A few weeks ago, members of uOttawa Students for Life did some chalking around campus, helping to bring messages of truth and of love for preborn children and their mothers to our fellow students.
by Angela Hardy
“Le foetus n’est pas un parasite” – “The fetus is not a parasite,” our professor reminded us over and over again during the pre-natal lecture of our life cycle nutrition course here at the University of Ottawa.
This parasitic notion of pregnancy is disconcerting at best, but the fact remains that there have previously been misunderstandings surrounding the distribution of nutrients and energy to the fetus during a pregnancy. The medical definition of parasite is compound, i.e. a definition with two necessary parts. It implies not only that an organism is “living in, with, or on another organism” – a point that would apply in the case of a fetus, but also that that existence entails a degree of harm or is a detriment to the host, i.e. a parasite as a cause of disease.1 The parasitic notion of pregnancy is based on the misconception that the needs of the fetus take precedence over those of the mother, thus putting the mother at risk of inadequate amounts of energy and nutrients. For any human being, an inadequate absorption of nutrients is at the root of many diseases and health complications. If the precedence of the fetus were the mechanism at play during pregnancy, there would be a possibility that the presence of the fetus were causing a degree of harm to the mother, and the argument for a parasitic notion of pregnancy could be re-assessed. However, this phenomenon has been scientifically disproven.
The nutritional status of a pregnant woman is determined first and foremost by the foods and supplements that she ingests. Her needs are fulfilled prior to the allocation of nutrients to the fetus. Some very interesting studies on this topic have been conducted based on the statistics of the Dutch famine of 1944-45. The disruption in the nutritional status of the mothers was, on average, no more severe than that of other non-pregnant women who lived through the famine. However, the adverse effects on the fetuses carried by these pregnant women had long-term consequences which are under study to the present day. Even at critical windows of fetal development, the required nutrients were not delivered to the fetus until the mother’s requirements had been fulfilled. Many consequences have been identified as a result of the allocation of nutrients to the bodies of pregnant mothers before the children in their wombs.2, 3
So what does all this mean to the pro-life cause? Is the fact that the fetus is not a parasite one more set of attestable facts we can add to our reserve of pro-life apologetics? Does it boil down to the reassurance that science is “on our side”? Although these and many other compelling facts about fetal development are invaluable to the movement, the bare truth remains that abortion is not only about facts. It is about people. It is about human beings. Most specifically, it is about two human beings – a woman and the child within her womb. When a woman finds herself in a crisis pregnancy situation, it is not likely Dutch famine statistics and nutrient battles that overwhelm her thoughts. It is the stress of her present situation, the undeniable attachment to her child, and the questions about the future of herself and her child. She may be struggling with very real personal difficulties, to which we may or may not be able to relate. As pro-lifers, we must not judge and condemn, but rather offer our compassion and support. The real and ultimate goal of our efforts is that mother and baby will both make it through those nine months – alive!
1 Parasite. Merriam-Webster Dictionary online
2 Prenatal nutrition and the human fetus. Nutr Rev. 1971 Sep;29(9):197-9.
3 Effects of prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine on adult disease in later life: an overview. Twin Res. 2001 Oct ;4(5):293-8.
by Kelden Formosa
The tall, angry young man had just screamed “semantic witch” at the young woman at the lectern several rows before him. It seems he didn’t like what she had to say – her argument that abortion kills a human being did not appeal to his pro-choice sensibilities, apparently. You would think that Stephanie Gray, the pro-life debater and executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform, might have stumbled, but instead she continued on with her point, taking it all in stride, as the man walked out of the university hall.
The young man was a pro-choice audience member at the abortion debate organized by the University of Ottawa Students for Life and the U of O Med Students for Life this past year. It’s been a few months since the big debate – one which divided our campus and provoked real controversy – but looking back on it now, I think it provides us with some important insights on the future of the continuing public debate on abortion in Canada.
