Support Services: The Forgotten Arm of the Pro-Life Movement

Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of volunteering at Aid to Women, a local crisis pregnancy centre that provides support and resources to young women who experience unplanned pregnancies. They maintain a good inventory of baby clothes, shoes, formula, cribs and other essential supplies. They also provide information via their brochures on the problems with abortion and the alternatives to abortion that are available.

Helping out with them, I was able to see the importance to the Pro-Life Movement of having a well-funded and well-organised network of support services such as crisis pregnancy centres and adoption agencies. The Pro-Life Movement is known to have three “arms”: Apologetics/outreach, political activism, and support services. However, it seems that a majority of the time, people, both for and against the Movement, associate it only with the former two, and forget about the latter. Because of this, I tend to see the support services as the “forgotten arm” of the pro-life movement, receiving far less attention than either those doing the outreach and those lobbying our governments for laws restricting abortion. But a properly functioning third arm is essential, for two main reasons:

First, The Support Services Arm represents the more “human” side of the Pro-Life Movement. What I mean is that crisis pregnancy centres and adoption agencies are the ones who are most involved in assisting those individuals who are most central to the abortion debate: Pregnant mothers and the children born to such mothers. Without the services being provided to this demographic, we will appear to be just another impersonal “special interest” group, and the media is rife with caricatures of Pro-Lifers as uncaring demagogues already! But by providing such services, we will be seen as people who genuinely care for the most vulnerable elements of society, providing a more positive image for the movement as a whole.

Second, the Support Services Arm is necessary for the other two arms to function effectively. For those involved in either apologetics/outreach or political activism, think about this: How often do abortion advocates ask us, “What are you doing to help those pregnant women who you want to keep their babies”? Usually, pro-lifers reply that the rightness of keeping one’s baby isn’t dependent on whether or not someone else is available to help care for the baby (with comparisons to stopping abusive husbands from beating their wives). However, while the logic of this response is sound, it is hardly persuasive to most opponents of the Pro-Life Movement, whose arguments tend to be more governed by emotions than by logic.

Now, if we have a good network of crisis pregnancy centres and adoption centres to point to in answer to that question, we can go a long way towards stifling these hostile objections of Pro-Abortion activists, as well as garnering understanding and support for the Pro-Life Movement. On the political side, we would not need the government funding and allowing unrestricted access to abortion if political activists can show that support services can cover the bases that those in government are expecting abortion clinics to cover.

To do this however, we would need an extensive support services network. Ideally, we should have at least as many crisis pregnancy centres as we have abortion clinics. Sadly, this is not a reality yet. However, we can work towards changing this situation by donating our time and/or money to the crisis pregnancy centres, and convincing churches and other similar community organisations to start up similar services of their own. Only by doing so can we undermine the societal monopoly that abortion clinics currently have, and convince the public (and our government officials) that such clinics are not necessary to support our nation’s mothers and children.

Posted in Abortion

Upcoming Talk: Why Atheists Should Be Pro-Life

This Tuesday at 7:30pm, we’re presenting (in association with Toronto Right to Life) Kristine Kruszelnicki from Pro-Life Humanists to give a talk on Why Atheists Should Be Pro-Life in Room 179 of University College. Hope to see you there!

Why Atheists Should Be Pro-Life Tues Oct 18 7:30pm @ UC179

Posted in Abortion

beINSPIRED: The Unconditional Love of Two Families

Who inspires you? Why? When you ask people that question, you always get different answers for “who,” but there’s a common answer for “why” — people who inspire us face some kind of obstacle or suffering, they face a hardship or challenge, and what makes them stand out is that they keep going, they don’t give up, they persevere. Inspiring people do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing.

Today (thanks to a calendar mistake I made that left me several hours of extra driving!), I re-listened to an old episode of This American Life, #317 Unconditional Love, and was inspired anew by the stories of two families.

