Life Week: November 4-8

We’re making next week Life Week at the University of Toronto!

Look for us on campus!

First, we’ll have a visible public presence on campus early in the week, with activism projects and information tables. If you’d like to help out, please contact us for more information.

Then, we’re hosting three big events at the end of the week:

  1. Thurs Nov 7 @ 7pm: Abortion vs. Childbirth: The Latest Evidence on Psychological Risks (lecture)
  2. Fri Nov 8 @ 9am-4pm: Complications: Abortion’s Impact on Women (full-day conference)
  3. Fri Nov 8 @ 7pm: Stephanie Gray vs. late-term abortionist Dr. Fraser Fellows (debate)

1. LECTURE: Abortion vs. Childbirth: The Latest Evidence on Psychological Risks

Date: Thursday, November 7 at 7:00pm
Location: Father Madden Hall (Carr Hall, 100 St. Joseph Street)
Cost: Free!

Dr. Priscilla Coleman

Come to this free public lecture, in association with the deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research, featuring Dr. Priscilla Coleman on Abortion vs. Childbirth: The Latest Evidence on Psychological Risks.

Space is limited, so get there early!

2. CONFERENCE: Complications: Abortion’s Impact on Women

Date: Friday, November 8 9am-4pm (Registration: 8:30am)
Location: Father Madden Hall (Carr Hall, 00 St. Joseph Street)
Cost: Regular $60; Students $20. Lunch and refreshments included.

Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women (book cover)

In association with the deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research, this conference will present explosive new research that shows a multitude of harmful effects on women’s health from abortion. Be one of the first to get the latest findings from this new book. Abortion can impact future infertility, cancer, autoimmune disease, depression and more. Includes powerful personal stories.


  • Dr. Priscilla Coleman
  • Dr. Angela Lanfranchi
  • Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy
  • Professor Ian Gentles
  • Angelina Steenstra
  • and many more.

To register, contact the deVeber Institute via the web, or email or by phone at 416-256-0555.

3. DEBATE: Stephanie Gray vs. late-term abortionist Dr. Fraser Fellows

Date: Friday, November 8 at 7:00pm
Location: JRR Macleod Auditorium, Medical Sciences Building (MS 2158), 1 King’s College Circle
Cost: Free!

Stephanie Gray

Sponsored by the Canadian Physicians for Life, pro-life speaker Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform will debate late-term abortionist Dr. Fraser Fellows on the topic of whether abortion is harmful to women. No matter what you think about abortion, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to here the best arguments from both sides.

Space is limited, so get there early!

[Debate] Abortion: Human Right or Human Rights Violation?

We’ve uploaded video from Monday’s debate between Stephanie Gray and Donald Ainslie.

Unlike Stephanie’s opponent at Dalhousie, Ainslie did not argue in favour of infanticide, and in fact argued against the notion that abortion should be a morally trivial matter. Professor Ainslie affirmed that, from the point of conception onwards, there are deep moral issues at stake.

He said in his opening statement:

We think of people as one of a kind, as irreplaceable. When an egg is fertilized there is a biological creature that’s one of a kind; there won’t be another one of those. And so the loss of that person, either spontaneously or… in an abortion, makes the world somewhat less. That’s one thing that the world doesn’t have anymore. . . . [it's] the loss of something with intrinsic value, something that’s irreplaceable, something that won’t be around again.

But Ainslie’s main argument was that, although the moral status of the pre-born is not insignificant, the pre-born doesn’t have the same moral status as you or I until some undefined later point in pregnancy (between conception and birth, which he labelled as two extreme lines to draw). Therefore, he argued that abortion is justified in some circumstances, that all abortion is morally significant but not inherently wrong. He argued that, though the pre-born has intrinsic value, that value might be outweighed by other considerations which justify abortion. Further, he argued that though there may be moral questions involved, the legal questions are separate, and since reasonable people could disagree on the moral question, abortion should be legal. In essence, he affirmed the intrinsic value of the pre-born, but put it on a sliding scale of lesser significance than the intrinsic value of you or I until some undefined point between conception and birth, of a lesser moral status meaning that some abortions are justified and that the law should leave the possibility of abortion open.

