Can people who disagree on abortion remain friends after Roe?

(Illustrations by Daryn Ray for the Washington Post)

Some friends learn that they disagree on the matter. Can they make it work?


Miranda Dockett was sure she was about to lose another friend.

After all, she had seen them fall apart over the past few months as she spoke out more about her views against abortion. Then, following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade Last month, Dockett, 31, braced herself for a disturbing confrontation with her childhood best friend.

The exchange went on for hours, she said, as the couple exchanged messages and news articles on Facebook days after the decision. 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 the abortion ban violates women’s right to health care and bodily autonomy.

“I suspect this will be the end of our friendship”, Dockett wrote in a Twitter thread summarizing the conversation. “Heartbroken BUT it’s taken me forever to find my voice and I won’t be silenced even if it means losing all the friends I have/had.”

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

Dockett’s story echoes a similar cry on social media as the post-deer the era continues to take shape. With 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 learn they disagree on the question.

“The fact that abortion is in the headlines so much right now is making people 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 setting.”

Like Dockett, many people report how these conversations unfolded. For some, it has deepened their bond as they confide in each other about their own experiences. For others, it creates further rifts as they wonder if their friendship has what it takes to withstand their opposing views.

For example, a Twitter user recently pondered how to part ways with a friend over 20 years old. “He’s pro-life, I’m pro-choice and since the Roe v. Wade decision I haven’t even been able to talk to them,” they said. wrote. “I just want to vomit.”

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 kinda evolved, and it was a much lighter conversation,” Dockett said. “We’re not going to keep talking about it 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 of the American Enterprise Institute think tank, found that 45% of Americans discuss politics with their friends at least a few times a month. And while political disagreements are common, the study found that 15% of people said they ended a friendship for politics.

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

Others on Twitter shared similar sentiments. “Personally, I am not a fan of abortion”, a 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 enacted abortion bans, the American Psychological Association Remarks that some people may feel more compelled to disclose an unplanned pregnancy to loved ones to seek help in obtaining access to an abortion. But such legislation could also inhibit these discussions.

“People who are now at this crossroads and don’t know where to turn in terms of care feel a lot of fear about who they can talk to,” reproductive psychologist Julie Bindeman said, citing the ban. of Texas, which empowers private citizens. to sue providers or anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion. “So it doesn’t create spaces where talking to people about abortion care or health care choices feels safe.”

For a long time, Rachel Stevens had hoped her best friend would reconsider her stance against abortion. Eight years ago, when Stevens sought to terminate a pregnancy, her friend said she would never speak to him again.

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

—Twitter user

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

“With deer being upset, I tried to talk to her about it because she has three young daughters of her own, and it will definitely impact their future,” said Stevens, a waiter in Nashville. “And I think that’s something she should care about and be aware of.”

But her attempts to talk about the issue fell on deaf ears, she said: Her friend showed little interest in engaging in conversation. “This really sealed the deal by leaving this friendship once and for all,” Stevens said.

When it comes to tense topics like abortion, it’s not just opposing views that can drive a wedge between friendships.

Lately, Mela Horr, a student based in Houston, has been feeling particularly isolated from her group of friends. One late night in June, they unpacked those feelings in a short Twitter thread. “It’s that time of year again when I realize that my friends will never be able to truly understand my gender identity,” said the the tweet started.

As a non-binary person, Horr, 23, said it was difficult to talk to their friends, a group of mostly cisgender straight men, about abortion and how the new restrictions might affect disproportionate the transgender community.

“At the end of the day, because it doesn’t affect them directly, it’s not something they will fully understand all the ramifications of,” they said.

Transgender advocates say Roe’s end would have dire consequences

For Horr, like many others, the coronavirus pandemic has uprooted their social lives. Classes went online, and the communities they had previously found solace in — a local Filipino artist group and a queer organization on campus — crumbled.

“I felt very strongly rooted where I was,” Horr said of their life before covid. “And I was still trying to figure out who I was, but at least I felt like the people around me kind of mirrored parts of me.”

Renée Mannino, 23, found that support years ago at New York’s Pride Parade, where she struck up a friendship with Emma Beckerman while the couple were still in high school. They went to town with a group of mutual friends, Mannino said, “and we clicked so well that the same night we had a slumber party.”

“It’s that time of year again when I realize that my friends will never really be able to 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, like, no reaction,” said Mannino, who works as a nanny in Flemington, NJ. “She was just very comforting when I told her…it was just regular conversation.”

Among the abortion stories that flooded social media In recent months, Mannino said she’s noticed a dominant narrative: decisions to end a pregnancy because of health risks, traumatic experiences, or to escape 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 kids,” she said. “I don’t want to bear a child.”

Then after deer was knocked down, Beckerman reached out with the reassurance Mannino needed. Not wanting to be a mother is reason enough to have an abortion, Beckerman texted her, “You don’t have to go through [something] traumatic to earn the right to choose.

“You are such a good friend,” Mannino replied.

Beckerman, 22, said she thought about how Mannino might feel as a result of deer.

“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 to say that I would like someone to tell me.”

Few studies examine the private conversations people have about abortion decisions with loved ones. But one small study published in 2019 offers an overview.

“What we found was that most people were talking to a friend, family member, or partner,” said Chor, a University of Chicago professor and one of the authors of the study. “And most people described having had positive experiences during those discussions.”

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

“This is not a space to insert your own opinion,” said Bindeman, the reproductive psychologist. “This is not a space for your values ​​to come out, even if your values ​​support what your friend has done.”

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

For Dockett, talking about her views with her friend made one thing clear: “[We] both value our friendship and love for each other more than our political or moral values.

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

“It’s totally possible to have differences in various areas of your life and still maintain 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 the same way to truly love and care about each other. “


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