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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