In one sense, Ainslie’s argument was weak insofar as he purposefully avoided making any claim of where or why or how the pre-born child would attain a greater moral significance at some arbitrary part along the human continuum of development between conception and birth. This is a classic case for the SLED argument.

But in another sense, I believe his argument is challenging because — despite avoiding the question of why size or level of development (essentially, our age) should determine our value — many people simply agree with this type of argument. They often can’t articulate a reason for it, but they’ll deny that abortion is inherently wrong in the first trimester while being uncomfortable or opposed to it later on, because they believe there is a greater moral significance as the pre-born child gets older.

To respond, I think we must highlight the fact that our age does not increase our value or our moral significance, and make the pre-born child more and more visible, using images of prenatal development that bring to light the undeniable humanity and intrinsic value of the youngest human beings, and images of first trimester abortions that bring into the light the horrible injustice and violence of abortion even at an early stage.

Well, that’s my take. Watch the debate for yourself on YouTube in two parts (an hour each):

Tale of the Tape: Stephanie Gray

Yesterday we profiled Dr. Donald Ainslie in our lead-up to our debate next Monday night! Now I will highlight Dr. Ainslie’s opponent for the evening – Stephanie Gray:


2008–2009 Certification, with Distinction, in Health Care Ethics, U.S. National Catholic Bioethics Center

1998–2002 Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, University of British Columbia


Scientific and philosophical defense for the pro-life view (basic and advanced) and approaches for effective dialogue


Christian-based motivational presentations

Strategy for the pro-life movement

Organizing and conducting visual displays (e.g., the Genocide Awareness Project [GAP])

Speakers training

Fundraising training

Other Credentials:

- President of Lifeline, the University of British Columbia’s pro-life club from 1999–2001

- Guest on television programs such as CTV, VTV, and ATV News, Global News, 100 Huntley Street’s Listen Up, and the Miracle Channel’s Insight

- Interviewed by ABC-, NBC-, FOX-, and CBS-affiliated television news programs throughout the Midwest of the United States

This is going to be an epic night. I will post all of the details of the debate tomorrow. Don’t miss it!

Tale of the Tape: Dr. Donald Ainslie

UTSFL would first like to thank Dr. Ainslie for being a part of the most spectacular spectacle (does that make sense?) that U of T has ever seen: Debate 2011! Abortion: Human Right or Human Rights Violation? Please mark off March 14, 2011 on your calendar and join us for what promises to be a great night of debating (venue still to be determined by our fearless leader Lucy). Here are the goods on Dr. Donald Ainslie:

Education: BSc (Mathematics, Queen’s), MA, PhD (Pittsburgh)

Associate Professor

Professor Ainslie has research interests in the philosophy of David Hume, naturalism in ethics, and the foundation of bioethics.

Selected Articles

“Hume a Scotish Socrates?”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 33(1). 2003.
“AIDS and Sex: Is Warning a Moral Obligation?”, Health Care Analysis 10(1). 2002.
“Bioethics And The Problem Of Pluralism”, Social Philosophy and Policy 19(2). 2002.
“Hume’s reflections on the identity and simplicity of mind”, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62(3). 2001.
“Scepticism about persons in Book II of Hume’s Treatise”, Journal of the History of Philosophy 37(3). 1999.
“The Problem of the National Self in Hume’s Theory of Justice”, Hume Studies 21(2). 1995.
Tomorrow: Stephanie Gray

Did I mention there is a debate happening?

You know, it is kind of sad that pro-choicers are the first ones to advertise the debate happening March 14, 2011 on “Abortion: Human Right or Human Rights Violation?”. We here at UTSFL have been waiting quite some time for a debate and now that time has arrived! All this week this blog will be in preparation mode for this debate and it is sure to be a great event! I will have information on both debaters, Stephanie Gray (pro-life side) and Donald Ainslie (pro-choice side) along with other goodies to get you guys ready. The venue has yet to be determined but when it is it will be posted on the blog. Until then check out the pro-choicers doing my dirty work for me in advertising:

HT: Alissa Golob of the Campaign Life Coalition

Extremism and fatigue with the abortion debate

Sometimes, I get tired of extremism all around. Well, it’s not extremism so much as a lack of an attempt at empathy that gets me. I set aside these links in January. Both appeared in my feed reader around the same time.

