Against idea bundling in the pro-life movement: PLAGAL on Prolife Unity radio

Cecilia Brown, President of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, was on Prolife Unity radio a few weeks back (via PLAGAL’s blog). I wasn’t able to give the interview my full attention, but it seems like there was some controversy at the American March for Life as PLAGAL members were charged with protesting without a permit, after March for Life organizers asked them to put down their banner (with the rainbow flag, I believe).

I don’t know the particulars of the situation, but I personally agree most with the commentator who likened this to the way that Notre Dame dealt with protesters: both March for Life and Notre Dame were within their legal rights to crack down as they did, but neither decision was wise.

This reminds me of a recent Search Engine podcast by TVO’s Jesse Brown on the case against idea bundling with network neutrality. (Yes, very different issue, but hear me out!)

The basic principle of “network neutrality” is that there is no discrimination between packets on a network; much like our power outlets don’t discriminate against our electronic devices (it doesn’t cost more per voltage to use one device versus another, and performance isn’t degraded for certain appliances), an Internet Service Provider shouldn’t be slowing down your connection based on what website you’re viewing — all parties are given equal treatment on a neutral network. Without getting too deep into the technical issues, there are reasons why those of all political colours would support such a measure, ranging from freedom of speech arguments to fair competition arguments from companies that aren’t Bell/Rogers.

Until the Liberals recently expressed support for network neutrality, the issue has largely been associated with the left (and the NDP) in Canada. Also, at a recent town hall meeting in Toronto, one participant demanded to know why he was receiving emails about getting Al Jazeera into Canada after subscribing to the SaveOurNet.ca mailing list.

Jesse Brown argued that net neutrality proponents should set up a big tent, so that people from all political backgrounds could feel comfortable supporting net neutrality measures. Liberals, conservatives, libertarians, etc. don’t need to agree on the environment or the status of Al Jazeera in order to agree that network neutrality is a good idea. Why should other, separate issues be bundled together, especially in a way that alienates those from a different political background and paints the issue as far to one side of the political spectrum?

I feel like there’s a similar idea bundling happening here in the March for Life’s hostility toward PLAGAL. Trust me, I probably don’t agree with them on a lot of other things, but if we can agree that abortion is morally wrong and that it’s not the compassionate response to a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, why can’t we work together to oppose it?

I welcome a group like PLAGAL that breaks the stereotype of pro-lifers as old, white, Christian men. It makes it all the more difficult for pro-choicers to ignore us, or pretend that only extremists or non-scientific people oppose abortion. I actually get a kick out of thinking about how pro-choice organizations react to groups like PLAGAL. We witnessed some drama at UofT a few years back, when someone used the LGBTOUT mailing list to encourage members to protest a UTSFL event, and a prominent member of the LGBT community reamed them out for assuming all LGBTOUT members were pro-choice (as he was ardently pro-life).

As long as PLAGAL is participating in events like this for the same reason as other pro-life groups — to take a stand against abortion — and they’re not “hijacking” the event to promote another issue (i.e. idea bundling themselves — which it doesn’t seem like they’re doing), then I think we should encourage and be grateful for their participation.

What do you think?

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4 Comments on “Against idea bundling in the pro-life movement: PLAGAL on Prolife Unity radio

  1. I’m Peter Shinn, president of Pro-Life Unity and an anchor on Pro-Life Unity Radio. While Michael Crone, our other anchor supported Cicilia Brown and her right to carry a banner, Michael Hargadon, our other anchor and my position was more in line with that of the March for Life. Allow me to explain.

    The March for Life Education and Defense Fund is a registered corporation and secured the rights to that location. Anybody who joins with the March for Life on that day obviously does so with the permission of MFL. If a group such as PLAGAL comes along and wants to fly a banner that distracts from the main message, MFL has the right to tell them to pull it down.

    MFL has never denied PLAGAL access to the MFL, only their banners. It is their right to do so.

    If MFL didn’t refuse the banners, it would appear as if MFL were endorsing PLAGAL.

    You can listen to that part of the 06/13/09 show here – http://www.prolifeunity.com/index.php/site/article/pro_life_unity_radio_archives/

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the comment. I did hear that argument in the interview. Surely, MFL was well within their legal rights.

      How was the PLAGAL banner distracting from the main message though? Was it the rainbow flag, or were there other messages on the banner?

      It seems to me that if it were just the rainbow flag, then that would be as distracting as anyone carrying a cross or other Christian symbols which aren’t directly related to the abortion issue. But, if PLAGAL was guilty of idea bundling themselves and carrying signs with unrelated messages, I’d have to agree with MFL.

      What was distracting about the banners?

      • a cross or a church/school affiliation banner with the words pro-life on it isn’t distracting if you are Christian. a banner that supports something you oppose is. again, it’s a matter of hundreds of thousands of people seeing a banner and behavior that would be the opposite of the values of MFL.

        let me put it this way…are they there to be homosexual or are they there to be pro-life?

        • Well, sure, it isn’t distracting if you’re Christian, but is the MFL a Christian event or a pro-life event? Does MFL oppose homosexuality?

          “Are they there to be homosexual or are they there to be pro-life?”

          Well, if they’re their to promote a gay agenda, I agree that’s a problem and MFL should crack down. Anything to do with same-sex marriage at a pro-life event would be distracting, for example — that’s definitely idea bundling.

          But if they’re there as a gay organization, are they really there to be homosexual? Or are they gay people who are there?

          I don’t think that being gay is a distraction enough, in and of itself. It shouldn’t be.

          I’d like to think that we can disagree about things like same-sex marriage or homosexuality, but still agree that abortion is wrong. No? I don’t think that they should have to hide their identity or affiliation to participate, even if it suggests other ideas that I might (strongly) disagree with.

          I suppose that the banner was just the rainbow flag then?

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