by: Angela Erickson, SFLA’s Northern Regional Coordinator
One thing I love about being a Regional Coordinator is the fact that I have the ability to go to several college campuses and engage students in dialogue about abortion. (Totally normal stuff for a married, pregnant, 22-year-old women, right?) What I experienced this week at the University of Northern Iowa encapsulates exactly why I love being able to talk to people about abortion. I had the rare opportunity to completely change one person’s mind about abortion—and it was amazing.
It was an unusually beautiful spring day (for the upper Midwest anyway) and a young man, I’ll call him Ben, approached our “When Do Human Rights Begin?” display at University of Northern Iowa. After spending some time slowly reading though the various panels that make the case for the humanity of the preborn, Ben cast his vote on the question, when do you believe human rights begin? He believed that the fetus gains human rights, particularly the right to life, at about six weeks because that is the time that the brainwaves can be detected in the fetus.
After addressing a variety of circumstances like poverty of the mother, the question came up that pro-lifers dread—what about a woman who is raped? Should she be forced to have this child she did not want? Ben admitted, “This is something that I also really struggle with.” I agreed and recognized how crucial it is that I answer this question, as difficult as it is, with compassion and reason. I knew that how I answered this could change Ben’s entire perspective for better or for worse. Here are the steps I took to ensure that my response was honest and compassionate:
- I built common ground with Ben. I spent a lot of time (about 90% of my response) addressing the fact that rape is a vile injustice. I also told him that I know people who have been raped, and I never want to undermine the trauma they have endured. In addition, we talked about how 97% of men who commit this horrendous crime never see a day in jail, and together we ought to do more to ensure that the survivors of rape see justice.
- I shared my thoughts about children conceived in rape. After establishing that I genuinely care about the well-being of survivors of rape, I said this: “I really believe that when we’re talking about this awful situation, we have not one victim, but two because the child did not ask to be conceived nor did the mother ask to be raped. I find it unjust to make the child pay for the sins of the father with the death penalty when, in fact, the child is a victim.”
- I asked him what he thought. Ben took a second to digest this. Then he said something that I’ve heard time and time again from people who support abortion especially in cases of rape— “I’ve never thought of it like that!”
What happened next surprised me. Ben threw up his hands and declared he was going to change his vote, and he did! Ben took his vote off of the six week mark and moved it to Day One, thereby declaring the he now believed humans in-utero deserve human rights from the moment of conception onward. When explaining why he changed his vote, Ben acknowledged that the human fetus is whole from the moment of conception and would have potential to think as long as it is given the opportunity to develop. This was a huge admission from someone who was adamant that a human was not a person deserving of equal rights until it had the ability to think on a very basic level.
I want to empower students to be courageous. I know that initiating the conversation on abortion, despite being intimidating, can be hard but it pays off! We shouldn’t run from the tough questions. These questions provide a great opportunity to influence someone who is pro-choice to become pro-life. To watch my interview with Ben, click here.