Changing someone’s mind on abortion is hard. There are parallels to the level of emotion in the vaccine debate. I received this article about a mom who changed her mind about vaccines and I thought there are some takeaways here for the business of discussing abortion.
My personal takeaways in talking with folks? 1) Avoid sarcasm. 2) Avoiding sarcasm means avoiding discussing with certain people who default to it so readily that they don’t have an open mind for discussion and will quickly suck you into the sarcastic abyss, which quickly leads to anger. Perhaps it starts with anger, I’m not sure. 3) Once you’ve decided who you will discuss with–and preferably it’s someone you know well, who you genuinely love in all ways,* always consider you could be wrong. But always consider you could be right, and the person you are talking with is sensible. 4) Finally, never expect a conversion right there. People take time.** If that person is me, they take a very long time to ruminate, go back and forth, consider the other side. No one, I’ve decided, will ever listen to my pro-life spiel and then say right in front of me, you know, you are right. I’ve invested myself in a flawed worldview, but today, all that is going to change.
Bold is mine.
When you changed your minds about vaccines do you think (honestly) there was anything anyone could have said to you to change your mind?
Maybe? How they approached me would have made a huge difference. Respectfully validating and addressing versus sarcastically dismissing my concerns and questions would have made a difference. Building our trust through caring, patient dialogue would have helped. Just talking to me at all like an intelligent caring person would have helped.
If someone had said in a genuinely kind tone. “Tara, you are a great mom who loves her kids dearly. I know there is so much confusion about vaccines. I care about you and want to help you make a informed decision you feel really confident in. Would you be willing to share some of your concerns with me so we could go through them one by one? In the end it’s your decision.*** I want to make sure you are totally confident in your decision since it’s so important.” I would like to think I would have stepped willingly into that kind of conversation. There was no threat or attack that would trigger defensiveness.
*This is what makes social media a bad forum for just about any genuine attempt at conversing. Everyone, at one point or another, ends up sounding shrill on social media. All it takes is one bad moment and you’ve done the Facebook post, and it’s all over for civil discourse.
**People do take time, and this is why I find strident pro-choicers to be false friends to a woman in need. We all need time to make good decisions. We all, I think, go back and forth with our decisions. Unplanned pregnancy does not allow for this. You can go back and forth, back and forth, but if you choose abortion, it is final and there is absolutely no undo button. If you choose life, can you decide not to parent? Absolutely. But if you choose abortion, you don’t ever get to reconsider. It’s cruel and the main problem is that a woman never knows whether she will be the one to mourn or regret her decision until it is all over. Some women don’t regret it. Hurray for them; it appears they all run for politics and make their point of view sound super mainstream. For the woman who does regret it, and lives a cycle of depression and pain for many years, well, strident pro-choicers have no answer for this and appear not to care, beyond blaming me for “creating stigma.”
*** This makes pro-lifers intensely uncomfortable. Do I wish abortion were not a choice? Absolutely. Is it available as one? Absolutely. We have clinics that are readily available and your loved one contemplating abortion does not need to talk to you first before she goes and books herself in. I don’t have time to go into the implications of what this actually means in practically attempting to counsel someone out of abortion, however, I do know mentioning that mothers make a choice for or against abortion is a sticking point with some pro-lifers. The mere fact that I acknowledge the facts on the ground leaves some pro-lifers wondering if I am actually pro-life. Frustrating, that.