Updated: Oct 29, 2019
As a practicing Catholic and a young woman who fancies herself an activist for women’s rights, I disagree with a lot of Catholic teachings about women. After years of research, I’ve discovered it’s more important to have open discussions about my beliefs — even if it means making others uncomfortable.
Below I break down five ways to have an open, informed conversation with your Christian Community about women’s rights — specifically access to abortions, birth control, and issues directly relating to women’s health.
1. Do Your Own Research.
Make sure you are not only clear on your beliefs, but that you’ve done the research to scientifically back up your viewpoint. On top of that, make sure you’ve done research on what perspective they’re coming from. It’s easier to talk to someone when you acknowledge what they think of an issue or organization. It also helps to know the person you’re talking to, how open they are to hearing other perspectives, and what they believe. Talking to your friends directly will always get you farther than posting on social media or yelling at someone you don’t know.
2. Make Them Aware of Which Christian Organizations You Support in their Fight for Women and Why.
If you are on board with some organizations that they support, it will be easier to begin a conversation about why those organizations are doing things in a less problematic way. In addition to the Sisters of Life — who offer housing, employment, medical assistance, legal advice, and emotional and spiritual accompaniment — there are many other organizations that offer free Pregnancy testing, UltraSounds, & STD testing, and resources for women who have been given a prenatal diagnosis. Doing research on which ones you believe are doing the Pro-Life Movement right and why you believe it’s right may help them hear your perspective more thoughtfully.
3. Educate Them on Women’s Organizations.
Begin educating them on resources for women beyond Christian Organizations. Organizations like the Center for Reproductive Rights fight for global change where women have the right to choose when and how to get pregnant and have a child. Beginning a dialogue about the oppressive nature of abortion bans, rape culture, and arranged marriages in other countries and cultures may help the women and men you know understand what could drive someone to desperately abort their child. You can also cite organizations like Every Mother Counts, whose mission is to “envision a world where all women have the opportunity to enter motherhood and not only survive, but thrive”. It’s important to remind the people you are speaking to that Abortion is not ever a choice a woman wants to make, but a choice she feels she has to make.
4. Talk About Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood is an incredibly toxic topic between the secular and Christian communities. Christian circles primarily believe that all Planned Parenthoods encourage women to receive abortions even if it is not necessary. In reality, abortion is a last resort and there are many other options discussed. Additionally, abortion isn’t the only thing Planned Parenthood does — they offer a wide range of services including endometriosis testing, HIV testing, free cancer screenings, help with infertility, and so much more. Discussing Planned Parenthood may be a difficult conversation, but it’s one that should be had if your friends are willing to have it.
5. Be Compassionate to Their Perspective.
It’s easy to think that the Pro-Life movement is anti-women, but it’s important to remember that all of these women and men believe that life begins at the moment of conception. Because of the history of conception in Biblical storytelling, it is truly the beginning of life. Mary was immaculately conceived, an angel came down from Heaven and Jesus was conceived. If these moments play an important part in Biblical storytelling, then they truly affect a Christian’s perception on when life begins and how to talk about it.
The reality is that the pro-life movement eliminates a woman’s ability and opportunity to control her life and plan when and how she gets pregnant. Because the goal of the Catholic Church and other Christian Organizations is to limit access to Birth Control and Sex Education, the control of women’s bodies is deeply rooted in Christian Culture before abortion is even something that one would have to think about.
Having a dialogue, recognizing common ground, and beginning to see a world where we can give all women access to education about their bodies is a good starting place, but that conversation begins with you!
Monica Arsenault is a Brooklyn-based director and producer whose work addresses issues at the intersection of womanhood, sexuality, and faith. Her work has been internationally recognized at over 20 different film festivals. Her ultimate goal is to make a global impact helping women and people from marginalized communities step into the spotlight by highlighting issues that directly affect them, even if it makes others uncomfortable.