To make a true choice, one needs two things: information and resources. Without information on a given subject, one cannot make an informed, educated choice. We get up in arms when we feel as though our politicians have “hidden agendas,” precisely because in our democratic society that would mean our vote was an uninformed one: it might not have reflected our true opinions, and we might regret our choice of candidate. Secondly, we need resources. A choice made without access to real options is not a true choice at all.
Twenty-one years ago, the last laws regulating abortion in Canada were struck down, making our country one of the few in the West with no restrictions on abortion. Finally, Canadian women had gained the right to chose whether or not to have a legal abortion. However, 21 years later, I question how far we have really come. Information about abortion procedures, the possible psychological side effects of abortion and its impact on fertility, as well as information about the development of the fetus, is not readily available to women. It is not readily available because this information is often considered “oppressive”; it is often thought that it will make women “feel bad” – rhetoric we hear all too often on our campus.
At previous Choose Life events, members of the club shared information about abortion and fetal development. As in the past, the protestors at Jose Ruba’s presentation felt the need to censor this information. The protestors at Ruba’s talk said the images of abortion he projected were “disgusting.” What are we really saying? Women are too emotionally fragile to handle information about their bodies and about the important decisions they have to make? As a woman, I take great offense to that.
The “abortion distortion,” a term coined by Rachel MacNair, a pro-life feminist and psychologist, describes the phenomenon where, when abortion is mentioned, a double standard comes into play, even when women’s health is at stake. The distortion happens when valid studies about the negative effects of abortion on women are ignored, when side effects of abortion are kept under wraps, and when dialogue on an issue affecting thousands of women and men is suppressed and labelled oppressive. Is not the suppression of this dialogue in itself oppressive? The abortion debate is far from settled in Canada. The uproar in the summer of 2008 over the awarding of the Order of Canada to Henry Morgentaler, the physician and abortion rights activist, is just one testament out of many to that fact.
SSMU should not allow themselves to be bullied into suppressing this dialogue on campus and oppressing women by denying their right to information about their bodies and abortion. Choose Life is a group on campus where women can get access to pregnancy information and resources – for example, through the organization Birthright International – that don’t rely overmuch on abortion. In the name of free speech, the freedom of assembly, and women’s rights to information and resources, Choose Life must be allowed to exist and hold events on campus.
Both by providing women with support in their pregnancies through information and resources as well as by working toward putting responsibility back into sex, and thereby, working to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place, we can continue to truly liberate women. This can be accomplished by protecting their reproductive rights in honest ways that do not interfere with the legal status of abortion.
Andrea Paolucci received her B.A. in psychology in 2009, and is currently a special student. She’s also a Choose Life member. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.