On the pro-life side, Jill Stanek wrote a post about how a silver coat hanger pendant was described as “gorgeous and touching” by an abortion proponent. It is an incredibly odd thing to say, but there’s no attempt at understanding on Stanek’s part—however challenging that may be. Is it seen as “gorgeous and touching” because it’s a tribute to women who died from unsafe abortions? (Why that’s a poor argument for legalized abortion is a matter for another post.) Instead of attempting to understand what would cause someone to make such a bizarre statement, Stanek just takes the opportunity to point out how crazy the other side is.

I get tired of that sometimes. Point out how absurd the arguments are, but I’m not sure I see the value in ridiculing the people…

And on the other side, you can always rely on Feministing to be void of empathy for anyone they disagree with. We’re referred to as “antis” (1984 was not an instruction manual…), and in a lengthy post about sidewalk counselling at abortion clinics, Jos is entirely incapable of even imagining—for a split second—what might possess us antis to try and talk a mother out of killing her unborn child. We’re all stupid, think lowly of women and just want to harass them. I suppose it’s totally inconceivable (pun not really intended) that anyone might be thankful that they were caused to re-think a decision to get an abortion.

Sometimes, it’s just tiring to constantly hear all the strawman arguments and caricatures. It’s easy to show how illogical the arguments in favour of abortion are, but the real challenge is to respond compassionately and empathetically to those who speak most violently against us, rather than to descend into the same bouts of name-calling or ridicule…

*sigh* </rant>

I’ve probably been guilty of the same thing. Here’s to making more of a conscious effort to criticize what people say, rather than simply ridiculing the people themselves.

The Heart of the Abortion Debate Within Our Culture: Part I

A friend of mine wrote the following poem, which mentions some concerns – some of the more “stickier” issues, no doubt – regarding the abortion debate. It is written from the perspective of the child in the womb.
It must be noted that the poem only describes just one of many possible situations and set of circumstances that may be faced by women who are pregnant.

I will never get a chance to live my life
Because you were afraid of hardship and strife
Didn’t you know that you would be blessed?
While you were moaning, “YES, YES, YES!”

I’ll never see the world or be set free
Because your only thought was “ME, ME, ME!”
Really our situation is not even that sad
There are worse cases that would make even you feel bad

But they chose an alternative solution
It was long and hard like solving pollution
But meant life for me, what’s my life worth?
Is it worth going through child birth?

How can the World let this happen, have we lost our Dignity
Or is it worse? Have we already lost our Humanity?
What about my Daddy? Doesn’t he get a say?
Please don’t do this! There must be another way

Let’s pick apart this poem stanza by stanza. In light of the wonderful semester I have spent with the University of Toronto Students for Life (UTSFL), I thought it would be an effective way to shed some light on what the pro-life movement, and those within it, may have to focus on when speaking to others about the issue.

The first stanza picks up on what would arguably be the heart of the abortion issue: the idea of choice. People, in almost all cases, can choose to have sex. I do not intend to go down the whole debate of that choice, because it is irrelevant to the matter at hand. There is, however, something that people who choose to engage in sex need to clearly understand…
Sometimes, when you have sex, you get pregnant.
This is a fact. It sounds so straightforward and seems so obvious. But this is crucial, and the disconnect between sex and pregnancy that many are making needs to be taken seriously.
So, if you do get pregnant, what does this mean? When you intentionally terminate a pregnancy, what exactly are you choosing to do?
Anti-abortionists/pro-lifers could say that when pregnant, a distinct human being, deserving of rights and needing protection, is now developing in the womb.
Pro-abortionists could say what’s in the womb is just a clump of cells that is a part of the women’s body. So, a woman should be able to terminate the pregnancy.
If one agrees with the former, one could derive that the right to liberty of the mother and the right to life of the human being in the womb are in conflict. Although the right to liberty is important (which no pro-lifer would deny), the right to life trumps the right to liberty, and thus, abortion is not permissible. If, however, one agrees with the former, one could conclude that the right to liberty of the mother, especially in light of the fact “it” is just “a clump of cells” takes precedence. This highlights the major difference in the views of pro-lifers and pro-abortionists, and this is often where the discussions end, because there is no agreement of what the unborn is.
Life is fillied with hardship and strife, with or without an expected pregnancy; carrying the pregnancy to term and raising a child is no easy task. (Noone in the pro-life movement would deny this, either.) But then one must ask – Is this, a life of hardship and strife (or any other reason, for that matter) an adequate reason to end a pregnancy, in light of the anti-abortion view?

