Can people who oppose abortion remain friends after Roe?

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(Illustrations by Daryn Ray for the Washington Post)

Some friends learn that they don’t see the issue as one. Can they make it work?

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Miranda Dockett was sure she was losing another friend.

After all, she’d watched them fall away in recent months as she voiced her anti-abortion views louder. Then, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. calf Last month, 31-year-old Dockett braced herself for a worrying confrontation with her childhood best friend.

The exchange lasted for hours, she said, as the couple exchanged messages and news articles on Facebook days after the verdict. Dockett, a stay-at-home mom in Lansing, Michigan, wanted her friend to understand that she believes life begins at conception and should be protected. Meanwhile, her friend, who declined to be interviewed for this story, argued that abortion bans violate women’s right to health care and physical autonomy.

“I suspect this will be the end of our friendship,” says Dockett wrote in a Twitter thread summarizing the conversation. “Heartbroken BUT it took me ages to find my voice and I will not be silenced even if it means losing every friend I have/had.”

They disagree on abortion. Can their relationship survive after Roe?

Dockett’s story echoes a similar scream on social media as the postroe Era continues to take shape. With “Trigger bans” now in effect in 13 states, and organizers mobilizing on both sides of the abortion debate, friends inevitably join the conversation — and some are learning they don’t see the issue.

“The fact that abortion is in the news so much right now is forcing people to think about it,” said Julie Chor, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago. “So I think more of these discussions are happening in the public arena.”

Like Dockett, many people are reporting how those talks went. For some, it has deepened their bond as they confide in each other about their own experiences. For others, it creates new cracks as they ponder whether their friendship has what it takes to withstand their opposing views.

For example, a user on Twitter recently considered how to break up with a friend who is over 20 years old. “He’s pro-life, I’m pro-choice, and since the Roe v. Wade, I can’t even talk to them,” they said wrote. “I just want to puke.”

It didn’t come to that for Dockett and her friend, she said. A day or two after their exchange, they returned to their usual banter. “She kind of moved on, and it was a much easier conversation,” Dockett said. “We’re not going to talk about it any further because we both said what we had to say.”

“I suspect this will be the end of our friendship.”

– Miranda Dockett

Last year, the Survey Center on American Life, a project by think tank American Enterprise Institute, found that 45 percent of Americans discuss politics with their friends at least a few times a month. And although political disagreements are common, the study found that 15 percent of people said they ended a friendship because of politics.

“While friendships can break down under these differences, friendships can also really drive change,” said Marisa G. Franco, psychologist, author, and friendship expert. “And that’s because we care about people. We see how it affects them. We humanize the topic.”

Others on Twitter shared similar sentiments. “Personally, I’m not a fan of abortion,” one person tweeted, “But if my best friend needs me to hold her hand when she gets one. I’ll be there to hold it.”

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In states that have bans on abortion, the American Psychological Association notes that some people feel more compelled to disclose an unplanned pregnancy to their loved ones for help in securing access to an abortion. But such legislation could also hamper these discussions.

“People who are at this crossroads now and don’t know who to turn to regarding care are very afraid of who to talk to,” said reproductive psychologist Julie Bindeman, citing the Texas ban , which empowers individuals to bring legal action against providers or individuals who “support or encourage” abortion. “So it doesn’t create spaces where it feels safe to talk to people about abortion or health care.”

Rachel Stevens had long hoped her best friend would reconsider her anti-abortion stance. When Stevens tried to terminate a pregnancy eight years ago, her friend said she would never speak to her again.

“He’s pro-life, I’m pro-choice, and since the Roe v. Wade, I can’t even talk to them.”

— Twitter user

That threat didn’t hold up, said Stevens, now 35. But after the Supreme Court ruling, something changed in their friendship for good.

“With roe Upset, I tried talking to her about it since she has three young daughters of her own, and it will definitely impact her future,” said Stevens, a server in Nashville. “And I think it’s something that she should be concerned about and aware of.”

However, her attempts to speak out on the subject fell on deaf ears, she said: her friend showed little interest in engaging in the conversation. “It really sealed the deal by saying goodbye to that friendship once and for all,” Stevens said.

When it comes to sensitive issues such as abortion, it is not only opposing views that can drive a wedge between friendships.

Mela Horr, a Houston college student, has been feeling particularly isolated from her group of friends lately. They poured out those feelings in a short Twitter thread late one night in June. “It’s that time of year again where I realize my friends will never really be able to understand my gender identity,” he said tweet started.

As a non-binary person, Horr, 23, said it was challenging to talk about abortion and how new restrictions could disproportionately affect the transgender community with her friends, a group of mostly straight cisgender men.

“At the end of the day, it’s something they’ll never fully understand because it doesn’t directly affect them,” they said.

Transgender advocates say Roe’s demise would have dire consequences

For Horr, like many others, the coronavirus pandemic has uprooted her social life. Classes went online and the communities they had previously found solace in — a group of local Filipino artists and an on-campus queer organization — disappeared.

“I felt very strongly rooted to where I was,” Horr said of her life before Covid. “And I was still trying to figure out who I was, but at least I felt like the people I was with reflected parts of me.”

Renée Mannino, 23, found that support years ago at the Pride Parade in New York City, where she formed a friendship with Emma Beckerman when the two were still in high school. They were traveling to town with a group of mutual friends, Mannino said, “and we hit it off so well we stayed the same night.”

“It’s that time of year again where I realize my friends can never really understand my gender identity.”

— Mela Horr

Years later, after Mannino had an abortion, Beckerman was one of the first people she told about it. “It was so nice because she had almost no reaction,” said Mannino, who works as a nanny in Flemington, New Jersey. “She was just really reassuring when I told her … it was just normal conversation.”

Among the abortion stories that have flooded social media in recent months, Mannino said she notices one dominant narrative: decisions to terminate a pregnancy because of health risks, traumatic experiences, or escaping a toxic or abusive relationship.

But Mannino has seen fewer stories that reflect her reason for having an abortion three years ago: “I don’t want to have children,” she said. “I don’t want to carry a child.”

Then afterwards roe upset, Beckerman offered Mannino the assurance he needed. Not wanting to be a mother is reason enough to have an abortion, Beckerman wrote to her: “You don’t have to go through with it [something] traumatic to earn the right to vote.”

“You are such a great friend,” Mannino wrote back.

Beckerman, 22, said she thought about how Mannino might feel afterwards roe.

“I bet I know more women [who have had an abortion], but Renée is the only person who told me about this experience,” she said. “It just felt like something that was appropriate and that I wanted someone to tell me.”

Few studies examine the private conversations people have with loved ones about abortion decisions. But a small study published in 2019 offers some insight.

“We found that most people spoke to a friend or family member or a partner,” said Chor, a professor at the University of Chicago and one of the study’s authors. “And most people described that they had some positive experiences in those discussions.”

Experts stress the importance of such conversations — and have some tips on how to steer them.

“There’s no room for your own opinion,” said Bindeman, the reproductive psychologist. “It’s not a place where your values ​​come out, even if your values ​​support what your friend did.”

Focus the conversation on the storyteller — not the listener, she added.

For Dockett, as she discussed her views with her friend, one thing became clear: “[We] both value our friendship and love for one another more than our political or moral values.”

It’s a realization she believes others can discover through these conversations.

“It’s totally possible to have differences in different areas of life and to have a friendship,” she said. “It really comes down to your love for the person, their love for you, and the ability to accept that you don’t have to think alike to really love and care for one another.”

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