W hat are the features that define genocide, and can any of them be meaningfully applied to the phenomenon of abortion – or is that simply an unhelpful, even inflammatory suggestion? Are there any parallels between the language used to depersonalize victimized peoples during the Holocaust, and the language used today in legal and social discourse regarding the human fetus? How can we address the question of the human rights of the unborn in ways that do not jeopardize the rights of adult women? These are some of the questions that Jose Ruba wanted to discuss in his October 6 talk, “Echoes of the Holocaust,” organized by Choose Life.
These questions are controversial. Some of them even divide members of the pro-life community. The event was attended by the curious and the questioning, by supporters of Ruba’s position, by opponents (pro-life and pro-choice) who came to listen and raise real objections and concerns. In the end, none of these questions were discussed, as a group of protesters drowned out all dialogue with a tiresome farce that lasted two hours. Despite polite and repeated invitations to leave or raise objections during the open discussion following the talk, despite the patience of those in attendance who came to engage with the issues and calmly waited for the lecture to proceed, the evening was entirely consumed by the churlish antics of a few.
The title of the talk was controversial, and unquestionably open to debate. Concerns about the content of the talk were based on hearsay and innuendo, and Choose Life has been implicated by insinuation with any number of opinions that we explicitly repudiate. Despite intolerable and slanderous suggestions to the contrary, Choose Life does not believe and will never support the claim that Canada is like Nazi Germany, or that post-abortive women are in any respect like Nazis. Choose Life is committed to defending the dignity of human life from conception onward, and we will not be cowed by insults into keeping quiet, as long as a portion of the human family is marginalized by depersonalizing language and unjust actions.
There are many pro-life students at McGill, completely committed to raising awareness about the oppression of the human person in the fetal stage. There are many others who are firmly pro-choice, who wish to hear what the other side has to say, or make the most of opportunities to change the minds of their opponents through rational discussion. A third constituency is the cohort of students who aren’t sure what they believe about the rights of the unborn but who want the chance to craft their own informed opinion. For these reasons, for these students, Choose Life isn’t going anywhere. We will not go away, no matter how often our right to engage in civil conversation is disrupted and violated.
Choose Life appreciates the professionalism of McGill University’s administration, which made every effort to allow the event to proceed peacefully. We are vividly aware that some students feel nervous about the discussion of abortion, and are sensitive to the fact that some members of the McGill community feel unsafe or harassed by the presence of certain kinds of pro-life discourse on campus. Choose Life is absolutely committed to transparency and to respectful, civil discussion, and we welcome any suggestions or dialogue that will help us to occupy our place on campus in as constructive and non-threatening a way as possible. That civil, courteous, safe dialogue is possible and desirable, we have no doubt at all; we passionately desire peace of mind and a safe space for every single student.
This is our commitment. This is our commitment because we are here, and here to stay. We will not sit down and shut up. We will not allow others to decide before listening to us whether our contribution is legitimate or not. We will not try to drown out those who disagree with us. We will not be silenced.
Natalie Fohl is a U3 Biology and Political Science student and the president of Choose Life. Richard Bernier is a PhD IV Religious Studies student. Write them at firstname.lastname@example.org.