Necessary emotional intelligence in the discussion on reproductive rights

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On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court reversed the precedent in reversing Roe v. Wade. On July 7, 2022, Mississippi’s only abortion clinic was forced to close when triggering bans automatically criminalizing abortion came into force.

I spent a full academic year of my life writing about, and two years researching, the history, medical basis, logic, emotional appeal, and religiosity of the anti-abortion movement in America. My honors thesis, submitted in April 2021 for Wesleyan University, concluded with the sentiment that the criminalization of abortion, enforced by the smiling face of a Catholic mother, “will disproportionately affect poor women and women of color who have less access to transportation, legal services, and medical help than wealthier white Americans.”

In the month following my senior thesis submission, I wrote an article entitled “Abortion Versus Abolition: Resisting the Rhetorical Violence of Anti-Black ‘Pro-Choice/Life’ Norms.” This document negotiated the rhetoric used throughout popular movements for and against abortion, from pop culture and advertising to legalistic frameworks. The distant, inauthentic, unemotional, and sometimes blatantly incorrect language and images used by the mainstream “pro-life” and “pro-choice” camps bothered me more and more.

“The abortion issue is a polarized rights-based debate, hyper-obsessed with American legalism,” I wrote. “By reducing the issues of ‘choice’ and ‘life’ to the simplistic binary language of illegality/legality, the abortion debate implicitly values ​​American rights, medical systems and legal procedures. Although the general debate on abortion is based on an exclusionary language that normalizes the non-normalizable categories of ‘life’ and ‘choice’, it locates these values ​​within the legal episteme”.

Necessary emotional intelligence in the discussion on reproductive rights Leading with EQ Depositphotos 476332464 XL
“Operating in the world with emotional maturity that stems from empathy is crucial to understanding and conveying the honest truth of people’s experiences with reproductive control,” writes Virginia Sciolino. Photo by Depositphotos

While I loved my thesis and its combination of legal research, religious studies, American history, and the civil rights movement, after submitting it I realized that the political issue of abortion seemed to be locked into a political or legal realm. This “lockdown” began to feel like a betrayal that prevented us from understanding how our political commitments can and perhaps should permeate both our social circles and our ways of communicating and understanding each other.

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Government rights and legal permissions come from our common ethics and trustworthy judicial bodies. Given the widespread distrust in our legal and judicial bodies today, it is important to seek the real origins of the value of our reproductive decisions rather than simply appealing to a grab bag of legal and political jargon that is used, often uncritically, argue for or against illegality.

Emotional intelligence breaks down social barriers

In the last few months, I have been trying to open up more and engage in authentic communication with the people around me. I have tried to be clear and honest about my reactions to stimuli, instead of blindly asserting others to hide my own discomfort. My goal is to talk openly about my OCD and how it can affect my ability to deal with challenging topics on certain days.

When my friends have asked me about mental health-related topics, I have tried to clearly indicate when I have and when I don’t have the capacity to talk about these topics, while also mentioning that we may come back to these more challenging topics at a different time. . . Also, and more importantly, I have tried to tell my friends when I am struggling with loneliness, which I tend to do the longer I live in Mississippi, as well as tell them how much I appreciate their company.

Ultimately, while trying to be forthcoming, I found that my newly cemented personal boundaries alienated some of my closest friends. I had always prided myself on my emotional maturity, something I found eluding me as I lived in Mississippi. Trying to rekindle this maturity once again led me to realize that emotional intelligence is not only difficult to develop, it can be painful to maintain, and indeed to develop again, in changing social environments.

Emotionally mature conversations require both parties to leave their egos at the door, open their minds and prepare to empathize, and take time to express themselves authentically.

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Less ego-driven and more open speech

What does this have to do with the anti-abortion movement? These justice issues are not my idiosyncratic little personal issues. Anti-abortion laws are important and socioeconomically impactful statements about human rights, women’s rights, reproductive control, and personhood in this country. These laws indicate where and how women and others can have a say in their reproductive/medical choices and where these people are at risk of unsafe abortions.

Anti-abortion laws also restrict our freedom of choice along with our freedom of expression and right to privacy. Such laws welcome increased scrutiny and surveillance, particularly with respect to women in general, trans people, poor people, black and indigenous women, and other minority groups who are more likely to seek abortion services. or find themselves at risk of being a police officer in the first place.

Everyone enters every conversation, personal and political, with biases, preconceived notions, and misunderstandings. In fact, a year in the real world outside of undergraduate research has led me to believe that misunderstandings seem to underlie all conversations.

Opinions are formed within a personal and incommunicable subject. Then, when channeled through imperfectly idiosyncratic communication channels, they are inherently distilled. Honest conversations require us to acknowledge everything we can’t know about the things we feel and say. Transparency about our personal abilities, perspectives, and experiences brings us closer to understanding and real connection, from personal issues to political issues (if these spheres can even be conceived separately).

Necessary emotional intelligence in the discussion on reproductive rights Bipartisan handshake Depositphotos 7832382 XL
“We cannot come to a true understanding of the limits of conservative or neoliberal discourse if we do not practice less ego-driven and more open discourse in general,” writes Virginia Sciolino. Photo by Depositphotos

Operating in the world with emotional maturity that stems from empathy is crucial to understanding and conveying the honest truth of people’s experiences with reproductive control.

We all deserve to live in a society that locates the validity of an action in its ethics rather than its simplistic “il/legality” per se, especially when it seems that legal and illegal behavior is subject to immense confusion based on the race of a person. or zip code. We all deserve to live in a society where the discourse is stronger than just “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” We deserve a social rhetoric that understands how limited most Americans are in their medical options.

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We cannot come to a true understanding of the limits of conservative or neoliberal discourse if we do not practice less ego-driven and more open discourse in general.

In fact, much of the discourse around the pro-choice movement had been relegated to a sphere of political rhetoric where women’s marches and organizations promoting pink and purple logos could enter the debate head-on, on our behalf. , evoking the American political environment. of my life

Perhaps our eagerness (or our emotional need) to entrust political struggles to representatives, government or otherwise, is why we have not seen significant systemic changes in policing, medicine, family care, or welfare programs. wellness. While the Black Lives Matter protests drew public attention, their impact appears to remain one of rhetoric shaping acceptable language rather than an establishment backlash disempowering our police.

As generations of American activists before us have known, the fight does not end in the public square. Inequity shapes everything related to our society, culture and life. This is not to say that we should talk 24/7 about inequalities: many minority groups have already been forced to live and relive their trauma.

I think we can promote the social causes that matter to us, not only through the material we talk about, but through the ways we use to talk. Start conversations with an emphasis on empathy, boundaries, caring for one another, and respect.

This practice brings these more significant ethics out of relegation and into the conversation.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff, or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, please submit up to 1,200 words and verify the information at [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.