training materials

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

Late-Term Abortion? ... Our Open Mic Archives Help You Prepare for the Dialogue

Did you know that you can watch real JFA open mic conversations at our  "Explore Resources" page?  We've even created some questions to help you practice having similar conversations.

VIDEO CLIP: Late-term abortion has been in the news recently.  Here's a dialogue excerpt from the JFA archives to help you prepare for conversations with your friends. *(See parental advisory below.)

  • Step 1: Listen to the first thoughts from this student at ASU. Stop the video.
  • Step 2: Think of a question you can ask to build common ground with the speaker. Write your ideas in the comments section.
  • Step 3: Now listen to the remainder of the video. Did Steve's attempt at common ground succeed?

*Warning: Parental Advisory. 
The audio/video clips of JFA's Open Mic sessions contain unedited free speech audio and portions include profanity and frank discussion of sexuality.  If you are under the age of 18, please invite your parents to preview this material and approve it for your listening.  Once they've reviewed it, you might invite them to listen along with you!  These clips provide great opportunities for discussing what you think about life before birth, pregnancy, and abortion.

A Response to the Strongest Violinist

Here's a paper I originally posted back in April 2013:

"De Facto Guardian and Abortion: A Response to the Strongest Violinist"  

Ernest Hébert, "Le Petit Violoneux Endormi" (1883),  Musée Hébert

Ernest Hébert, "Le Petit Violoneux Endormi" (1883), Musée Hébert

It begins in a "Cabin in a Blizzard," where Mary finds herself stranded with a newborn that's not her own, and ends with a short reference to one Carl and an annoying "wilderness explorer" named Russell (from the movie, Up).  In between these thought experiments, we attempt to describe and give a suggested account for our intuitions about our obligations to children.  We believe that account sheds light on and casts doubt on the viability (pun intended) of the strongest version of Judith Jarvis Thomson's Violinist Argument from her 1972 "A Defense of Abortion."  We invite you to wrestle with that argument and with our response to it.  Share comments below.

Notes: 

  • This paper was originally posted on April 13, 2013 at the Life Report website, and the comment thread under that post includes some discussion of the paper that took place from 2013-2014.  
  • I wrote the paper, but many others deserve credit for helping crystallize the ideas in the paper and for supplying some of the raw material for the central thought experiment.  See the preface and the footnotes for my attempt to give credit where credit is due.
  • See how the ideas from this paper changed the way that one student at the University of Texas at San Antonio thought about whether abortion should be legal when the pregnancy resulted from rape: "A Good Conversation Is...a Window" (Nov/Dec 2013 newsletter).
  • See also Timothy Brahm's "Autumn in the Sovereign Zone" for a masterful response to another version of bodily rights argument.  Mr. Brahm now works at Equal Rights Institute.
  • See also "Good Samaritan on Life Support" by 2010 JFA Intern Tony George.
  • The main url for discussion of the paper, www.jfaweb.org/DFG, is now being directed to this post.

Note: This post was updated on Dec. 14, 2015 with the link to the Tony George article.