This past Wednesday, I attended the “More Than A Movement” discussion panel between pro-life and pro-choice speakers at the Southern Methodist University (SMU). Three speakers for each side represented their viewpoints, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
During my all too short involvement in social activism thus far, I’ve grown accustomed to a tightening in my stomach, nervous energy in the air and obscenities shot like bullets between protesters and counter-protesters. Tempers get riled over significant issues, of course, but the SMU panel was a nice, necessary change in the tone of the dialogue between the two groups. The speakers on both sides intensely disagreed with each other, but they seemed open to respectfully learning from each other and working towards common goals.
Destiny Herndon-DeLa Rosa, president of the pro-life New Wave Feminists group, spoke for the SMU Mustangs for Life at the conference, and later reflected on the advantages of cooperation. She agreed with Julia Cantu, the pro-choice founder of the More Than A Movement discussion at SMU, that both sides would benefit more from finding “creative solutions” for shared problems than from arguing about terminology.
“Once we stop looking at the pro-choice side as simply ‘pro-abortion,’ we can begin challenging them to work on the other (nonviolent) choices as well, such as helping parenting students, single parents, and those looking to adopt or place a child,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “There are also other issues such as immigrants in detainment centers not having access to proper medical care and losing pregnancies, or travesties like Flint, Michigan where women are miscarrying because of the toxic water. Aren’t those things both pro-life and pro-choice activists care about?”
Although the many of SMU’s students are known for their pro-choice stances, the University of Dallas’ generally pro-life population can learn from More Than A Movement’s example. By allowing “the other side of the fence” to express their ideas, and actively working to find common ground, both sides can discover new solutions to shared problems.
In addition, these discussions can “humanize” the other side, like the pro-choice speaker for a philosophy club, Rational Minds, describing how his mother relied on Planned Parenthood for support throughout his childhood, or Herndon-De La Rosa telling the crowd about her stressful pregnancy at age 16.
To Herndon-De La Rosa, humanization of the other side is “a pretty substantial first step when our goal is to ultimately shift an entire culture’s consciousness to understand the human dignity of every single person from the womb and beyond.”
In my short time at UD, I’ve had many wonderful discussions about passionate subjects out in the open, but far too many of the most important topics are discussed in hushed whispers with pleas for confidentiality, or with the screech of chairs across the cafeteria floor as people storm away before explanations can be given.
Some students at UD still live in fear of the wrong people discovering that their beliefs do not fit in with the rest of the student population. If we openly discuss our differences, perhaps we can find the solutions for many common issues and learn to look at the world with a new spark of creativity and compassion.