On Not Seeing Each Other in the Abortion Debate

I wrote this and shared it publicly on Facebook on June 24, 2022, the day the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case in which it overruled Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, among other things. I feel strongly about what I wrote here, so I’m also sharing it on this blog.


However you’re feeling today…

Whatever you think about abortion…

Whatever you think of the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Roe

…or Casey

…or Dobbs (today’s opinion)…

Whatever you think about the life in the womb…

Or about the life circumstances of the women who consider or obtain abortions…

Whether you know anyone who has had an abortion (or, more accurately, know that you know someone who has)…

I think it’s pretty safe to say a few things are probably true. You…

…probably didn’t change your mind today…

…probably don’t know and will never know anyone whose mind changed today…

…probably have seen some posts on social media from “the other side” that you thought were stupid…

…may have seen some posts from your “side” that you thought were stupid…

…probably have seen some posts from “the other side” that you thought were bigoted and hateful…

…may have seen some posts from your “side” that you thought were bigoted and hateful…

…probably feel like “the other side” has never really had any moral, legal, scientific, or medical ground on which to stand…

…probably know and love people who are rejoicing and relieved right now, even if silently, and…

…probably know and love people who are grieving and angry right now, even if silently.

What I know for sure is that we’re never going to get anywhere good with the kinds of straw-man, bigoted, cheap-shot, intellectually bankrupt arguments that have dominated my own social media feeds today. There have been some kind, thoughtful comments, including by some people who may be reading this, but wow, there have been some awful ones, from all parts of the political spectrum.

How are we going to heal if we don’t even try to understand each other? If so many of us paint with such broad strokes that we spend 1000x as much time calling each other murderers, torturers, slavers, theocrats, and other hate-filled slurs as we spend listening to each other? Truly caring about each other means, among other things, finding what is good in each other and giving each other’s opinions the respect they deserve.

One good thing about having trained and practiced as a courtroom lawyer is learning just how incredibly hard it is to craft a truly good argument, especially when the other side has super-sharp lawyers committed to ripping your argument to shreds, piece by piece, and building a rhetorical Fort Knox on its ruins. In every difficult or divisive question, the other side always has some really strong arguments. And no one gets “laughed out of court” in those cases because those cases are hard. Cases that seem easy and obvious to one side often seem just as easy and obvious to the other side, yet they can drag on for ages. That’s (usually) not because the lawyers are greedy or unethical; it’s because winning hard cases is, well, hard.

When was the last time you gave someone from “the other side” a full opportunity to present their best arguments?

However you feel about the ideas at the top of this post, I’d encourage you to remember that you know people tonight who are convinced lives have been saved today and others who are convinced lives have been sacrificed to an ideology, people who are weeping from joy and relief and people who are weeping from sorrow and fear. None of them changed their minds today. But all of them have been unfairly painted by somebody’s brush as some sort of monster today.

And that’s cause for some somber reflection on all “sides,” I think.

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