DALLAS, Texas–Texas Democrats had numerous training sessions available on the last day of the Texas Democratic Convention. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, the Texas arm of the National Abortion Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), hosted a session entitled “Finding Common Ground on Reproductive Rights.” The website for the state Democratic Convention described the course as “Providing pointers and practice to help participants have productive discussions with different audiences on abortion, contraception and reproductive health issues.” The class was designed to “also provide messaging to assist campaigns with addressing questions around reproductive rights.” NARAL told the group that it provides practice sessions in order to help candidates have effective pro-choice messaging.
Amelia Long, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Development Director, and Houston lawyer Shailey Gupta-Brietzke told attendees that the organization “supports pro-choice candidates” and educates the community on legislation and possible legislation. The website for the organization states that its mission includes “educating legislators, the media and the public on the full range of reproduction health care options and issues.”
These NARAL workers presented the “3 Ps” for communicating about abortion – “Prevention, Privacy, and Politicians.” The “next level” was their second tier strategy of engaging in a personal “values based” discussion. Attendees were told that “Prevention” was “the best one to use to find common ground” because “you can agree on comprehensive safe sex education. ‘Privacy‘ does not help the abortion stigma.” When speaking to “Politicians,” they said to remind them of the barriers to access to abortion. NARAL called the 3 Ps “super safe” for effective communication.
In using a value based message, women were told to discuss their own values while “acknowledging the complexity of the situation” and “encouraging empathy for making a different decision.” NARAL’s strategy to use personal values “is to make it human and real, not just a bumper sticker.” “Choice” is no longer considered a persuasive issue and the women were told “to stay away from slogan type of words.” They were also told not to use the word “fetus” and “to use more ‘complex’ words like ‘baby’ if that is how you feel about it.”
Part of this “values based connection” and acknowledgment of the complexity of the situation was to acknowledge the “personal values around being a parent, and asks ‘Does it make sense to be a parent right now?'” They said to “turn everything on whether or not this is a good decision for you.”
The “Texas Two-Step” was part of the strategy. The pro-choice women were told to first state “common ground” and then move towards a value based dialogue. They were given hypothetical exercises to practice. An example was “I am Catholic but. . .I can see how someone might have to make that difficult choice,” and “I chose to have my daughter but I can understand someone not being comfortable with that.”
Amelia Long said that as it relates to the argument that “Life begins at conception,” she told the women to “PIVOT” the conversation and respond saying “but regardless of how I feel, if a person has to have an abortion, it should be accessible and affordable for them.” They were told to “stay away from categorical statements and acknowledge the complexity of the decision.” The women were told to encourage empathy and to ask questions like “once a woman decides to get an abortion, do you want her to feel respected?” Attendees who signed a list were promised that they would be emailed these examples and others. A chart of acceptable terms and statements would also be made available.
The pro-choice advocates said that the word “decision” should replace “choice”, and the decision is “about being a parent.” The topic is no longer one that is “a decision that a woman makes on her own, but has become a decision that “includes those she trusts in the decision-making process.” The concept of abortion being “wrong” was to be replaced with the “emotion of relief,” i.e., that person involved in the discussion does not have to make the decision themselves. “Choice” is replaced with the concept of “a deeply emotional and complex decision.”
The Texas NARAL representatives told the crowd that the reason that women have late term abortions are because they have usually had “3 or more disruptive events,” e.g, domestic violence in the family and they “fall late on their rent.” They claimed that women who have late term abortions are from a lower economic status, have pregnancies that “were intended but something deeply wrong occurred,” they have health insurance, and they come to the clinic with their partner to have their abortion. They also claimed that conservatives were calling miscarriages “spontaneous abortion” which was a “tragedy compounded by the criminal investigation stigma.”
In addressing “the false argument” that Democrats do not support the death penalty but support abortion, Long engaged in a rapid-fire questions response about the difficulty of choice, and people’s different belief systems. The Communications Director said to “shy away from ‘abortion is murder’ because it is so bananas to us.”
Follow Lana Shadwick on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.