Click on the image to play the CBC interview with Andrea Mrozek about the overturning of Roe v Wade and the newly formed coalition of women who are celebrating the fall of Roe.
It’s been almost one hundred years since the infamous Person’s Case in Canada that inspired the simple headline: Women are Persons. That case reminds us that too often it takes a long time to correct bad law. Waiting for the Supreme Court in the United States to release their final decision about Roe v. Wade caused three Canadian women to consider how long overdue, it is that this bad law be overturned. Three unaffiliated women, Jakki Jeffs, Executive Director of Alliance for Life Ontario, Tabitha Ewert, Legal Counsel for We Need A Law, and Andrea Mrozek, Senior Fellow at Cardus and creator of ProWomanProLife.org led the charge to make it clear that pro-life women exist en masse in Canada and we want our voices to be heard.
We decided to aim for an initial one hundred women to sign our statement on why it is encouraging that Roe v Wade be overturned. While this is an American decision with no bearing on Canadian law, we are aware that this decision will be discussed in Canada. We await the day that no living person be denied personhood, born or preborn, male or female and every pregnant woman has access to life affirming help in her community.
One hundred women signed easily and quickly. Sailing through that goal we now go public seeking a thousand and then a hundred thousand signatures of women across Canada, unaffiliated but for the purpose of saying we unabashedly applaud the overturning of Roe v Wade.
“It’s emotional for me. For so many women, who feel underrepresented in the public square, the fall of Roe is deeply significant and encouraging,” said Andrea Mrozek. “While there remains a long way to go in making abortion unthinkable, this is a very encouraging step, and long overdue, Women deserve way better than abortion,” said Jakki Jeffs. “Roe was very bad law, based on a fabricated right to privacy,” said Tabitha Ewert. “On that basis alone, it could not stand, and the court was right to overturn it,” she added.
It is the hope of this limited coalition that the voices of pro-life women would be heard. Other women who wish to sign on can do so by going here.
We are non-religious, non-partisan and non-sectarian and stand united in opposition to abortion. One hundred women, seeking personhood, for all, so that one hundred years from the personhood case, the voices of all, with or without power in the world, might be heard.
Andrea Mrozek – 613.241.4500 ext..503
Tabitha Ewert – 604 220 1258
Jakki Jeffs – 519 820 3399 (cell) 519 821 9604 (office)
Last summer, I was privileged to listen in on two fascinating online debates between pro-life and pro-choice activists.
The first debate was hosted by Harvard Right to Life and Massachusetts Citizens for Life. It featured Stephanie Gray Connors, an astoundingly articulate pro-life activist, gifted apologist, published author, and founder of the Love Unleashes Life ministry. The pro-choice representative was infamous ethicist Dr. Peter Singer, who is often known for his controversial comments about disabilities, including asserting that parents should be permitted to euthanize children with disabilities like Down Syndrome and spina bifida.
The second debate was a joint effort by three student clubs—the Health and Medical Law Society, Students for Free Speech York U, and Youth Protecting Youth—at York University. Maaike Rosendal, who works for the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, similarly did an extraordinary job communicating the pro-life position with compassion, clarity, and conviction. The pro-choice representative was Dr. Fraser Fellows, a now retired late-term abortionist.
While I of course appreciated the lengthy and in-depth debate, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a clear gender division. In both debates, the pro-life movement was represented by a female speaker and the pro-choice movement was represented by a male speaker. This seems to run completely contrary to the mainstream mythology that the pro-life movement is filled with grouchy old Catholic men wanting to force their beliefs and rosaries onto women (seen, for instance, in the “keep your rosaries off my ovaries” chant) and that the pro-choice movement is filled with female feminists who are resisting male oppression (see, for example, the “no uterus, no opinion” slogan).
I do not find the fact that these debates featured female pro-life speakers and male pro-choice speakers as inherently problematic or particularly surprising. As someone who has been involved with pro-life activism for over a decade, my experience with the abortion debate is that women make up the vast majority of the pro-life movement (contrary to the stereotypes peddled by abortion advocates). And, as someone who has been a student of this issue for the better part of 13 years, I’m also very alive to the fact that men have been intimately involved in promulgating and perpetuating the practice of abortion (including the all-male group of judges in the Supreme Court of the United States Roe v Wade decision, the mostly male group of judges in the Supreme Court of Canada R v Morgentaler decision, the mostly male politicians who will have crafted the permissive abortion regime in Canada, and the many male abortionists who have performed countless abortions over the course of their careers – including the venerable Henry Morgentaler himself).
And so, we return to these two debates. I think these two debates make it quite clear that there is no such thing as the mythical anti-abortion male mob seeking to enslave the bodies of the pro-abortion female freedom fighters. Stephanie Gray Connors and Maaike Rosendal are eloquent, articulate, and passionate pro-life women who have committed their lives to being a voice for the pre-born, including taking a stand in public debates against the pro-choice men who seek to preserve the status quo on abortion.
In short, contrary to how pro-choice activists and pro-abortion feminists have tried to frame this debate, there are women and men on both sides of the issue. To frame the issue of abortion as being about women only—women’s rights, women’s interests, and women’s efforts—is patently untrue and deliberately misrepresentative of the depth and breadth of the issue.
I am not someone who believes that only women should have a voice on the issue of abortion, which has severe consequences on men and women across the country.
If there can be pro-choice men like Dr. Peter Singer who defend abortion access and pro-abortion men like Dr. Fraser Fellows who perform abortions, then there can also be pro-life men who work to protect vulnerable pre-born children and promote a culture of life.
This is not simply a woman’s issue. It is ultimately a human issue.
This is not simply about women’s rights. It is ultimately about human rights.
In my previous blog post on Dr. Parker’s book, I addressed the complexities of Dr. Parker’s faith, which he wields in an attempt to give himself credibility and assert that advancing abortion access “is precisely the Christian thing to do.” After an in-depth analysis of the nature of his beliefs, I concluded that, while Dr. Parker is evidently a man of deep faith and spiritual convictions, he cannot claim to be a Christian, as properly understood in relation to the Bible. Now I turn my attention to one final subject: reason.
I have frequently argued—and continue to believe to this day—that the core question that must be answered in the abortion debate is this: Is the preborn fetus a human? This question is fundamental because, while it may sound empowering and even common-sense to use the language of being “pro-choice”, whether or not being “pro-choice” is, in fact, positive depends entirely on the nature of the choice being exercised.
We would correctly denounce anyone who claimed moral superiority for being “pro-choice” if the choice in question was the choice to inflict cruelty on animals. We would also correctly decry the suggestion that it is positive to be “pro-choice” if the choice in question involves afflicting physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse on another human being. And there are many who are currently denouncing Elon Musk’s infamous “free speech maximalism”—which, arguably, is a fundamentally “pro-choice” position, insofar as he is advocating for the unfettered right to choose what one says in public spaces—precisely on the basis of their concern that some people may use their choice to perpetuate hatred and harm. To be clear, I am not comparing the choice to have an abortion with these other choices or suggesting that these choices are all morally equivalent. I am simply making the point that, before we laud or decry being “pro-choice” in the context of abortion, we must first determine what is being chosen. In this context, that requires us to know whether or not the unborn fetus is a human.