Heidi and Rick Solomon inspire me. They adopted their son Daniel, who was raised in terrible circumstances in a Romanian orphanage, unable to feel attachments to anyone. At one point, Alix Spiegel asks Heidi:

Alix Spiegel: Did you feel like Daniel was homicidal at any point?

Heidi Solomon: Well, I was told he was homicidal.

Alix Spiegel: How do you love somebody who is homicidal?

Heidi Solomon: Well, because he was my son. I mean, you have to love him or else there’s no way out of it. It’s like, if you’re lost, you want to keep moving forward to get to the end place. I don’t think I ever questioned my love.

Dave and Karen Royko inspire me. Dave tells the story about their autistic son, Ben, and the great challenges they face in caring for him, and the difficult decisions they have to make about his care and well-being. We often don’t get to control the circumstances we’re faced with, but we do control how we can respond to that. Their opening comments describe that response quite honestly (if irreverently):

Dave Royko: People say all kinds of things to me and my wife as parents of an autistic son, and they mean well.

Karen Royko: People would sometimes say to me, in public, or in therapy waiting rooms where there’s a lot of interaction with parents and they would say, you’re a saint. And I would just think, well… What am I supposed to do, beat the [BLEEP] out of him? What else would you do? Well, we have to take a lot of antidepressants. That helps.

Dave Royko: God bless medication. People would often say, I couldn’t do what you’re doing. I know when people would say that, I mean, it’s really a compliment. But it would sometimes though, feel like, yes, you would. Unless you’re really a [BLEEP] person and not cut out to be a parent, you would be doing the same thing. The only difference is, we have to do it. It always felt like a little whiff of this crap, like God never gives you more than you can handle.

Karen Royko: You just want to kick those people in the teeth don’t you?

It sounds less harsh when you begin to understand the challenges of their day-to-day life. Heidi and Rick loved their adopted son unconditionally, even when he was homicidal. Dave and Karen love their autistic son Ben unconditionally, even when life seemed almost impossible in caring for him. You love your kids because of who they are, no matter what they do, and no matter the challenges and hardship you may face — any loving parent would do the same thing in that situation, even if you don’t realize it until you get there. The Solomon’s and the Royko’s inspire me, because they faced those situations, and they faced those hardships, and they persevered — they did the right thing, they lived out an unconditional love, even when it was a very hard thing to do.

I recently had a silly little scare that caused me to seriously contemplate whether or not I’d die young for a few minutes (it was just beet juice, long story). I was surprising comfortable with the hypothetical thought of dying, except that I felt terrible about the thought of leaving my wife. But it was only thinking about my kids that brought tears to my eyes. It was one of those cliché moments where you can’t describe in words the unique love and duty that you experience as a parent.

I have no idea if the Solomon’s or the Royko’s are pro-life. But these kind of difficult life circumstances — the prospect of a troubled childhood, the challenges of disability — are often circumstances in which people say abortion (or sometimes even infanticide/euthanasia) is justified. Listen to these two stories of inspiring families who rose to the challenge of facing difficult circumstances, and showed unconditional love even when it was a very hard thing to do — and couldn’t imagine responding in any other way. This is the kind of love we are called to live, even in the face of the most difficult life circumstances.

Posted in Abortion, Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide, General

The Stream Debates Assisted Suicide

The Stream hosts a debate on Bill C-14 and assisted suicide in Canada, featuring Dr. Will Johnston who we hosted on campus last Fall.

Posted in Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide

“Choice” Chain shows that abortion is inappropriate conduct

The Varsity has covered our “Choice” Chain campaign again.

We appreciate them reaching out to us for comment. Now is as good a time as any to make some public clarifications, both about “Choice” Chain and about specifics in the article.

Why We Run “Choice” Chain at U of T

First, we think it’s important to run “Choice” Chain on campus in order to make the victims of abortion visible to the U of T community, and to enter into dialogue on how abortion ends the life of a human being. We do this to change how people think and feel about abortion, in order to make abortion unthinkable and end the killing of pre-born humans.

