Commentary Abortion

Talking Turkey: Eight Easy Steps for Discussing Reproductive Health and Justice at the Holiday Table

Erica Sackin

Going home or getting together with relatives for the holidays is always a stressful time, but if your family members are the type who regularly protest outside the local Planned Parenthood, you know that this holiday is going to be a doozy. Luckily, we have some tips for surviving those awkward conversations.

This article was originally published by PPNYC, in 2011 and cross-posted at that time by Rewire. We are bringing it back for the holidays again this year.

The holidays are upon us! Going home or getting together with relatives for the holidays is always a stressful time, but if your family members are the type who regularly protest outside the local Planned Parenthood, you know that this holiday is going to be a doozy.

Luckily, we have some tips for surviving those awkward conversations. So read on, and bring some diplomacy and understanding to the table along with that pumpkin pie.

1. Avoid bumper sticker talk. A slogan might work for a poster or a button, but in a conversation it just leads to a heated back and forth. Try to steer clear of catchall phrases—they very rarely lead to common ground or change anyone’s mind.

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2. Remember the big picture. Debating when life begins or whether or not abortion is federally funded may get you nowhere. Instead focus on your shared values and the big picture—for instance, talk about how you believe everyone should be able to afford to go to the doctor, or how the decision about when and whether to become a parent is a personal one. You never know, you just may find yourself actually agreeing with your relatives.

3. Know your facts, but keep the conversation more global. It’s good to clarify misinformation—for example, the misconception that emergency contraception ends a pregnancy—but staying there can cause a fight. Instead, try to clarify, and then transition back to the underlying value of why you believe what you do.

4. Create a space for the listener. Ambivalence is normal. Reproductive health is not a black and white issue, and there is no one right or wrong way to feel. Be open and accepting of other people’s personal views, and instead focus on the distinction between your personal beliefs, and what should or shouldn’t be imposed on others. For example, “I might not personally choose to get an abortion, but I could never decide for another woman whether or not she was ready to become a parent.”

5. Learn to diffuse. There are some debates you’re just never going to win, and not all questions are created equal—in fact many are designed to start a fight. Instead of getting caught in the weeds, try to recognize when a question isn’t a real question, and transition back to what you feel is the bigger picture:

Question: “I don’t want my tax dollars going toward abortions.”

Response: “Actually, because of the Hyde Amendment, tax dollars can’t go toward supporting abortion. But I do believe that everyone deserves access to basic, preventive reproductive care, and that it’s important we support those services. No one should ever have to choose between paying rent and buying birth control.”

6. It’s all in how you frame it. In so many of these political disagreements, when things get heated we revert back to bumper sticker slogans instead of really talking about an issue. Instead, take a few deep breaths and try personalizing the issue, or evoking empathy.

Oftentimes it’s easier to dismiss abortion or other health-care procedures as “bad” when it’s framed as a political issue. But when you’re talking about an individual woman making a personal decision, it’s harder to just write off. Also keep in mind that everyone doesn’t have to feel the same way about an issue to find something to agree on. For example:

  • A woman may have an abortion for any number of reasons. Some of these reasons may not seem right to us, but even if we disagree, it is better that each person be able to make her own decision.
  • I can accept someone’s decision to end a pregnancy, even if I wouldn’t make the same decision myself.
  • There’s just something about pregnancy—everybody has feelings about it. Each circumstance is different, so we should respect and support women and families who must make life-altering decisions about whether or not to have a child.
  • We can try to imagine the heartbreak of a family when they get the news that a test has shown there is something wrong with their baby.
  • Ultimately, we all want healthy, thriving families and that is why we need policies that respect our ability to make thoughtful decisions and support us in our roles as caregivers and breadwinners.

7. Know where you stand. It’s easier to talk about what you believe in if you know what you believe in and why beforehand. Ask yourself why you believe that reproductive rights, or sex education, or health care, are important, and you might be surprised at how universal your reasons are. For example, you may believe that sex education is important because you feel it’s the best way to protect young people. Or you might believe abortion should be legal because you could never make the decision about when someone else was ready to become a parent.

8. Practice! Below are some sample questions and responses:

Q) How can you support abortion?

R) The decision about when and whether to become a parent is an intensely personal one. I believe each woman has to make that decision for herself—and that no one can make it for her.

Q) Isn’t emergency contraception just another form of abortion?