Since Dr. Parker is a doctor—specifically, an OB-GYN—I had hoped that he would have a well-reasoned answer to this question. And I should clarify that I did not presume that his well-reasoned answer would be identical to mine. Quite the contrary, in fact. I knew that Dr. Parker was an abortionist, and so I knew that his answer to the question of the humanity of the unborn fetus would support his pro-abortion position. Still, my hope and expectation was that, as a physician, he would have an evidence-based, well-reasoned answer to this question. And that itself would have made his position respectable, even if it was an answer that I ultimately disagreed with.
It was with genuine disappointment, then, that I found myself reading the same tired statements that I have heard repeated over and over again by other abortion supporters, statements that lack intellectual consistency and coherent reasoning. While I by no means claim to be a scientific expert or authority on matters of healthcare, I—like any human being—am still able to test the veracity of Dr. Parker’s claims and evaluate the quality and consistency of his reasoning. What’s more, a large part of my professional expertise requires me to carefully scrutinize the integrity and logical coherence of arguments, whether my own or those of others. And my conclusion is that Dr. Parker’s claims, despite being sincerely held, are not scientifically supported or well-reasoned.
Unpacking Arguments Against the Humanity of the Unborn
One of the first things to note is that Dr. Parker was willing to overstate his position in ways that contradicted the other authoritative voices he cited in support of his position. In the chapter “Preaching Truth”, Dr. Parker makes the bold assertion that he “can authoritatively attest that life does not begin at conception.” Fascinatingly enough, he contradicts himself a few sentences later when he writes: “the fact is, as Justice Harry Blackmun so eloquently wrote way back in 1973, in the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, there is no historical, philosophical, theological, or even scientific consensus on when life begins.” The problem is that Dr. Parker cannot authoritatively assure readers that life does not begin at conception if there is, in fact, a lack of scientific consensus on when human life begins.
So, let us unpack Dr. Parker’s claims in more detail.
In the Prologue to his book, while discussing how he approaches interactions with the women he provides abortion to, Dr. Parker writes the following:
But if they ask me questions, as they frequently do, I answer them as their doctor—and not as their confessor or their friend—and I give them the medical truth.
Before twenty-two weeks, a fetus is not in any way equal to “a baby” or “a child.” It cannot survive outside the uterus because it cannot breathe—not even on a respirator. It cannot form anything like thoughts. Up until twenty-nine completed gestational weeks, despite what the antis may say, the scientific consensus is that it cannot feel anything like pain.
This paragraph is fairly representative of Dr. Parker’s core arguments around the unborn fetus not being human (although he does make a number of other side points that I will address in an effort to be comprehensive, thorough, and fair.)
Value at Viability?
Dr. Parker’s first core argument is that the fetus’ lack of viability precludes him or her from being recognized as a human being. This is consistent throughout the book. For example, when discussing the post-abortion process of piecing the unborn fetus back together to ensure that no part has been left inside the woman, Dr. Parker comments that, “no matter what these parts may look like, this is organic matter that does not add up to anything that can live on its own.”
The argument about viability is a common one. For those who support abortion, there is this ongoing difficulty of identifying when human life begins, while somehow preserving the position that abortion is mostly permissible. Notwithstanding the Canadian legal fiction that a fetus remains sub-human until the moment of birth, very few people truly believe that human life only starts at the moment of birth. How could they? After all, what is the difference between the preborn child a few seconds before birth and the newborn child a few seconds after birth? Humanity is not magically endowed by the birth canal. And so human life must begin before birth. Of course, then there is the matter of late-term abortions, which many abortion supporters find intuitively uncomfortable. In the desperate effort to pinpoint a logical moment in pregnancy at which humanity begins, viability frequently emerges as one solution, perhaps because human life beginning at viability both sounds more logical than life beginning at birth and simultaneously shields most abortions from legal intervention.
The problem is this: the point of viability is not static. As medical technology and healthcare interventions advance, the point at which a child is viable has moved earlier and earlier in the pregnancy. When the US Supreme Court issued its infamous decision in Roe v Wade, it wrote: “Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.” In the decades since then, progress in medical technology has steadily moved that line earlier and earlier. Dr. Parker seems to assert viability is somewhere between 22 and 25 weeks. And, despite Dr. Parker’s bold proclamations that a preborn fetus before twenty-two weeks “cannot” and “will not” survive, “not ever”, that is simply not the case (a verifiable fact that I established in my previous blog post). Many children have survived being born before 22 weeks gestation, including one young boy who recently celebrated his first birthday, conquering all odds after being given a 0% change of survival when he was born at 21 weeks and 2 days.
Not only has the point of viability changed with time and with technological advancement, but it will also change depending on the country in question and the medical technology that is available in different locations within that country. To suggest that something as concrete and scientifically verifiable as when human life begins is based on something as varied and unstable as the point at which the preborn fetus is viable is ludicrous. It is to conflate a static, existential truth (namely, what constitutes “personhood”) with a highly varied and contextual medical determination (what constitutes “viability”).
Interestingly enough, Dr. Parker seems to indirectly concede this point. While he at times discusses viability in a medical sense, he shifts his definition of the term, eventually drawing on a more philosophical and abstract understanding of “viability”. In a longer passage, Dr. Parker elaborates even further on how crucial viability is to his conception of human life:
A full-term pregnancy lasts forty weeks, on average. And up until at least twenty-two weeks, the fetus is not “viable.” That is, it cannot—it will not—survive outside the uterus, not with the assistance of medical technology, as in a respirator, and not with the spiritual support of earnest and hopeful prayer. Not ever. Up until twenty-two weeks, fetal development is insufficient to sustain life. A baby born at that gestational age cannot breathe. Its body weight cannot support life. Its skin is permeable. The antis may want to call a twenty-two week fetus a “person,” but if born, it will die.
The antis don’t want to hear this, but “life” is a gray area. There is a period, between about twenty-two and twenty-five weeks of gestational age, during which “life” is a vague state. A fetus may or may not be viable in that period, and there’s no way to reliably predict outcomes. A fetus born during this period is not definitely consigned life. Nor is it destined to die. Depending on various different factors—its weight, its lung development, the health of its mother, the expertise of the doctors in charge, and the technological capacity of the neonatal facility—it may live. Or not. And if it lives, it may grow up into a healthy adult, or it may suffer, afflicted with extensive organ and brain damage, and die young. These are the medical facts, having nothing to do with religious belief, or the power of prayer, or the hopes of parents to raise beautiful children. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not recommend trying to resuscitate babies born at twenty-three weeks. At twenty-four weeks, doctors understand that it’s a crapshoot and they let the parents, together with their attending doctors, decide. At twenty-five weeks, the America Medical Association recommends resuscitation. But within these guidelines, doctors understand that “life” is not assured and that its “sanctity” is merely a hope.
Here we see a very different understanding of “viability” and the notion of “life”. While Dr. Parker starts off with discussing when a preborn fetus can physically survive on his or her own, he shifts to discussing the lack of assurances that this life will endure into the future. Whether this bait and switch was intentional or not is ultimately irrelevant. What matters is that it is a change, and a meaningful one at that, because Dr. Parker is no longer discussing a medically verifiable point in time, but rather a much more abstract, esoteric principle about the assurance and continuance of life.