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Our society uses a lot of nice language to talk about abortion (choice, reproductive freedom/rights, etc.) and a lot of dehumanizing language to talk about pre-born humans (clump of cells, blob of tissue, etc.). “Choice” Chain makes pre-born humans visible through ultrasound photos and embryoscopy images of healthy babies and photos of those children who have been decapitated, dismembered and disemboweled through abortion. “Choice” Chain pictures cut through the euphemisms, so that we can have a dialogue about abortion grounded in the reality that abortion kills pre-born human beings.

We do this publicly because almost 300 human beings are killed every day in Canada through abortion. If the pre-born aren’t human, then I suppose we’re motivated by a fantasy, but if the pre-born are human, then we’re responding to an emergency.

We know the pre-born are human. We know that life begins at fertilization, a fact taught uncontroversially in our own curriculum at U of T. We simply assert that all human beings deserve fundamental human rights. Because pre-born humans are denied their right to life, and because 100,000 human beings are killed by abortion every year in Canada, UTSFL runs “Choice” Chain to make the victims visible to the U of T community and to challenge people to respond to this injustice.

What are the allegations against UTSFL?

Bearing that in mind, what are the specific allegations against UTSFL?

Is it that we have triggered students? The Varsity did print most of my reply:

Obviously our images can be triggers… But given the weight, given that human lives are at stake, given that people who may have had abortions before may well make that decision again — in relatively large numbers — when we go to the public sidewalks, if there were a way for us to skip over the people that have had an abortion and never will again, I would love to be able to do that. But the stakes are high and we know that people are going to walk by. We also do carry resources on us for people facing crisis pregnancies, but also for people that have had abortions.

Is it that our signs are “misleading?” This is what Teodora Pasca suggests. How are the signs misleading?

“The UTSFL responded that the only signs they use in demonstrations represent first-trimester abortions, but that they occasionally partner with external groups that use signs depicting third-trimester abortions. These types of images have come under criticism for incorrectly depicting the reality of most abortions, which occur in the first trimester.”

So, the late-term abortion signs are misleading because most abortions occur in the first trimester… even though most of our signs are first-trimester abortion victims? All four of the abortion victim photos that UTSFL has are of first-trimester abortion victims. When we have extra people who bring extra signs, sometimes we’ll include one late-term abortion victim’s photo at a “Choice” Chain — as was published in a photo on The Varsity’s website, which was the only time this year that we’ve used a late-term abortion photo at “Choice” Chain. If we ever acquire a sign with a photo of a victim of late-term abortion, it would similarly be one of several.

utsfl-cc-late-term

Late-term abortions happen sometimes, but most are in the first trimister; we use late-term abortion victim photos sometimes, but most are in the first trimester. I’m not clear on how that is misleading — maybe we didn’t make that clear in the interview.

utsfl-cc-st-george

(Some people suggest the photos are inaccurate, but multiple physicians have vouched for the accuracy of the photos from this source, including Dr. Anthony Levatino, who’s performed 1200 abortions himself, and Dr. Fraser Fellows in a debate we hosted in 2013, who performs abortions in London, Ontario.)

Teodora also used the word “shaming.” Our volunteer agreement, which members of our activism team must sign, includes legally binding our team members to never shout, never pressure anyone to look at the signs, and to “always treat people with respect.” We condemn the act of abortion, but we are not there to point the finger at someone’s who’s had an abortion or participated in one in the past. If our goal was to shame passers-by, I wouldn’t be running this campaign. Our goal is to change how people think about abortion, by showing them what abortion does. “Shaming” is just not how we approach activism. It’s not the experience of “Choice” Chain conversations. I’d invite anyone who wants to observe a “Choice” Chain to email me, and I’ll set it up.

