To be pro-life, dialogue is vital
Neil Joseph | Monday, April 11, 2016
Last week, Wendy Davis came to campus to talk to students about various issues. I wasn’t personally able to attend (being in London makes it difficult), but from what I read, her talk centered on women’s health. This is the issue that she is a champion of: her day long filibuster blocked the Texas Senate from passing a restrictive abortion bill. She constantly gives talks and speeches around the country on abortion and women’s health issues. Naturally, bringing her to speak specifically on this was a controversial thing to happen at Notre Dame. Various Catholic and pro-life websites criticized the fact that this happened here, the premier Catholic institution in the United States. For some, this was even more egregious than Notre Dame honoring Barack Obama or Joe Biden; her talk defending abortion directly contradicted the values that Notre Dame stands for. Yet, as a staunchly pro-life person, I think that it was incredibly important for this talk to take place at Notre Dame
On one hand, not restricting the talk at all was a shift from what we’ve seen across the country. From one university to another, students and administrators have shut down and cancelled polarizing speeches because of the controversial nature of the speaker or the misalignment with the “views of the University.” But Notre Dame has never (and should never) do that. In 2014, Ann Coulter came to talk with similar controversy. Her various views and statements on a variety of issues directly contradicted the values of Notre Dame, but she was allowed to speak as well. Silencing and mediating the people who an entire club chooses to bring to speak silences students, and trashes the very foundation that college is built upon: students discovering their views and attempting to persuade others of them.
On another level though, the fact that Wendy Davis spoke at a Catholic university underscores the important things that need to change with the abortion debate. The debate about abortion is the most polarizing issue in our country. On both sides, the voices that are heard are at the two ends: those calling for it to be banned outright and those calling for it to be available on demand. Now, this isn’t to say that those voices aren’t incredibly important and vital to their respective argument. As someone who is pro-life, I agree with and wholeheartedly support the efforts of those calling for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. For me, that’s the final goal. For those on the pro-choice side, keeping abortion legal is the final goal. But there’s much in the middle that can be a vital starting point.
It’s undeniable that abortion is a bad thing. It’s a harrowing and incredibly difficult decision for women that puts their lives at risks and changes their entire existence. No person on either side wants a woman to have an abortion: there’s a reason why people call themselves pro-choice, not pro-abortion. Abortion indicates a lack of support for women, it indicates a failure of society to take care of those who are the most vulnerable, and it indicates an inability to solve the root causes of suffering in America. I’m pro-life, but I’m also a realist. At the end of the day, we should all be working to decrease the number of abortions that happen in our country. Regardless of what side of the debate that people are on, saving more lives is a common goal. That starts with addressing the root causes of abortion, figuring out why women do get abortions and doing our best to work on both sides to save as many lives as possible.
I won’t deny that I want to see abortion outlawed at some point in my lifetime. I absolutely do. But will it happen? Probably not. And that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t fight as hard as I can to try and make it happen. But it also doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to save lives that could be saved through better policy and dialogue. It is a compromise, yes, but it isn’t compromising my principles. Because being pro-life means that every life matters, and saving one life is a victory, however small. And the only way to do that is to work to figure out how to pull people out of the situations that cause them to make those difficult decisions. And that requires working with people who have a different opinion on abortion. It’s important, it saves lives and it’s still pro-life. Without dialogue with others about abortion, we won’t address its root causes and won’t be able to altogether stop women from having to make the decision entirely.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.