Many Saturday mornings I take my dog, Ginger, for a walk around the block. I do this so she doesn’t shit in my house. Ideally, she would learn how to use the toilet and then just flush her nasty dog crap away. Though I realize this is pretty unlikely, given the nature of dogs. I can always hope that someday she, (and all dogs), will learn the beauty of indoor plumbing, thus negating the need for our Saturday morning walks. But until that day, I will put on my shoes, possibly a jacket, grab a bag, and walk Ginger around the block so she can do what nature pretty well demands of her.
When we take these walks, nine times out of ten we encounter people on the sidewalks outside of the Planned Parenthood clinic on Whitney Avenue. Many times I simply nod and say “good morning” as I pass them. Sometimes we’ll chat about Ginger. But there are times when I just can’t control myself and I engage in conversation about abortion. I never enjoy these conversations. In fact, they often leave me feeling wired and shaken and angry. But I am an optimist. Also, I like to think of myself as open-minded and willing to listen to people whose views differ from mine. And for these reasons I sometimes stop and ask one of the protesters the following question:
“Do you want to lower the number of abortions?”
I start with this question because I like to look for common ground. I want to find the place that will start the conversation from an area of agreement rather than from opposite sides of a seemingly-unbridgeable chasm. I figure that people standing on the sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood, holding pictures of burnt and dismembered babies, might agree with me right away that reducing the number of abortions performed in this country would be a good thing.
Surprisingly, some of the protesters refuse to answer the question. Or they respond with a non-answer. My sense is they fear a trap in my question. But there really is no trap. It is as straightforward a question as there can be. Do you want to lower the number of abortions? It can take quite a few repetitions of the question sometimes before the man or woman will agree with me that they would like to lower the number of abortions. To a person they add, almost immediately, “to zero” to their answer.
Having established the common ground, I then ask them how they feel about contraception. Because if the goal is to have fewer abortions, then stopping unwanted pregnancies would really help put a dent in the number of babies killed before they are born, right? In fact, wouldn’t a place like Planned Parenthood do even more toward reducing the number of abortions if they could just give out free, safe, and effective birth control to everyone who wanted it?
With this, the protesters and I are no longer on common ground. They just about always talk about God at this point and how He gave us free will and we are choosing to get pregnant and then choosing to end the lives of His creations and how contraception is a sin. They do not want abortion to be an option, but they also do not want contraception to be an option. To me this is entirely illogical. To them, it makes total sense.
When we get to this part of the conversation I can just about feel their tectonic plate and mine sprinting apart from each other as fast as their little tectonic legs will carry them. No more common ground. Instead we are looking across a chasm. A HUGE chasm. From their side, these people see a man willing to interfere with God’s plan for life. From my side, I see people willing to make the perfect the enemy of the good.
At this point I usually take my dog and walk away. Next time, though, I’ll have a new example to try out on the protesters. I’ll let them know why I am walking my dog around the block---so she doesn’t shit in my house. Because wish as I might, Ginger will never learn how to use a toilet. And if I simply refuse to walk her, I’ll end up with a mess to clean. The same thing happens if you just wish people would stop having sex for any purpose other than procreation. It simply will not happen, pray as you will. God, (or evolution), has given humans a remarkably strong urge to have sex. Wishing it away will not work. So can’t the protesters recognize this reality, put down their signs, and help spread the word about preventing pregnancy through abstinence and contraception? There might be far fewer messes to clean up if they did.