It’s unfortunately the case that just because a person opposes abortion does not mean that opposition to abortion is a political priority for them. Hard as it may be to believe for many of us convinced pro-lifers, a person may oppose abortion but care far more about other political issues, and not be particularly inclined to vote on the the issue in politics. That’s why we’re not seeing the NI parties pay a political cost.
As a death penalty opponent, when I make arguments like this to supporters I’m trying to do two things: first I’m hoping that they’ll agree that that killing an innocent person is so terrible that even a small risk of it gives us reason to abolish capital punishment. I’m hoping to convince them that even if it was good to kill the worst criminals, it’s not worth killing the innocent to achieve it. But I’m also trying to do something a bit less straightforward. By inviting the person I’m talking to to think about the irreversibility, the terrible finality of death in the case of an innocent person, I’m hoping to make them less comfortable about imposing the death penalty even on the guilty.
The Equal Rights Institute (ERI) is a great website for people looking for resources on how to talk about abortion both smartly and sensitively. One of my favourite posts of theirs is on what they call ‘the most underrated argument in the pro-life movement’: the Equal Rights Argument. This post discusses both the content of the argument and the way that the ERI recommends using it.
The thought experiment itself is long and can be quickly summarised: you’re in an IVF clinic that is burning to the ground, and as you try to escape you come across a crying five year old child and 1000 frozen embryos. You can save the child or the embryos, but not both. Which do you choose?
Pro-choice people often believe that they can relate in an unburdened and non-judgemental manner to anyone who is or was pregnant, because they truly support that person regardless of her circumstances or choices surrounding her pregnancy. For this reason, pro-choice people often believe their pro-life friends have no reason to feel in any way awkward or coy around them when they are or were pregnant. However, a pro-life person, who sees the rights and humanity of her baby as being absolute and objective, may feel slightly differently about it.
“Nobody wants to have an abortion. And if nobody wants to have an abortion, why are women doing it, 2800 times a day? If women doing something 2,800 times daily that they don’t want to do, this is not liberation we’ve won. We are colluding in a strange new form of oppression.”
If you’re part of a movement that people have negative impressions of, these impressions can be quite difficult to dispel. This is sometimes what it’s like trying to convince people feminism isn’t some hypocritical, self-centred movement for rich western women. It’s also what it can be like for pro-life feminists trying to win over our pro-choice counter parts – there are some pretty common ideas that people will believe about you without necessarily having any good reason to do so. Here are some ideas and tactics I think could help counter that.