At the event hosted by McGill’s Choose Life club last Thursday, three spea-kers from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign shared their personal experiences with the negative effects of abortion – in the hope, they emphasized, of warning students of the dangers of a practice that the rest of society promotes as an easy, straightforward solution to unwanted pregnancy.
Angelina, one of the speakers with the Campaign, criticized a co-worker who suggested she get an abortion when she found out she was pregnant after being date-raped. “My fears were used against me,” she said. Just mentioning that there was a way to terminate her pregnancy without outlining the potential consequences, she asserted, helped manipulate her into a choice she later regretted.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what Choose Life and the speakers they bring to campus are doing: using scare tactics to influence young women into making a particular choice. Preying on women’s fears with horror stories, rather than laying out the consequences of all possible actions in a non-partisan way, muddies an issue that is already difficult to see with clarity, a choice between options that all carry significant consequences.
Everyone has the ability to make his or her own decisions and cannot be “forced” into something by listening to a talk. They can be intimidated and unfairly manipulated, however, and Silent No
More’s pretensions of being a support group open to sharing the deeply personal experience of abortion while pushing a clear anti-abortion agenda, made the event more than problematic.
Abortion isn’t like any other intellectual issue – deciding what action to take when dealing wih an unplanned pregnancy is a question that goes to the most intimate spheres of our existence. Personal, political, and practical considerations come to a head around it. Burdening this already difficult thought process with fear and intimidation only hinders it and does harm to people faced with this choice.
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for how to live responsibly, a concept the speakers invoked repeatedly, as opposed to taking “the easy way out” by getting an abortion. Responsibility is the outcome of balancing the well-being of everyone who stands to be affected by your actions, of weighing complex and contradictory considerations. This includes the future welfare of the unborn child: the socioeconomic realities the mother will have to face, whether the child is going to be entering a life in which they can be adequately provided for, and whether they are set up from the start to be treated as a burden. The view that every fetus is akin to a living human being, and has the same right to survival, is in itself a hot-button issue that should be debated independently and not glossed over as a “fact.”
Choose Life has a track record for engaging in shock tactics – many students were upset last November by their public display of images of fetuses at the crossroads. At Thursday’s event, students were confronted with an image of crowds of women with the words “I regret my abortion” written over them – the subtext being that, if all these women regret their abortions, you probably should too.
Their rhetoric is only about to get more outrageous: next Tuesday, Choose Life will host a speaker who likens abortion to the Holocaust. While Choose Life’s mandate dictates that the club “educate” students on the pro-life position and “encourage dialogue,” their events don’t appear to be productive forums for student debate. Instead, they rely on shock and fear to pressure students not to have abortions. This is why we don’t think Choose Life has a place on campus, and support the motion at SSMU Council to censure them.
SSMU’s priority should be to equip students to weigh their options as best they can when facing this decision, and to protect them from anyone trying to prey on their fears and exploit them as vehicles for an abortion-related agenda. This goes for the corporate interests behind the abortion industry that the speakers criticized on Thursday, as well as groups with religious or otherwise ideological anti-abortion agendas.
Public debate about abortion should continue on campus. But when it comes to such a polarizing and emotional question, the best facilitators for a discussion on abortion experiences, counseling, and education are those without a political or religious agenda, like McGill Health Services, the Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students’ Society, or members of the Union for Gender Empowerment, who are trained to be active, non-partisan listeners.
Let’s make sure that fewer people get a one-sided version of this issue; that fewer people look back in anger and regret on choices they would have made different had they not been intimidated into them; that more people can weigh all the consequences of all possible actions alongside each other and make more informed choices.
Braden Goyette is a Master’s I German studies student and Erin Hale is a U3 Philosophy and IDS student. They are respectively the Mind&Body and coordinating News editors. Write them at firstname.lastname@example.org.