Also, it’s important to note, as The Varsity does, that both St. Michael’s College and the University of Toronto administration recognize the importance of freedom of expression on campus and aren’t interested in censoring or interfering with student groups engaging in activities like “Choice” Chain.

So, what are the allegations? What is the inappropriate conduct? That we’ve been criticized for making abortion victims visible publicly? We fully understand that what we’re doing is controversial and will be criticized. If the photos are disturbing or troubling, that’s because abortion is inappropriate conduct.

“Choice” Chain costs a lot of time, not a lot of money

Lastly, the headline is “St. Michael’s College funds pro-life group.” The opening sentence points out that UTSFL received $1450 in funding this year from SMCSU. The remainder of the article focuses exclusively on “Choice” Chain. The obvious implication is that SMC/SMCSU funds “Choice” Chain. While I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that, it’s just not actually true since we started the “Choice” Chain campaign here in 2013.

How much of the $1450 was used so far for “Choice” Chain this year? $0.00 (something which we told The Varsity).

How much SMCSU money has been used to pay for “Choice” Chain signs at U of T so far since 2013? $0.00.

More importantly, how much money does “Choice” Chain cost to run? “Choice” Chain costs us a lot of time, not a lot of money.

The total money spent on “Choice” Chain at U of T between 2013-2016 is somewhere around ~$1000, most of that was spent in the first year getting started, and most of that has been for pamphlets that aren’t used exclusively for “Choice” Chain. This year, I’ve personally incurred out of pocket costs for $282.66 to purchase the pamphlets we’ve used for “Choice” Chain since September (though not exclusively for “Choice” Chain). There have been no other “Choice” Chain-related expenses this year.

What does our SMCSU funding get used for? It’s mostly used for our other activities: lecturer fees, film licences, photocopies, print materials, posters, etc. It’s used to support our outreach tables, where we highlight resources for parenting and pregnant students on and off-campus. It’s used for our debates, panel discussions, and film screenings, or other outreach events. (We also told The Varsity this.)

utsfl-parenting-resources-outreach

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I’ve asked the author about the misleading implications of the headline and the lead, and he passed the concern onto his editor.

(As a sidenote, I don’t believe Ryerson SFL or UOIT Speak for the Weak have been “defunded” because they’ve never been funded in the first place, and I think only UTMSFL has lost club status — the other clubs have never been recognized to begin with. I’ve pointed that out to The Varsity for correction.)

But, what if we did use more of our club budget to save lives?

What if we were using our club budget primarily to fund “Choice” Chain and be a voice for the voiceless? How many other clubs have an opportunity to use their funds to save human lives?

We know “Choice” Chain is controversial. “Choice” Chain is controversial because abortion is controversial. Abortion is controversial because it kills an innocent human being. Whether it costs our time or our money, as long as pre-born children are being killed by abortion, we will be here to make this injustice visible and to challenge U of T to end the killing.

Posted in Abortion Tagged with: , ,

Bill C-225: Cassie and Molly’s Law

Member of Parliament for Yorkton-Melville, Cathay Wagantall, has just introduced a new private members bill: Bill C-225 Cassie and Molly’s Law. This was one of the legislative initiatives we heard about at U of T in September as part of the WeNeedALaw Life Tour!

WeNeedALaw explains:

There will be more analysis in the coming days and weeks but here’s a quick rundown of what Bill C-225 WILL DO:

  • Create new offences in the Criminal Code for injuring or causing the death of a pre-born child during the commission of a criminal offence against a pregnant woman.
  • Add pregnancy to the list of aggravating factors for sentencing. This means that even if the pre-born child is not injured or killed, the courts can come down harder on anyone who is convicted of violence against a pregnant woman.
  • This bill will protect a woman’s choice to bring her child to term safely and protects the life of that child through criminal law.

