The Abortion Talks
After fatal shootings at two women’s health care clinics in Massachusetts, the Governor and Archdiocese of Boston called for joint talks among pro-life and pro-choice leaders.
Podziba Policy Mediation, in conjunction with the Public Conversations Project, conducted an assessment to determine the feasibility of initiating talks, possible goals, and potential participants. Ultimately, she co-facilitated a secret dialogue among six leaders of the Massachusetts’ pro-life and pro-choice movements that lasted almost six years. The talks were designed to:
- develop relations built on mutual respect and understanding that could contain differences about values and policies;
- create channels of communications; and
- help de-escalate the polarization among pro-life and pro-choice groups.
With a consensus article entitled “Talking with the Enemy” published in The Boston Globe, the pro-life and pro-choice leaders went public with their experiences of participating in the talks. In response, the leaders received thousands of communications from around the world expressing support and hope because of their efforts.
The leaders acted to reduce the violence in the rhetoric of their organizations and protect against recurring violence, including contacting the FBI when a threat emerged against a pro-choice participant and telling an activist supporter of the shooter that he was not welcome in the Commonwealth.
The six leaders remained firmly committed to their stance on abortion, but gained profound respect for each other and deepened their understanding of the issues that divide them. To this day, more than twenty years after their initial meeting, they continue to meet to jointly to celebrate personal accomplishments and mourn losses.