When I had my first baby, I learned so many things. There are things that you only notice once you start bringing a newborn with you pretty much everywhere you go. One of the things I learned was how much people love babies. When you go out and about with a tiny baby, you get complete strangers stopping, smiling, even giving small exclamations of delight. It took a while for me to stop asking myself how I knew such and such a person and to realise I didn’t know them at all, they were just enthralled by my new baby.
Another thing I learned was that some people really aren’t into babies at all. While some people can’t wait for you to ask if you’d like to hold the baby, others go slightly pale at the thought. I never encountered anyone who was actively mean or hostile towards me or my babies, but there were some people who made it quite clear that they had no interest in looking at, much less touching or holding, my baby.
So some people are super into babies, and some people are not. This probably isn’t a mindblowing piece of information, and also doesn’t seem in any way relevant to the Minimise Project. I would have said so too – until I attended a pro-life fundraising dinner with my then six week old daughter. I couldn’t get over how obsessed everyone was over her. It was like I was walking around the place with a minor celebrity. Everyone, young and old, male and female, parents or not, kept stopping me to ask me about her. And suddenly the penny dropped. Pro-life people really, really like babies.
It was so obvious, I couldn’t believe that it had never occurred to me before. Of course, there are many, many pro-choice people who are completely obsessed with babies too, and I’m sure there are also pro-life people who aren’t that into babies. But if I had to guess (and this is no more than a guess), I would say that someone who isn’t that pushed about babies is probably more likely to be pro-choice than pro-life.
This revelation wasn’t particularly mind-blowing on its own, but it made me realise: surely there are other ways in which the average pro-choice person differs from the average pro-life person. Some of them are obvious: pro-life people are probably more likely to be religious than pro-choice people. Pro-life people are probably older than pro-choice people, on average. But I became very curious about the smaller, more subtle differences between pro-life and pro-choice people. Are we into different kinds of music? What TV programmes do we watch? Do we prefer team sports or individual sports? Do we prefer sports in general? Is one group more into travelling than the other?
The reason these questions are so important is because if we want to reach someone, we need to know where they’re at right now. If you want to change someone’s mind on something, it’s much easier if they know you, if they click with you and you understand them. There are some things that are so obvious to us that we assume everyone feels the same way: for example, babies are obviously cute, sunshine is obviously wonderful, board games are obviously fun. But if that’s not obvious at all to the person you’re talking to, they’re going to find it harder to connect with you and you’re going to find it harder to talk to them about anything, let alone a difficult conversation about abortion.
So here’s my tip: if there’s a pro-choice person you know whom you think might be up for discussing the topic of abortion with you some time, take some time to put in some groundwork. Get to know them. Learn about them as a person, their likes and dislikes, their viewpoints on various topics that are nothing to do with abortion. Try to get a picture of what it’s like to live in their head. Don’t assume things that are obvious to you are obvious to them, and try instead to see the world through their eyes. Hopefully, this effort will pay off when you do eventually discuss abortion, but if not, you will at least have built a more solid friendship.