Here are a couple things that Bill C-225 will NOT do:

  • Penalize a pregnant woman for any harm done to her pre-born child. The new offences in Bill C-255 can only apply when the pregnant woman is the victim of a crime.
  • Bill C-225 will not change the status quo regarding abortion.
  • The bill does not change the legal definition of a human being. Instead, it creates new offences to cover the specific circumstances whereby a pre-born child is harmed or killed during the commission of an offence against the child’s mother.

Is Bill C-225 an imperfect law? Yes, it is. Will it stop abortions? No, abortion will still be completely legal. But, it is a step in the right direction. Cassie and Molly’s Law is not the ultimate answer, but it will protect the human rights of children whose mothers have chosen to carry them to term. And, as we often say, “We need to embrace opportunities to protect some as we work towards protecting all.”

What can you do to support this bill?

Posted in Abortion Tagged with: ,

Seeking an End to Suffering

The debate over abortion has reignited in the United States in recent weeks, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a challenge to a Texas law that places new regulations upon abortion providers. Opponents of the law argue that it places undue burdens upon women seeking an abortion, as it will likely result in the closure of 7 of the 17 abortion clinics currently in operation across the state.

An article published in The Atlantic highlighted these concerns by citing two recent studies conducted at the University of Texas, which found that well over 100000 women in Texas have at some point attempted to end a pregnancy by themselves, the vast majority through the unsupervised use of abortifacient medications. The intended take-away message of this article is that the Texas statute should be overturned because of the desperate measures which women may be driven to as a result of reduced access to abortion providers (it should be noted, however, that the researchers of the study in question were unable to conclude whether past restrictions on abortion in Texas have actually resulted in an increase in self-administered abortions.) What this article perhaps predictably fails to discuss, however, is that a pro-life approach to these difficult pregnancies does a better job of actually addressing their underlying causes than the most liberal of abortion policies.

Pro-life and pro-choice advocates disagree on many things, but one area of common cause is that both seek to support women who are experiencing crisis pregnancies. As such, statistics such as the ones cited in the Texas studies should be troubling to both sides of the debate, as they paint a picture of a large number of women facing isolation and despair in the face of an unplanned pregnancy. The key difference, though, lies in how these two groups approach this serious problem. From a pro-choice perspective, the default solution to a crisis pregnancy is to eliminate the pregnancy, which is why any abortion-limiting restriction is seen as so damaging. While seemingly merciful, this “solution” comes at the terrible cost of the life of a pre-born child. Less apparently, however, it also fails to adequately address the factors which have created the crisis-component of the crisis pregnancy. A society where abortion is the easiest option to provide to those who feel hopeless in the face of a pregnancy loses the incentive to actually tackle the issues which underlie that sense of hopelessness.

Contrast this with the pro-life approach. From the pro-life position, termination is not an option, because ending the pregnancy results in the killing of another human being. As a result, the pro-life philosophy forces us to seek out the deeper reasons that motivate a woman’s decision to seek an abortion. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the decision to undergo an abortion is taken due to a particular fear or concern, be it a question of financial insecurity or a fear of irreparable disruption to daily life. It is through recognizing these complex social factors which complicate pregnancy and parenthood that pro-life campaigners have been motivated to expand their advocacy work to issues such as improving access to adoption services and promoting a more parent-friendly culture on university campuses. A refusal to countenance abortion as a just pregnancy option has helped make the pro-life movement far more sensitive to identifying and trying to mitigate the various factors which can contribute to the crisis component of a crisis pregnancy.

Bolstering this pro-life approach to the challenge of crisis pregnancies are the results of a survey which was included as a component of the University of Texas studies, which sought out women’s perspectives on the issue of self-induced abortion. In it, the most commonly selected answer was “I am against abortion, but I can understand why a woman would try this,” which was closely followed by “I am against abortion, which is why I am against a woman doing this on her own.” One can infer from these responses that in a large number of cases, the decision to end a pregnancy is taken in spite of a strong moral opposition to abortion. For many women, therefore, abortion is not a solution to their problems, but seemingly the only option provided to them by a society which sees it as the most expedient answer to offer to those facing complex social or economic circumstances.