R) I’m glad you asked me that question—a lot of people have that misconception. Emergency contraception pills actually prevent pregnancy before it begins. On the other hand, the abortion pill ends a pregnancy. I think emergency contraception is a great thing, because it gives people a second chance to prevent pregnancy—and I think everyone should be ready before they become a parent.

Q) Why are you anti-family and anti-baby?

R) I am very pro-family and pro-baby! I love my daughter, and she’s the best thing that ever happened to me. That’s why I truly believe that the decision about whether and when to become a parent is a sacred one, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Q) I don’t want my tax dollars to be spent paying for abortions.

R) [Note: you may be tempted to respond with “Well, I don’t want my tax dollars being spent on _________ (war, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, etc.).” We recommend fighting that urge—you want to have a conversation, not just a comeback.] I think we can all agree that our tax dollars should be spent making sure that everyone has medical care. In my ideal world, no one would have to put off going to the doctor because they can’t afford it, and every child would have access to a pediatrician. I also believe that our medical care shouldn’t be based on how much money we make. Women who are poor should have the same ability to decide whether and when to become parents as women who have more money.

Q) I think sex ed should be left to the parents.

R) I totally agree that parents should be the main educators of their children when it comes to sex. Kids need to hear our values and our sense of what is appropriate for kids their age. But I also know that those conversations are hard to have—I remember my father stumbling over some of the very same questions my kids ask me now. And I think lots of parents put off the conversation or avoid it entirely. Honestly, all kids need information about protecting themselves from disease and unintended pregnancy—probably not for now, but for the future—and we need to make sure all kids get this information that could save their lives.

That’s it! Good luck, and remember, if things get really bad, you can always bring up something everyone can agree on, like how much we all love pumpkin pie.

News Politics

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Resigns as Chair of DNC, Will Not Gavel in Convention

Ally Boguhn

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) resigned her position as chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), effective after the convention, amid controversy over leaked internal party emails and months of criticism over her handling of the Democratic primary races.

Wasserman Schultz told the Sun Sentinel on Monday that she would not gavel in this week’s convention, according to Politico.

“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Wasserman Schultz said in a Sunday statement announcing her decision. “Going forward, the best way for me to accomplish those goals is to step down as Party Chair at the end of this convention.”

“We have planned a great and unified Convention this week and I hope and expect that the DNC team that has worked so hard to get us to this point will have the strong support of all Democrats in making sure this is the best convention we have ever had,” Wasserman Schultz continued.

Just prior to news that Wasserman Schultz would step down, it was announced that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) would chair the DNC convention.

Donna Brazile, vice chair of the DNC, will step in as interim replacement for Wasserman Schultz as committee chair.

Wasserman Schultz’s resignation comes after WikiLeaks released more than 19,000 internal emails from the DNC, breathing new life into arguments that the Democratic Party—and Wasserman Schultz in particular—had “rigged” the primary in favor of nominating Hillary Clinton. As Vox‘s Timothy B. Lee pointed out, there seems to be “no bombshells” in the released emails, though one email does show that Brad Marshall, chief financial officer of the DNC, emailed asking whether an unnamed person could be questioned about “his” religious beliefs. Many believe the email was referencing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT).

Another email from Wasserman Schultz revealed the DNC chair had referred to Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, as a “damn liar.”

As previously reported by Rewire before the emails’ release, “Wasserman Schultz has been at the center of a string of heated criticisms directed at her handling of the DNC as well as allegations that she initially limited the number of the party’s primary debates, steadfastly refusing to add more until she came under pressure.” She also sparked controversy in January after suggesting that young women aren’t supporting Clinton because there is “a complacency among the generation” who were born after Roe v. Wade was decided.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party,” said Sanders in a Sunday statement. “While she deserves thanks for her years of service, the party now needs new leadership that will open the doors of the party and welcome in working people and young people. The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”

Sanders had previously demanded Wasserman Schultz’s resignation in light of the leaked emails during an appearance earlier that day on ABC’s This Week.

Clinton nevertheless stood by Wasserman Schultz in a Sunday statement responding to news of the resignation. “I am grateful to Debbie for getting the Democratic Party to this year’s historic convention in Philadelphia, and I know that this week’s events will be a success thanks to her hard work and leadership,” said Clinton. “There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie—which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states.”

Clinton added that she still looks “forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid.” Wasserman Schultz faces a primary challenger, Tim Canova, for her congressional seat in Florida’s 23rd district for the first time this year.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.