My dear reader, as I give you my opinion (since you cannot listen to my voice or see my body language) I hope that you believe me that what I say here (as has always been my intention with every blog entry) comes from the heart. Last week, there was an exhibit here at Purdue. It was part of "The Genocide Project"...a traveling photo exhibit comparing abortion to various forms of genocide throughout history. (Click here for more details) My opinion on the agenda behind the exhibit, including if it is correct to make this analogy is for another day.
What I would like to share with you my dear reader is not about abortion being right or wrong, or the position of any side of the issue. Most of those arguments (for the most part) deal with a PRE-abortion scenario; why people SHOULD or SHOULD NOT/CAN or CANNOT have an abortion. However, it has been my experience that during these discussions something very important is being ignored or not being discussed with the same fervor: the POST-abortion scenario or more to the point, what happens to the woman that already had the abortion. I tried to have this conversation with a few people that were either supporting the exhibit or against it, or not sure how to react to it. The image that I believe was the most controversial (specially from the reaction of many people including a few friends of mine) was the one that contained three pictures/images: first there was the inverted swastika of the Nazis, with a (gold) star of David below it showing dead bodies from the Holocaust. (Note: A friend of mine with a Jewish background reminded me that last Thursday as I tell you about all this was the first day of Rosh HaShanah. He did not approve of this image being used during a time like this and he asked one of the people at the exhibit if they knew about this. Any argument that the person (or perhaps one of you) could have for justifying the use of the image from this point was irrelevant, since the person told him that he did not know about the holiday) The second picture was a black and white picture of the hanging of a human being, a dead African-American male; I wish we had the details of that picture. And the third picture showed an image of an abortion. This lead me to have (among the many chats I had) two separate conversations that to this day feel like they occurred just a few minutes ago. One was with a young woman and an older man and they were both coming from the "Pro-Life" point of view and supported the exhibit. Since originally I did not plan to write about this and of course I did not get their permission to use their names, I shall call the (y)oung (w)oman 'YM' and the (o)lder (m)an 'OM'. I share with you ONE of the many issues I talked to them about if abortion once again becomes illegal, but also, what happens to the women that regardless of Roe v.s Wade being overturned or not still have abortions legally or illegally. Do we use the analogy of "genocide?" I believe that does not give us the entire picture of what is going on here. Allow me my dear reader to explain.
With YM, I had a very productive conversation. From the start she showed a willingness to speak to me in a respectful manner and to listen to what I had to say. After speaking for a few minutes I pointed to the image I described above (it was right in front of us) and I asked her what was the ultimate goal of this exhibit and why she supported it. She said that it was important to let people know that abortion is another kind of genocide responsible for the loss of human lives and it was important to to do everything possible to stop it; this includes overturning 'Roe vs. Wade' and making abortion illegal. Then I said: "Your strategy points to stopping abortions. Is that correct?" She said "yes". Then I asked (as I pointed to the image): "Have you thought of the women that already had an abortion? How does that image and this exhibit help them?" I continued: "I personally know women that had abortions. Some of them have shared with me that when they see exhibits like these, including the images that speak of genocide, the Nazis, lynch mobs, etc, that they feel like they are being told that they ARE just like the Nazis." Then I asked: "Have you ever thought of that?" YM responded in a very honest and compassionate way: "I never thought of that". We continued to have a productive conversation and at the least I got her thinking that when it comes to this issue there are two scenarios: BEFORE, and AFTER the abortion. When she also added that part of her drive to do this was her Christianity, I also shared that I was a Christian. When she heard this, she was even more interested in hearing what I had to say. In the end, I told her that whatever point of view and/or strategy she takes to support her "Pro-Life" stand (to be fully effective) as a Christian (or not) she most also consider what we say and do before and after the abortion; just because we have something to say about abortion it may be at best academic and at worst irrelevant to the post-abortion situation; if the abortion already occurred, calling it a "genocide" does not help in any way the woman that already had the abortion. In the end, it was a very good exchange.
With OM, I unfortunately must say that it was not a productive conversation. Every point I tried to present, was at best ignored, and at worst attacked in a very, very personal way that bordered on attacks on me as a person, not about what I was trying to discuss. At a point during the conversation he said "I am a Christian and it is my duty to defend life!" I said: "I am not doubting your motives. I am also a Christian and I am trying to understand where you are coming from since this is a very complex and difficult issue to talk about." When he heard this, his demeanor became even more aggressive, condescending, and hateful. When I asked the same question to OM as I did with YM regarding how the images help those that already had the abortion, his response was: "I can't be concerned with that!" I must admit my control almost cracked at that moment. But I was able to ask calmly "Why can't you be concerned? Why can't you be concerned for those that are suffering now and trying to heal from the emotional effects after the abortion? Is it not our Christian duty to be concerned and have compassion for a human being that is suffering right now from those deep difficult emotional effects?" He simply ignored this and said some things that I do not believe need to be repeated here. At the end of the "conversation" (at some point it became mostly an affair that was driving him to simply make attacks, including comparing certain groups of people to the Nazis, etc) I walked away angry, sad, disappointed; I asked myself 'why did I even try?'
Then I think back to YM and I know why I tried. She tried to understand what I was trying to say. It did not matter if we did not agree on many points during the conversation. She did three very important things and allowed us to agree on one point: 1) She was willing to listen, unlike OM. 2) She was willing to say "I never thought of that" (takes a lot of courage and wisdom to say that; as human beings we resist admitting that we don't know about something specially in a conversation with other people around) AND 3) She felt that she needed to be concerned (unlike OM) with how the images were being interpreted by those who already had an abortion; she was concerned with those already suffering right now.
So, what did I learn from this? For example, I hope that in the future they may have more images that speak to those women that already had the abortion and to think real hard of how the images that they are using right now shape another very important part of this issue; I hope they think of that and I don't believe that this would be a betrayal of their position. Also, I have always thought that it is a good idea for all of us (for example) to find out if there is a "Crisis Center" in our local area. For those of us still in college, we probably already have access to something very similar. There are many people out there trained and ready to speak to those of us that are suffering, to those of us that all we need is someone to talk to us, without judgement but instead with compassion. I suggest that you add the phone number to your phone of a similar place. Not only will you be able to share it with someone that needs it; you may need the number for yourself one day.
In the meantime, for all you know there may be someone in your life that had an abortion but you are unaware of this; perhaps you my dear reader are one of them. If this is the case, are we so ready to judge? Are we so ready to talk about "Genocide"? Perhaps that person will need your shoulder to cry on. I believe that compassion quite simply is more powerful and more EFFECTIVE than judgment. I believe that people on both sides of the issue can agree.
If you my dear reader had an abortion, I do not judge you.
If you my dear reader had an abortion, there are many people in this world that do not judge you.
If you my dear reader had an abortion, many of us want to help you in any way we can; you only need to ask.
I do not know if YM spoke to OM about this. Perhaps she did and if so, there is a chance that she was able to reach him in a way I was unable to do. I understand that this could just be wishful thinking. But also, who knows...who knows...