The second stanza is the one I have the most problems with. It can be received as rather negative and quite harsh, as it can be interpreted as belittling the problems a woman facing a crisis pregnancy goes through. The pro-life movement is not meant to do this, and, unfortuantely, this is often what comes across to pro-abortionists (making them equate pro-lifers with being “anti-woman”). This must change; a woman facing a crisis pregnancy is undoubtedly going through a great deal of stress, and is often experiencing fear, loneliness, and anxiety. Compassion is the best response to any woman in this situation, regardless of the circumstances and the nature of the pregnancy. This response acknowledges that a woman needs help in so many respects, and society should help women raise their children by providing more services to do so – whether it be financially or emotionally through a network of people, and in turn, empower her with this support to raise her child. A society that tells a woman “You cannot raise a child because of a, b, and c!” seems to not give much choice at all.

The third stanza asks an important question with regards to the unborn: “What’s my life worth?” In acknowledging that a solution was made, and was a difficult choice to make (I do not like to think women choose abortion easily, but it may be for some), that this life is seen as less worthy than the life of the woman, for various reasons. In treating those in need of the most protection – the unborn, in this case – as worthless or less deserving, is truly unfortunate.

The fourth stanza is, personally, my favourite, and mentions something that has been erking me lately. Often, MEN don’t seem to think they shoud have a say in abortion, since it’s “the woman’s body”. Abortion is a human rights issue, and gender is arbitrary. (It’s like saying one shouldn’t have an opinion about the treatment of workers in sweatshops just because they don’t work in one, or any other human rights abuse just because it hasn’t happened to them). Again, we touch that heart of the debate – men are just as involved in the start of a pregnancy as women are. This prevailing notion of a disconnect of a man from the pregnancy (and beyond it) also needs to change; both men and women need to realize that responsibility is not, and shouldn’t be, only on the woman.
I would really like to stay optimistic, and not conclude that humanity has been lost. I hope that instead of completely losing our humanity, we have just forgotten to remember – what the unborn are; that a woman facing pregnancy is in need of financial and emotional support; that men are entitled to have a voice in the abortion debate; and ultimately, that we must treat everyone with dignity and compassion, especially when they are at their most vulnerable.
There must be another way. Yes, the other way would be REAL choice; women should be kept well-informed of the possible health risks of abortion, and society should provide the resources necessary for a woman to raise her child, or even for the child to be put up for adption. The pro-life movement is continuing to move in the direction of demanding a change in the institutions that make up our society with regards to how money is distributed. Taxes should not be used to destroy human life, but to save and protect it.

“A majority, perhaps as many as 75 percent, of abortion clinics [in the US] are in areas with high minority populations. Abortion apologists will say this is because they want to serve the poor. You don’t serve the poor, however, by taking their money to terminate their children.”
- Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A special thanks to my friend who wrote down their thoughts on what is, for many, such a controversial topic.

Abortion Debate at the University of Victoria

Hey, not all Canadian universities are terrified of free speech on abortion!

The pro-life club at the University of Victoria hosted the debate between Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform and Dr. Eike-Henner Kluge, philosophy professor and bioethicist. has a good overview.

(Why does the pro-choice side always seem to need a bioethicist to apply abstract philosophical arguments about personhood?)

The debate is online in 10 parts.











