Abortion is such an awkward issue. A lot of folks feel VERY strongly about their opinions on the topic, so they badly want to talk about it, but trying to talk about it often ends with unproductive conversation or worse. In my opinion, inability to have good conversations is the single biggest problem the Pro-Life movement has. Fortunately, conversation doesn’t have to be something to waste time or lose friends over. You just need a good strategy, and I think one of the best strategies out there is what the QA Project does.
The QA project is a wonderfully simple concept called “clipboarding” that has all the right characteristics of a great strategy. The idea is this: you get a few people with clipboards, you have a few prepared questions, and you go somewhere public and ask people the questions.
- What do you think the current legal restrictions are on abortion in Canada?
- Do you think there should be restrictions on abortion in Canada?
- What restrictions would you suggest?
It’s also helpful to have a few facts on hand, like the answer to what legal restrictions there are in Canada (none), but the more important thing is that you’re out asking people questions. This is fantastic because people are almost always willing to tell you what they think, and this exercise encourages folks to think about the issues! Once people know you’re a decent person, and care about hearing what they think, lots of people are happy to continue chatting about the topic. It’s an effective ice-breaker, and people’s reactions to the QA project are overwhelmingly positive in my experience.
Another great thing about this strategy is that it’s so intellectually honest. Should there be more restrictions on abortion in Canada? Well, I have an opinion, and I think it’s right. So does everyone else. But if someone can see that I’m mistaken (I always could be), I want them to tell me, and I doubt I’m alone on this. This is the basis of healthy productive conversation about a controversial issue: of course we all think we’re right, but our goal in conversation should be to find out if there is anything we’re missing, not to beat the other person’s argument.
By asking others what they think, you’re taking the first step and being willing to test your own ideas against facts you might not be aware of. Many people really appreciate that and will ask what you think too. At very least, if you ask the questions, you’ve made someone think about an important issue and haven’t taken up too much of their time. The worst case scenario here is that someone doesn’t want to answer your questions, which is really not a big deal. This is a super low-risk strategy.
All that being said, I would still give a couple warnings. Despite the QA Project’s strengths, It’s still possible to do this poorly.
The biggest risk is that some folks can get a bit excited and not really pay much attention to other people’s answers to the questions, then jump right into arguing some pro-life apologetics talking point. What a way to come across as a pushy jerk. The strength of the QA project is the simple format to foster healthy conversation. Ask questions earnestly, and listen carefully to the answers. If it’s not absolutely clear that the other person wants to hear your thoughts, just ask to make it clear.
The other major risk is what sort of information you include along with the questions. Frankly, there is an awful lot of misinformation out there about abortion. If you share some factually untrue information in an attempt to enlighten someone, you can be sure that is the one thing they’ll remember most about you and your opinion. Any extra facts that are included with this sort of project should be absolutely thoroughly researched.
For anyone interested, you can order a prepared kit to do this from National Campus Life Network (NCLN), and I’ve even seen them send out a representative to a university campus to help do it. NCLN focuses on university pro-life clubs, but I think the QA Project would be great for any public space you can do it legally in. If you’re on a budget, frankly, this isn’t hard to put together yourself for a few bucks. Just get some clipboards, pens, and paper with questions on it.
Overall, the QA project is hands-down my favorite way of approaching pro-life issues in a productive way. Low risk, high positive results, cheap, easy, intellectually honest: what more could you ask for?