The more we disagree with someone, the less likely we are to empathize with them. Empathy is a critical component of compassion and care. Having a heart for someone who does not share your opinion is an attempt to step into their shoes in order to understand their feelings.
Empathy is something we need right now. The recent events surrounding America’s leading abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, have stirred the pot of animosity from two of the most staunchly entrenched positions on any controversial topic in America. It has, once again, polarized our nation.
Unfortunately, both sides have the tendency to disregard individuals because of our disdain for their opinions. Disagreeing with someone, however, does not have to result in demeaning them. Empathy keeps us from reducing a person to a position. Truly listening honors the God-imbued value inherent in every human being, regardless of their beliefs.
While I am resolutely pro-life, I know those who do not agree with me are still people I am called to love and serve. I am wholeheartedly hoping for a galvanized movement to end abortion, but a movement known for compassion, not for anger rooted in being right. We must not remain silent, but we must also not turn a deaf and callous ear to those who need our love and care and don’t understand what’s at stake.
What It’s Like to Be “Them”
Someone who believes abortion is a fundamental right can see the opposition to abortion as tantamount to opposing women. Of course they do. They do not consider an unborn child to be a person, making abortion the equivalent of many other common, selective surgeries that secure the health and welfare of women seeking help out of desperate circumstances.
Some who are pro-choice admit that the unborn is a life but that the mother’s life and choice outweighs the rights of the child. They, too, see an opposition to abortion as an opposition to women. In their minds, they are advocating for a loving service to those in need, and any opposition seems ludicrous.
Even if you believe this view to be wrong, I’d ask that you empathize with your opposition, not to change your opinion, but so you can care and love those you may consider ignorant. While we may be opposed ideologically, we cannot claim to be in favor of the rights of the unborn because of humanity’s inherent worth without recognizing the inherent worth in the lives of those who believe abortion should be available “on demand and without apology.” To them it is not murder or a moral concern because it is not a life. Others believe that to take away abortion is to take away a woman’s right to privacy and choices about her own body. In this case, abortion is seen as loving.
I absolutely disagree, of course, but I hope that I understand. In order to have a conversation about this issue, we have to be able to listen. Understanding and caring about those who fight for “abortion rights” or who provide abortions helps us foster a beneficial dialogue in a way that accusations and insults will never achieve.
What It’s Like to Be “Us”
For those of us against abortion, we can easily see those who fight for it as selfish adversaries who are contributing to the slaughter of millions. Of course we do. We believe that, from conception, the womb is carrying a person unique from mother and father and worthy of every right afforded to human beings. We see abortion as the ending of life, a life with no choice in the matter, and we believe that not only is every life valuable, but every child is a blessing, regardless of circumstance.
If you believe that abortion is OK, I would ask that you, too, try to empathize with your opposition. Try to understand that they consider the stakes very high because they believe abortion takes away the life of a human being. They are grieved over a nation that performs thousands of operations a day that end human lives.
To us, everything about abortion is a moral and spiritual concern. To us, abortion ends a human life, so please try to understand that we are not seeking to demean women or exacerbate the circumstances of a crisis pregnancy. But we are desperate to protect those who cannot protect themselves. We do not oppose abortion out of spite; we oppose it out of love.
You may absolutely disagree, but I hope you understand. For the woman who feels desperate for help or who has landed in this circumstance because she has not been loved or valued, we believe what she truly needs is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which demonstrates that she is loved and valued. When she feels like she is not supported, we want her to know the support of a holy God and His Church. And we are also sorry for how, at times, we have hurled insults instead of offering assistance. We are sorry for the ways that we have failed to extend compassion and empathy to those dealing with the ramifications of abortion in their pasts.
What It’s Like to Be “It”
Regardless of what you believe about abortion, I would ask that, for a moment, you try to empathize with the unborn. They are at the heart of the entire issue. Even if you don’t believe an unborn child is a person, I believe it is worth it for what’s at stake to take a moment and consider empathizing with them in case they are.
Few of us can understand what it is like to, literally, have no voice. We can’t understand how a lack of opportunity to advocate for yourself, to speak up at all, leads to being completely stripped of your personhood—to be an “it” instead. What would you want those who could speak up for you to do? What would you want them to consider? What would you want the court system or the medical profession to decide on your behalf?
What a desperate and devastating position to be in. To be on the news because your organs are potentially being sold illegally but to see no media outrage about your life being taken in the first place. I can’t imagine how it would feel to be valued only for the market that exists for your heart and its potential to help others, but not the simple fact that you have one. The lives of millions are at stake: human beings who have hearts but no voices. We must speak up for those voiceless souls, but we also can’t forsake compassion and care for those we don't agree with. Even in the midst of conflict and differing views, we can still move forward with empathy.