I understand the point that Dr. Parker is seeking to make, and he’s not wrong in asserting that life is never assured, particularly for a child born prematurely. However, the harsh reality of human existence is that life is never assured. Arguably, tragedy is always just around the corner. And so, suggesting that the value of human life—whether that life has sanctity and is worth protecting—is contingent on whether that life is assured is untenable and unascertainable. To use a tragic hypothetical: a new mother and her newborn child could leave the hospital and get hit by a car, fatally killing them both. Their lives were not assured beyond that moment in time—which, for the child, was likely a matter of mere hours or days—and yet both of their lives were of infinite value, full of sanctity and worthy of protection.
Recall that the start of human life is about more than abortion. Identifying when human life begins also means identifying when human rights begin. It is both inadvisable and illogical to base something as serious as the commencement of legal protection and human rights on the ever-changing point of viability.
Having dispensed with that unreasonable assertion, we move on to Dr. Parker’s next claim: that the preborn fetus “cannot form anything like thoughts”.
Cogito, ergo sum?
When reading the book, I found that Dr. Parker makes many confident assertions—presumably drawing on his medical background—about what the preborn fetus can and cannot do without offering any sources to support his claims. This assertion that the preborn child “cannot form anything like thoughts” is one such unfounded—and, apparently, untrue—claim. I say it is untrue because experts and researchers have found that the preborn fetus experiences both REM and non-REM sleep, meaning that he or she dreams in utero. It has also been accepted that preborn fetuses can create and retain memories, and fetal memory—combined with infant dreaming—was at one point thought to potentially explain sudden infant death syndrome. In short, while Dr. Parker’s lack of support for his brazen claims makes it impossible for me to consider the medical evidence that he was theoretically drawing on, I find it difficult to comprehend how a preborn fetus could experience REM sleep, create memories, and store those memories, all while being completely unable to “form anything like thoughts”.
Even if Dr. Parker’s assertion was accepted on its face, however, he makes no attempt to explain the difference between a full-term preborn child and a newborn child. In those few hours of labour—and, really, in those few seconds that distinguish a preborn child from a newborn child—what changes anatomically to enable the newborn child to form thoughts? How is Dr. Parker evaluating the ability to “form anything like thoughts”? I am familiar with the more articulate argument that the preborn fetus is not sentient—not conscious of its existence—but that argument too runs into the problem that, to my knowledge, full-term preborn children experience no anatomical change during birth that suddenly enables them to contemplate their own existence. If sentience, consciousness, and the ability to engage in higher thinking are to be determinative of when human life begins, then it is unclear how full-term preborn children and newborn children will be differentiated. (And hopefully it goes without saying that a definition of the commencement of human life that permits the killing of newborn children—infanticide—is not a viable definition. Pun intended.)
The Problem of Pain
Then we reach Dr. Parker’s comment about the preborn fetus not being able to feel pain. Reiterating a point he referenced previously, Dr. Parker writes:
Truth: Until twenty-nine weeks, a fetus can’t feel anything like pain. This is the established opinion of a 2005 clinical review in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agrees. Both consider the inability of a fetus to feel pain before the third trimester an established fact. And yet, despite the empirical evidence given by science, and not contradicted, the antis continue to disseminate their own version of “truth”—which is to say, lies—and to pass laws that support an entirely false idea about what fetuses in utero can “feel.”
Now, the issue of a preborn child’s ability (or lack thereof) to feel pain is something that pro-life advocates discuss quite often, so I understand why Dr. Parker mentions it in his critique of the “antis” position. However, in my 13 years of experience in the pro-life movement, no pro-life individual has ever asserted in my presence that the preborn fetus is a human being because he or she feels pain. Rather, the importance of the unborn child feeling pain is exclusively about the humaneness—or lack thereof—of the abortion procedure.
It is also ludicrous to suggest that the ability to feel pain is a prerequisite to being recognized as human. There are currently human beings living today who are incapable of feeling pain. It would be foolish to suggest that these individuals are not, in fact, human beings and therefore do not deserve the benefits that come with recognition as a human being (e.g., human rights, inherent dignity, intrinsic value, etc.). While we may think of the ability to feel pain as inherent to human beings, it is clearly not an experience shared by all human beings. The ability to feel pain is also by no means exclusive to our species. In short: the ability to feel pain cannot be a prerequisite for being considered a human being. Therefore, even if the unborn child cannot feel pain—and, to be clear, there are experts who suggest in no uncertain terms that the unborn child can feel pain, perhaps as early as 12 weeks—a preborn fetus can still be (and, in fact, is) a human being.
Ancestral Life, Premature Death, and Other Abstract Arguments
Perhaps the culmination of Dr. Parker’s argument about the humanity—or, from his perspective, the lack thereof—of the unborn fetus can be found in his detailed description of an encounter he had with some University of Alabama students who opposed abortion. Dr. Parker writes:
I can understand why the antis like to insist that “life begins at conception.” It’s a simple way to comprehend human reproduction, and because of its simplicity, it offers moral clarity. What I tried to impress upon those students that day is that the scientific truth about life is complicated—but complication doesn’t conflict with a deeply moral, or even religious, orientation. It’s just that a nuanced moral stance requires wrestling with science and God in a way that might be difficult. It might take some time.
An egg, unfertilized, is alive. And sperm are alive. The human beings who generated those cells, which are called gametes, are also alive. These humans move and think; their cells consume and create energy. Men and women who have engaged in sexual intercourse are healthy, or not; they have good nutrition, or not. They carry with them the DNA of generations of ancestors who were also once alive. Within that DNA are maps or codes for possible future outcomes: brilliance, depression, obesity, schizophrenia, heart disease—all these living secrets are contained in each human cell, whether fertilized or not. So the idea that life begins at conception is already false: life begins long before conception with the lives that enabled those gametes to come into being.
Here we see Dr. Parker again return to this esoteric, abstract conception of “life”. While this is a fascinating line of conversation, ideal for philosophical circles and perhaps even for everyday life, Dr. Parker is once again using a bait and switch tactic. Having said that “the scientific truth about life is complicated”, he then switches to a distinctly non-scientific definition of life, waxing lyrical about “life begin[ning] long before conception with the lives that enabled those gametes to come into being.” This is all well and good and intriguing, but it does little to address the ethics or morality of abortion. More importantly, Dr. Parker slyly skips over crucial scientific facts, such as the fact that egg and sperm cells, while alive, have the DNA of the woman and man, respectively, whereas the newly formed gamete has his or her own DNA, making the newly conceived unborn child genetically distinct from the egg and sperm cells that Dr. Parker tries to frame as essentially scientific equals. If anything, despite its momentarily single-celled nature, the gamete is much closer to the “human beings who generated” the egg and sperm cells than it is to the egg and sperm cells themselves.
Dr. Parker then goes on to list a number of scenarios and challenge whether the unborn fetus is still “life” in this context. He mentions that a “large number” of “fertilized eggs” never successfully implant in the woman’s uterine wall, and he mentions that ectopic pregnancies occur. He asks: “Do all these conceptions qualify as ‘life’ as the antis define it? A ‘person’ with rights equal to a woman’s rights?” He similarly points to miscarriages and embryos that fail to thrive, asking: “Is an embryo that fails to thrive ‘life’? On the same level as a healthy newborn? Or on the same level as the woman carrying it?”
