Commentary  Make up your mind, Choose Life

Choose Life can’t seem to decide whether it’s a SSMU-approved club or a hardcore propagandist society, and it’s shooting itself with indecision. Choose Life makes a habit of showing its commitment to open and civil discussion by creating opportunities for such discussions. Unfortunately, Choose Life has an equally longstanding habit of emotionally priming discussions and minds with provocative imagery and associations, with the aim to shock and provoke guilt. The photos at the crossroads, the signboards at the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, the images at last week’s event: each time, the words “emotional manipulation” come to mind. Moreover, Choose Life makes open and civil discussions less open, and markedly less civil.

Emotional manipulation, reducing “discussion” to a one-way, image-heavy, guilt-causing proclamation: all this has vaguely propagandistic tones. But this isn’t propaganda; it’s all part of a respectful, civil discussion, which is what Choose Life is all about. We know this to be true because Natalie Fohl, the president of Choose Life, says so. Last week, Fohl and Richard Bernier, on behalf of Choose Life (“Choose Life digs its heels in,” Commentary, October 8), stated that “we are committed to … respectful, civil discussion.”

Besides this, Choose Life also keeps trying to hold events to spur two-sided discussion. For that, Fohl is right to defend and define her group as a club, with a club’s commitments and right to protection of opinion. However, she forgets that everyone else has that right; Choose Life is expected to give others the same respect of opinion it receives. In persisting with its tried-and-failed method of discussion, Choose Life has shown it is not living up to this expectation. It is behaving as a propaganda group, a collection of people who don’t care what you think, just want you to think what they think, and don’t care how they make that happen: by putting up fetal photos, by toting signboards, by misusing history with a peculiar inability to foresee the offense that would be generated, and by gussying it up to be civil, thought-provoking material.

In the same article, Fohl states, “We will not allow others to decide before listening to us whether our contribution is legitimate or not.” There’s a reason why such “others” exist. First, people do not need to listen to you before deciding the legitimacy of your contributions. They only need to see the tact, or lack thereof, with which you dress up your contribution. Second, Choose Life fails to uphold its commitment to civil discussion, and its obligation to respect other groups. It succeeds only in ruining whatever credibility the group had as one that encourages level-headed discussion and whose words are worth consideration. Choose Life thereby undermines its own official purpose, to “promote human life and rights from conception to natural death.” Its persistence in behaving the same way despite protest shows that, oddly enough, it really wants to commit club suicide.

This is ultimately depressing because it is an example of how, even in a system that promotes diversity of opinion, people can still massacre their own beliefs simply by promoting them inappropriately. Choose Life is not promoting respect for human life – if anything, it’s promoting ridicule of the pro-life stance – and it’s neither opening itself up to nor establishing its credibility as a proponent of civil discussion. Choose Life’s inconsistency – stating it would cancel “Echoes of the Holocaust,” then deciding to go through with it anyway – highlights the fact that the club does not know whether to cram its message down our throats via emotional manipulation and graphic images, or grow up into a club that gives others respect. Which is something that many are rapidly losing for Choose Life.

Whatever has caused these antics – be it genuine identity crisis, disingenuousness, need for publicity, or total cluelessness – Choose Life’s maybe-I’m-this-maybe-I’m-that dance has been going on too long. Likening abortion to the Holocaust is really just the icing on one huge self-defeating, split-personality cake.

Evelyn Lo is a U1 Biology and Philosophy student. Write her at