Some Speech with Your Freedom

by Kate Larson

Ah, freedom of speech. I was glad to have it at the March for Life, on May 12, and glad to see it used well. I saw many positive things at the march, including a crowd of 15,000, according to reports, a toddler serenely holding a “We Choose Life” sign as big as he was, and people gathered on sidewalks and at the windows of office buildings looking on and sometimes waving at us as the march went by. I hadn’t noticed the latter in previous years and it seemed encouraging. In fact, the whole event was very encouraging, as was the accurate and fairly positive, though not front-page, coverage it received the next day in the Ottawa Citizen. I also saw something that set me thinking about freedom and speech. There was a small pro-choice contingent on the Hill this year, and among the usual slogans, someone was holding a sign saying “I Hate Life.” I don’t know whether it was meant to be a joke, a personal cry for help, or just an attempt to attract attention, but it struck me. It struck me then as tasteless or sad or callous, depending on his intention, but it strikes me now as being the only pro-choice sign I noticed that actually addressed what the day was supposed to be about – life.

Common slogans such as “My Body, My Choice” or “A Woman’s Right to Choose,” which were the types of things I saw on pro-choice signs at the march, don’t make sense when taken at face value. Making choices is a constant in our lives. No one needs to argue for the ability to make any kind of choice because as humans we naturally are able to choose to do whatever we want to do. There are always consequences or outside pressures which make us more or less likely to choose one thing over another, but our actual ability to choose is not under threat. By the same token, the ability to make choices does not need to be enshrined as a right because it is already inalienable. I realize that these kinds of slogans generally mean “I Support Abortion” or “Keep Abortion Legal,” but they don’t explicitly say that. They are hiding a point behind an abstract idea. They are taking advantage of freedom of speech but not saying anything.

I don’t know if the person holding the “I Hate Life” sign really does hate life. I hope not. I suspect not, too, as most people hesitate to be that vulnerable with serious emotions. If he does, I feel sad for him, but also admire his clarity. He is saying what he really means, not hiding behind euphemisms or platitudes. By the same token, the march was a testament to clarity. Signs such as “Abortion Kills a Human Being” and “I Regret My Abortion” meant just that. Hopefully they gave people on the sidewalks and in the office windows something to really think about.

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