As one of those involved in the organization of the debate (full disclosure), I was quite happy to welcome even the most militant pro-choice activists, including the young man mentioned prior. It is the challenge of pro-life activists to change the hearts and minds of those who disagree with us. Debates, conferences, advertising, writing – pro-life Canadians have done it all, in the hopes that one day human life might be protected from conception unto natural death.
We’ve done it in the face of intense pressure to resign ourselves to the abortion status quo. Our opponents can’t even believe pro-lifers are still around and have even greater difficulty believing that young people and university students could ever be pro-life. For them, the debate ended in 1988, when the Supreme Court allowed for abortion in Canada without any restriction, throughout all nine months of pregnancy. The appalling statistics about abortion in Canada and around the world have barely registered in the consciousness of today’s pro-choice activists: that one in four unborn children will be aborted, including 90% of children prenatally diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, and a higher proportion of female children than male ones, seems quite unimportant to them and most of the mainstream media.
But, like it or not, the debate continues. It continues in families and amongst friends, in classrooms and in churches, and most poignantly, in the hearts and minds of vulnerable women who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. And this continuation of the debate is the saving grace for the pro-life movement. Because it means that we’re still not comfortable with abortion – that ending the life of an unborn child still strikes us as morally troubling. For pro-lifers, this is cause for hope.
For pro-choicers, this apparently is cause for fear. Before our abortion debate even happened, dozens of major pro-choice activists rejected our club’s invitation to debate. We offered them the opportunity to confront a leading Canadian “anti-choicer” in an open forum, with a neutral moderator. Yet they said no: Dr. Kathryn Treehuba, a U of O professor and abortion provider; Dr. Fraser Fellow, a UWO professor and abortion provider; Joyce Arthur, of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada; Sandra Rogers, a U of O professor; Wayne Sumner, a U of T professor; Heather Holland, of Planned Parenthood Ottawa; representatives from Canadians for Choice, Action Canada for Population and Development and the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health – all of them refused to debate abortion.
So our club decided to hold them accountable. We put up controversial posters highlighting their refusal and wrote a letter to the editor of the student newspaper, making the debate invitation open to all comers. Eventually Jovan Morales, of the Atheist Community of the University of Ottawa, stepped up to the plate to represent the pro-choice side. It seemed for a moment that we would have a civil, if less than ideal, dialogue on abortion.
But it was not to be. Radical pro-choice activists, many of whom are associated with the Women’s Resource Centre of the Student Federation, decided to come out to our debate in force. This would have been great – if they were really there to engage in a reasoned debate. Instead, they brought their posters and their slogans and their raucous attitudes and little else. Holding signs that declared, “An egg is not a chicken” and “My Body/My Choice,” these activists heckled Ms. Gray, the pro-life speaker, menaced elderly debate attendees and shouted “bulls***” and “what the f***” in response to many of the points made by Ms. Gray. Particularly atrocious was the sign declaring, “I hope the foetus you ‘save’ is gay.” For the record, I wouldn’t mind at all.
But why were they so rude and disruptive? Why not just win the audience over with the logic and eloquence of the pro-choice message? I submit that their behaviour betrays the weakness of their own position. Perhaps it’s just the philosophy major in me, but “My Body/My Choice” is a far better slogan than logical argument. As Ms. Gray said: sure, I have freedom over my body – I can swing my arm, for example – but that freedom ends when it injures another person, e.g. swinging my arm to punch them in the face. When the right to choose ends the life of another person, we can and must restrict it. Similarly, it’s true that an egg is not a chicken, but a preborn child is not an egg – it is a fully human organism, genetically distinct and having within itself the means of its own continuance. Fallacies like the ones presented lie at the heart of pro-choice argumentation.
Now it is possible to be pro-choice and philosophically consistent: you simply have to believe that it is alright to kill innocent human beings simply for convenience’s sake. In my experience though, pro-choice people are just as kind and compassionate as pro-life ones. Few would adopt such a radical position. Instead, not being trained in critical reasoning and open to legitimate concerns of women facing unplanned pregnancy, many accept pro-choice fallacies to justify what is really the easy position on abortion. Pro-lifers recognize that women in need deserve real support and real options and the preborn deserve the most basic of rights – the right to life.
