A Better Way to Argue About Abortion
What would you ask someone to read, if you trusted them to ask questions in good faith?
Back in 2016, after Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt was decided, my husband and I invited some of our pro-choice and pro-life friends to our house for cookies and a conversation about abortion.
Our event was small (about a dozen people), private, and structured. We thanked everyone for coming, since everyone had had bad conversations across this divide (including specifically about this case) and had chosen to come anyway. They wanted to have a better conversation, and I was asking them to take a chance that we could have one where people asked questions in good faith.
In order to get our of our rut, I shared two pre-readings, which I’m sharing again now with all of you (including with my original descriptions. I thought they were both pieces about abortion/pre-natal death that were not written as polemics. I hoped they might give us some shared ground to start with.
“Thanksgiving in Mongolia” by Ariel Levy
This is a first person essay about a miscarriage (please take that as a content warning). I was raised with the "no moral value for a fetus" assumption, and it's becoming Catholic that did the most to shift my position, rather than specific arguments on this topic, but here's the essay that did the most to perturb my beliefs pre-conversion.
“The Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison
Jamison contrasts her experiences playing a medical patient (for doctors trying to learn how to display empathy) and being a patient (for an abortion -- here the content warning is for abortion). She’s a thoughtful, moving writer and I tend to like this essay period (re how doctors treat patients) and I think it would be a more-fruitful-than-average way into the discussion.
I’d welcome comments on those pieces, but I’d like to specifically ask for your answers to this question:
What would you ask someone to read, if you were seeking a better conversation about abortion with someone who disagrees with you?
If any Other Feminisms readers choose to pair up and read each other’s recommendations, let me know. I’d be glad to do the reading, too, and to join you for a private conversation.
Please keep the comments to recommendations and possible conversation-matchmaking. Our conversation over cookies went well because it was small and private. If you want someone to consider they might be wrong about something this big, it’s hard for that to happen in a combox.