What would a humanist do? Difficult and necessary conversations


When you are a humanist from a religious family, the issue of abortion rights and reproductive health care can be deeply divisive. In What Would a Humanist Do Today? column, a member of the American Humanist Association (AHA) struggles to talk with his family about this important topic and how to help them understand his view that abortion should remain safe and legal.

Q: How can I talk to my religious family about abortion rights and reproductive health care?

I had a religious upbringing but stopped believing in God when I was 20. It was only after the recent passage of the very restrictive anti-abortion law in Texas that I understood that the right to abortion had to be protected.

My parents are still religious but they know that I am a non-believer and we are able to reasonably discuss the most sensitive subjects. The right to abortion is an exception. My parents refuse to discuss the issue with me and they don’t even want to hear opinions that differ from their anti-abortion views.

What can I say to encourage my parents to discuss this issue with me and to help them understand the importance of abortion rights?


One of the best ways to work to enshrine abortion access in law is to convince voters to support lawmakers who work to protect the right to choose. And this work of conviction begins at home with our family and loved ones.

One specific part of your question jumped out at me: you say your religious parents recognize your lack of religious beliefs and are always able to talk to you about your outlook. So why should reproductive health issues be any different?

Assuming that their opposition to abortion stems from their religion, you might remind your parents that their religious beliefs cannot be imposed on the legal rights of others. Indeed, many religious denominations such as Judaism, Episcopalism, Buddhism and Islam categorically support abortion or provide no clear position on the issue. Ask your parents: would they really want to impose the principles of their own religion on the followers of these other religions? Obviously they wouldn’t, as they aren’t actively trying to evangelize you and seem to respect your lack of religion.

Tolerance towards other religions – or lack of faith – should be a black-and-white issue. If your parents respect you and their neighbors, then they cannot accept restrictions on reproductive rights.

—Peter Bjork, web content manager and editor

When talking with people who disagree with me on an issue, I try to keep these three tactics in mind: find common ground, share different points of view, and provide facts. These are especially important when you care about people enough to stay in touch despite opposing points of view.

Find concepts that you and your parents can agree on to open the discussion. Can you and your parents agree that every child deserves to be wanted and raised by a loving and capable family? Can you all agree that not everyone who is capable of getting pregnant is capable of properly caring for a child mentally, physically, financially, etc. at any time in their life, even if they have been or will be able to do so at certain times in their life? Do you all understand that it takes a lot of resources, strength and support to provide for a developing fetus, give birth to a child and help a child grow?

Share the various reasons why people have abortions, including contraceptive failures, rape, incest, economic constraints, ectopic pregnancies, and domestic violence. In their speech on Reproductive justice and intersectionality, Dr. Colleen McNicholas and Pamela Merritt explained that sixty percent of people who have abortions are already parents and seventy-five percent identify themselves as financially insecure, which has a huge impact on their ability to carry out pregnancy, whether or not they keep the baby. People of all races, religions, economic status and education levels have abortions, and it is important to know that people under ten and over seventy have become pregnant.

Provide facts about the pregnancy process, the types of abortions available, and the impact of laws on our access to resources. Your parents may disagree with people’s choice to have an abortion, but that doesn’t mean people should lose the right to decide for themselves. A government that is truly of the people, by and for the people would make it safer for people to terminate harmful pregnancies before they result in babies and would help people carry out their pregnancies, as well as pursue their development (i.e. health care, education, employment, security, etc.).

—Emily Newman, Senior Education Coordinator

With news of the recent Project SCOTUS leak threatening to topple Roe vs. Wade, in addition to bills introduced to ban abortions in several states, I think this is a problem that a lot of people are having. So know that you are not alone in figuring out how to do this.

Abortion rights can be an extremely controversial topic of conversation and can be difficult to navigate, especially with family and close friends. I think if you want to have a productive conversation with your parents, you have to be able to stand firm but not get too emotional. While you want to help them understand why these topics are so important, it won’t be a productive conversation if they feel like you’re putting their point of view in writing or telling them they’re wrong right off the bat. departure. Both parties need to feel comfortable sharing where they are coming from and only from there can you begin to educate them on the most important impacts and experiences of caring for them. abortion. Also, your argument will likely be stronger if you can listen to their points of view first and then adjust your counterpoints to their points of view.

Try telling them how important it is for you to have an open conversation with them. It’s probably hard for them to accept that you have different views on abortion, a topic close to their hearts, but if you make it clear to them that you just want to start with an open conversation, not a lecture masterful, maybe they would be more inclined to try. Don’t expect to be able to change your mind on the first conversation (although that would be nice). Build mutual trust and respect around the issue, take it easy, listen a little, and maybe they’ll be more receptive to future discussions.

It will take a lot of courage and self-control (and many conversations, most likely), but I hope you can come together to find a way to help them understand the importance of abortion rights and care. of reproductive health.

—Kate Uesugi, Communications Coordinator

If you’re as excited as we are about the Supreme Court’s recent leak of a draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade, check out theHumanist.com next week where we recap the town hall the AHA held yesterday on the topic of abortion rights and what it could mean if Roe vs. Wade is overthrown. Also check out this important resource from the ACLU that outlines concrete ways to join the fight to protect abortion rights.


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