Story by Victoria R.
On May 21st, I did something I never thought I would have been able to do: I initiated discussions about abortion with pro-choice advocates. I am generally not shy about what I believe; if someone questions me, I am able to defend my opinion in a civil manner. But in these cases, someone else had always begun the dialogue. May 21st was different; I had to start the interactions. My heart starts to beat fast and I get really nervous if I even think about initiating a conversation about a topic so delicate... The reason I finally decided to step up was because of Justice for All.
Justice for All (JFA) is a pro-life social justice group that trains thousands of people to initiate dialogue on abortion. According to their mission statement, JFA “promotes respect for people with differing views and condemns all abortion-related violence.” Live Action UCLA, the only pro-life group on campus, invited JFA to train its members in dialogue and host a pro-life display on campus.
In a four hour session, JFA staff educated us on many pro-choice and pro-life arguments, from scientific to philosophical. But most importantly, they taught us to listen to, sympathize with, and respect each individual we encountered. “Being pro-life means believing that every human should be treated with dignity,” the JFA Director said, “and that includes each person you talk to this week.” I entered the session pretty nervous but left empowered and excited.
The display spanned the first three days of Week 8, May 20th-22nd. I was able to attend the second day, and as I approached the site, I could feel my heart start to race. The JFA team and volunteers were already there talking with some students. Our display included a Free Speech board, where anybody could write as they pleased, and I read what was jotted down. There was a lot of criticism of the pro-life movement and of our display, but there was also some support.
My first conversation was with two men. One was more emotional than the other, but it went well and I enjoyed hearing what they had to say. I spoke to two more men afterward, and what I thought was interesting was that all four of these men focused on cases of rape. Even though abortion in the case of rape counts for only around 1% of total abortions, it was the scenario most frequently brought up by UCLA students.
The last man I spoke with was a friend of mine. He is also against abortion and was glad that this display was going on. He said he was proud that a Latina like me was standing up for this (he’s also Latino). He said we needed more of that. My shift was only for one hour, but I was enjoying the display so much I stayed longer.
Several other members were similarly encouraged, not only by the constructive dialogue that JFA brought, but by their ability to have compassionate conversations with those affected by abortion, especially women.
Liberty Fuchs, a third-year psychology student and member of Live Action UCLA, shared that one woman had told her and a few JFA staff that she had needed an abortion at a young age due to a sexual assault. Instead of using the conversation to argue with her, Liberty said that the JFA staff “listened with open minds and hearts. They shared similar stories. They thanked her for sharing, and she left.” Liberty explained how moved she was by their sincere compassion: “I have never been so proud to stand for life.”
It can be really intimidating to argue against abortion on college campuses. But we need to be having these difficult conversations if we want to change our country’s culture regarding life. JFA helped me overcome my fear and equipped me for constructive dialogue. If you would like to be a part of fostering conversation about abortion on campus, visit JFA’s website here.