Tag Archives: by Kate

Review of Randy Alcorn’s ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments


by Kate Larson

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.

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Signs of Life

by Kate Larson

I recently went on a road trip to Saskatoon, crossing into the US at Sault-Ste-Marie, and passing through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, before crossing into Manitoba and going on to Saskatchewan. In several of the places I passed through, in both the US and Canada, I saw something that surprised and delighted me. Periodically, at the side of the road and, in one instance, on a billboard, I saw pro-life signs. They said things like “An embryo is a baby too,” “Human life is a gift, protect it” and “Life…a beautiful choice.” The billboard sported a picture of an inquisitive looking baby with the words “I could dream before I was born.” One of the signs was outside of a church, but the others were just there, along the road, where one might usually see signs for tourist attractions, stores or hotels. No one had knocked them down or defaced them; they were just part of the landscape, and that was what struck me most about them.

The aim of the pro-life movement is to work toward making abortion and euthanasia unthinkable. The opposition that students face in getting their pro-life views heard on campus, and the way the media gives scant and often skeptical coverage to pro-life events, could lead one to believe that the pro-life position occupies a miniscule place on the fringes of society. Yet, what is more mainstream than roadside signs? They advertise everything from burgers to candidates to atheism. Some may not be to our liking, and maybe some people feel upset when they see pro-life signs. Others must feel uplifted, as I did. Others still might just ignore the signs because they have seen them a hundred times. My point is not so much the response as the fact that the signs are there. They are part of everyday life and seem to indicate that the pro-life position is more a part of everyday life than we may have been led to believe.

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.

A Wrong Step in the Right Direction

by Kate Larson

According to an article I came across recently, the state of Arizona has just banned abortions performed because of a baby’s race or gender. While I rejoice at anything that could save lives, I fear this will not do so. In fact, I feel it will be ineffective on two fronts: that of doing what it is meant to and that of leading to a more comprehensive ban.

According to the article, the legislation will lead to criminal charges for doctors who are found to have performed abortions because of a baby’s race or gender. However, it will not explicitly require women seeking abortions to give their reasons. Therefore, how could it be proven that an abortion was performed on such grounds? Even if women were required to disclose their reasons, what would stop them from stating reasons other than the ones they know to be against the law? No reasons, other then medical ones, can really be verified. What’s more, a doctor’s intentions would be difficult to prove.

As for this legislation leading to a more comprehensive ban, it is unclear whether that is the intention. The article quotes a spokesperson for the governor saying that the legislation is “consistent with her pro-life track record” but also claims that the ban’s supporters feel it has more to do with racial bias than with abortion. I would hope that it would preface further anti-abortion legislation, but I cannot see how it could as it misses the main thrust of the pro-life position, which is that the pre-born child is a living human and, as such, should not be killed for any reason. It has inherent value, and, as with any other human being outside of the womb, its size, age, ability, or, indeed, gender or race do not decrease or increase its value. Banning only abortions performed because of gender or race implies that, while these reasons for aborting are not acceptable, other reasons are. Basing legislation on this false premise does not bode well for further legislation.

Despite this ban being, in my opinion, completely ineffective, it seems to be well-meaning. Both its good intentions and its wrong-headedness emphasize to me the need for pro-life groups, like uOSFL, to continue to engage future leaders with their information and events. The more people are given complete information and inspired to stand up for their convictions, the more good intentions may translate into appropriate and effective policy.

The Pain of Abortion

by Kate Larson

If, like me, you were unable to attend the Silent No More event on Feb. 2, I direct you to their website where you can listen to or read stories from women who have regretted their abortions and found healing. The stories are short, but there is a lot of pain in them, pain in the circumstances leading up to the abortions, pain in the procedures themselves, pain in the fear, self-loathing, depression and other negative emotions many women experienced before, during and after the abortions, pain in their regret at the decision, and pain in the healing process. The stories, however, end hopefully. While the regret at choosing abortion does not go away and has led these women to speak out, the stories describe finding forgiveness both from others and from themselves, and experiencing a sense of being set free from the past.

The latter cannot be said of the comparatively few testimonies I have come across from women who apparently do not regret their abortions. They may genuinely feel this way, or genuinely believe they feel this way. They are entitled to their opinion. What strikes me about these stories, however, is how much more negative they are than the stories of regret, despite being considered “positive” experiences of abortion. I don’t just mean negative in the obvious sense of considering that there is nothing regrettable in ending a human life. I mean negative in the sense that they detail all the pain of the stories of regret without the redemption.

Many of the “no regrets” stories describe women being in the same situations and experiencing the same fear, anger, shame, and pressure upon discovering they were pregnant as they do in the stories of regret. Both types of stories describe women having similar reactions during and after their abortions, such as crying, hatred of themselves and those around them, initial relief, and emptiness. The main difference is in how most of the stories conclude. The stories on the Silent No More website end with the admission that, though the hurt caused by abortion never goes away, healing is possible. Many of the so-called “positive” stories of abortion conclude that the author has no regrets because she considers herself undeserving or unfit to be a parent, because she has made and sees herself continuing to make bad decisions, or simply because she did not know of, or wish to know of, any other option at the time. Far from proving that the negative consequences of abortion are either non-existent or inconsequential, the “no regrets” stories show women in pain and as in need of healing as the women of Silent No More. The real difference is that the women of Silent No More have found healing and want to help others begin that long process.

Life is Wonderful

by Kate Larson

 As Christmas approaches, many people will make time to watch It’s a Wonderful Life at least once. Having seen it again recently myself, I was struck by some parallels between the pro-life movement and George’s story.