Abortion debate in the Varsity… 21 months ago

In clearing out old draft posts, I found this one which for some reason I never published. It was originally written on February 8th… 2008. I offer it to you now, better late than never — it’s not like the pro-choice arguments have changed much.

For those of you that missed this week’s edition of the Varisty, Peter O’Hagan had an excellent article published defending the pro-life view. Morgan Snook’s article, on the other hand, seemed a little off the mark.

Hey, of course I’m going to be biased. But let’s examine!

Anti-abortion advocates claim that abortion is murder. They say that from the moment of conception, the fetus is a living human being. What they don’t know, or at least don’t say, that is that any fetus will not be sufficiently developed to feel real pain until after 30 weeks, well after the threshold where most abortions are carried out.

The argument here seems to be that abortion isn’t murder because the fetus won’t feel “real” pain when most abortions are carried out. I’m not sure what “real” pain is, as opposed to another type of pain, but let’s take this claim at face value. Is painless killing still killing? Would abortion be okay after the alleged 30 week threshold (or after birth for that matter) if it were through some sort of lethal injection? Also, last I checked pro-lifers were quite eager to point out the issue of the fetal pain. Thanks for bringing it up Morgan! Will you stand with us then and, at least, denounce any abortions that take place after the fetus can feel pain? [Edit: And as we learned that fall, it's more like 20 weeks, and the pain experience might be worse than adult pain.]

According to the United Nations, reproductive rights of individuals consist of being able to “decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing and timing of [one’s] children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.” Furthermore, everyone should have the right to make decisions regarding reproduction “free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”

Is that a euphemism for abortion? In that case, it would also be wise to quote passages pertaining to the human rights regarding security of the person, if the unborn is human. Otherwise, you’re assuming what needs to be proven for your argument. In other words, you’ve dodged the fundamental point of the pro-life argument: the unborn is a human being and therefore also deserves human rights. But, yes, outside of killing another human being, spot on. There’s nothing wrong with sexual or reproductive health or “making decisions regarding reproduction”, unless they’re euphemisms for abortion. In which case, your statements seem crafted to avoid the question of the humanity of the unborn entirely.

The motive of pro-life groups is to make women feel guilty for having sex, forcing them to give birth to unwanted children. The Roman Catholic Church views abortion as a sin. Pope John Paul II compared abortion to a mass genocide similar to the Holocaust.

Instead of enforced shame, we should show tolerance and empathy for a difficult situation. Providing support and unbiased information to aid women in their decision-making process would obtain better results than shaming them.

Woah, woah. First of all, just because the Catholic Church is pro-life doesn’t mean that one needs to be Catholic to be pro-life. And if you’re suggesting the Church’s motive is to make women feel guilty for having sex, you need to better inform your views. [Edit: start here or here or here] More importantly, that’s just plain false. We’re not trying to make people feel guilty for having sex. We’re trying to defend the rights of human beings who are losing their lives because our society doesn’t want to take responsibility for the consequences of having sex. These aren’t cultural, ethical or moral consequences; they are biological consequences! The link between sex and pregancy isn’t some invention of the Church or the pro-life movement. It’s a scientific fact.

Also, I suggest you check out some feminist view points within the pro-life movement. To suggest pro-lifers are intent on guilt-tripping woman is dishonest.

The point is, the pro-life movement’s motive is not to shame people, but rather to protect the rights of the unborn who are marginalized when convenience trumps human rights. Your comments fall into the category of “assuming what needs to be proven” again. If the unborn is human – we claim it is – unplanned pregnancies involve a third human life.

Each year 70,000 women die because of illegal abortions and slightly fewer suffer serious injuries. A grown woman should not have to risk her life to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Of course, there are also teenage pregnancies. Every year approximately 15 million girls under the age of 18 give birth. These girls are five times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman between the ages of 18 and 25. Not only is a pregnant teen’s life at risk, but also her future. Many schools with pregnant students offer them little choice. Without an abortion, they will be forced to drop out of school.

