At the beginning of the legislative session, I went to the “Trust. Respect. Access.” advocacy day to promote bills that restore trust in Texans, respect for health care professionals and access to the full range of reproductive health care. I was prepared to speak with anti-choice Texas legislators, but I did not anticipate that I would have a productive conversation with a stranger in the Capitol hallway who did not share my views on abortion access.
For advocacy day, I was grouped with a couple of student activists to visit legislators. My group was on our way to our first visit when I heard an older woman asking the students what our shirts, which said, “Trust. Respect. Access,” meant. She seemed excited to see young people at the Capitol. When the students told her they were at the Capitol to talk to legislators about reproductive health care she responded, “Oh, abortion. But you seem like such nice girls.”
I broke into the conversation and said, “They are nice girls.”
She responded, “We need to err on the side of life whenever possible.”
I didn’t expect the interaction to continue, but she seemed really open to talking to us even though she didn’t agree with us. She was very curious about our position. She had a lot of questions and was very respectful.
At some point, we brought up that not everyone can afford to have an abortion. She asked, “Who can’t afford an abortion? Doesn’t Medicaid pay for that?”
I told her that in Texas, Medicaid does not cover abortions.
She responded, “I’ve been told that Planned Parenthood charges five hundred dollars for an abortion. Who can’t come up with five hundred dollars?”
I told her about how a couple of weeks ago I was in a car accident and it was hard for me to come up with the five hundred dollars for repairs. I said some people make half what I make and might have children or additional expenses. I told her about how a lot of the people my organization, the Texas Equal Access Fund, helps with abortion are parents already and can’t afford to take on a child and find it difficult to pay for an abortion.
We also gave her a chance to share her position. We weren’t hostile or disrespectful and that opened a gateway for her to ask questions and learn about abortion access. She had some common misconceptions about abortion, and we were able to give her correct information.
Eventually we parted ways, but ran into her at lunch later. She asked us to come sit with her. We talked about our families and realized we have a lot of things in common in the general sense; we just have different ideas about how to achieve positive outcomes for our families.
We found a little bit of common ground.
We have to remember that even when we don’t agree with people about reproductive rights, we can still have conversations with them. The woman at the Capitol told us she had never talked to anyone about reproductive rights issues who she didn’t agree with before.
A lot of the time, if we sit down one-on-one with people and talk through an issue we disagree on we can find common ground and help people understand our perspectives. In my mind, being pro-choice is about supporting the need for abortion to be legal and accessible. When I have these conversations, a lot of people who think they’re anti-choice end up expressing pro-choice values—they’re just conflicted.