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The ‘B’ word: Does being pro-life make us bigots?

By Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director

“You’re a religious bigot!”

The accusation caught me by surprise.  I was with the University of Toronto Students for Life at their abortion protest and the pro-choicers had mobilized a counter protest. (see yesterday’s blog post for more details) The man in front of me was in his late 30s or maybe even in his 40s, with a Planned Parenthood t-shirt, a handful of pamphlets called “10 LIES that ANTI CHOICE groups are telling you about abortion,” and a bag of pro-choice buttons.

I wish I had the conversation – if I can call it that – on tape, because it was an interesting one.

“What does ‘choice’ mean?” I had asked.  “Shouldn’t our choices be limited if they result in the death of an innocent human being?”

And then came the ‘B word’.

“But you’re pre-judging me,” I protested, “I haven’t mentioned religion* at all.  Why are you assuming all these things before you even listen to what you have to say?”

But the “conversation” was over apparently, and he walked away from me.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of a bigot is:

“a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance”

These are serious allegations and since I was not given an opportunity to respond to them at the protest, I would now like to clear my name.

Yes, I am devoted to the pro-life position.  However:

  • Although I was raised by pro-life parents, I did my own research to form my opinion.  You see, my parents and my teachers always encouraged me to conduct research when forming an opinion.  So I read articles and books.  I investigated fetal development and considered pictures of abortions.  And I thought carefully.
  • I have not shied away from dissenting opinions and sources of information.  For example, I attempted to speak with the pro-choicers at the protest.  In fact, I gladly speak to any pro-choicer who is interested in discussing abortion.  (Please note that when I say “I will speak”, this includes also listening to whomever I’m speaking with.)  I took feminist theory classes in university.  I read pro-choice blogs and articles regularly.

No, I do not treat “members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”  Nor do I treat pro-choicers and/or men and women who have had or been involved with an abortion with hatred and intolerance.  Trying to have dialogue is not hatred nor is it intolerance.  Telling women they deserve better than abortion is not hatred nor is it intolerance.

So no, I am not a bigot.  And please do me the courtesy of listening before you label me as such.



*Interestingly, the only person I heard mention religion was one pro-choice woman who had the microphone.  She told us she was Catholic and that the Bible says “do not judge.”  One pro-life student turned to me and remarked, “Doesn’t the Bible also say something along the lines of ‘thou shalt not murder’?”  And if she’s going to bring up judging, perhaps she and her friends should take note of that and not call us names without first listening to what we have to say.

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Roxanne’s Law: The First Debate

By Garnet Van Popta

Garnet Van Popta is an alumnus of uOttawa Students For Life and a guest blogger for NCLN.  He is currently studying at Humber College.

Yesterday, November 1st, Bill C-510, Roxanne’s Law was debated in Parliament.  The bill had its second reading, and the debate was on the topic of whether or not the bill should be “sent to committee” where it will be tweaked and adjusted before a third reading in the House of Commons.  The actual vote to decide whether it will go to committee is scheduled for early December.

MP Rod Bruinooge spoke first.  He told Roxanne’s story (which you can learn more about at roxanneslaw.ca), and explained why this bill is needed in Canada.  He said,

“Bill C-510 would communicate to all Canadians that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong and unacceptable in a nation that values compassion, justice and human rights.

Roxanne’s Law would not affect women’s access to abortion in any way. With this law in place, Canada will continue to have no legal restrictions on the procedure permitted in all nine months of pregnancy. However, for those women who choose to have their baby, this law would give them added protection to fulfil their hopes and dreams of having a family.”

Conservative MP David Anderson spoke briefly, asking for clarification on whether the bill will restrict state coercion or personal coercion.  MP Bruinooge replied that the bill dealt with personal coercion.

Next, Bloc MP Nicole Demers spoke against the bill. According to her, the abortion debate is over (a line I’ve heard a few too many times).

“They can try to dress this bill up and manipulate people in all kinds of ways, but the fact is that it would restrict access to freedom of choice. That debate is over. We do not need to talk about it again. It was clear last year when we debated maternal and child health.”

Wait a minute.  The debate on maternal health last year proved the abortion debate was over?  Didn’t Parliament decide not to fund abortion overseas? I would argue that this proved the abortion debate was (and is) not over.

NDP MP Irene Mathyssen argued next that this bill is another anti-women initiative by the “Harper Conservatives”.

“Bill C-510 will do nothing to reduce violence against women. Like the other anti-choice private members’ bills introduced by government backbenchers, it is a Trojan Horse.”

The reason MP Mathyssen believes this is because the bill refers to an unborn child as a child, not a fetus.  This, according to Mathyssen, translates into fetal rights and infringes on the rights of women (quite a leap, according to my thinking).  MP Bruinooge pointed out in his introductory speech that using the word “child” is consistent with the rest of the Criminal Code, in which the word “fetus” does not occur.  This would be something, according to Bruinooge, that could be addressed by the committee.

Conservative MP Daniel Petit spoke against the bill because, according to him, it does not define some terms well enough, and is too vague.

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings also opposed the bill because of a perceived redundancy.  According to Jennings, coercion is already prohibited by law, and therefore another bill is unnecessary.

