Our mission as a club is to transform our campus by reaching everyone with abortion victim photography and a human rights message, in order to make abortion unthinkable at U of T and do our local part to end the killing in Canada. When we engage in this kind of direct action, we have many fruitful, productive and civil conversations with other students from all sorts of backgrounds — but there are also some who want to shut down the debate or hide the evidence of the injustice.

We welcome scrutiny. We are confident in both the high calibre character of all of our team members. We are confident in our methods of peaceful and civil outreach to communicate an awful and inconvenient truth about abortion to our peers, who are intelligent, deserve to know the truth and can handle difficult subjects and challenging discussions at U of T. Our methods are modelled on successful social reform movements of the past and have proven to be by far the most effective way to change hearts on minds on abortion. We know these methods are necessary to spare children’s lives and spare women the trauma of abortion.

We also expect opposition — effective social reformers are rarely popular, and popular social reformers are rarely effective, and many in our culture have been wounded by the trauma of abortion. We are not confronting the campus with an inconvenient truth in order to be popular.

Sometimes, abortion advocates try to cover up the photos, or even resort to violence and other illegal activities to try to stop the photos of abortion victims from being displayed. These attempts to cover up the corpses will not work. Censorship attempts backfire and we work to use them to our advantage to make abortion impossible to ignore on campus. We will continue to route around gatekeepers and would-be censors. And our persistent peaceful efforts will not be slowed down by pro-choice violence.

I’ve written elsewhere about the Streisand Effect and the abortion debate — attempts to censor our message often just draw more attention to it. Part of our objective is to make abortion impossible to ignore on campus, as a necessary step towards reaching everyone in our community. When UTSU or Students for Reproductive Justice attempt to censor the pro-life message, this can help to make abortion impossible to ignore — generating media coverage, and raising the profile of the abortion debate on campus.

Would we rather not deal with censorship? Of course! However, we know that many people do not want the bodies of abortion victims to be seen. It’s hard to say “my body, my choice” when you’re faced with the photographic evidence that abortion destroys the body of another innocent human being. So, we will route around censorship attempts, and leverage them to our advantage. We turn roadblocks into speedbumps.

UTSU’s Arbitrary Denial of Our Club Status Renewal

We never used to run activism at UTSU events. For something like a decade and a half, UTSFL had a good relationship with UTSU. We were treated fairly, like any other club ­— U of T has a stronger commitment to freedom of expression than most campuses, and is tolerant of a wide variety of views on a wide variety of subjects. We didn’t cause problems for UTSU, and UTSU didn’t cause problems for us.

This changed in the Summer of 2017, when UTSU arbitrarily denied UTSFL club status in a routine renewal application. Nothing had changed in our club activities or application from one year to the next, or for the past couple years for that matter. We appealed the decision, and the UTSU Executive Review Committee sanctioned and penalized the UTSU executives who made the decision. The review committee ruled that the decision was arbitrary and had no basis in UTSU’s policies — we won. However, the Executive Review Committee does not have the power to reverse club status decisions. Though they recommended that the arbitrary decision should be immediately reversed, UTSU simply ignored the recommendation and has continued to refuse to renew UTSFL’s club recognition with UTSU.

Nevermind being treated fairly like other clubs, this year UTSFL was even denied the ability to pay for a table at the Streetfest at the same rate as off-campus, external non-student groups. Many other controversial clubs (did you hear the shouting back and forth about Hong Kong?) and even corporations and off-campus groups had tables, but our student group — a club recognized University of Toronto’s Office of Student Life — was denied access.

Routing Around the Gatekeepers: Circumvention Tactics

This is why we’ve been creative in finding new ways to reach students with the pro-life message during orientation week. While we resent the unjust, arbitrary and likely illegal discrimination that our club has faced from UTSU, in at least one sense, I’d really like to thank them. Before 2017, we stayed away from frosh and orientation week activism at UTSU events because we didn’t want to harm our relationship with UTSU or be too bold. However, once UTSU unilaterally torpedoed that relationship and tried to keep us out… well, there was no reason left for us not to do activism at UTSU events. And without equal access to tabling at Clubs Carnival or Streetfest, we need to be creative to find new ways to reach incoming students.

We run banner at the UTSU Tri-Campus Parade:

We run “Choice” Chain near the Clubs Carnival:

And we’ve had a strong presence at Streetfest for the past three years:

If we’re not allowed inside, we’ll set up at the gates. Quite frankly, while it creates unfair barriers for us to reach other pro-life students, we’ve learned that we can reach thousands of pro-choice students this way rather than dozens as one of many tables.

