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I'm writing as a "pro-choice" person -- although I've never much liked the terms "pro-life" or "pro-choice." I think they push us further away from one another and cheapen what should be a serious and careful conversation.
About twenty years ago, my husband organized a forum on abortion. He was managing an art cinema and whenever the theater showed a provocative or issue-focused film, he would hold a panel discussion after the Sunday matinee. I can't remember the film that inspired the Abortion Forum, but the event itself stands out in my memory.
The usual format was to invite a group of experts to speak and then have a Q&A session with the audience. But for the Abortion Forum, he invited a very caring family therapist we knew to moderate an open discussion. There must have been 300 people in the audience. There was not an empty seat in the place. As I recall, we were all, apart from my husband, women, although that may not be an accurate memory.
The woman who was moderating told her own story of abortion and then invited anyone who wanted to speak to tell her story. And one by one, women stood and spoke. Women who were extremely pro-choice, women who were extremely pro-life, and everyone in between. There was just one rule. No kibbitzing, analyzing, arguing, or one-upping. Just listening to one another with as much heart as we could muster. A lot of healing happened in that room that day. A lot of laughter, a lot of tears, a lot of connection. It was a very safe space. Women who had kept their story secret for years found the strength to tell it. Women who had never forgiven themselves for terminating a pregnancy found forgiveness from women who were fiercely anti-abortion.
It was a room of three hundred women, mostly strangers, all different lifestyles, value systems, and religions. But in the simple telling of and listening to our stories, we found the commonality that binds us all together.
And call me crazy or simple-minded, but I believe if we can work for that commonality, if we can focus on all that connects us, rather than what divides us, if we will simply listen, really listen to one another's stories, and leave all the posturing and opinions at the door, I suspect the abortion debate will lose its charge and we'll be able to find inspired resolution for all.