While Dr. Parker seems to be using these questions to try to expose an alleged absurdity in the “life begins at conception” position, his proverbial “aha!” moment falls flat with one word: Yes. Yes, the “large number” of “fertilized eggs” that never successfully implant in the woman’s uterine wall do, in fact, quality as “life”. Yes, miscarriages and embryos that fail to thrive are life “[o]n the same level as a health newborn” and “on the same level as the woman carrying it”. While these embryos clearly did not have the opportunity to fully develop and experience the fullness of life, neither did children who die in infancy, teenagers who die before adulthood, or adults who die of anything other than old age.
Each of these individuals—the teenager who dies in a tragic car crash, the infant who dies of sudden infant death syndrome, and the preborn child who dies of a heart wrenching miscarriage—will have lived a life that was prematurely cut short. However, while this brevity of these lives is tragic, it does not change that fact that these were, in fact, human beings. To put it succinctly: The length of one’s life does not alter the fact of one’s existence as a human being. And so, while miscarried embryos and embryos that never implant may die very early in their lives, they do still constitute human beings, as defined by science.
Returning momentarily to his anecdote about the students from the University of Alabama, Dr. Parker writes:
In my conversation with the young anti-abortion activists at the University of Alabama that day, I presented fatal fetal anomalies as clear-cut cases for the necessity of preserving abortion rights up to and beyond twenty weeks. They countered that sometimes miracles happen that allow these fetuses to survive. Yes, I answered, maybe. But most of the time they don’t. And the students were forced to conceded that, sometimes maybe, abortion does not equal murder. And then I brought my argument home: If you can agree that certain medical conditions might justify abortion, then how can you exclude social, or personal, or financial conditions? If abortion is permissible in the case of a fatal fetal anomaly, then why not in the case of a homicidal, battering partner? Or a dire lack of resources? Or a drug dependency? How can the state adjudicate the circumstances of a woman’s life at all?
Unfortunately, the fact that Dr. Parker managed to outwit a handful of university students by no means demonstrates the strength or veracity of the argument that he “brought home”. Now. Dr. Parker would likely be delighted to know that I agree with his assertion that, if abortion is justified in cases of fetal abnormality, we cannot then wrinkle our noses at abortion in cases of domestic violence, poverty, substance abuse, or other life circumstances that women often face. If the unborn child is not a human being, then there is no need to justify abortion—abortion would not end a human life, and abortion would therefore be no different than a woman having her tonsils or her appendix removed. It would be entirely her choice, a decision to be left up to her and her doctor (and, presumably, the loved ones in her life who would offer helpful feedback and tangible support). However, the opposite is also true: namely, that, if the preborn child is a human being, no justification for abortion is adequate, because abortion would end a valuable human life deserving of equal protection as the life of the woman.
However, up to this point, Dr. Parker has still not established that the unborn child is not a human being. Therefore, regardless of what these university students may have been duped into agreeing to, Dr. Parker’s argument is still not made out. Fatal fetal anomalies in a preborn child are by no means “clear-cut cases for the necessity of preserving abortion rights up to and beyond twenty weeks”, just as disabilities in a born human child in no way justify ending his or her life. Similarly, domestic violence, poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse by no means justify abortion, just as these admittedly heartbreaking life circumstances in no way justify ending the life of a newborn infant, two-year-old toddler, rebellious teenager, or any other human being, for that matter.
The presence of personal tragedy does not negate the existence of the other’s humanity.
The “Illusion” of the Infant
I will touch on one final comment that Dr. Parker makes in regards to the humanity of the unborn child. In discussing his personal frustration around what he frames as the sentimentality that came with the advent of sonograms, Dr. Parker states:
That the fetus has human features—fingers, eyelids, toes, ankles—only enhances the illusion that this is already a baby, their baby. But to refer to the fetus in utero as a baby is inaccurate. It reflects a hope, not a reality. In reference to a fetus, “baby” is a cultural term, not a scientific one.
This passage is perhaps most revealing of all. In a strangely cautionary and distinctly unscientific tone, Dr. Parker explicitly disregards the obvious, empirical, observable evidence for the humanity of the unborn child. Despite recognizing that the features that the preborn fetus possess are, in fact, “human features”, Dr. Parker deftly avoids the obvious conclusion—namely, that the unborn child possesses human features because he or she is a human being—and chooses instead to zealously assert that these features are simply part of the visual deception that “enhances the illusion that this is already a baby”. This passage feels almost hysterical, as though Dr. Parker is warning readers about a conspiratorial plot—likely, in his mind, attributed to the amorphous “antis”—to control women’s bodies by portraying the fetus as a human with “fingers, eyelids, toes, ankles”. While Dr. Parker’s impassioned and fervent forewarning would be almost endearing if it were true, he seems to miss a glaringly obvious fact that annihilates his assertion that this is an “illusion”: namely, that the “antis” didn’t give “human features” to the preborn fetus, and that, in this context, sociology and anthropomorphism cannot explain away the biological reality that the unborn child’s human features are concrete facts of reality, not projected parental hopes.
And this, my dear readers, is the perfect place to close this blog post. Because, as I have hopefully established through my commentary and as I think Dr. Parker himself makes quite clear in this passage alone, his conviction that life does not begin at conception is “not a scientific one”. It is not based on medical evidence, it is not based on coherent reasoning, and it is not based on a rational weighing of the evidence. Dr. Parker clearly believes that the unborn child is not a human, and I’m sure that he hopes that his work is the morally justified, compassionate contribution to women’s wellbeing that he would like it to be. But hoping that that is the case does not make it true. His claim that the unborn child is not a human being is a cultural one, not a scientific one. In short, to borrow his own words, Dr. Parker’s conviction “reflects a hope, not a reality.”
 WJ Parker, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, (New York: 37 Ink/Atria, 2017) [Life’s Work].
 Life’s Work.
 I recognize that some abortion supporters, acceding to the humanity of the unborn child, shift their line of justification to asserting that the unborn child is not a person. While I will not address this argument in this blog post, I would encourage readers to watch a short video I made many years ago on this question. For a more nuanced discussion of this issue, consider reading this article: John Janez Miklavcic and Paul Flaman, “Personhood status of the human zygote, embryo, fetus”, The Linacre Quarterly 84(2) (May 2017), 130, online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5499222/#.
 See, for example, Pranshu Verma, “Elon Musk wants ‘free speech’ on Twitter. But for whom?”, The Washington Post (6 May 2022), online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/05/06/twitter-harassment/.
 Life’s Work at 145.
 Life’s Work at 145 (emphasis added).
 Life’s Work at 12-13.
 Life’s Work at 95-96.
 Roe v Wade, 410 US 113 (1973) at para 160.
 Life’s Work at 150-151.
 Life’s Work at 150-151.
 See American Institute of Physics, “Baby’s First Dreams: Sleep Cycles Of The Fetus”, Science Daily (14 April 2009), online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090413185734.htm, citing Schwab et al., “Nonlinear analysis and modeling of cortical activation and deactivation patterns in the immature fetal electrocorticogram”,Chaos An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, 2009; 19 (1): 015111 DOI: 10.1063/1.3100546.
 Christos, G A, “Infant dreaming and fetal memory: a possible explanation of sudden infant death syndrome”, Med Hypothesis, 44(4) (April 1995) 243, DOI: 10.1016/0306-9877(95)90172-8, online: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7666822/.
 Life’s Work at 157-158.