In short, if we focused our efforts on removing the “crisis” rather than the “pregnancy” from “crisis pregnancy,” our society could do a much better job at helping support the many vulnerable women who see abortion as unjust but feel helpless to make any other choice. While this message is a direct challenge to the prevailing pro-choice culture, it is also a reminder to the pro-life movement not to lose sight of the complex nature of our campaign. While we believe that legislation against abortion remains necessary, stories like this one from The Atlantic reinforce that legislation is not in and of itself sufficient to end the tragic impact of abortion upon our society. A movement which succeeds only in pushing abortions from the clinics to the back-alleys is a movement which has not succeeded at all. In seeking an end to suffering, we must always seek its root, and be driven by compassion and empathy for those who far too often suffer alone.

Posted in Abortion

The Media and the Question of Abortion

Dr. Ben Carson, one of the leading candidates for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has been in the headlines in recent days for comments he made using slavery as an analogy for abortion. The main thrust of Dr. Carson’s argument was that opposition to abortion is much like historical abolitionism, in that simply “agreeing to disagree” on the issue would be a morally insufficient response to an action which strips basic human rights from others. It is an analogy which has been used in the past by pro-life activists to counter arguments made by pro-choice advocates when they attempt to side-step the ethical debate by claiming that abortion is at most a question of personal morality and should therefore remain a matter of personal choice.

The media response to Dr. Carson has, however, been disappointing in its superficiality and its unwillingness to address the content of his statements. Rather than engaging his pro-life views and the logic behind them, political commentators prefer to ignore them and shift the focus onto how they will potentially damage him as a candidate. There has been a general tendency from news outlets such as the Huffington Post and the New York Times to simply compare these recent remarks to a list of his other controversial statements and leave the discussion at that.

While such an approach is characteristic of our 21st-century, sound-bite media in general, it is a journalistic pathology which has been particularly pronounced whenever abortion is the issue at hand. The pro-choice viewpoint is accepted as doctrine and any pro-life political statement considered an electoral liability rather than a perspective meriting consideration or even logical refutation. In some cases, the criticism is less thinly veiled and any pro-life argument, however elegantly and respectfully constructed, is used as ipso facto evidence of the “crazy”, “mean-spirited” or “archaic” qualities of the individual in question.

However, this persistent side-stepping of the issue should not dissuade pro-life politicians from continuing to speak openly about their beliefs and the sound reasoning underlying them. In the hyper-educated and technologically advanced world of 2015, any individual with an internet connection can and will see these statements on show and can make his or her own decision about their validity, even if journalists are unwilling to tackle them head-on.

It is critical for all of us to continue to speak up like Dr. Carson, and expose the logical inconsistencies of a society which preaches a commitment to human rights but which has failed to honour them for some of its most vulnerable members.

Posted in Abortion Tagged with: , , , ,

There’s no Charter right to abortion

A common refrain of abortion advocates in Canada, from Justin Trudeau’s Liberal platform to the pages of our own newspaper, is that there is a Charter right to abortion. That’s just not true.

Here’s how Teodora Pasca, a student in the ethics, society and law program at U of T, gets in wrong in The Varsity:

If I had stopped to confront the protesters that day, I would have reminded them that it was almost 30 years ago that the Supreme Court of Canada deemed legal restrictions on abortion unconstitutional. This is due to the fact that women’s rights to their own bodies are protected under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees all individuals the right to security of the person. This fundamental provision throws legal weight behind the idea that a woman cannot be forced into any activity involving her own body without her consent.

Let’s actually read R. v. Morgentaler, specifically pages 36-38:

The right to “liberty” contained in s. 7 guarantees to every individual a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting his or her private life. […] Section 251 of the Criminal Code takes a personal and private decision away from the woman and gives it to a committee which bases its decision on “criteria entirely unrelated to [the pregnant woman’s] own priorities and aspirations”.

