Commentary  Against pro-life groups

Anti-abortion organizations have no place on campus

As co-authors of the GA motion re: discriminatory groups, we feel obliged to respond to resistance to our motion, which has crept up through The Daily and in heated conversations across McGill. The argument with which we are often first confronted, articulated most recently by Braden Goyette in her article “Stay classy, pro-choice crowd” (Commentary, February 4), waves a disapproving finger and accuses us of “encouraging” Choose Life. If only we had let this club run its pro-life course, they would have recognized the apathy as a sign of the futility of their position.

The problem with this logic is that it requires that we, in addition to ignoring Choose Life, turn a blind eye to the harms that Choose Life’s existence perpetrates, and disregard the precarious position in which access to abortion is currently situated. By not confronting those who seek to restrict access to abortion services, we would be further legitimizing the abysmal accessibility of abortion services in northern and rural communities. To expand on the idea that the very existence of Choose Life or any other pro-life’s group existence harms women, we thought a few definitions might be helpful.

We define pro-life groups by their opposition to the accessibility of abortion services. We respect individual choice regarding abortion. We do not respect any organization, movement, or individual who tries to impose their decision regarding abortion on other people. We are not against people who believe abortion is the wrong choice for themselves; we are against people who believe abortion is the wrong choice for everybody. Abortion is an individual decision. By advocating against pro-life ideology, we are protecting each individual’s right to do what they will with their body and their right to feel supported and not judged by whatever decision they make in the end.

We understand the following to be tactics used by those opposed to abortions: the criminalization of abortion; disseminating false health information; shaming women who enter abortion clinics; exploiting post-abortive women and simplifying their experiences as a way to manipulate women dealing with unwanted pregnancies; publicly casting abortion as immoral. By making public statements or mounting public displays decrying the immorality of abortion, women are presented with a moral judgment that tries to coerce them out of having an abortion regardless of personal circumstances. Personal circumstances are the only grounds for deciding what to do with an unexpected pregnancy.

Our logic: Pro-life groups are necessarily opposed to abortion. Opposition to abortion necessarily consists of restricting women’s access to abortion services. By restricting access to abortion services, a woman’s right to decide what is best for her own body is compromised. This compromise affects more than morality: it affects a person’s health and life.

We believe that any ban on abortion targets women who do not participate in their properly gendered positions as mothers. Throughout much anti-abortion dialogue, women who seek abortions are presented as uninformed or immoral figures who are going against their natural roles as women, as mothers-to-be, to give birth and reproduce “life.” This poses serious limits to a woman’s understanding of her own sexuality and her ability to have sex outside of heteronormative, monogamous, and economically stable relationships.

Pro-life groups aim not to help women make a choice, but to promote and ultimately establish conditions wherein women are not free to have sex on their own terms, to retain sexual control over their bodies. This motion seeks a stance where women’s health is not brought under public scrutiny: protecting, not forfeiting dignity.

Liam Olson-Mayes is a U2 Women’s Studies and History student and Maddie Ritts is a U3 Cultural Studies and Political Theory student. Write them at