By Katie Shatzer
McDonald’s. Holiday Inn. Chubby babies.
Billboards dot long stretches of rural interstate, assuring travelers they are not disconnected from our society of fast food restaurants, warm hotel beds and the occasional moral admonition. From cute photos of children with speech bubbles exclaiming, “I’m glad my mom chose life!” to paintings of Christ accompanied by the command, “Stop killing my children,” the message is clear.
Interestingly, I rarely encounter roadside persuasion from the opposite end of the abortion debate. However, this does not mean the abortion rights side is silent — or less polarizing than its anti-abortion counterpart.
This summer in my Midwestern hometown, I caught sight of a billboard that seemed to promise something I never thought possible in the abortion debate. It featured a picture of a large stork in goggles toting an infant in a baby carrier. “Avoid the Stork,” was all it read.
I visited the website, www.avoidthestork.com to learn more, and discovered a resource center aimed toward preventing unintended or unwanted pregnancies. The site neither condones nor condemns terminating a pregnancy — it does not even touch the topic. It simply provides the facts of how to prevent that decision altogether.
Rarely can we find such a clear — and humorous — middle ground in the abortion rights, anti-abortion debate. The majority of both sides will agree that children are best born to parents who want to care for them and are able to raise them in a healthy environment.
While some may raise objections to the fact that the Avoid the Stork campaign provides information for people who choose to engage in sexual activity regardless of marital status, the website does recognize abstinence as the only sure-fire way of avoiding the stork. Furthermore, the campaign is valuable in providing a place where both sides of a sensitive debate can meet. Although people strongly disagree on the means of achieving this vision, most hope for a world where all people are safe, well cared for and happy.
Convictions should not disappear, but neither should dialogue. Especially in issues as personal and emotional as a woman’s right to choose the fate of her fetus, keeping the lines of conversation open is difficult yet imperative. Oftentimes we work to influence the law, hoping to mandate adherence to our individual beliefs. This approach causes conflict because at the point we force our beliefs upon another, we stop listening.
Without open ears, we neglect the complexities that led to the debate in the first place. We lose our ability to empathize and to critically consider why people believe ideas we cannot accept, and instead create a drama that pits another viewpoint against our own. Worst of all, we become divided and the problem persists without any chance of the two sides reaching a resolution.
As a baby step toward resolving this issue that deeply divides our country — and even devout Christians — I borrow the tag line for the Iowa Initiative: Let’s start the conversation. By seizing common ground where it exists, we can begin to dissolve the animosities that often prevent us from imagining a workable solution to social problems.