Uncommon Ground

Programs 42,43 • 58 mins


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In a little known chapter of recent American history, committed Boston activists on both sides of the abortion debate cautiously entered a multi-year dialogue in the wake of a tragedy. Clinics in Massachusetts and Virginia had been the target of terrorist attacks and people on all sides feared for their safety. This is the astonishing story of what ensued: leaders of the abortion rights and anti-abortion movements actually developed deep affection for one another — in spite of their profound differences. As this issue is again an election year lightning rod, the experience of these activists — all women — has much to teach us about how to conduct civil dialogue on emotionally-charged issues in our polarized society. Commented one of the mediators: “One of the surprises for all of them was to realize that each was acting with integrity, and that they were people of good will, acting on what they believed to be right.”

Of special interest: The participants followed specific ground rules for respectful dialogue, as developed by neutral mediators at the Public Conversations Project (now known as Essential Partners in Cambridge, Massachusetts).


It was a very terrible day, a very dark day… [but] the experience we had together, I could never, at that time, have thought it possible.”

—Barbara Thorp, then director of the Pro-Life Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston


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