 David Cox, “The curse of the people who never feel pain”, BBC (27 April 2017), online: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170426-the-people-who-never-feel-any-pain.
 Stuart WG Derbyshire and John C Bockmann, “Reconsidering fetal pain” (2020), Journal of Medical Ethics 46, 3-6, online: https://jme.bmj.com/content/medethics/46/1/3.full.pdf.
 Life’s Work at 148-149.
 See, for instance, Fred de Miranda and Patricia Lee June, “When Human Life Begins”, American College of Pediatricians (March 2017), online: https://acpeds.org/assets/imported/3.21.17-When-Human-Life-Begins.pdf.
 Life’s Work at 149.
 Life’s Work at 149-150.
 See, for instance, Fred de Miranda and Patricia Lee June, “When Human Life Begins”, American College of Pediatricians (March 2017), online: https://acpeds.org/assets/imported/3.21.17-When-Human-Life-Begins.pdf.
 Life’s Work at 152-153.
 Life’s Work at 155.
I recently finished reading “Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice” by Dr. Willie Parker, a self-proclaimed Christian abortionist in the United States. I was interested in this book for two reasons: first, since Dr. Parker is an abortionist, his proximity to the practice gives him a unique perspective and opportunity for insight when it comes to the abortion debate that I felt was worth being familiar with. Second, I have become increasingly perturbed by the disconcerting phenomenon of Christians taking a pro-abortion stance and using the Bible to defend their position; thus, I wanted to read Dr. Parker’s attempt to justify abortion using a Biblical framework
Now, as someone who has written a book myself, I have some degree of respect for those who are capable of communicating their beliefs, ideas, and passions in a book. In short, I picked up Dr. Parker’s book with this tentative position of default respect. However, I was surprised—impressed, even—at how quickly he lost my respect. It was not the caliber of his writing that lost me, which was consistently clear, articulate, and grammatically correct. Rather, it was his analysis—or, shall I say, his lack thereof.
I will launch a full-scale critique of Dr. Parker’s “argument” another time. For the time being, I will limit my critiques to something that Dr. Parker referred to ad nauseam and claimed to promulgate: truth.
Context: In the prologue to his book, Dr. Parker writes that he is constantly “travelling the country like a twenty-first-century Saint Paul, preaching the truth about reproductive rights…” (Parker, 2017, Life’s Work, pg. 5). I confess that, when I first read those words, I physically cringed, irked by the fact that Dr. Parker seems to think so highly of himself and his work that he felt entitled to compare himself to the man who is credited with writing 13 books of the Bible, the most influential book and the bestselling book of all time. Forgive my less biased perception of Dr. Parker, but I have a hard time seeing the comparison.
There is, however, an equally problematic reference that Dr. Parker makes in that same quote. It is his reference to “the truth about reproductive rights”. For someone who writes “I don’t believe in moral absolutes” and “I don’t think of the world in terms of good and evil”, Dr. Parker sure speaks a lot about “truth” (Parker, 2017, Life’s Work, pg. 195 and 202). Unfortunately, the “truth” he speaks of was shockingly, frequently untrue. (Perhaps this is reflective of his unbelief in “moral absolutes”—perhaps “truth” is as malleable, inconsequential, and subjective for him as morality seems to be.)
The first time I found a statement that is objectively, verifiably untrue in Dr. Parker’s book, I was immediately incensed and deeply disturbed. In the middle of the chapter of his book ironically called “Preaching Truth”, Dr. Parker makes the following assertion:
A full-term pregnancy lasts forty weeks, on average. And up until at least twenty-two weeks, the fetus is not “viable.” That is, it cannot—it will not—survive outside the uterus, not with the assistance of medical technology, as in a respirator, and not with the spiritual support of earnest and hopeful prayer. Not ever. Up until twenty-two weeks, fetal development is insufficient to sustain life. A baby born at that gestational age cannot breathe. Its body weight cannot support life. Its skin is permeable. The antis may want to call a twenty-two-week fetus a “person,” but if born, it will die (Parker, 2017, Life’s Work, pg. 150) [emphasis added].
(As an aside, note that Dr. Parker is making the peculiar and weak claim that the supposed inevitability of a premature child’s death means that he or she is not a “person.” At the risk of spoiling a future blog post that I will write on this statement and Dr. Parker’s similarly cringe-worthy “analysis”, let me state unequivocally right now that, if the inevitability of death is grounds for denying the preborn child personhood, then no living human is a person, since we will all eventually die. Dr. Parker is arguing in this section that life does not begin at conception and, by extent, that the human fetus is neither alive nor valuable. He is arguing this on the grounds that the child’s viability and survival are still in question. Let me simply ask this question: How can someone die if they are not alive? Rest assured, I shall return to this tragic—dare I say, non-viable—line of reasoning in a future blog post.)
At first glance, his comments seem persuasive. Dr. Parker is a doctor, after all. In fact, he is an ob-gyn. Surely he, of all people, can be trusted. Surely he, of all people, will know the truth on matters of healthcare.
But, for Dr. Parker, the truth seems to be irrelevant. This may seem unnecessarily harsh; however, as someone who cares deeply and personally for actual truth, I think the severity of my critique is justified because of how verifiably untrue Dr. Parker’s claims are.
As it so happens, I have looked into viability before, and so I knew with certainty that Dr. Parker’s claim that no child born at twenty-two weeks can ever be viable is demonstrably untrue. Premature children born before twenty-two weeks have survived with medical assistance. For many years, the youngest recorded preemie was James Elgin Gill, a Canadian man born in 1988. He was born at a mere 21 weeks and 5 days, setting a record as the world’s most premature baby. However, in 2017, USA Today reported that a new record was set by a baby girl who was born at just 21 weeks and 4 days. And then there is Amilia Taylor, born in 2006 in the United States at just 21 weeks and 6 days.
Each of these individuals—born before twenty-two weeks gestation—is living proof that Dr. Parker’s seemingly reliable statements and bold declarations of “cannot”, “will not”, and “not ever” are little more than reckless overstatements that he made to support his pro-abortion position about “viability”. With a simple Google search that took me less than two minutes, I was able to find three cases that contradict Dr. Parker’s assertions and demonstrate that premature children born before twenty-two weeks can, in fact, survive outside of the womb with medical support. And yet, because Dr. Parker is a doctor, his falsehoods carry an air of reliability and professionalism, and have been dispersed en masse to the public. I am grieved by the knowledge that there are likely now hundreds and thousands of individuals around the world who have innocently placed their trust in Dr. Parker, expecting to receive the truth, and, through no fault of their own, have accepted his flagrant falsehoods as scientific facts.
This was not the only factual inaccuracy in Dr. Parker’s book. Contradictions abound. Take, for instance, Dr. Parker’s discussion of pro-life legislative measures that have recently been enacted in the United States. On page 146, Dr. Parker writes:
Bills proposing that fetuses are people have come before legislatures in at least twenty-eight states. None have passed [emphasis added].
A mere eight pages later, Dr. Parker directly contradicts himself in his discussion on fetal personhood and related legislation, where he states:
In 2016, “personhood” bills were introduced in Alabama, Colorado, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, South Caroline, and Virginia. The only state in which such a bill has passed has been Kansas, which in 2013 affirmed the Pro-Life Protection Act, declaring that “life beings at conception.” [emphasis added].
