start the conversation

Watch this Conversation

Filmed during a JFA outreach event at Colorado State University, JFA trainer Rebecca Hotovy and Julia create a different kind of conversation. Why not share this with a friend and ask, “Have you ever been a part of a conversation about unintended pregnancy and abortion like this one?”

You can also view and share this conversation on Facebook.

Credits: Chris Germain (filming, editing) & Joanna Bai (editing, subtitles)

Damien Hirst Sculptures Back on Display in Doha

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.

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

"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.

Her Experience Matters

StopandThink-Believe-PaulSimon.jpg

What Do You Think?

Many pregnant women feel completely alone when facing unintended pregnancy.  Some believe their decision about their pregnancy only affects them.  Yet, aren't there two senses in which it isn't quite true that she is completely alone?

There's at least one sense in which she is not alone, for there is another being, one of the smallest humans on earth, who is very close by and is affected by her decision.  But does the presence of that being bring the comfort of togetherness or the terror of a life changed forever? 

There's another sense in which she doesn't have to be alone, but this second sense of "not being alone" depends on you and me.  Will we offer our help, without judgment, so she doesn't have to face this difficult situation alone? 

Can She Embrace Both?

Panel from JFA’s Art of Life Exhibit (Image: Madame Vigée-Le Brun et Sa Fille, by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, France, 1786; More information: Art of Life web page)

One of my favorite panels from our Art of Life Exhibit juxtaposes a classical painting of a woman holding her daughter with the words “Embracing child and career” and “better than abortion.”

At the University of Oklahoma in 2016, though, one free speech board (see image nearby) showed that this panel made no sense to some viewers.  They pointed out, confidently, that sitting for a portrait isn’t a career, and a woman in 1786 couldn’t possibly have had a career anyway.

Comments on a JFA Free Speech Board (2016): “In 1786 this woman did NOT have a child and a CAREER!” and, [sarcastically], “Sitting for portraits is a career?”

Had these students looked with just a bit more curiosity at the panel in question (image nearby), they would have found etched just next to the date of the painting in the bottom right-hand corner the only clues they needed in order to discover the point of the panel — the title of the painting and the name of the painter: Madame Vigée-Le Brun et Sa Fille [by] Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun.

This translates to Mrs. Vigée-Le Brun and Her Daughter [by] Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Yes, indeed, there is little sense in displaying this lesser-known painting from the 18th century to illustrate the idea that a woman can embrace her child and her career, unless, of course, the woman pictured in the painting is...the painter...and the painting is her self-portrait!  A quick look at the website found on the panel (www.debate2dialogue.org) reveals that Vigée Le Brun was Marie Antoinette’s chief portrait painter.  Yes, at least one woman had a “bona fide career” in 1786!

I don’t recall talking to the students who wrote these comments.  When I came across the photos of the free speech board later, the fact that these students missed the point of the sign made me angry, and for a moment, I wanted to mock them and point out how foolish they were.  But then I caught myself.  Isn’t sadness a more appropriate response?  These dear people are missing out on a beautiful moment of realization, after all. 

When people outright reject or miss the point of our outreach events, our good-faith attempts to dialogue with them, the beautiful wonder of life in the womb, the truth about human rights, or any other gift we offer, it makes me sad — sad, first, that they missed the gift, and second, that I, in my weaknesses, have sometimes made it harder for them to receive it.

So, let me reach out to you in that same spirit, seeking to understand your perspective and working together to find truth.  What do you think about the message of this panel?  Do you think that a woman who is experiencing unintended pregnancy can embrace both her child and her career?

It's certainly true that Vigée-Le Brun had prestige and an income that many of the underprivileged women seeking abortions do not have today.  Let's use this painting only as a starting point then (not as a perfectly parallel situation).  Let's assume that we're talking about the typical woman facing unintended pregnancy today, and let's assume she is in a very difficult situation with little money and little hope: Does she have to choose between two goods she cares about, her child and her career?  How can we help an underprivileged woman embrace both her unborn child and her career? 

What do you think?

 

(Note: Portions of this post were originally published in the letter, "Clueless in the Face of a Great Gift" in December 2016.)

Should We Step In?

The photo and story above 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/1Wny8tvWrC

What Do You Think?

  • What do you think about trying to change other peoples' opinions about abortion? Do you think it's important, or even ever acceptable? Why or why not?

  • If you consider yourself to be "pro-life," what does that term mean to you? Are there any circumstances in which you would support abortion? Do you think abortion should ever be legally available?

  • If you consider yourself to be "pro-choice," what does that term mean to you? Are there any circumstances in which you would try to stop someone from getting an abortion? Do you think abortion should ever be legally restricted?

Human but not human

Dear Supporter of Legal Abortion (or, pro-choice advocate, if you prefer): I've talked to thousands of pro-choice people over the past 17 years.  Many have said some version of the following sentence to me that I want to ask you about: "The unborn is human, but it's not human."  Some pro-life advocates smirk and make snarky responses to this, attempting to humiliate the person who said it. 