Lesson #1: R. v. Morgentaler struck down the previous law under s. 7 on procedural and administrative grounds — because decisions about abortion were made by committees.

The primary objective of the impugned legislation is the protection of the foetus. This is a perfectly valid legislative objective. It has other ancillary objectives, such as the protection of the life and health of the pregnant woman and the maintenance of proper medical standards.

The situation respecting a woman’s right to control her own person becomes more complex when she becomes pregnant, and some statutory control may be appropriate. Section 1 of the Charter authorizes reasonable limits to be put upon the woman’s right having regard to the fact of the developing foetus within her body. […] The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state’s interest in its protection becomes “compelling” should be left to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive submissions on the subject from all the relevant disciplines.

Lesson #2: R. v. Morgentaler explicitly admits that Parliament can legislate constitutionally on abortion, and that some legal protections for pre-born children — namely, later in a pregnancy — could explicitly be considered constitutional.

Given the conclusion that s. 251 contains rules unnecessary to the protection of the foetus, the question as to whether a foetus is included in the word “everyone” in s. 7, so as to have a right to “life, liberty and security of the person” under the Charter, need not be decided.

[…]

The question whether a foetus is covered by the word “everyone” in s. 7 so as to have an independent right to life under that section was not dealt with.

Lesson #3: R. v. Morgentaler punted on the question of pre-born Charter rights!

Let’s look at what the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms actually says:

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

[…]

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

R. v. Morgentaler essentially said that pregnant women have a right to security of the person (s. 7), subject only to reasonable limits (s. 1) — and a committee-based decision that could deny abortion at any point in pregnancy did not constitute a reasonable limit, because a reasonable limit would be subject to the development of the pre-born child.

But R. v. Morgentaler explicitly did not address the question of whether or not pre-born children should be included under the “everyone” in s. 7 to begin with! Which is insane, because if pre-born children do have a right to life and to security of the person, that would radically change any sane interpretation of what constitutes a “reasonable limit.”

So, let’s recap:

  1. The old law was struck down on procedure grounds, because decisions about abortion were made by local committees
  2. The right to security of the person under s. 7 is subject to reasonable limits under s. 1, and the protection of pre-born children can be a valid legislative objective — in particular, later in pregnancy.
  3. The question of whether or not pre-born humans should count as the “everyone” in s. 7 was specifically dodged! That would radically change any honest analysis of what limits are reasonable.

There’s no Charter right to abortion. Even R. v. Morgentaler admits some restrictions could be constitutional, and it dodged the question of pre-born Charter rights — a shameful silence.

Should every human being have human rights? To deny some human beings their basic human rights puts the Morgentaler decision on the wrong side of history.

Posted in Abortion Tagged with: , ,

Towards a Theory of Change

I was introduced to the notion of a theory of change from the late Internet activist Aaron Schwartz:

I am increasingly convinced that the difference between effective and ineffective people is their skill at developing a theory of change. Theory of change is a funny phrase — I first heard it in the nonprofit community, but it’s also widespread in politics and really applies to just about everything. Unfortunately, very few people seem to be very good at it.

Let’s take a concrete example. Imagine you want to decrease the size of the defense budget. The typical way you might approach this is to look around at the things you know how to do and do them on the issue of decreasing the defense budget. So, if you have a blog, you might write a blog post about why the defense budget should be decreased and tell your friends about it on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re a professional writer, you might write a book on the subject. If you’re an academic, you might publish some papers. Let’s call this strategy a “theory of action”: you work forwards from what you know how to do to try to find things you can do that will accomplish your goal.

A theory of change is the opposite of a theory of action — it works backwards from the goal, in concrete steps, to figure out what you can do to achieve it. To develop a theory of change, you need to start at the end and repeatedly ask yourself, “Concretely, how does one achieve that?” […]

[…] It’s not easy. It could take a while before you get to a concrete action that you can take. But do you see how this is entirely crucial if you want to be effective?

