Regardless of your stance on abortion, it’s safe to assume you would agree that it is a hot button topic.
What’s a person to do when faced with this topic in the workplace? Or at a social event with mixed opinions?
The knee-jerk reaction for many Catholics would be to defend the sanctity of life, regardless of the setting. After all, we’re called to stand firm in Truth, no matter how uncomfortable….right?
Right. Except, that’s a lot easier said than done.
Believe me, I get it. I work full-time for Students for Life of Illinois, after all. But even after years of experience “outing myself” as pro-life simply by telling someone where I work, it’s not easy. The struggle is real, my friends. But allow me to assure you that discussing abortion does become more comfortable with practice.
Here are a few tips to help increase confidence the next time you’re faced with an opportunity to present a pro-life perspective.
1. Know why you are pro-life.
Many people can discuss at length about the science and politics of why abortion is wrong, yet have little insight into where their passion comes from. In order to make your perspective more than facts and figures, it’s essential to get to the core of why you care about this. Your testimony doesn’t have to be a spectacular story like some you may have heard – every testimony is valid. Perhaps you know someone who experienced an unplanned pregnancy and chose life. Perhaps you know someone who has been impacted by abortion. These experiences don’t have to be linked to the moment you realized you’re pro-life – perhaps it’s simply something that reminded you of why you believe that women deserve better than abortion.
I struggled with this when first asking college students to identify why they are pro-life. I realized that I’d never thought about this; I always just thought: “I’m pro-life because I was raised Catholic and taught this viewpoint by my parents” … and that’s not very convincing, is it? Digging deeper into why I am pro-life – beyond science and religion – has given me more ownership of my pro-life identity. Allow yourself the opportunity to figure out why you are pro-life and own it! This will help to build your confidence in this stance and a firmness that no opposition can budge. In learning to give your authentic pro-life testimony, you’ll be able to show that this issue is not simply philosophical or political, it is personal.
2. Educate yourself.
Following the discovery of your pro-life testimony, it’s helpful to educate yourself on the subject and current abortion debate. One of the keys to feeling confident in discussing any topic is ensuring that you’ve taken the time to educate yourself. Know the impact abortion has had on women, men, and society. Understand the implications of legal action. Become familiar with the tangible resources available to women who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant – and also where gaps exist.
You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but learn responses to common arguments! With the internet, many resources are at your (literal) fingertips. I suggest WhyProLife.com for starters. It’s important to be able to pair your personal testimony for being pro-life with an understanding of the scientific and factual truth of abortion. Each are important and can stand alone, but you’ll be better equipped when utilizing both facts and personal stories.
3. Dialogue with Dignity.
There’s a philosophy SFLI teaches called “Dialogue with Dignity”. The idea behind this is to ensure that whenever defending the dignity of all human life, we remember to respect the dignity of the person in front of us. Without respecting those who disagree with us, the “Respect ALL Life” stance crumbles. We must honor those we stand for – mothers and children – by respecting the people we’re discussing with.
Dialogue with Dignity is practiced through active listening, asking questions, responding respectfully, and being mindful of the language utilized. As noted before, this is a hot button topic where emotions easily come into play. This can be dangerous territory if we allow ourselves to focus on “winning” rather than having a productive discussion of different perspectives. Going into each conversation about abortion with the mindset that you desire a discussion rather than an argument will help to set your tone throughout. Additionally, being aware of your own boundaries is important. Know when you need to walk away from a discussion to maintain respect for others and yourself.
Overall, I advise making an effort to learn how to be confident and compassionate in your stance for life. You might be the first pro-life person someone encounters – when you part ways, how will they remember you? Perhaps they will be surprised by the way you shared your personal reasons for being pro-life, responded to their objections with patience, or expressed your confident passion for serving women and children. You never know who might be impacted by your witness.