Kate’s article on Father Frank Pavone (below) brought back some old memories and some new thoughts.
When I was with the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, I regularly had conversations with Father Pavone (as well as other pro-life leaders). In addition to our having a few lunches (where we split the tab), I once facilitated his visit to an abortion clinic and he once arranged for me to meet with a group of 30 other priests to talk about the abortion issue. When he came to Washington, D.C. for the annual “March for Life,” Frank would invite me to meet with some of his travelling companions.
My motivation for having these meetings was not necessarily to reach “common ground.” I never really thought that was generally possible. Instead, my goal was to make him and his folks understand more about what drove our doctors to perform abortions and what motivated the women to have abortions. I thought giving them that perspective would make their protestations more “calmer” and it would make them treat women a little more civilly.
The problem was that, after a while, I just felt like I was on display. I talked very candidly about abortion and it always seemed like he (and the others) were just not that interested in learning more about the abortion process and the women who sought abortions. When I met with his priests, I talked for an hour straight, laid out every step of the process, talked about the good stuff and the bad stuff and when I opened it up for questions, the only one asked was “What is George Tiller really like?” They never probed, never argued, never talked about why they opposed abortion.
Now, ten years or so later, I wonder what I accomplished, if anything.
I still see Father Pavone out there as he continues to rail about the horrors of abortion. As Kate alluded to, he recently has gotten into some hot water lately and, to be honest, I don’t give a damn. I am not out to wish anyone ill will. Meanwhile, there are folks out there who are seeking that elusive common ground but I really wonder if that is possible in light of the caustic ever present conversations that go on when talking about the abortion issue. I really wonder if it’s possible to have a civil conversation anymore about abortion.
Just take a peek at the Facebook page “Abortion.com.” It’s a pro-choice site and, yes, the administrator of the site can be a bit caustic at times. But, generally, the tenor of the “discussions” is very unproductive. It’s just folks lobbing bombshells at each other. That’s unfortunate because the administrator, who used to work in the field, is open to any questions about the abortion procedure and process, but, with a few exceptions (like our friend Rogelio), the pro-lifers on the site just like to jump in with a snide or viscous remark, calling all of us pro-choicers “baby killers” or “murderers.” Then they just run away. Wow, that’s some debate! Then there are those who seem intent on trying to bring down the whole site, trolling, spamming, etc. Indeed, recently someone actually threatened the administrator to the point where the FBI is now involved.
Maybe this more caustic “debate” is just reflective of the state of politics in general these days. Whether it is or not, I prefer to stick to my approach. I will try to present the facts about abortion and will answer any question, no matter how squeamish, that is posed to me. It’s a perfect opportunity for a pro-lifer who really wants to think about the issue to – dare I say it – work with the facts. Isn’t that how we should be making our decisions?
I dunno. Maybe I was just wasting my time. Maybe it really just comes down to my bumper sticker versus theirs. Geez, I hope not.