Adolf von Menzel, "Study for Heinrich von Kleist's Broken Jug," ~ 1877 (Getty Open Content)

I've found, though, that when I ask a follow-up question with an open heart, seeking to understand rather than refute, there is usually a perfectly reasonable explanation of the apparent contradiction in the statement.  It's this: Usually the person is trying to put his or her finger on a meaning that is hard to put into words, that even though the unborn is just as human as a clump of human cells in a petri dish, and maybe even just as human as you and I in the sense of being just as much biologically a human organism as you and I, the unborn is not human in the sense of having intrinsic value or basic human rights. 

My question is this: Have you ever said this ("the unborn is human, but it's not human") or something like it?  If so, am I understanding you correctly?  What reasons would you give for believing the unborn is similar biologically to cells in a petri dish (if that's your view), or for believing the unborn is biologically a living human organism (if that's your view), and what reasons would you give for believing the unborn is not human in the rights/value sense?

Dear Opponent of Legal Abortion (or, pro-life advocate, if you prefer): Read my paragraph above, reaching out to those who identify as "pro-choice."  Have you heard a statement like this before (or, "the unborn is alive, but it's not alive")?  How did you respond?  Did you make a snarky response (out loud or in your head), or did you scratch your head, wide-eyed, trying to understand how this could make sense? 

Can you see that when a person makes a statement to us that seems incoherent on its face, if we take a posture of assuming the person probably has a reasonable explanation (for the apparent contradiction), this can lead to new experiences of understanding and clarity?  Can you see how understanding what the person means is essential to getting to the important step of evaluating together the various ideas each of us has?

"He Forced Me to Get an Abortion"

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/0v3B71PWuk 

What Do You Think?

  • Is it right for boyfriends and parents to pressure women to have abortions?

  • What type of input, if any, should boyfriends and parents offer in the situation of unwanted pregnancy?

Eliminating Disabilities or the People Who Have Them?

In this portion of the CBS feature on Down syndrome in Iceland, the reporter looks at footprints of an aborted child imprinted next to a prayer as she speaks with a hospital worker who counsels women through their abortion decisions. The counselor states, "We don't look at abortion as murder..."

In this portion of the CBS feature on Down syndrome in Iceland, the reporter looks at footprints of an aborted child imprinted next to a prayer as she speaks with a hospital worker who counsels women through their abortion decisions. The counselor states, "We don't look at abortion as murder..."

On August 14th, CBS News released an article entitled "What kind of society do you want to live in? Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing," along with a 10-minute feature video on the topic.  For pregnant women in Iceland who find out their children have Down syndrome, the abortion rate appears to be incredibly high - nearly 100%.  

JFA's "Stop and Think" Exhibit features this panel, prompting discussion about what our attitudes should be towards those, like Dylan (shown above), with Down syndrome.

Many criticized the CBS article for being too celebratory, making the distinction that Iceland is eliminating those with a disability rather than the disability itself.  (Note: The CBS video did go into more detail than the article that accompanied it, making it somewhat more representative of a broader set of views.)  BreakPoint was one news outlet that responded.  You can read or listen to its response at the following link: "Iceland 'Close to Eradicating Down Syndrome Births': They're Killing, Not Curing."

What do you think?  

Do you agree with Breakpoint that Iceland is not really removing a disability, but rather removing disabled humans?

Or,

Do you think the unborn are not human beings, and therefore find Breakpoint's criticisms to be unfair?

 

What Did Baby Jesus Look Like at 7 Weeks?

Many people are curious to know what Jesus looked like.  Though it may be difficult to know what Jesus looked like when he walked the earth, it may be easier to see something of what his appearance must have been like when he was a seven-week-old baby in Mary's womb.  And what better time for this than the season of Advent?  Click on the image nearby to reveal video at EHD of a baby at seven weeks and four days from fertilization.

To see this imagery on your smart phone, we suggest downloading the stellar "See Baby Pregnancy Guide" app.  In the app, you can find interesting facts about the embryo at different stages of development, including a heartbeat count.  How many times had Jesus's heart beaten by 7 weeks?  Find out in the app (or learn more here).  You can also use EHD's heartbeat calculator to compare your heartbeat count.

(HT: JFA staff member Bubba Garrett.  We featured a similar post about four-week embryos last month.)

See What Baby Jesus Looked Like at 4 Weeks

Many people are curious to know what Jesus looked like.  Though it may be difficult to know what Jesus looked like when he walked the earth, it may be easier to see something of what his appearance must have been like when he was a four-week-old baby in Mary's womb.  And what better time for this than the season of Advent?  Click on the EHD page below to reveal video of a baby at four weeks and four days from fertilization.

Click to make the blurry image crystal clear.

Click to make the blurry image crystal clear.

To see this imagery on your smart phone, we suggest downloading the stellar "See Baby Pregnancy Guide" app.  Once you do, you'll have the ability to scroll through video images from very early on (like the video above) until late in the baby's development.

(HT: JFA staff member Bubba Garrett shared this idea with me this week.)