Strikingly, when Ms. Gray showed pictures of aborted children in her presentation, I detected a palpable sense of unease come over the pro-choice activists. Standing near their seats at back of the room, I heard them mutter “these aren’t real” and “it’s not true.” But sadly the images were – medically accurate filming of real, live abortion procedures. If they can’t bring themselves to accept the truth of what they support, then perhaps they aren’t as committed to pro-choice ideology as they would have you believe. And that, more than anything, is cause for hope.
by Marissa Poisson
From our neighbours to the south at Abort73:
There have been at least two other instances in American history in which specific groups of human beings were stripped of their rights of personhood as a means of justifying horrific mistreatment. African-Americans and Native-Americans both felt the brunt of a system which tried to create the artificial classification: human, non-person. This distinction wasn’t based on an honest evaluation of the evidence, but with an eye towards justifying a specific action. In the case of Native-Americans, they had land. In the case of African-Americans, they had labor. Classifying them as non-persons (even property) provided a moral framework for those in power to forcefully take what they wanted without compensation. Today, “unwanted,” unborn children don’t hold anything as tangible as land or labor, but their claims on those who would eliminate them are no less significant. They stand in the way of an unencumbered, more self-absorbed lifestyle. Once again, this notion that human beings can be classified as “non-persons” is not built on an objective assessment of the facts, but with an eye towards justifying abortion.
Randy Alcorn’s ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments is a book I’d like to have on hand at all times. I think it should be required reading in high schools and in university ethics, journalism, public policy, and women’s studies classes. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Divided into sections by type of argument, it takes every common pro-choice statement or question and lays out all of the counter arguments. Alcorn doesn’t shrink from his subject matter, but his tone is calm and rational, not hectoring. He relies on a commendable variety of sources; the book contains 789 citations including both pro-life and pro-choice literature, secular media, congressional testimony, and personal conversations with former abortion providers. The last section of the book contains a variety of further resources – appeals to different groups of people affected by, supportive of, complicit in or working against abortion, a section on finding forgiveness after abortion, a list of pro-life resources, sections on chemical abortions and birth control, biblical passages and a bible study lesson on life issues, ways of giving practical help to the unborn and their mothers, ways of communicating the pro-life message, and a sermon and position statement on the sanctity of life that he delivered at his church. Alcorn is a former Protestant pastor and, now, a writer and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries. In the book, he makes clear his background, beliefs and pro-life activities. He augments some of his arguments with his own experiences, but never substitutes subjective arguments for factual ones.
I have only two caveats about the book, and they are hardly even that. First, being American, the book refers to American laws, statistics and resources, though I noticed one Canadian pro-life organization in the resource list. That takes nothing away from the usefulness of this book to Canadian pro-lifers, but it would be great to have a Canadian edition with a list of Canadian resources.
Second, the book is difficult to read all at once because the subject matter and some of the information can be depressing. Of course, as the introduction states, it is not meant to be read straight through, but rather to be used as a reference.
All things considered, ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments is an excellent resource for everyone – those who may not have considered life issues at all, those who may have questions, and those who thought they had all the answers, whether pro-life or pro-choice.
Thank you to all those who came to the debate and who helped make it happen. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, watch it here:
(For more footage of past uOSFL events, see our Videos page.)
by Alana Beddoe
So the school year is upon us and maybe this is the first year you aren’t going back to the grind. What is your role in the pro-life movement now?
Here are a few ideas:
-Get involved in projects with Action Life or Campaign Life Coalition; there are events that take place through the year that need planning and advertising.
-Volunteer to speak in front of high school students.
-Offer to mentor new members in the pro-life club that you were part of.
-Participate in the 40 Days for Life campaign taking place from Sept. 28 to Nov. 6 in Ottawa in front of the abortion clinic on Bank St.
-If you are involved with a faith group, volunteer to steer the pro-life committee.
-Support pro-life organizations financially.
Remember that the people you work with might need a listening ear and someone to explain the pro-life message to them. So stay up to date with pro-life apologetics!