in the comments below.

Note: This post originally appeared at "Human Beings Matter More," the personal blog of Steve Wagner, JFA's Executive Director.