Pro-life speaker Mary Meehan was met with general applause and a significant number of boos at her talk on liberal and feminist support for the pro-life cause during an event at McGill on Monday.
The question and answer period, which lasted over an hour, saw many heated and a few virulent arguments.
The talk, organized by Choose Life and entitled “Why Liberals and Feminists Should Defend the Unborn,” drew almost 100 individuals of varying opinions on the issue of abortion. The left side of Leacock 232 attracted the pro-choice supporters, while the pro-life supporters and event organizers opted to sit on the far right.
Meehan criticized the left side’s current position of “worship[ping] at the shrine of choice.”
“Some choices really should not even be considered, because they do involve harming or taking the lives of other people,” she said. “Liberals indeed are anti-choice on many issues… the death penalty, most wars, torture, rape, racial discrimination, and many more. They should add abortion to the list.”
Speaking at length, Meehan suggested the existence of a “eugenics influence” in the pro-choice movement. She alleged that abortion is a new tool used for population control in the United States and around the world.
Meehan also cast abortion as a civil rights issue.
“Early in the 20th century, the eugenicists in the U.S. used compulsory sterilization of poor whites and poor African-Americans to keep their numbers down,” Meehan said. “But eugenicists did not have to use coercion after our Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade…. One of the ways they do it is by supporting public funding of abortion.”
Elise Eisenkraft Klein, U2 Jewish Studies, objected to what she believed was Meehan’s conflation of eugenics and the pro-choice movement.
“Choosing to have an abortion is not the same as forced sterilization,” she said.
Charles Pitman, U2 Economics and Philosophy, argued that support from eugenicists does not invalidate the legitimacy of the pro-choice position.
“All sides of the [abortion] issue have allies that they aren’t proud of. It’s not like the pro-life side has only friends that are reputable,” he said.
Meehan argued that abortions performed after neonatal testing for disabilities were wrong and that access to abortions increases paternal irresponsibility.
“Guys have to talk to guys about walking out [on women]. We need to reinstate the old stigma against guys walking out on their children.”
During the question period, Salma Moolji, U1 International Development Studies, told her story of becoming pro-choice while running a school for abused girls in Nicaragua.
“The day that I decided to be ‘pro-choice’ was the day that I saw the child [of a] child die of starvation…. If I put myself one generation back, I would be in India, where my grandfather was sold into child slave labour…. I might have been that girl.”
A few students in attendance were particularly incensed by Meehan’s sentiments. One such student, Elsa Beaulieu, a PhD candidate in Anthropology, called Meehan “arrogant” and “insidious.” At the end of a detailed and emotional criticism of Meehan’s points, she pleaded, “What about addressing the reality of women’s lives? What about the consequences of illegal abortions on women’s lives? What about it?”
But derogatory comments from the audience toward Meehan convinced Raphael Dumas, U1 Civil Engineering, to reconsider his position.
“Those few rude students actually pushed me in the direction of [the pro-life stance],” Dumas said.
Meehan insisted that her position is not hostile to women who have had abortions.
“I want to say to [those women who have had abortions] that I’m not out to make you feel badly or send you on a guilt trip, but I appeal to you to take another look at this issue, because there are more lives at stake every day. I hope that you will help save some of them.”
Choose Life, granted interim club status by SSMU in October 2008, will be applying for full club status at the end of this month. According to Choose Life’s Community Outreach coordinator Kathryn Sawyer, the group tries to offer resources to “women who want an alternative to abortion” on campus.