This Thursday, January 24, Stephanie Gray will be presenting The Abortion Debate: A Scientific and Philosophical Review in Ottawa. The event starts at 7:30 pm and is at Dominican College, 96 Empress Avenue. Thanks go to Saint Paul Students for Life for organizing it. This is a great opportunity to hear an experienced speaker lay out the arguments surrounding abortion clearly and cohesively. See you there!
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 James Richmond
I somewhat recently attended a debate hosted by uOttawa Students for Life in mid-November. At this debate, the pro-choice debater, Jovan Morales, posed an often used argument which presents abortion as a ‘harm-reduction’ solution. Essentially, this position proposes that without legalized abortion, women will seek ‘back-alley abortions’ in non-sterile environments where the possibility of infection and maternal mortality is much higher.
There are a number of issues with this argument, and I will briefly address two of them. The first is that I see this approach as merely a band-aid solution. Legalizing abortions to give women access to sterile facilities with skilled physicians does not address what led the women to seek abortion in the first place: Was it a boyfriend who does not wish to deal with the consequences of his actions? Parents who want to avoid family embarrassment? The terrible trauma of rape? The woman who does not want her life to be disrupted by having a child? A lack of support from family and friends? In these situations, I believe there is a cultural problem rather than a medical one. Western culture is self-centric in that we place utmost importance on our personal choices: What is it I want to do? How does this affect me? What about asking what exactly is at stake when it comes to abortion, and more precisely who? We know beyond a shadow of scientific doubt that the preborn are human beings and as such their lives must be protected along with their mothers’.
Furthermore, if the foundation of the argument is based on the health of the mother, institutionalized abortion is no guarantee of even a decrease in maternal mortality rates. A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) titled “Trends in Maternal Mortality” discovered that from 1990 to 2008, after the legalization of abortion, the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of Canada increased by 94 percent (28) and the MMR of the United States increased 96 percent (32). Legalized abortion is clearly no panacea for women’s health.
The ‘harm-reduction’ argument is also used to push for abortion clinics in developing countries. The National Right to Life group published an article which discusses the myth proposed above by Mr. Morales. I encourage you to read the short document, “Why legalized abortion is not good for women’s health.”