How Do You Handle Reproductive Rights?

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As I write this post, a series of presidential directives have already touched on the always-sensitive areas of abortion and reproductive rights.  This is something I don’t usually teach because it is so charged and so polarized, but I am not sure it’s something I can continue to avoid.  I’m wondering if and how others have broached the topic in the writing classroom.


My avoidance of the topic is manifold.  For starters, I find that it’s the kind of topic that fosters debate rather than discussion, and the kind of debate that allows for only two sides with no middle ground.  It’s that lack of middle ground, of subtlety and complexity, that most concerns me since it also suggests it’s the kind of topic that’s extra challenging for students to think about critically, as they have collapsed an enormous issues into a singular stance they all too often are unwilling to examine.


The political and religious dimensions are tricky, too, though not in themselves reasons for me to avoid the topic.  Ultimately, it’s the difficulty of getting students to think about the issue that has historically prevented me from bringing into the classroom.


But perhaps I have been wrong along.  What strategies do you use to discuss abortion or reproductive rights in the classroom?  How do you keep it from being a divisive and polarizing issue?

About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.