Saturday, fellow SPL rep Ellen and I attended a Justice For All (JFA)
training seminar; the seminar was sponsored by the Right To Life of Central
California and lead by pro-life advocate Josh Brahm.
(If you aren’t familiar with Josh’s work I suggest you
check him out. He has a very thoughtful, relational approach to the abortion
debate, and from what I’ve seen his approach is quite effective. Josh is a Christian,
but much of his work is secular in nature, and I’ve been repeatedly impressed
with his efforts to be religiously inclusive. More on that in tomorrow’s blog
|My one grainy pic of Josh presenting.|
states in some of their training materials, their goal is to “train thousands
to make abortion unthinkable for millions, ONE person at a time.” The idea is
to equip pro-lifers to have meaningful conversations about abortion by giving them
more effective dialoguing tools. For example, in any given abortion
conversation, JFA strongly emphasizes asking the other person questions and
listening attentively to his or her response. Try to understand the perspectives of the people you’re talking to.
It seems like this advice should go without saying, but how many abortion
arguments have you witnessed that were more about trying to “win” the
conversation? How often do you see the two sides talk right past each other?
also encourages trainees to find common
ground with the people they’re talking to (“What do you think of late-term
abortion? What do you think of sex-selective abortion? Do you think abortion
should be used as birth control?”). Build
a rapport and help create an open, useful conversation.
all for these approaches. Understanding and relating to other people makes it
easier for us to have a dialogue instead of a debate. Dialogues are more
effective for changing hearts and minds. Plus, I think—as a baseline behavior—we
should treat people kindly.
disagree with us on abortion. I don’t see how that’s helpful, either in the
abortion debate or in our personal lives. Being friends with those who disagree
gives both sides an opportunity to understand one another better, to learn
about other perspectives, and to influence each other. We want abortion to be
unthinkable for everyone…not just for the people who already agree with us. Beyond
that, I already have close friends and family who are pro-choice. They know I’m
pro-life. We care about each other, and we have good relationships. I’m not
going to sacrifice those relationships because we don’t agree on what I
consider a complex and highly emotional issue.
if abortion is an emotional topic in general, abortion in cases of rape is all
the more so. That’s why I was glad to find JFA had an entire training section
dedicated specifically to how we talk to people concerned about abortion in
cases of rape. The section focused on how to relate to people, not how to win arguments.
is so refreshing. I’ve been extremely frustrated at times with the way I’ve seen some pro-lifers handle
the abortion-in-cases-of-rape issue. In my experience, it seems like most
people—within and outside the abortion debate—don’t internalize how horrible
rape is or how difficult the social, psychological, and emotional circumstances
can be for a rape survivor. Not so with JFA. JFA’s message, as I understand it,
is essentially, “Now more than ever, listen to this person. Seek to understand
where they’re coming from and how they feel. Have compassion for what others
have gone through.” Compassion is an admirable quality in general, but, given
my way, it would be a required
quality for someone to discuss abortion in cases of rape. And I’ve heard JFA
mentors go so far as to say (paraphrasing), “If you don’t feel genuine concern
and compassion for survivors of rape, we don’t want you representing us on
campus.” Good. Exactly. Thank you.
the seminar had a training section to address talking with post-abortive
people. During that part, a post-abortive woman told us her story: the
circumstances of her unplanned pregnancy, the factors leading to her abortion,
her emotional turmoil afterward, and her eventual healing process. I wrote
recently about my emotional detachment from certain aspects of the abortion debate,
but sitting in-person listening to this woman tell of her own heartbreak, what she
went through leading up to the abortion and went through after, and what her
preborn child meant and means to her—there was no way to be emotionally
detached. It was very sad and very touching. After her story, the seminar again
encouraged gentility and empathy over a more argumentative style. We still have
points to make, thought experiments to explore, and reasons to give for being
pro-life, but the manner of our
approach is nearly as important as the substance of our perspective.
the JFA seminar focused on substance as well. During the training, Josh and
other JFA speakers talked about the biological humanity of the unborn, the Equal Rights Argument, and different types of
bodily rights arguments. Even though
I’ve heard of or talked about a lot of this before, I was glad to see JFA focus
on these ideas during the training. These are high-quality arguments. They’re
simple without being simplistic, and they take the pro-choice perspective seriously (as opposed
to strawmanning what pro-choicers are saying, or addressing the simpler pro-choice
arguments and ignoring the complicated ones).
|One of the slides from the Equal Rights Argument presentation.
Click here to read more about it.
especially appreciate how JFA takes the time to explain and address different
bodily rights issues. In my experience, most pro-lifers don’t seem to take
bodily rights arguments seriously. But I see pro-choicers use bodily rights
arguments more and more frequently, and some of these arguments can be very
compelling. We pro-lifers need to take the bodily rights issue seriously, both
for the sake of the abortion debate and because bodily rights are important
rights independent of the abortion debate. So it’s satisfying to see JFA emphasize bodily
rights arguments. During the training, JFA speakers provided several great
analogies to help trainees understand and express the pro-life
perspective on bodily rights and abortion.
I got a lot out of the seminar. I so admire JFA’s relational approach and the
substance of their arguments. I expect the more pro-lifers we have making
better arguments in kinder ways, the more hearts and minds we’ll sway.
I’ll post about what the seminar was like more specifically from the
perspective of a non-Christian.