“Eat more logs” is not one of our recommended New Year’s resolutions.
Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

As we come to the beginning of a new year, many people like to make New Years resolutions. We here at the Minimise Project have five suggestions for some resolutions that our readers might like to make for 2021.

Take one new step to help those dealing with a crisis pregnancies

This is an obvious one, and for many of our readers it might seem redundant as so many of you are very active already in providing practical assistance for people facing crisis pregnancies, as well as their families. However, this resolution is to take one new step, or do one new thing, in this area. For those who are currently not involved at all in providing supports for women facing crisis pregnancy, we encourage you to change that this year – donate, volunteer or lobby. If you don’t know what to do, contact your local crisis pregnancy centre and ask how you can help. For those who are already very involved, take a minute to see if there’s one extra thing you can do, on top of all you already do, for the women and families you support. And if there’s anything we here at the Minimise Project can do, please let us know!

Ask and answer the question: what would it take to change my mind on abortion?

I once read a post by Secular Pro-Life who said that everyone should be able to answer this question. I spent about two years thinking about it before settling on any kind of an answer, and I suspect my answer to this question will change again as I get older (for what it’s worth, in order to change my mind on abortion, you’d need to convince me that a utilitarian model is the best model for determining right and wrong, or you’d need to convince me that consciousness is the best way to determine whether a human has personhood, or whether it’s wrong to kill that person). Have a really good think about this question this year. If your answer is “Absolutely nothing would ever change my mind on abortion”, then have a think about why that is – because that will probably show you what it would take to change your mind on abortion!

Give less offence, take less offence, pass on less offence

It’s quite cliche at this stage, but public discourse is becoming increasingly polarised. This is not just merely a tired observation that political activists and journalists have trotted out, but is borne out in opinion polls and research. This research has primarily been carried out in America but polarisation is being seen worldwide, including in Ireland. Nuance is being lost: if someone is wrong on anything, they’re wrong on everything. The world is full of goodies and baddies, and anyone who’s not with us is completely against us. This polarised discourse makes it so much harder for us to build bridges and have constructive conversations with anyone who disagrees with us on any topic, including abortion, because we immediately assume the worst of each other. 

The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has suggested a motto that we can put into practice in an effort to reduce this polarisation: “I will give less offence, I will take less offence and I will pass on less offence”. Giving less offence is pretty easy to understand: trying to be polite, respectful, cordial, sensitive and considerate when we engage with others. Taking less offence is about interpreting slights and insults in a more benign fashion. Was this person being deliberately offensive, or did they perhaps commit a faux pas? Is it possible to give the benefit of the doubt, and point out to them that they were hurtful or offensive, while assuring them that you’re sure they didn’t mean it? This approach is usually immediately disarming, and will often lead the person you’re talking to to apologise and rephrase. Passing on less offence refers to whether we tell others when we encounter offensive commentary and action. Even when someone is being genuinely offensive (not just committing a faux pas), do you really need to let everyone know? What exactly is your motivation for posting or forwarding that offensive comment, article or meme? Is there any chance you could take care of the situation by ignoring the content, or by privately messaging or texting the person who offended you? If everyone followed Haidt’s suggestion, we would be a long way towards dealing with our polarisation problem.

Take one new step to political activism

Similar to the first point, no matter what your level of political activity is, there’s no harm in taking one step to become more active this year. Even dropping a simple email to your local TDs, advocating for a service for pregnant women such as improved maternity services, or improved child benefit, is helpful – they do pay attention to communications they receive. For those who want to become more active, you can volunteer with a politician or political party you respect. Don’t expect to agree with them on everything, but try to see it as an opportunity to advocate for new policies that are important to you. Signing up for the mailing lists of pro-life groups here in Ireland will also let you know about relevant legislation and debates that you may wish to contact your TDs over. If you’re not sure who your TDs are, check here.

Start a conversation about abortion

Since a huge portion of our material is geared towards having better conversations about abortion, we’d like to encourage you to use it! Try having a conversation about abortion with a friend or family member this year. See how you get on, and let us know what happened! We’d love to hear from you.