Illegal abortions and the horrors of unplanned pregnancies are terrible. The pro-life view, however, states that while elective abortion may be psychologically and even practically complex, it is not morally complex. The trend in the article to assume what needs to be proven continues. “Unless you begin with the assumption that the unborn are not human, you are making the highly questionable claim that because some people die attempting to kill others, the state should make it safe and legal for them to do so. Should we legalize bank robbery so it is safer for felons?” (source) If the unborn is human, making abortion safe and legal is hardly an adequate answer to the problem of illegal abortions.

Teenage pregnancies are obviously difficult as well. But, the question needs to be asked: would you kill to get out of that situation? If the unborn is human, that’s what the abortion option is. The answer, then, would be to address schools that offer pregnant teenagers little choice, to make a change there, rather than to encourage a pregnant teenager to end the life of an innocent human being, not matter how difficult her situation may be.

And what about women who have become pregnant after being raped? Can they be expected to carry a child for nine months, a reminder of the sexual assault they were forced to endure? According to Status of Women Canada, over half of Canadian women have been the victims of at least one act of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. With such a high degree of sexual assault in our own society, can we realistically expect rape victims to deal with the results of an attack for the rest of their lives?

Rape is profoundly evil. But, we claim, so is abortion. This falls into the category of assuming what needs to be proven and appealing to the hard cases. Morgan, if you use rape to justify abortion, then will you stand with us and denounce elective abortion in all other cases? Otherwise, how do cases of rape pertain to the other 99% of abortions?

Rape victims deserve our care. But how does the case of rape justify the vast majority of abortions?

Women carrying a disabled child should also be considered. Children born with a mental or physical disability require a significantly greater amount of care and place financial strain on their parents. An illequipped mother giving birth to a child with special needs can only choose adoption or abortion. This child is much more likely, if adopted, to receive inferior care. Therefore, her choice is likely to be an abortion.

I froze when I read this. Morgan, you questioned analogies between abortion and genocide, yet a few paragraphs later you yourself provide an example of how we systematically discriminate against segments of the human population through abortion. First of all, as expected, this statement assumes what needs to be proven. But more importantly, even if the humanity of the unborn were considered to be in question, systematic discrimination against the disabled is not tolerated in other places in our society. Why would we allow it in the case of abortion, when it’s a matter of life and death?

Why do many women choose abortion over adoption? One-third of all abortions are performed on unmarried women who not only wish to avoid becoming attached to a child, but also to escape judgment as they carry the child they will be giving up. Most of all, many women do not choose adoption because of the uncertainty of their child’s future. How will they know their child is being cared for?

Is the unborn human? Again, assuming what needs to be proven. Also, how is abortion a better option than adoption in terms of knowing the child is being cared for? Is it more comfort to a mother to know that her child is mutilated in a trash can somewhere? There’s a multi-year wait list for parents to adopt in Canada (which means there are way more would-be parents than children). Obviously, caring for these children is a serious matter. Which is why we shouldn’t kill them, since that would be worse than any attempt at care.

Then there is the issue of contraception. In some places, contraception is not available to the majority of the population, or is too expensive for most to afford. In Canada, youth in rural areas cannot acquire contraceptives or information due to a shortage of sexual health centres. Sexual education in the school curriculum has become a joke, as many teachers are not qualified while some schools lack sex-ed programs entirely.

Rather than opposing abortion, we should be supporting contraception and sexual education. We should improve the lives of the children who are brought into the world, often abandoned or abused.

Students for Life has no position on contraception. Ultimately, no form of contraception is perfect though. Unplanned pregnancies still happen. If we’re only throwing contraception at the problem, what happens in the cases where contraception fails?

Put simply by Michael Jay Tucker, editorial advisor for, “If the anti-abortion movement took a tenth of the energy they put into noisy theatrics and devoted it to improving the lives of children who have been born into lives of poverty, violence, and neglect, they could make a world shine.”

Update: Michael Jay Tucker stopped by in the comments to let us know that he’s not actually the same Michael Jay Tucker from
Improving the lives of children who have been born into difficult circumstances is extremely important, and most pro-lifers I know are involved in other charity organizations. But, as a pro-life organization and movement, we also focus on the thousands of children who lose their lives daily, before they are even given a chance for their circumstances to be improved.