Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (51), April 21, 1986

Let’s Discuss It Openly

My View

(invitational column)

(John Rankin, his wife Nancy, and three sons live in Rockport. He is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton. Formerly youth pastor at Pigeon Cove Chapel, he has for two years served as executive director of the New England Christian Action Council)

I believe that such a painful issue as abortion needs to be openly discussed in an environment of openness, mutual respect and honesty. Too often, it is a war of egos, misunderstandings and false assumptions. Hopefully, those who have read my letters and columns have perceived my thorough research, compassion, fairness and restrain in language and metaphor.

On that basis, the New England Christian Action Council is sponsoring a public forum this Friday, April 25, in the Fuller School Auditorium at 7 p.m. At this gathering, we will show the film, “The Silent Scream,” followed by Planned Parenthood’s response on VCR. This way, we can represent opposing viewpoints on their own terms. Afterward, I will present a thesis entitled “Definitions of the Abortion Controversy,” and then open it up for questions and comments from the audience.

Planned Parenthood has been invited to be present, to provide a spokesperson who would have equal time, to set up an information booth, to be involved in the planning of this event. But they have not responded. Indeed, in a similar forum in Vermont, they explicitly refused to participate. Perhaps we should ask why.Perhaps supporters of Planned Parenthood, who articulate choice, should question why there is such a refusal to discuss choice publicly in this context.

The VCR tape of Planned Parenthood’s response (it is not available in film) was secured directed from the Seattle chapter, from the people who put it together. When I asked to purchase it, I was met with skepticism.  Would I cut and splice it so as to misrepresent them? I assured them of my commitment to truth and free inquiry, and the woman responded that I was being “more than fair.” They made a special policy decision at their director’s meeting to allow me, as an “outsider” to but it, as apparently I was the first pro-lifer to make such a request.

The thesis I am defining has been presented at colleges and universities across New England, including Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown, UNH, UMass and URI. At a debate at Harvard Medical School, a woman Unitarian-Universalist minister was representing the pro-choice side. She emphasized how grateful she was for the “calm tone” I established in my opening remarks. Although most the audience of medical students were in favor of legalized abortion at the outset, the only “complaint” voiced about the evening was the lack of time for discussion afterward (it has been limited to one hour).

In this Forum Friday night, I hope you will expect and discover the same graciousness of spirit. And for those who have challenged my pro-life advocacy, this is you opportunity to scrutinize my position, to hold me accountable in public assembly. It will be my joy, for my agenda is to simply touch hope and celebrate the gift of life.