Note that, in a few short pages, we have gone from every single bill “proposing that fetuses are people” failing to “such a bill” passing in Kansas. Once again, Dr. Parker demonstrates that his view of truth is like his view of morality: lacking absolutes and free to toss around, manipulate, and twist to suit one’s personal or rhetorical preferences.
There is one final factual inconsistency that I will expose before I leave this preliminary element of my critique of Dr. Parker’s demonstrably defunct “argument”. On page 117, Dr. Parker repeats the same, tired rhetoric that “[t]he Bible does not contain the word ‘abortion’ anywhere in it” in a pitiful attempt to justify abortion through a Biblical worldview. And yet, on page 207, he writes:
In my view, the only Christianity that mandates an anti-abortion view is an emotion-based faith—a rigid reading of Scripture that invites no questioning or interpretive consideration [emphasis added].
Now, I will save my comments about Dr. Parker’s so-called “Christian” faith for a later blog post. For now, I would simply like to point out the completely contradictory nature of asserting that the Bible is (a) completely void of any commentary on abortion whatsoever on the one hand, and then (b) asserting that only a literal, “rigid reading” of the Bible could result in a Christian coming to a pro-life worldview on the other hand.
After reading his book, my conclusion is that Dr. Parker’s only contributions to the abortion debate are slightly more articulate versions of the same illogical, contradictory, factually-flawed mantras and slogans that already contaminate what could otherwise be rational, scientific, intellectually-honest conversations on the subject of abortion. If anything, his willingness to wield his professional credibility in defence of this unprofessional nonsense and throw his weight as a doctor around in order to convince people of the credibility of the blatant falsehoods he has peddled is the only additional damage that Dr. Parker has done—and, believe me, it is damage he has done to his own side, not to the pro-life community.
Dr. Parker may care a great deal about the practice of abortion. But of objective, verifiable, absolute truth Dr. Parker seems to care very little.
With that, I shall move forward in my critique; my next post will examine a premise central to his rhetoric: the merger of his dubious Christianity and his intellectually vacant “moral argument for choice.”
“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” – John G. Diefenbaker
This quote was shared in one of my law classes a few weeks ago. I can only imagine the way John Diefenbaker felt when he wrote those words. Perhaps he was worried about the state of his country, and therefore all the more passionate about passing the Canadian Bill of Rights. Perhaps he was proud of the nation he helped govern. As I read these words, I sense a mixture of pride and passion, a combination of satisfaction at the state of Canada at the time and of determination to ensure that Canada remained founded in such freedom.
I wonder what Prime Minister Diefenbaker would think of our nation now.
I am concerned: concerned for our nation and concerned for the security of the lofty ideal we call freedom. Maybe I am too cynical for my own good. But freedom, I am discovering, is an endangered species. Freedom is an invaluable ideal that has been choked by progressives, chastised by political correctness, and condemned by radical ideologies.
I am afraid that John Diefenbaker’s words are no longer as true as they once were. If he were to speak these words today, I fear that they would need the following updates:
“I am a Canadian. I am free to speak without fear, unless my university dislikes what I say. I am free to worship in my own way, unless my beliefs offend someone – then I will be denied the ability to care for children and denied the ability to associate with like-minded individuals. I am free to stand for what I think right, unless I am a pro-life person who gets too close to an abortion clinic. I am free to oppose what I believe wrong, unless I am a pro-life physician who refuses to provide abortion, birth control, or euthanasia & assisted suicide. I am free to choose those who shall govern my country, unless I am a pro-life person trying to run in politics or trying to access state-run employment subsidization programs. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind personkind (but only for those who agree with state-sanctioned secularism and who bow to government ideological coercion on issues like abortion).”
Freedom, you see, is not what it used to be.
There is hope, of course. Students are rallying, lawyers are fighting back, and courageous everyday Canadians are refusing to let liberty be wrenched from their hands. Freedom may be endangered, but it is not extinct.
We must, however, remain vigilant. We must remain alert and attentive, refusing to let distractions destroy our determination.
To those of you who do not care, or to those of you who doubt the severity of the situation, I challenge you to read the words of Martin Neimöller. He knew a thing or two about the dangers of complacency and apathy. You would be wise not to make them your bedfellows mistresses partners.
To those of you who fear, like I do, for the state of freedom in Canada, I encourage you to pray, to fight, to act, to speak, to stand, to remain, and to pray some more. And perhaps, when you hear the national anthem play, do what I do and relish being able to sing that one line just a little bit louder.
May God truly keep our land glorious and free.
Ten years. I have been doing pro-life activism for ten years. (I feel old just writing that…)
I have always been 100% pro-life, because I am convinced that is the only intellectually consistent position to hold. Unsurprisingly, when I first started my journey into the realm of pro-life activism, I had many pro-abortion advocates challenge my absolute pro-life stance. They presented complex arguments and asked difficult questions:
What if a woman is sexually assaulted? What if there is an ectopic pregnancy? What if a 10-year-old child becomes pregnant? Will you still condemn abortion in these situations?
Whether the pro-choicers asking these questions really wanted to hear my response or not, they were successful at drawing my attention to the complexity inherent within the abortion debate. Admittedly, at the young age of twelve, my burgeoning pro-life activist self had not yet considered these nuances. And so, spurred on by the desire to find answers to these ambiguities, I committed myself to research, intellectual curiosity, and the pursuit of understanding. Over time, I developed a well-informed, comprehensive, bulletproof pro-life message.
And then, after a few years of pro-life activism, I came to the fateful day when I realized that there were no new arguments or questions anymore. Each “new” question was simply a recycled, repackaged repetition of a question I had already answered. And no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a new challenge to end this perpetual cycle.
I was stuck in what I have come to call the “pro-choice echo chamber”.
The pro-choice echo chamber is a place where the same meaningless slogans and mindless mottos are repeated over and over again, where there is no growth, no development, no opportunity to improve, just the same empty words reverberating through hollow corridors, being used and reused and used again.
My body, my choice! Keep your rosaries off my ovaries! My body, my choice! You’re just pro-birth! My body, my choice! It’s just a clump of cells! My body, my choice! My body, my choice! My body, my choice! My body, my choice…!
And so the pro-choice echo chamber continues.
I have heard it all. Perhaps that sounds arrogant, but it is true. After ten years of listening to pro-choice rhetoric, I have come to conclude that there is nothing new under the sun.
But two weeks ago, something miraculous happened…
I was with a group of law students, and we had just come from a deeply fascinating presentation about statutory interpretation. (And yes, I am aware that only a law geek such as myself would find statutory interpretation “deeply fascinating”…)
Eventually, we came to the subject of abortion. After outing myself as being a pro-life absolutist, we began an hour-long conversation on abortion. The conversation was remarkably respectful, incredibly thought provoking, and refreshingly coherent. And then, for the first time in approximately seven years, I was asked a question that I could not answer.
Now, to be fair, I actually did have an answer. When I was asked the question, I offered my usual, polished, well-rehearsed response. But instead of my fellow pro-lifers nodding their heads and the opposing pro-choicers shaking their fists, the students around the table thoughtfully considered my words. And then, rather than devolving into emotionally-driven retorts, they pushed me further, challenging the premises of my reply, inquiring further about my line of reasoning, and pointing out inconsistencies between my default response and my absolute pro-life stance.
