We've all been there: you're chatting with a colleague or friend about what you did on the weekend. You share that you attended an event and they ask what it was for. This is the moment: do you tell them that it was for a pro-life organization, potentially opening a can of worms you didn't want to? Or, do you shrug it off, saying it was a fundraiser for a non-profit that your friend talked you into attending for free - and then change the subject.
The reality is, being pro-life is counter-cultural. Some of us may fear a conversation about our pro-life views, wanting to avoid confrontation or controversial topics. However intimidating these interactions may seem, they are important to be a part of.
In my years doing pro-life activism, one thing I always liked to ask people at the end of our interaction was 'have you ever had a conversation with a pro-life person about abortion before now?' It was shocking that people who are vocally pro-choice admitted they had never have spoken to a person with views different from their own before. (How could someone know where they stand if they've never heard both sides of the issue?) Something else I liked to do was slip a statement into the conversation a statement like 'pro-lifers don't believe women who have abortions are murderers' and receive a response of relief or surprise! A simple statement like that can make an impact. It can help someone to see pro-lifers in a more positive light than before.
We should see conversations about abortion as an opportunity to minister to others, not as moments to shy away from. Imagine the impact you can have by simply having one conversation with someone who agrees with abortion. This might be the first time they've ever heard a defense for life!
Prayer and Reflection
To be an ambassador standing up for life is to serve God and do His will. He knows the person we are talking to more than we do. Asking the Holy Spirit for guidance in conversations like these can be helpful, as anything is possible through Christ, who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). It is also encouraging to let go and let God take control of these interactions, and give your fears and doubts to Him in these moments.
This isn't a Christian-exclusive attitude, either. Humans are imperfect and whether you believe in God or not, we all must accept the fact that we cannot control the outcome of all situations, but must still do our best. You can't deny it will be a challenging and uncomfortable experience to step out of your comfort zone, and it certainly won't be perfect on the first try! Stumbling over your words the first few times is worth it. Consider this: with each mistake you make in these conversations, you will improve for the next time. Your willingness to be vulnerable in a conversation might be the reason why someone is saved from abortion one day. Keep in mind the end goal - if you have a chance to step up for the voiceless, take it!
From a faith perspective, we know that we act as the hands and feet of Christ. Have the humility to know that you are sowing seeds of a plant, and allow God to do the rest.
Free yourself from preconceived notions you may have of pro-choicers and see the person in front of you as worthy of dignity and respect.
Additionally, reflect on your thoughts and feelings about abortion. Does it make you upset? Angry? Afraid? How might that come out in a conversation with someone who agrees with abortion? Remember that being pro-life means you are against abortion, not against people who agree with abortion. Free yourself from preconceived notions you may have of pro-choicers and see the person in front of you as worthy of dignity and respect. Allow yourself to see the other person through a lens of love and compassion. A person may agree with abortion because it's the 'default' of our societal norms to be pro-choice. A person may also agree with abortion because a close friend or relative had an abortion, so they show support of their loved one by supporting their choices. Be considerate and thoughtful of the sensitive nature of this topic and humble yourself - accept the fact that you cannot understand this person until you truly listen.
Both prayer and reflection will help you to overcome fears that you have surrounding these conversations.
Just as St. Francis has taught: we must seek to understand before we seek to be understood. Not only is this a compassionate principle to follow, it is a tactful way to lead conversations! Asking questions helps you to understand someone better, and it gives them the opportunity to offer reasons for their point of view. Asking a question, rather than stating a fact, will also help you avoid a tone of confrontation that might come off as 'preachy'.
Ask someone what are their thoughts on the issue of abortion. Ask them: do they believe that abortion is okay in any circumstance, or in all circumstances? What does being pro-choice mean to them? Ask them how they feel about situations where people use abortion as birth control. Ask them if they knew that Canada has no abortion laws and ask how they feel about that.
If a person holds this topic close to their heart, they might not be able to explain why they agree with abortion. They may have stronger emotional convictions about it than they can explain to you in words. This isn't uncommon, because abortion has the ability to deeply hurt and anger people. Their emotions may drive their thoughts, which can cause them to appear illogical in their reasoning. This doesn't mean someone has illogical reasons, but they may have a hard time explaining them amidst the emotion surrounding this topic. Good questions to ask would be: "when did you decide you were pro-choice?", or "have you always been pro-choice?". Questions like these allow the opportunity for someone to reflect on their thoughts in a way they haven't before. Even asking "what do you think of pro-lifers?" can put you in a vulnerable place, but can make them feel comfortable sharing something they were afraid of sharing with you.
Provide a new perspective
Don't expect to change someone's mind in a single conversation. Your ultimate goal shouldn't be to win an argument or to prove your point. It should be to provide a new perspective for the person you're speaking with.
A person won't remember all the words you say once the conversation is over. They will, however, remember how you made them feel. Did you make them feel like they could come to you again to revisit this conversation in the future? Did you make them feel that pro-lifers can be non-judgmental and thoughtful people? If this was a conversation with a stranger, did you make them feel less intimidated to talk to other pro-life people they may know?
Your choice of words will play a large role in the impression you make. Remember: many people who are pro-choice haven't spoken with someone who disagrees with them before! You have the opportunity to make an impact and change their view on what it means to be pro-life. You never know when someone who strongly agrees with abortion might change their mind and become active in the pro-life movement. Similarly to Bernard Nathanson , the founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), people who undergo a conversion of this sort often have a desire to bring to light how they were previously misled (and, in Nathanson's case, misled others).
Having effective conversations about abortion takes time, experience, and preparation beyond reading an article or blog post (or watching Ben Shapiro in a debate). Consider this a steady foundation to build your attitude from. Free yourself from what you see in the media, which is filled with shouting matches and emotionally-charged arguments. As pro-lifers living in a pro-choice nation, these conversations are critical.
Reccomended reading on this topic: "Love Unleashes Life" by Stephanie Gray
. "The Conversion of Bernard Nathanson". Quebec Life Coalition. https://en.cqv.qc.ca/the_conversion_of_bernard_nathanson. 2011.