Another MP, NDP Jean Crowder, was basically a mouthpiece for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC).  Almost her entire speech was made up of quotes from press releases of the ARCC.  Take a look at this quote:

“The right to autonomy includes both a woman’s right to choose to have children and a woman’s right to choose not to have children. In both circumstances, we would look to the state to provide the tools and resources to support women in their decisions.”

This seems to argue in favour of Bill C-510.  Roxanne’s Law would certainly be a tool of the state to support women in their making of autonomous decisions.  It’s really quite clear.  Crowder outlines several reasons, as taken from an ARCC press release, why this bill is not needed.  One reason is as follows:

“…counsellors already screen for possible coercion in women seeking abortion. Clinics do not perform abortions on women who are conflicted or being coerced. That protection is already in place.”

I find it hard to believe that the ARCC and MP Jean Crowder say this.  Even if women are not often coerced into having an abortion, one cannot say it never happens, as Crowder does here.  As Andrea Mrozek, Manager of Research at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada as well as a blogger at ProWomanProLife.orgwrites in the Calgary Herald,

“There are even those who report similar stories from the pro-choice side. Antichoice is anti-awesome is the blog of a volunteer co-ordinator at an abortion clinic in New Brunswick. In February 2010, she wrote about a woman who was being forced to abort by her parents. ‘The patient clearly did not want to have an abortion; while in to have her ultrasound she freaked out about the finger prick test, and then told the nurse, her mother and anyone who would listen that it was a blessing to be pregnant, a beautiful gift from God,’ she writes.”

Coerced abortion does happen, and that is why Bill C-510 is needed.  I am glad Conservative MP Kelly Block spoke last, since she accurately described the purpose of the proposed law:

“When enacted into law, Bill C-510 will send a clear message that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong. It will send a message to women that the law is there to protect them, so that if someone attempts to coerce a woman to have an abortion she does not want, she can press charges before it is too late for her and her baby.”

I would like to end by quoting Andrea Mrozek again.  I believe her article, “An abortion law we can all choose to support” (Calgary Herald, Nov. 2, 2010) very accurately frames this issue.  I especially like her last two paragraphs:

“Many women who experience an unplanned pregnancy would keep the child if they thought they had support — physical, financial or emotional. And all too often that is absent. ‘It’s your choice,’ is just another way of saying ‘I don’t care.’

No law can prevent the myriad soft coercions that push a woman toward abortion. But Roxanne’s Law is a small voice empowering at least some women who, in the face of overwhelming odds and even violence, choose to say no. That’s a choice we can all support.”


All quotations from the debate taken from a transcript of the debate on OpenParliament.ca.

N.B.  The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

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University of Toronto Students for Life: “We Would Welcome another Child with Down Syndrome”

This post was written for University of Toronto Students for Life by gianna marks. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Last week, a remarkable article was posted in the New York Times, by a mother who had refused prenatal testing during her pregnancy. The woman in question, Amy Becker, is the mother of a child with Down syndrome and has recently discovered that her 3rd child to be born is 1/100 likely to also have Down syndrome.

I recall my high school teacher asking my class one day, “Have you kids noticed the significant decrease of down-syndrome children over the years?” It was later that I discovered that this was not because scientists had found some miraculous cure for the chromosomal disease, but rather an alternative to the problem: death. This death is a choice made by several fearing mothers who are faced with the legal and ‘perfectly safe’ option of killing their child.

Prenatal diagnostic testing is composed of several tests during the course of the gestational period that allows the doctor to examine the fetus before birth and inform the mother of any deformations or chronic diseases, such as Down syndrome. Originally, these tests were administered to mentally prepare the woman for what was to come, and in this case, prenatal testing was more helpful than harmful. However, 80-90% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome during prenatal testing are aborted (says Sam Brownback, past US Senator).

Amy states her biggest fear as she walked into the doctor’s office was not finding out whether the baby in her womb had an abnormal count of chromosomes, but rather talking to the doctor himself about prenatal testing:

[When pregnant with her second child] I agreed to an ultra-screen…I told myself that I wanted to know if the baby had a healthy heart. But the literature about the test explains that…it wasn’t offering me a chance to know the physical health of my baby so much as providing me a choice about whether to continue my pregnancy if the baby had Down syndrome.

Even Senator Brownback, in his PRENATALLY DIAGNOSED CONDITIONS AWARENESS ACT in 2005 states, “We don’t want a world where parents feel driven to justify their children’s existence.”

Prenatal testing is given as a recommended option simply to put the mother’s future in front of her and ask a very simple question: “Yes, or no?” In other words, “Is this child worth your time, or would you like to try again another time?” Without denying the hardships and sacrifices of having a child with Down syndrome, Amy continues to talk about her friends’ experiences as well as her own with doctors who pressure women to abort. If euthanasia was not enough to eliminate the “burdensome” in society, eugenics certainly is not far behind.

The way these tests are administered, the way information is provided to women and the way our culture talks about individuals with chromosomal abnormalities, contribute to my concern that prenatal testing more often serves to devalue all human life and to offer parents and doctors an illusion of control.

I strongly encourage you to read Amy’s very reasonable testament to society’s misinformed view of the “horror” of Down syndrome. She is one of few who manage to see the positive light that comes out of sacrifice, and that every life is a life worth living.


Read the comments at the University of Toronto Students for Life website.