First, here is a brief synopsis for those unfamiliar with the movie. (Those who have been eagerly anticipating seeing it again since the credits rolled last year are invited to skip to the next paragraph.) George Bailey has big dreams. He wants to travel the world and then become a great architect. Every time he’s about to leave Bedford Falls, however, something comes up that requires him to choose between what he ought to do and what he saw himself doing. He ends up taking over the family business, providing loans to ordinary working people who would otherwise be swindled by the town mogul, Henry Potter. Thanks to him, his neighbours start successful businesses and own their own homes. Time and again he stands up to consummate businessman Potter, and just manages to keep operating. Then, thanks to his uncle and business partner accidently misplacing $8,000 that was meant for the business’s otherwise empty bank account, George faces the closure of his business and a prison sentence. There seems to be no solution and, in despair, he considers drowning himself. Fortunately, his family prays for him and an angel, Clarence, is sent to earth to convince him of the value of his life. Clarence shows George what the world would have been like if he had never been born and thus enables him to appreciate what he has and to see that his integrity has been rewarded. Rather than not achieving his dreams, he has achieved them in a more profound and fulfilling way than he could have envisioned.

I see three parallels between George’s experience and the pro-life movement. The first is that we too have a big dream, one of the biggest anyone could have, to render abortion and euthanasia unthinkable. It is so big that it may take more than your or my lifetime to achieve it. We may carry on, standing up for life at every opportunity, but feel that the world around us hasn’t changed. Yet we don’t know how our actions affect others. Aside from loaning the residents of Bedford Falls the money to have houses and businesses, George did three vital things. He saved his brother’s life, he prevented a child’s death by pointing out a mistake made by his first boss, Mr. Gower, and he married and had children. Yet, when he was shown what life would’ve been like without him, he was shocked to see that his brother had died, that Mr. Gower was homeless after serving twenty years in prison, that his wife had never married and that his children did not exist. He measured his actions against his dreams and was, therefore, blind to their good. Just because we have not achieved our big dream does not mean we are not getting there. When we are protesting, it is easier to hear the insults shouted at us than to see the person who takes quiet note of our signs. Meanwhile, that person’s life could have been profoundly affected and they could, in turn, profoundly affect, even save, the life of someone else. We may not always be able to see it, but that does not mean that change is not being wrought and that that change may not be deeper and last longer than we could imagine.

The second parallel is that it is not easy fighting for our cause. Like George, we are the underdogs. Henry Potter is the pro-choice status quo of our university campuses and our society-at-large. He believes that there are no vulnerable people, only problems. He proposes solutions that seem reasonable but are cruel. He seems to be helpful, but only hurts. No, being pro-life is not easy, but nothing of such importance can be.

This brings us to the third parallel. Like George, we in the pro-life movement can get discouraged to the point where we consider stopping our work. At the moment, some campus pro-life clubs are having to go to court for the right to exist. Talks are being shouted down and protests prevented. We may seem to be, as George seemed to be, in an untenable position. Fortunately, we already know two major things that George learned, that life is wonderful and that everyone should have the chance to be born and contribute to their world. When Clarence was fighting to save George’s life, it seemed at first like a losing battle. However, he didn’t give up and neither should we.

What’s Wrong With an Emotional Response?

by Kate Larson

The October 4th arrest of students at Carleton University about to take part in the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), the display of graphic posters comparing abortion to the Holocaust and similar atrocities, made me think about the use of images in discussions of abortion. At both this year’s and last year’s abortion debates hosted by Ottawa Students for Life, the pro-choice speakers re-iterated the common argument that the use of images of abortion in discussions of the subject is intellectually dishonest and emotionally manipulative. This implies a number of things: firstly that images are being used in place of logical arguments, rather than to enhance them or to promote discussion of them, secondly that words are somehow neutral and have no manipulative power of their own, and lastly that emotions have no place in just decision-making.

            The National Campus Life Network website is just one place where rational arguments against abortion are laid out clearly and compellingly. No images are used to fill logical holes. There are no holes to fill. As for the OSFL debates, full logical justification of the pro-life position was given. A short video was shown of an abortion being performed, and the audience was warned that it might be disturbing and that they were welcome to cover their eyes or turn away if they wished. The video did not substitute for any argument, but only served to remind the audience, if they chose to view it, of the reality of something that is too horrifying for words to adequately convey.

            This brings us to the emotional resonance of words. Words can be carefully chosen to increase or decrease the emotional impact of what a person is saying. They are certainly not mere servants of fact. One has only to consider how abortion is often referred to in society to see that. Terms such as “a woman’s right to choose” or umbrella terms such as “reproductive rights”, “reproductive freedom”, “reproductive choice”, and “body rights” are not factual references, they are names chosen to make the killing of babies sound positive, desirable, and even necessary. It seems to me there can be no intellectual honesty and lack of emotional manipulation in a position that doesn’t even properly name what it attempts to justify.

            Why do we debate issues such as abortion? We do so because we do not live by logic alone. The desire to make just decisions is motivated not by statistics or cost-benefit analysis but by love and compassion for others and hope that our society will be better for everyone if we do what is right and oppose what is wrong. Logical argument is important, but it is this love and compassion and hope that makes us more than automatons and ought to help ensure that we do not blithely allow innocent human beings to be killed. Of course people will have an emotional response to images of abortion: the images are awful. They are also real and no amount of rhetoric is going to make them seem positive, desirable, or necessary.