by Kaine Spitak
Less than a week after the leaked Dobbs v. Jackson decision, I traveled with Rehumanize International to counter the “Bans Off Our Bodies” March in Washington, DC, with about 50 other activists. We stationed ourselves outside of the Supreme Court building, intending to meet the march at its final destination and to be advocates for the most vulnerable among us: the unborn.
Before the demonstrations began, there was a gathering of abortion supporters on the other side of the street as well. One of them, a college student in his senior year, approached me. He said he was shocked to see a sign that said “Queer Atheist Against Abortion” and that he wanted to know what had convinced me to be pro-life.
I shared my story as someone who had, within the past few years, become pro-life upon learning about the science of when life begins, the disturbing nature of actual abortion procedures, and the malicious coercion the abortion industry uses to profit off of marginalized communities. He wasn’t immediately convinced, but he was interested in my perspective. We exchanged contact information, agreed to get coffee to talk next time I was in the area, and he returned to the pro-abortion group.
Later that day, when the march arrived, we were met with vitriol and aggression. Pro-abortion protestors were outraged to see a diverse group of pro-life individuals standing before them, and some were clearly disappointed that they had brought their “rosaries off my ovaries” signs only to see a bunch of pro-life atheists. One woman had to be physically moved away from me by a security officer, and another used a megaphone to play a siren directly in my ear for over 10 long minutes.
But as the march dispersed, I was again approached by several activists from the other side. Some were antagonistic, but some were looking to have an honest discussion of their concerns about a post-Roe America. All were diverse in age, background, and identity — and one of them I recognized as my friend from earlier who pressed the siren against my ear.
The concerns of the pro-abortion protesters I spoke with boíled down to three issues: 1) exceptions for the life of the pregnant person, 2) exceptions for rape and incest, and 3) miscarriage management.
I do not have much experience with pro-life apologetics. My only training for dialogue like this has been learned from the past two Rehumanize Conferences I have attended.
As I spoke with these individuals and listened to their reasons for supporting abortion, two things were immediately clear: 1) they were upset that pregnant people were not receiving essential aid and resources; and 2) the misinformation and fearmongering perpetrated by the abortion industry had them terrified of a post-Roe America.They shared the same concerns as I did before becoming pro-life.
I did my best to emphasize that all of these concerns are not threatened by the overturning of Roe, addressed the misinformation they had received (such as legislation not having exceptions for ectopic pregnancies, other health concerns, etc.), and informed them that I believe every human, regardless of ability, level of development, identity, or circumstance, deserves to live a life free from violence.
I likely won’t ever know if they walked away with a changed opinion, but we ended our conversations with compassion, directions to the nearest subway station, and well wishes.
I don’t share this to virtue signal or pretend that aggression at protests doesn’t exist. Some people are uninterested in conversations, and some may not have the emotional or mental capacity for it at such a heightened time. However, it was apparent to me that many people were looking to hear about our point of view. As we anticipate the official release of the Dobbs opinion, it is essential that we continue to have these conversations with each other and that we do so in a way that keeps in mind the dignity and humanity of our “opposition.”
Though activism is important, we cannot help victims of the abortion industry — born and unborn — through chanting alone. Conversations are necessary if we are going to deconstruct the misinformation and fearmongering tactics used by the abortion industrial complex. Human rights advocacy calls for a multi-faceted approach, and compassionate dialogue with those who disagree with you must be one of those facets.