When UTSU staff, executives and volunteers come out with UTSU property wearing UTSU clothing, and use the power and resources of the student union to even try to suppress our message as we exercise our Charter rights on public property, we make sure the photos are impossible to cover up. If it’s an arms race, we’ll win. If they bring bed sheets, we’ll bring banners. If they bring bigger bed sheets, we’ll bring more and bigger signs

We also have great, productive conversations with some of the counterprotesters, many of whom have not yet thought through the abortion issue. Our “opposition” is not the enemy — abortion is — and the counterprotesters are often more likely than others to have been wounded by experience with abortion.

Regardless of what happens at Streetfest or the parade, our activism at those big events serves only to get the conversation started on campus — it’s our persistent weekly presence on the sidewalks where we reach most students throughout the remainder of the year. Even if none of the photos are visible during orientation week — which is far from the case — censorship raises the profile of the abortion debate on campus, so that when we follow up to engage with students week by week, the conversation about abortion at U of T has already started. No matter what happens, it’s a win-win for our strategy and our strong presence begins a conversation that we work to continue all year long.

We Will Not Be Deterred by Violence

When discrimination and censorship fail, some pro-choicers resort to violence. Last year at Streetfest, someone was arrested for assault with a weapon for attacking our club President, even as he dropped his banner, tried to walk away and peacefully disengage. This year, someone threw an egg at him. Someone else attacked our Past VP this year, grabbing his glasses off his face, popping out the lenses, and throwing the lenses onto Harbord Street. (Who does that? We’re thankful to the counterprotesters who helped him retrieve one of the lenses, despite our obvious disagreement on abortion — that’s the U of T I know.) These are just a tiny fraction of the incidents our club members have faced doing pro-life outreach.

Civil disagreement is welcome, but we have zero tolerance for violence against our team members. One of the counterprotesters asked me at Streetfest why we film during our activism. You’ll notice that we don’t upload videos of conversations or “gotcha” moments — we’re not Rebel Media and that’s not our objective at all. We don’t film for conversations, we film to keep our team safe, and to pursue criminal acts and misconduct to the fullest extent of the law. Our team always remains peaceful in the face of violence, and we never engage in misconduct or criminal activity. That’s also true of the majority of pro-choice students we meet on campus. Unfortunately, there are still many others who resort to violence to try to silence our message. This also backfires because we will not be deterred by violence — the violence we face is nothing compared to the violence that pre-born children face in abortion – and those who engage in violence will face the legal consequences of their actions.

Changing Hearts and Minds is Worth It

While I’m saddened by the violence that my clubmates have faced in our peaceful outreach, I’m also encouraged and inspired by their selflessness and determination to continue to share the pro-life message on campus. It’s not an easy or comfortable thing to do — to present our peers with an inconvenient truth, to face discrimination and censorship attempts, and even to endure violence.

We continue because we know from experience that sharing even a difficult truth in love is worth it, that sharing love even through darkness is so needed in our community, and that the stakes are high. We see people change their minds on abortion all the time, and we see hearts transformed, and we know the lives of pre-born children are at stake and that many more parents will face the trauma of abortion if we don’t reach them.

Attempts to cover up the corpses won’t work. They backfire, ultimately, because the truth is more powerful than lies. A photo of a child’s body, broken by abortion, is more powerful than empty slogans like “my body, my choice.” And even when the student union brings its power and resources down on a student club to try to silence our message or keep us out, we will find a way to bring the truth back in. Human rights are for all human beings, and the injustice of abortion will be exposed.

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Yesterday, we made abortion impossible to ignore at U of T, making the victims visible to thousands and having countless conversations about science of when life begins and the ethics of abortion. Abortion is a human rights violation, and we are determined to educate the entire University of Toronto community about the injustice in order to end the killing.

The Varsity published an article about our activism, including a photo of the demonstration:

TheVarsity.ca screenshot of front page article about UTSFL

UTSFL Education Coordinator Blaise Alleyne defended the anti-abortion protest, arguing that “abortion is a human rights violation that ends the life of an innocent human being.”

“We’re here with photos as evidence of that, and to have civil conversation with people about human rights,” said Alleyne.

Want to help us to end the killing at U of T? Get involved with our activism team!

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

utsfl-cc-8weeks

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 contact us, 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.

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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?

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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.

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.

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