Opponents find middle ground on a controversial topic
The Santa Clara
October 11, 2018
Two women with opposing viewpoints sat across from one another and had a conversation in front of a packed audience in a room so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.
Their conversation tackled one of the most polarizing issues of this generation: abortion.
Two experts, one pro-choice and one prolife, sat down and discussed the topic of abortion.
The event, “A Conversation Between ‘Enemies’ in the Abortion War,” took place on Thursday, Oct. 4 in the St. Claire Room.
The night’s speakers were pro-choice Michelle Oberman, a professor of law at Santa Clara University’s School of Law, and Julia Hejudk, a professor of classics at Baylor University who is pro-life.
Hejudk began the conversation by outlining the basics of the event, stressing that this was not a debate but rather a conversation with the hopes of seeing if it was possible for the two speakers to connect on a human level despite their disagreements over the subject of abortion.
“We wanted to show that through a real conversation, which involves listening to one another, if it is possible to find common ground even on the most controversial topics,” Hejudk said.
Both Hejudk and Oberman took turns explaining the reason for their stance on the topic of abortion, detailing their personal background and histories surrounding the controversial subject matter.
Oberman has been researching the legality of abortion for the past 10 years, traveling to countries where abortions are illegal like Chile and El Salvador. She also spent time in Oklahoma, a region where lawmakers are trying to make abortions illegal.
Throughout her work, Oberman learned that 50 percent of women who have abortions live below the poverty line and 75 percent of those women are 200 percent below the poverty line.
“I think that the state demands a level of sacrifice, that were they actually to cost it out, they’d do nothing other than pay women for the cost of what we do for free—which is to raise children,” Oberman said. “To presume that the state would ever be in a position to decide when a women should become a mother strikes me as equally abhorrent and unthinkable.”
Hejudk then explained her position, saying that she had been pro-choice growing up and it was not until she turned 21 that she became pro-life.
Her stance comes from her belief that personhood begins at conception, making abortion appear to her as the intentional killing of an innocent person.
The professors ultimately disagreed on the moment when personhood begins.
Oberman believes that personhood begins when a person is born, a belief she attributed to her Jewish religion.
Hejudk added that while the topic of abortion is one of the most controversial moral issues of our time, the way in which the war on abortion is being fought concerns her.
“It is calculated to maximize discord and minimize cooperation and to ensure that potential allies become enemies and that our resources are expended on fighting one another rather than helping the vulnerable women,” Hejudk said.
She said that her goals regarding abortion are to reduce their numbers, rather than make them completely illegal.
Instead of changing laws, she would rather see hearts of the pregnant women and the circumstances leading them to abortion changed.
Oberman then offered her analysis of the abortion war.
She said there is no good exit strategy for either side. For poor women, abortion becomes a necessity rather than a choice.
“The conditions that drive this decision are the conditions that we put in place as a society,” Oberman said. “If we wanted to give women more choices, there’s a host of policies that we could put into place that would expand a woman’s choice.”
The speakers then talked about circumstances that they think lead women to seek abortions and potential ways to avoid getting into these situations in the first place.
“Things like fair wages, healthcare, day care and housing, and things that could actually make it more feasible for women to not feel that they need an abortion,” Hejudk said.
Following their discussion, Hedjuk and Oberman opened the talk up to questions from the audience.
Audience members asked the speakers to elaborate on their stances, especially on a few areas where they staunchly disagreed.
One of the areas was birth control methods. Hejduk said that the prevalence of and reliance on birth control has allowed hookup culture to spread.
“Contraception is what has made possible a lot of extremely negative outcomes in our society,” Hejudk said. “It is what has caused the disintegration of the two-parent family. This is the solid basis for any society and the loneliness epidemic.”
Oberman, on the other hand, said contraceptives are important and useful and that she is not willing to give up modern contraception.
Despite these disagreements, both professors ended the conversation agreeing that the war on abortion has, in recent years, become more about feeding political polarization than about helping women in need.
Oberman noted that it has become easier for people to simply pick their stance on abortion by voting for the pro-life or pro-choice candidate rather than focus on the women and the circumstances that lead to them having abortions.
Santa Clara sophomore Julia Carroll, an attendee of the event said she learned a lot from the discussion and has learned to see the controversial topic from both sides.
“I thought it was good to hear both sides of the argument without it being combative,” Carroll said. “It was an intellectual space to share ideas.”
The sharing of ideas was one of the main goals of the event, according to David DeCosse, Director of Campus Ethics Programs at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.
“At the Ethics Center, we are committed to the open exchange of ideas and we are also committed to modeling such an open exchange,” DeCosse said. “Obviously, professor Oberman and professor Hejduk openly exchanged a wide range of ideas. But, just as importantly, they modeled for anyone how to have such a difficult conversation.”
Contact Emma Pollans at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.