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.
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.
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.
(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.)
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.