This is a situation I deal with all the time,
since I teach at a Catholic college. Though I have to
say that progressive Catholics, even when they are
anti-abortion, are not zealots on the topic. The anti-abortion
zealots are not progressive, in my experience. They subscribe
to a world view which values patriarchy and authority and
are as likely to disagree with me on issues of public schools,
welfare, crime and punishment as they are on abortion.
But to answer your question. I try not to discuss it.
If forced, I try to confine the issue to whether abortion is
legal or illegal, not whether it's right or wrong. Yoshie's arguments
can be brought to bear here (if abortion is outlawed,
only the rich will have abortions). The standard feminist
argument can be used (if abortion is outlawed, only
outlaws will perform abortions).
But mostly I fall back on the constitution.
Opposition to abortion is a religious position.
You are entitled to your position and I respect your
right to hold it, but you must respect my position as well.
You are free to practice your religion but not to impose it
on others who don't share your beliefs.
Real anti-abortion zealots reject this argument,
just as they reject arguments about prayer in
school, state support for religious education and
separation of church and state generally. This is why,
as Charles (I think) has said repeatedly, it is not really
possible to have a dialogue. The belief systems that
underlie the anti-abortion movement are fundamentally
hostile to progressive politics and the human rights of