Many years ago a dear friend and I who agree on much but have diametrically opposed views on abortion, initiated and co-facilitated a Commmon Ground on Abortion group. We tried to have equal numbers of people who did not, and did support legal abortion. The group continued for perhaps 2.5 years, with some attrition, but always interesting discussions.
The goal was for people to be able to speak their views without being attacked or even judged by others, and to move into topics where we would seek to find areas of agreement. This proved to be very difficult in a number of ways. Some people could not stick to the rules that we not pass judgment on another's views, and we often found far more areas of disagreement than agreement.
It was good for people to see that not everyone "on the other side" or on one's own side was the same; there was diversity of views and in how we got to our views on each side.
We had one notable public success; shortly after Dr. Bernard Slepian, an abortion provider, was shot and killed while standing in his kitchen by a sharpshooter some distance from the house shooting through the window, we wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, noting that though we disagreed on abortion, we all agreed that violence of any kind, most especially hurting/killing people was wrong and not the way to deal with the explosive issue of abortion.
As for labels, I would let people define their views, and try to minimize the use of short-hand phrases such as pro-life and pro-choice. The media were key in moving the nation to those simplified labels and I wish they could be part of a less inflammatory reporting and presenting of views.
I don't think we are going to get to agreement on this issue, so we need to figure out a way, in our own lives, in our laws and in health care practice, and assistance to pregnant women and new parents, to allow for some midground. Many European countries have moved to one strategy which is to promote and provide for very early abortion, but make later abortions harder, and to make sure that people understand the important role of contraception and have access to safe, legal ways to prevent pregnancy.
I am very involved in my church and my views on abortion have always been very much linked to my religious/spiritual views and my values, and my hopes for a world that is better than the one we now inhabit, so I hope the issue of abortion will not continue to be seen and approached in divisive, simplistic ways. We need also to discuss the many other issues which influence situations where abortion is sought. Ideas about sexuality, about how children are provided for and on shrinking gendered division of labor, adn media role in encouraging sexual objectification of women and irresponsible sexuality are some of the topics that we need public conversations on.
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