Families, Gender, & Children
and Pro-Choice Groups Use Dialogue and Shared Concerns to Find
Ground Network for Life and Choice grew out of a series of workshops
for pro-life and pro-choice people by Search for Common Ground,
first in Buffalo and later in St. Louis, Cleveland, Denver, Cincinnati,
Pensacola and the Washington, D.C. area. The Common Ground Network
for Life and Choice believes that the abortion conflict provides
an opportunity for dialogue and creative problem-solving through
facilitated dialogues and addressing shared concerns. Fundamental
is that no one is ever asked to change his or her belief about
the core issue of abortion. Story.
The Common Ground Network for Life and Choice Promotes Non-adversarial
Dialogue on Abortion Story
Andrea Walsh, Acting Director of Studies, Program on Degrees in
Women's Studies, Harvard University. Andrea is also a member of
the CPN Families, Gender, and Children editorial team.
after an Operation Rescue campaign marked by violence, the Buffalo
Council of Churches organized a one-day conference on nonviolent
protest. Some continued these discussions on a weekly basis, focusing
specifically on the abortion conflict, and then invited the Search
for Common Ground in Washington, DC to develop organizing and
conceptual support for what has since become the Buffalo Coalition
for Common Ground.
Louis, Andy Puzder, the prolife lawyer who helped to author
Missouri's legislative restrictions on abortion, and Ms. B.J.
Isaacson-Jones, the director of Reproductive Health Services,
the largest abortion provider in the state, which sued to
stop the legislation, sought a new approach after the Supreme
Court ruling upheld the law. Andy had suggested in a newspaper
article that it was time to put aside hostilities and find
ways to cooperate to help the women and children whom both
sides claimed to protect.
a series of cordial discussions, they were joined by others
prominent on each side of the debate, and for more than four
years have focused common attention and resources on issues
of mutual concern: assistance to crack-addicted pregnant women,
preventing unwanted pregnancies, providing women support during
pregnancy, teaching abstinence to teenagers, reducing infant
mortality, and financing school breakfast programs.
Maggi Cage, a mediator, psychotherapist and former abortion clinic
owner, and Harry Webne-Behrman, a professional mediator, convinced
four Wisconsin legislatorstwo pro-life and two pro-choiceto convene a common ground meeting "to put a face on the abortion
conflict." Through regular meetings over a period of 13 months,
the group developed a set of principles for sex education in the
public schools. And student dialogue groups have now been organized
at a Wisconsin college.
cities the story is similar. In Cleveland, the director of communication
of Feminists for Life, Marilyn Kopp, took the initiative; in San
Francisco, it was pro-choice feminist and NOW member Peggy Green.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group of family therapists formed
the Public Conversations Project.
to Families, Gender, & Children Index