Last night, the Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Values and Social Change had their annual meeting. Papers were presented on a variety of topics, including maternal mortality rates, post-abortion stress meta-analysis, and the impact of state-level abortion legislation. This was followed by a wine and cheese reception, during which I met many of our supporters in person for the first time. (I'll try not to name-drop.)
Today's session kicked off with a presentation on sex-selective abortion by Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute. It was a good presentation, although saying that sex-selective abortion is bad at a pro-life convention is definitely preaching to the choir. But he put a personal spin on it by sharing some stories from PRI's work in China, helping pregnant women hide from one-child policy enforcers.
Next, I went to a presentation by Dr. Gunter Franz on abortion statistics and opinion polls. He noted that the abortion rate suddenly started dropping in 1980-81, and made a persuasive argument that this was caused by pro-life activity and the increased use of sonograms. If the pre-1980 rate had held steady, nine million more babies would have died in abortion. He also pointed out that atheists are more than three times more likely to have an abortion than the general population, highlighting the need for our efforts. On opinion polls, he had several good illustrations of how much wording matters, but we knew that.
I then went to a presentation called "'I had an Abortion.' What do you say next?" It was excellent. Although all the presenters were Christian, their advice was largely secular; when I asked, family counselor Greg Hasek said that he uses a basic grief/loss model in his practice. Some key points:
*Realize that telling someone about an abortion is an act of trust.
*Be humble. Don't go into "fix-it" mode. There is no particular line you can say that will make it all better.
*Shut up and let her talk. Figure out where she is in the grief process.
*When you do speak, be welcoming. Don't jump in to correct contradictions. Honor her defense mechanisms.
*Do NOT say: "You shouldn't be so hard on yourself." "It was the best decision at the time." "God forgives you--now you need to forgive yourself." "Everything happens for a reason."
*Don't respond with your own story or a friend's story. Every person is different. The focus should be on her.
*If you are confronted by someone who is angry--"I had an abortion and I'm FINE!"--disarm her by saying something like "Thank you for your honesty. I appreciate that you trust me enough to be honest."
In Communications 101, I learned about cultivating relationships with reporters and bloggers. If you are accurate and timely, reporters will keep coming back to you for quotes. When a biased article is published, don't be accusatory-- just call the reporter and ask what happened. Often, the editor cut part of the piece.
Finally, I attended a session on using the internet to fundraise. This is going to be a big project, and it will start with putting together an email list. Please let me know if you're available to donate a few hours on this.