The most contentious debate here and in the political arena at large usually center around the question of life with abortion and embryonic stem-cell research. The question remains – how to discuss the issue with honesty, but also with civility and understanding.

On the issue of abortion, the word “murder” is viewed as being a debate stopper. How do you debate or discuss with someone who views those on the opposite side as complicit in murder?

My belief is that you do it just like any other highly-charged issue oriented debate. You acknowledge the difference, seek to find common ground and use reason to exchange ideas. This can be extremely difficult for those on either side. (I know from personally experience.)

I try to understand the other side and I try to be civil during debates on abortion. But I also think that honesty is just as important.

I try not to use the word “murder” because it forces the debate away from the real issues and toward one dealing with semantics more than anything else. However when pushed to say what I believe about abortion, I cannot help but to be honest. It would not move the debate forward at all if I lied about my beliefs. You have to know and understand the positions of the other side in order to engage in a discussion.

When the discussion turns toward ESCR, the shoe usually goes toward the other foot. When pushed to be honest about their feelings, often supporters of ESCR claim that those opposed “don’t care about sick people.” That sentiment can be just as toxic to a debate as “murder” in the abortion debate.

I understand the thought process behind it. Supporters of ESCR believe that it will produce numerous cures for a myriad of sicknesses. Those of us who oppose it are needless interfering with progress that will save lives. That leads to frustration and the claims of “not caring.”

Just as those who support abortion don’t view it as murder, I don’t view my opposition to ESCR as a lack of concern for those affected by diseases. My family is personally impacted by many of the sicknesses that ESCR advocates claim can be cured. My grandmother recently died with Alzheimer’s. My mother is currently struggling with Parkinson’s (they think), which is the same disease that drove Michael J. Fox to support ESCR. I do care about curing these disease, just not at the expense of human life.

So what is the best way to frame and discuss these issues without feeling like you should attack and have been attacked? How can those on either side of the debate remain both honest and civil, while understanding each other’s viewpoint? I do believe it possible to discuss and debate these issues in a positive manner and do not share the belief that these issues must lead to violence from one or both sides. So, how do we do it?