Conversations at the Justice for All Outreach
Outreach Director, Marcos Espinoza asks a student “When do basic human rights begin?
Ask Good Questions, Listen to Understand, Find Common Ground. We believe these Three Essential Skills are the groundwork for an ambassador to have a productive conversation on the topic of abortion. Armed with these skills, a humble spirit and the support of our Mentors, our volunteers arrived at Fresno City and Fresno State prepared to have a different kind of abortion conversation.
During both days of outreach our Mentors and Volunteers had the constant opportunity to be in a conversation. Here are just a few stories of the conversations our Justice for All Team had during those two days. (All names have been changed for privacy)
Sierra’s Conversation with Mary
JFA Mentor Sierra Seaward dialogues with a student at Fresno State
Mary approached the poll table angrily writing that abortion should remain legal. It was 1:30 and I just brought my lunch to the check in table. All the mentors and volunteers were busy. I walked over towards Mary telling her I was available if she wanted to talk, but I needed to eat. Surprisingly she came over sitting down in a huff. I gave her a drink and let her vent. She told me that we hated women, and we were taking away women’s rights, defunding social programs, degrading women etc. After several bites of lunch, I took advantage of a pause and said, “Well, if that’s what you think about us, I don’t blame you for being frustrated and angry.”
Suddenly her whole demeanor changed. She visibly relaxed and enjoyed the rest of our conversation. From that moment on we had a great conversation. For about an hour we talked about her concerns for women’s rights over their bodies and I was able to ask her thoughts on questions like: What is the unborn? What is abortion? Is abortion humane? We talked about equal rights, preferences vs objective moral truths, the gospel of Jesus Christ and why all people are valuable. Mary was listening carefully and considering my thoughts as I did hers. We both enjoyed our time together while we seriously discussed many weighty issues all encompassing the lives of unborn children.
Marcos’ Conversation with Joe and Mark
Joe and Mark were looking at our display when I asked them what they thought. Joe seemed very interested while Mark was very quiet. Joe was very much for women”s rights and believed that for any reason in the first and second trimester a women should be allowed to have an abortion. After talking to him for about 20 min we were able to agree that the unborn was biologically human and should have human rights, however he believed the mother’s rights were more important, at least at the beginning of the pregnancy. We were about to dive into women’s rights and the rights of the unborn but unfortunately Joe had to go to class and excused himself.
His friend Mark, who had been listening to us talk about biology and philosophy, remained standing there. I asked him what he thought about abortion. His answer was very interesting. Mark said he was an atheist and held a similar belief to Joe but after hearing our conversation, especially about how we value the unborn like the born, he understood why us Pro-Lifers strive so hard to protect the unborn. He said he had a lot to think about. He mentioned when he saw us he was ready to debate me because he thought I was going to argue my position solely on the basis of religion and the Bible. He said he was a bit disappointed because he was ready to jump in as soon as he heard the word God, Jesus, religion, Bible, etc., and he never got a chance to do so. He did however learn something new from overhearing our conversation. We proceeded to talk about his views about abortion and after about 40 min we came to the big question:
“Why are we valuable in the first place?”.
I proceeded to warn him that I was going to go religious on him and he smiled and did not object. I told him how we are made in the image and likeness of God and have value over all living things. For that and many other reasons, God shows us that we are valuable. I told him if he had some other explanation that was better than mine I would be willing to hear it. Mark took a step back and said,”I don’t have an answer now but I just think its crazy that you Christians believe that one man made everything.” I responded by saying , “As a Christian I think it is even crazier for people to think that all this came from nothing.” I then took my empty hands and handed him nothing and said, “Here is nothing; make something.” He smiled again and said, “You’re funny, but you have a point, I am not becoming Christian or anything but at least now I can see that we are both crazy.“
At this point we had pretty much talked about everything he wanted to talk about and we just stood for a few seconds in silence processing all we had told each other. I broke the silence by asking him if he wanted to now share with me the points he was going to make if I had brought up religion. This started a completely new conversation that lasted another 30 min about theology and my faith as a Catholic and my doctrine. I am sure Mark missed at least one class while talking to me but he was so interested in talking even about religion once we had addressed his concerns. He now had to leave but before he left he said,
“You know when I walked up to your display with Joe I was ready to rip your head off [not literally he was a nice guy], but after talking to you and being challenged on my views I really appreciated your way of explaining things and not right away trying to convert me or judge me when I flat out told you I was an atheist. You took what I had to say pretty seriously and addressed my concerns. Thank you for that unique conversation, I have to get my thoughts together because you caught me off guard.”
I told him I would be praying for him and he left. I know that I did not convert either of these gentlemen but I know I definitely placed pebbles in their shoes and we now better understand each other and hopefully one day we can continue this conversation.
Operations Director Liz Goddard shares the JFA brochure with a student at Fresno City
Liz’s Conversation with Nancy
I’m always amazed at the personal experiences of people on Campus and what someone is willing to share when you are genuinely interested in listening to them. Nancy (Not Pictured) seemed like any ordinary college student but she had actually experienced a miracle in her life. Nancy found herself with an unplanned pregnancy and went to the Planned Parenthood here in Fresno to schedule an abortion because she didn’t feel she could raise a child. It turns out she was 6 months pregnant, the Fresno clinic couldn’t perform her abortion so they gave her paperwork to go to San Francisco to have the abortion the next day. That night she had a dream about her baby; seeing him dead on the table after the abortion. She said “When I woke up I just knew that I couldn’t go through with the abortion.” Her son Jared is now 4 years old and is her inspiration and motivation to continue her education.