I was surprised. And impressed. And, believe it or not, incredibly thankful.
Because here’s the thing: I love being challenged. Nothing breeds growth, development, and strength like the persistent presence of civilized, coherent challenges.
It’s a universal truth: the existence of resistance creates the opportunity for improvement. This is true of physical strength and emotional fortitude, but it is also true of ideological advancement.
The unfortunate reality is that, despite the fact that I have purposely pursued pro-choice friendships—in part to avoid the dangers of the pro-life echo chamber—many pro-choice individuals have never welcomed ideological resistance, and so they have little to offer in that department.
To be clear, I have seen this in the pro-life movement as well, so I am not suggesting that this is a uniquely pro-choice phenomenon. However, because all mainstream spheres of our society—including education, academia, politics, media, business, entertainment, and law—buy into the pro-abortion ideology, the pro-choice echo chamber is validated, rather than shunned. It is embraced with open arms, welcomed without critique, and deified rather than destroyed. And for that reason, the pro-choice movement has become condemned to perpetually suffer from intellectual inconsistency and a lack of rhetorical creativity.
In short, the pro-choice movement is stagnant.
So beware, dear readers. Beware of the pro-choice echo chamber. (And, while you’re at it, beware of the pro-life echo chamber too.)
If you are pro-life, guard against these phenomena by surrounding yourself with intellectually curious pro-choice individuals who are willing to consistently and respectfully challenge your ideology.
If you are pro-choice, guard against the desire to repeat meaningless phrases or regurgitate mindless sayings by pursuing pro-life friends who promote constructive and civilized conversations.
I have adopted this approach in my activism, and I have never once regretted it. I am more consistent, intelligent, and coherent because of the pro-choice ideological challenges that I have faced and—thanks to some brilliant pro-choice friends—I now face again.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a new challenge to consider. I will let you all know when I am ready to reveal my response.
Until then, stay intellectually curious and ideologically consistent.
Recently, as part of a personal feminist book-a-thon, I read F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism by Lauren McKeon. I was particularly intrigued and interested in reading the book for two reasons. First, I know Lauren McKeon personally. She and I spent a fair amount of time together for an article that she wrote about me in Toronto Life Magazine. Second, I had been notified that her book talked about me and a number of my fellow pro-life activists. All that to say: I was curious to read what she had written and what her take was on my overtly pro-life feminist stance.
The book was engaging and well written, although I found myself slightly irritated for most of the book because there were no sources provided. (Call me a nerdy university student, but if you’re going to make grandiose claims and rather outlandish accusations, you’d better back them up with evidence.)
Then I came to Chapter 8, which is titled “Teen spirit: Clinic closures, access attacks, and the pro-woman rebranding of today’s anti-abortion activists.” And this is where things went downhill.
I had hoped that, unlike most pro-abortion feminists, McKeon would have taken time to truly get to know the pro-life feminist movement. She had been relatively fair for the duration of the book, having the decency to humanize her opponents prior to critiquing them (which is an approach that I found quite effective and engaging). Unfortunately, McKeon’s evaluation of pro-life feminists such as myself fell woefully short.
Things really fell apart for me when she made the following accusation:
“The linguistic pairing of anti-abortion and pro-women messaging is like a conversational escape hatch for those who don’t want to admit they’re limiting women’s rights, even though they are” (McKeon, 2017, p. 201).
In case you are wondering, this is one of the most overused “arguments” that pro-abortion advocates like to level at pro-life individuals.
Pro-tip for all of you pro-abortion individuals out there: This argument is really, really weak, so you might want to try mixing things up a bit.
There are two key claims that work together to create this rhetorical mess:
First, there is the accusation that, by opposing abortion, pro-life people are “limiting women’s rights”. If you believe that a woman has the right to exercise coercive control over the body of another human being, and if you believe that a woman has the right to ask a physician to end the life of this other human being, then sure—you got me! I’m limiting a woman’s rights! But in order to make that claim, you would need to show me where, in any legal or constitutional document, women are actually guaranteed these “rights”.
Spoiler alert: You won’t find any legal or constitutional document protecting these “rights” because these “rights” do not exist.
Second, there is the assertion that, by limiting women’s “rights”, pro-life people are doing something wrong. Now, in order to highlight how ludicrous this claim is, allow me to layout a hypothetical situation:
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I attack someone on the street. You call the police. The police arrest me. I accuse you and the police of limiting my rights. I am implying that you have done something wrong. Do I have a fair point?
While I may have the right to liberty, the Criminal Code provisions against battery and assault directly limit my right to liberty. In fact, these limitations are necessary in order to ensure that you and other citizens have your right to liberty. If these limitations were not in place, all manner of rights would be infringed upon. Therefore, in order to ensure social order, peace, and stability, limitations are placed on our rights on a regular basis. And it is undeniable that, while these limitations may restrict my personal right to liberty (which I interpret subjectively as bad), they create greater collective liberty in society (which we acknowledge objectively is good).
So just because pro-life people want to limit women’s “right” to forcibly control the body of another human being (which we have already established is not actually a right in the first place), does not automatically follow that pro-life people are doing something bad—or that we are creating “a way for society to control women”, as McKeon later asserts (McKeon, 2017, p. 201).
But this wasn’t the only stale, pro-abortion, isolationist tactic that McKeon relied upon. She also played the age-old you-can’t-call-yourself-a-feminist-if-you’re-anti-choice card, stating that the “anti-abortion movement’s women’s rights makeover” is “at odds” with the “wider feminist movement” because “[f]eminism, after all, generally works to broaden what we can do and achieve, not restrict it” (McKeon, 2017, p. 218).
As overused and unimaginative as this accusation may be, I think it is one of my favourite, primarily because it beautifully highlights the absurd degree of hypocrisy—and the painful lack of logic—within the “pro-choice” movement. Here is what that argument is really saying:
“You can’t choose to be a feminist. Real feminists support choice! And you, obviously, don’t support choice. And since I am a real feminist who supports all women’s choices, I’m not going to allow you to choose to identify as a feminist. I don’t support that choice because I am a real feminist who actually supports women’s choices….” (and so the idiocy continues).
My hope is that, as you read and re-read those lines, you will see the glaringly obvious double standard that “pro-choice” feminists have created, with the express purpose of excluding, ostracizing, and demonizing pro-life feminists. If you don’t see the hypocrisy in that line of “reasoning” (if you can call it that), then you will have successfully rendered me speechless (for all the wrong reasons).
Before I close, there is one last statement I’d like to highlight from the epilogue of McKeon’s book. McKeon is in the midst of appealing to her (she presumes) sympathetic readers and reminding them of how she hopes “we can learn to listen more to the other side” (McKeon, 2017, p. 269). And then she says this:
“But I do believe we have to let go of our liberal superiority, the belief that clearly reprehensible views aren’t powerful enough to gain mass traction” (McKeon, 2017, p. 269).
Now, to be fair, McKeon has discussed many views throughout her book, so she is not leveling this statement exclusively at pro-lifers. But there is something so beautifully ironic about McKeon counseling her readers to “let go of [their] liberal superiority”, while she simultaneously puts on a brilliant display of her own sense of liberal superiority by blanket-labeling entire segments of the population—including all pro-lifers—as holding “clearly reprehensible views”.
