by Stephanie Hauer -- Vermont had suffered through one brief cold snap already, but we woke up to a slightly warmer day on October 9th. I was grateful for the decent temperatures and the sunshine, as our table for National Pro-Life Cupcake Day was set up outside. I bundled up in a cozy sweatshirt and walked over to the courtyard to meet my friends at our table.
I go to a school with a predominant way of thinking that is very different from my own. To represent a pro-life standpoint here is an act of rebellion that I do not take lightly. I typically am very cautious about my audience when I speak about controversial topics like abortion and euthanasia. Over the years, I’ve had really good conversations with respectful peers, but I know that many people on my campus are not interested in thoughtful dialogue. Some of them are only interested in shouting, so I try to be judicious when revealing my personal positions.
Given this climate, I admit that I was nervous about tabling for Pro-Life Cupcake Day. Some friends and I baked cupcakes the night before and wrote “pro-life” on them with icing. We also purchased a few vegan and gluten free options to appeal to a wider audience. On Wednesday morning, we positioned ourselves in one of the busiest courtyards on campus and waited.
Many people were attracted to the sight and mention of free cupcakes. Their first reaction was usually “thank you,” and the second was “wait, why are you doing this?” When we explained, their eyes would widen.
“You don’t have to agree with us,” I said each time, “We’re offering cupcakes to everyone regardless of your position, and conversation about pro-life issues if you want it.” Some people moved on with their days immediately, occupied by other obligations. Those who had time and curiosity would stay and ask me about what I believed, or why I was doing this.
“Well, I believe that all human beings deserve to live a life free of violence.” I could tell that my answer surprised people, usually because they expected me to just talk about abortion. “I subscribe to what’s called the Consistent Life Ethic. It means that I care about ending every form of violence against human life. That includes abortion, yes, but it also includes things like death penalty, euthanasia, suicide, sexual violence, war, police brutality, and any other form of harm against a human being. If it threatens people’s lives, I’m going to try and stop it.”
Every person who heard my spiel nodded along and expressed respect. They celebrated our common ground and appreciated that my definition of pro-life included life outside the womb. Some people shared their personal stories with me, and I was in awe of their vulnerability and their experiences. It was exhilarating to see how quickly trust could be built between two strangers who clearly cared about other people.
Not everyone who approached our table was so open and positive. One person heard the words “pro-life” and immediately said “oh f*ck that” and stormed off. Others would wrinkle their noses at us or scowl in visible distaste for our message. While those moments were unpleasant, they were also much less frequent than I had feared.
I don’t think we converted many on our campus that day, and I didn’t expect to. It takes a lot to change someone’s mind completely on any issue as complex and multi-faceted as abortion or physician-assisted suicide. A cupcake and a smile probably won’t convince someone to become a champion for life within a matter of moments. But our time tabling opened up conversations and left positive impressions that can challenge some of the common misconceptions about pro-life people.
Too often, when we think differently about issues, we create an “us vs. them” mentality. This dichotomous thinking allows us to demonize the opposition and assume the worst about their entire collective. I know plenty of people who are surprised by my views because they don’t conceptualize pro-life people as normal, rational, human beings. By tabling on Wednesday, I helped to break that idea of a single story pro-lifer. It’s a small but vital step that paves the way for people to consider the pro-life position from a new light.