How should we act in the presence of abortion rights advocates? This question faces us at school, at memorials and protests, and every day online. You know the basics: Be civil. Stay calm. Don’t yell or call names. But, I think the most important part of how we treat abortion rights advocates happens between our ears. How we think about those with whom we disagree seeps into every bit of what we say, and how we say it. How would conversation in America change if each of us assumed the best of the person who disagrees with us? What if we considered they hold convictions from the same love and concern for the innocent as we do?
Yes, some want abortion just for consequence-free sex. Countless others sincerely believe — as sincerely as you hold your beliefs — that access to safe, legal abortion is essential to save lives and end suffering.
Abortion willfully ends innocent human life. It’s a heart-rending issue whose injustice is so clear it leaves us sputtering. We see the overwhelming evidence for the rights of the unborn. But, it is simply undeniable that there are also people of sincerity and goodwill on the other side. They sadly may not yet share our heartbreak for the dismembered baby and heart-wounded mother. However, they share with us heartbreak for the impoverished immigrant bearing the eighth child she fears she can’t feed or the 13-year-old rape victim bearing her relative’s child.
Thinking the best of people with whom we disagree helps control anger and offers the best chance at changing minds and hearts. What would happen if we treated the other side not as enemies, but as potential future allies? Let’s commit to this together. Next time you’re faced with a protestor, a commenter, or a disputer, give their motivations the benefit of the doubt, find common ground, and let the best in you speak to the best in them.