a morning moon shines through teal clouds and is framed by the slight edge of cedar trees

Acknowledging the Harm Inherent Within the Abortion Debates

When the Supreme Court decided to push regulations around abortion back to the states, it set off a cascade of opinions and responses. Many pro-life activists celebrated while pro-choice folks despaired. And many of us who find ourselves somewhere in between the polarities of this debate weren’t quite sure what to think or feel or pray. 

But more or less everyone agrees that we are moving into a new era when it comes to abortion in America, and we need a new way forward. As I’ve wondered about a path toward healing within our culture wars, I’ve returned to a three-part process that leads towards repair: acknowledge harm, ask for help, and participate in healing. To find a way forward in this culture war, we need to begin with acknowledging harm. On both sides.

Pro-choice activists can acknowledge the vulnerable lives that many pro-life policies seek to protect. Pro-choice activists can acknowledge the harm inherent within a system in which most women who seek an abortion say they do not want an abortion and a disproportionate number of lives lost represent those who are poor, Black or Brown, or disabled. 

Pro-life activists can acknowledge the economic and physical hardships faced by women who are too young or too old or for whom another pregnancy is just too much. Pro-life activists can acknowledge that the politics of abortion have often had to do with power and control rather than compassion and care.

Acknowledging does not mean agreeing. It does mean slowing down to recognize the sincerely held beliefs and the lived experiences of people on the “other side” of a debate. It means seeing the other and believing in their inherent dignity.  

To acknowledge is to speak out loud the best arguments of the opposing side. It is to demonstrate compassion and understanding even amidst grave disagreement. Great harm has been done in the name of both pro-life and pro-choice politics in this nation. 

Acknowledging this harm is the beginning of healing.

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