We applaud SSMU Council’s decision to censure Choose Life’s event planned for this week, a talk given by anti-abortion activist Jose Ruba entitled “Echoes of the Holocaust.” In the aftermath of this resolution, Choose Life needs to re-evaluate its tactics and rhetoric.
The most recent event hosted by the group – a presentation by the Silent No More Awareness Campaign – marked a break with the more subdued tactics Choose Life employed last year. Ruba’s talk would have been even more confrontational: Ruba is the co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, the organization behind the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP). The GAP campaign draws parallels between legalized abortion and genocides, most often the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide. By inviting and endorsing Ruba despite his ludicrous misappropriation of genocide, Choose Life has indicated that it is not interested in constructive dialogue about women’s choices, including non-abortion options. Instead, they appear intent on delegitimizing any potential dialogue and using shock tactics to silence possible dissent. Any comparison of your interlocutors to Nazis – implicit or explicit – invalidates all their arguments and effectively end the conversation.
Simplistic rhetoric is nothing new to this debate. Last January, Choose Life hosted a talk by Mary Meehan, an anti-abortion activist who likened the practice to eugenics. But never before has a Choose Life event featured graphic images of aborted fetuses like those that Ruba typically employs in his speeches, images which surely would have been used at his McGill talk. What’s more, those pictures would have been juxtaposed with photographs of victims of the Holocaust and other genocides. Invoking memories of the Holocaust to shame women who have made difficult choices is both repulsive and misleading; it is a moral wrong regardless of the ideology behind it.
Unfortunately, Choose Life has already earned a track record for misinformation this year. Choose Life members distributed pamphlets from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign claiming that abortion causes breast cancer, a notion thoroughly disproved by medical science. At the same event, other literature was handed out stating that abortion is a form of racism, because women from visible minorities have a disproportionately high rate of abortions. This argument is simplistic and false. Advancing this conclusion rather than questioning the socioeconomic factors that influence abortion rates in minority communities is intellectually dishonest and manipulative.
In their mandate, Choose Life pledges to “[encourage] dialogue on life issues, such as sexual ethics, pregnancy, child development, abortion, adoption and parenthood.” Such a claim is disingenuous as long as the club’s invitation to talk compares pro-choice positions to Nazism. We suggest that in the future, Choose Life honour its own mandate and foster legitimate dialogue on campus.