My pro-life feminism may be a reprehensible view to her, but it is a justifiable and logically consistent view to me. And the fact that she and other radical pro-abortion feminists like her feel entitled to exclude me and my fellow pro-life feminists from their supposedly inclusive, tolerant spaces tells me that their version of feminism is undeniably deceptive, elitist, and hypocritical. And that seems “clearly reprehensible” to me.
This is a great little video clip about Lila Rose, done by The Atlantic, one of my favourite magazines.
I enjoyed the clip–it says why you can be a feminist pro-lifer.
But I’m posting it here primarily because it also does something else.
In the thorny, divisive terrain of the hearings over Supreme Court nominee Justice Brett Kavanaugh, I had a recent conversation with a friend who, speaking of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against him said this: “If she’s not telling the truth, I don’t know why she would do this.”
My friend is a good woman, and not at all involved in pro-life anything.
So why might there be reason to question Ford’s testimony?
If you watch to the end of the Lila Rose video clip, it concludes with her saying she believes she’ll see the end of legalized and culturally accepted abortion in her lifetime.
And for those on the other side, so to speak, this is the great fear. The fear becomes more real when any pro-life justice takes that empty seat on the Supreme Court.
This article, also from The Atlantic, features a woman whose rapist apologized to her after she reached out to him years later. It’s a story of redemption, and worth reading in its own right. But at the end, the author writes this:
My rapist promised to pay it forward, this horrible thing he’d just learned about himself. I have no doubt, judging by the admirable life he’s led, he will. And I will keep my promise to him never to reveal his name.
But you know what? If he were being confirmed for the Supreme Court; if his decision over what would happen to my daughter’s body, should she become inadvertently pregnant, would tip the scales away from Roe; if one of the key aspects of his job as a judge would be to show and to have shown good judgment over the course of his life, you better believe that I, like Ford, would come forward and tell the committee. Even if it meant going into hiding, as she’s had to do. Even if it meant getting death threats, as she’s received.
The life of my daughter is at stake. Her bodily autonomy is at stake. As a mother who grew up being groped at house parties in the ’80s, I want to make sure that whoever is passing judgment on the next generation has, at the very least, judgment to pass.
This is not a statement about the veracity of either side in the Kavanaugh hearings. What it is is an explanation for those who are not at all even thinking about Roe v. Wade.
I don’t believe we can really underestimate the extent to which some people will go to ensure no pro-life justice ever gets that seat. It can’t be Kavanaugh. It can’t be anyone who might tip the scales away from Roe.
Both sides believe their children’s lives are at stake–and that mentality sheds light on why this particular nomination has been so gruesome.
Update: This article by Jonathon Van Maren also points to abortion as the source of the vitriol.
“Show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” – Chimimanda Nzogi Adichie
Recently, thanks to a video that was circulated around on Facebook, I was re-introduced to the work of Chimimanda Nzogi Adichie, a renowned Nigerian author and feminist. I had first studied her work during my days in feminist academia. This is where I first learned about her idea of the single story.
In simplified form, Nzogi Adichie’s idea of the single story is this: when media, popular culture, and other societal forces work together and create a single story, a monolithic representation of an entire group of people, the nuance and heterogeneity that exists within the group is erased and they become known by that single story and only that single story.
If we take a moment to pause and consider the world we live in today, we will realize that single stories are being sold to us every day by news outlets, social media, and any individual who has a vested interest in targeting and undermining a specific group of people.
I see this happening to political groups and religious groups, racial minorities and sexual minorities. And, to some extent, these single stories are being noticed and exposed. However, there is a single story that I see perpetuated in almost every area of mainstream society. This is the single story about pro-life or “anti-choice” individuals.
The singly “anti-choice” story goes something like this:
All “anti-choicers” are, as the name suggests, anti-choice. They do not care about life, but rather only care about limiting women’s reproductive freedoms and controlling women’s bodies. “Anti-choicers” are almost exclusively old white Catholic men who shake signs in women’s faces and scream that women who have abortions are murderers. They are all sexist and misogynistic creeps who refuse to respect women’s bodily autonomy, and they only really care about children until they are born. “Anti-choicers” are heartless and compassionless, not to mention deceptive, ignorant, and hateful. In short, they are horrible people. All of them.
This is the single story of the pro-life movement. And it is this single story that erases all of the difference and nuance, diversity and heterogeneity within the pro-life community.
The truth of the matter is that the pro-life community is comprised of millions of diverse individuals who differ in culture, gender, race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, and religion. For example, despite being rather small at the time, the pro-life club at my university was comprised of students who stand in stark contrast to the “old, white, Catholic man” stereotype that the single “anti-choice” story perpetuates. We had students who were secular/atheistic, LGBTQ2+, Muslim, and racialized/people of colour. Most of our club members were also female students.
The problem with the single “anti-choice” story is that it fails to represent the beauty and diversity that exists within the pro-life movement. Instead, it creates a fraudulent representation of “anti-choicers” and projects that on all pro-life individuals. The end result is that mainstream society develops a false understanding of the pro-life community, remains ignorant and blind to the reality of who pro-life people are and what they represent, perpetuates this deceptive discourse using everything from university professors to media outlets, and then uses this ignorant, deceptive, and monolithic representation of “anti-choicers” to justify perpetrating hatred, aggression, and violence against pro-life individuals.
The single “anti-choice” story has been used to justify the recent Bubble Zone legislation in Ontario that limits free speech for pro-life individuals (which was justified by claiming that “anti-choicers” are all violent).
The single “anti-choice” story has also been used to argue that physicians and healthcare providers who have religious/moral objections to providing certain services (such as abortion and birth control) should be forced to go against their convictions and provide the services. This is justified because “anti-choice” physicians and healthcare providers are viewed as being religious fanatics who are trying to force their beliefs on other people, which follows the faulty depiction of all “anti-choicers” as Catholic (or even just religious). Unfortunately, there is no space made for the truth, which is that pro-life physicians and health care professionals are autonomous men and women from a variety of religious or secular backgrounds who choose, for personal, professional, or religious reasons, not to engage in certain practices/provide certain services (and who have a constitutionally protected right to do so, according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).
The single “anti-choice” story fuels confusion, misinformation, and deception. It creates division, isolation, and polarization. Perhaps more than anything else, it breeds stupidity, idiocy, and ignorance. By creating a two-dimensional, monolithic representation of pro-life individuals, pro-abortion pundits are able to avoid answering difficult questions, engaging in constructive conversation, and addressing important concerns that pro-life people raise when discussing the issue of abortion (and other issues that fall within the pro-life worldview). Not only is this lazy, but it actually does a disservice to the pro-abortion camp.
The single “anti-choice” story creates a generation of ignorant, uneducated, radical pro-abortion activists who have memorized meaningless rhetoric but lack arguments with substance. And, when we consider the importance of the abortion debate in protecting human rights, addressing crisis pregnancies, and supporting women in need, this ultimately harms the men, women, and children whose lives are affected by abortion is life-altering (and life-ending) ways.
This must stop. We must put an end to the single “anti-choice” story, not only by holding pro-abortion groups and mainstream media outlets accountable, but also by actively contributing to the multitude of diverse pro-life stories that exist internationally.
So if you are a pro-life individual, stand strong. Be proud of your pro-life stance. Share your story. And let the diversity of the pro-life movement be seen.