This past week a friend asked me, “With all this attention to abortion, do you plan to write about it?”
My response was, “No.”
I, however, changed my mind as I began to consider a heated debate in a recent college class in communication when the issue of abortion surfaced as my students were planning their persuasive speeches to an audience that disagrees with their position. Students who had been relatively quiet throughout the semester found their voices.
In my column this week, I’m going to use the approach I use with my students, knowing that research shows that confirmation bias is rampant. All this term means is that we tend to disregard anything that does not support what we believe to be true as we seek out what confirms the beliefs we hold.
My job is not to tell students what to think but to get them involved in exercising their critical thinking skills and to get them to acknowledge that most issues are complex. Once you respond, are you willing to work with me and assign value to each of your positions, say 1 to 10, with 10 being high? Shall we begin?
· Have you read the current law of the land in the 1973 case of Roe v Wade? Do you agree with any of it, part of it or all of it?
· Are you aware of legislation at the state levels on abortion recently passed or pending? Do you acknowledge that said legislation will probably end up in the Supreme Court? Based on your knowledge of those justices, what is your sense of the outcome? What role, if any, should medical personnel play in supplying data on any issues associated with abortion such as mental health following an abortion, risks involved in pregnancy vs abortion, adoption issues, etc. ?
· What impact does the testimony of high-profile women who have had abortions, regardless of their reasons, have on legislative outcomes?
· If you endorse the Ten Commandments, does the fifth commandment, “Thou shall not kill” apply to abortion? Does the stage at which the abortion occurs impact your conviction? What about the “morning after pill” for unprotected sex or the use of the IUD in which a fertilized egg can be expelled?
· What is your opinion on abortion when a pregnancy is so advanced that the fetus is viable outside the uterus?
· We know that some advocate exceptions for any abortion restrictions such as in cases of rape, incest, or serious danger to the mother’s health. How can a woman prove that she has been raped? Does the mother’s health refer only to physical health or can it refer to mental health as well?
· The ages of the onset of the first menstruation has continued to decline in the U.S. In some U.S. populations , based on body weight, ethnicity, heredity, that first period can occur at age 10 or even earlier. What’s your sense of pregnancy in a ten-year-old girl?
· Adoption is expensive and fostering can be complicated, especially with birth parents retaining parental rights even when by the standards of many of us, they are not appropriate parents. Should the issues of adoption and fostering be addressed to make it easier for individuals who want to adopt or foster children?
· At what point should our youth be taught about birth control or should abstinence only be stressed? And at what age should our children have access to birth control without parental consent?
My students’ positions cover a wide range. One student was serving as big sister to a pregnant ten-year-old. Another student debated abortion up until the last few days in which then Ohio law would allow it. She knew that she was healthy, financially solvent, in a solid marriage, but … . A third student’s mother opted not to have treatment for the cancer that was diagnosed when she was pregnant because of possible damage to the fetus, and the girl presenting the speech was now the teen whom her mother did not abort. Her mother died two years after the cancer diagnosis, leaving behind three children. What is your sense of these case studies?
I listen to my students, encourage them to show respect for positions which differ from theirs, and believe from my own experience that a girl/woman can never know how she feels about abortion until she is faced with the choice at a particular juncture in her life. And that juncture is often complicated by a host of factors, some of which weigh little and some of which are critically important to her value system. In other words, a single item can rate a 10 to the exclusion of every other consideration.
In conclusion, I ask that you consider the issues I’ve presented as well as many others as abortion edges toward the front in yet another national debate.