Pro-Life Theory of Action

Our pro-life efforts too often have a theory of action. We look around us and think, what can we do to accomplish our goals? What can we do that could abolish abortion? Let’s recriminalize abortion, just change the law back. Write your MP, write a blog post, go on social media, march, hold a sign, hand out some pamphlets, hold a conference, host a speaker, put some posters or ads up. These are all actions we can do as we look around us. Some of these actions might reach people and change their minds, or even save lives. None of these scattered actions will fundamentally change anything.

Well, that’s because we’re outnumbered, you might say. Or that’s because it won’t happen overnight, it’ll take a long time, but we just have to keep at it!

No amount of spitting into the ocean will cause a sea-change. A theory of action isn’t good enough. We need a theory of change.

Pro-Life Theory of Change

What does a pro-life theory of change look like? What would it look like to work backwards from the goal until we find some concrete steps we can take, rather than just taking whatever concrete steps seem available now without any real plan for getting to the destination?

Take the CCBR’s EndtheKilling plan for example. The vision is an abortion-free Canada. Concretely, how do you achieve that? They work backwards from that until they get to more concrete steps: a strategy of exposing the humanity of pre-born children and inhumanity of abortion through visual evidence, and through effective dialogue, in order to make abortion unthinkable — to make people more horrified by the reality of abortion than by the alternatives. People don’t want to address abortion, so they focus on ways to end the cover up, route around gatekeepers, and bring that message directly to an apathetic public — and then they measure whether or not it actually changes people’s minds on abortion with empirical data to see whether the tactics and strategy are actually working. You can read through the document — notice how they’re working backwards from vision, to mission, to strategy, to tactics, to actions — in concrete steps. How do we change minds? With evidence and conversation. How do we reach people who don’t want to see or hear? Bring the message to them. What about gatekeepers who won’t let that message through? Route around them. There’s no shot-in-the-dark, try-whatever-we-can-think-of-right-now or whatever someone else is doing — it’s a carefully considered theory of change.

UTSFL’s Theory of Change

I’ve seen UTSFL transform in recent years from a club that was maintaining a pro-life presence on campus (important) and reaching out to students (also important) to a club that’s committed to radically changing how the population at the University of Toronto St. George campus thinks about abortion — a club that’s serious about a theory of change.

For example, our activism team is not interested in simply being a presence on campus anymore, or in occasionally taking a stand. That’s a theory of action.

We are committed to making sure that everyone at the University of Toronto St. George campus sees photos of healthy pre-born children and photos of abortion victims on a regular basis and that everyone at the University of Toronto St. George campus will be spoken with about abortion.

We are committed to making the injustice of abortion impossible to ignore through visual evidence, to dispelling anti-science ignorance about when life begins and making the moral case for human rights for all human beings through conversation.

We’re forming ourselves to be pro-life ambassadors, learning and planning together every week, to reach every corner of the campus with regular, engaging and visible activism that changes hearts and minds.

As William Wilberforce said when implementing theory of change to expose injustice and make it impossible to ignore: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

Changing the way our campus thinks about abortion is a foundation for other efforts. We also lend our hands every week to women and families in crisis pregnancies and highlight the important resources available for parenting students at U of T — but first people need to be more horrified by abortion than its alternatives to seek assistance in a difficult pregnancy. We participate in political projects — but first we need to change opinion on abortion before laws recognizing pre-born human rights can be passed.

We’re building a movement on campus. We’re transforming the way the St. George campus thinks about abortion, to make it so that no one on campus can ignore the plight of pre-born children. This is not about doing whatever we can with a theory of action. We’re doing what we must with a theory of change.

We have a mission not just to be witnesses on campus, but to radically change our campus. Be a part of the movement — join us to change our campus!

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