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Friday, June 19, 2015

Some thoughts on the anti-abortion movement

Despite the saying erroneously attributed to Albert Einstein, doing the same thing, over and over, and each time expecting a different result is not insanity. To some extent it's a part of human nature, because there's always the hope that some small variation in timing, or the cumulative effect of repetition may create a different outcome.

But indeed, for the most part, if you repeat the same action under the same circumstances, the result will be the same.

Though not described in those terms, that premise forms the basis of an excellent article by my friend Rick McGinness in the most recent issue of The Interim discussing the failure of the anti-abortion movement to make real progress.

Precedents from Supreme Court decisions, a lack of will among any major political party, and overwhelming public opinion make it almost certain criminal that criminal sanctions for abortion almost certainly will never be restored in Canada. However the stubborn refusal to accept something so obvious is only one of the shortcomings on the anti-abortion side.  The other problem is that many of the leaders of the anti-abortion movement are so histrionic, and are glaringly driven by religious motivation in a secular society, making the entire cause look unreasonable and unappealing.

These "pro-life" people, who for the most part also profess to be "pro-freedom," exhibit the dictatorial trait of wanting to impose their beliefs on others through laws and punishments.  When that belief system extends to telling women what they can do with their own bodies, and forcing them to carry a fetus to term against their will, it becomes as much an issue of individual liberty as it does a women's rights issue.

Exploring alternate ideas and strategies is something the anti-abortion movement had better do soon if it doesn't want to be consigned to total irrelevance.

If you want to win the war of ideas, you have to persuade people, not dictate to them or insult them. As Rick described as a crucial point, the anti-abortion side needs to decide if their "priority is winning political victories or saving babies’ lives."

Shouting outside abortion clinics and calling women who want abortions and physicians who perform abortions "murderers," is only likely to persuade people that the anti-abortion movement is made up largely of maniacs.

If you want to make the argument that abortion is a bad moral choice, then videos like this, of a fetus clapping its hands in the womb, is more likely to get a woman to reconsider an abortion than telling her that she will burn in Hell or trying to enact laws to have her thrown in jail.

Ultimately, abortion is a moral choice and the anti-abortion side had better learn to recognize that those choices are for each of us to make for ourselves. You don't have to do a lot of work to persuade someone that adultery is morally wrong. But if you wanted to advocate for a restoration of Puritanical laws requiring adulterers to be branded and imprisoned, people will think you're nuts.

One of Rick's suggestions is making adoption more accessible for both pregnant women and prospective adopters. That's the type of legislative victory and policy changes the anti-abortion side could very conceivably achieve.

Legal abortion isn't going away in Canada for the foreseeable future, nor should it.  It's a woman's right to decide what happens inside her own body. But giving people access to alternatives and doing it in a sane, compassionate manner is something that no reasonable person could oppose. The place to do that is in the sphere of ideas and not outside abortion clinics while holding up pictures of bloody fetuses.  If the anti-abortion side learns to focus more on persuasion than hectoring, they stand a chance of making some real progress.


Unknown said...

I honestly do believe that being pro-life is an honourable position, although it is one that I don't share.

However, they do seem to have made one entirely political concession that undermines their central argument. That would be the exceptions for rape, incest and (to a much lesser extent) the life of the mother.

On one hand is the contention that all life is sacred. On the other is the seeming concession that some lives might be more sacred than others.

See what politics does to people?

Anonymous said...

You are right, pro-life advocates need to advocate for human rights in a compassionate manner. You are right, calling women "murderers" outside an abortion clinic is not the way to go about it. But I think this is a generalization; I'm sure you agree that we shouldn't paint people all with the same brush. There are many *more* pro-life workers who love and who are compassionate towards those hurting and desperate mothers.
But as long as there are people who believe in human rights, there will be pro-life people whose hearts break for the innocent humans who are killed. They won't stop fighting for the right-to-life for all humans, no matter the political climate, because these same people see hearts and lives changed *on a daily basis* They see abortion-clinic workers who cannot live with themselves anymore, and they help them leave the industry. They see meek women who are being forced by someone else to kill their babies, and they offer them love and hope.
Do you believe in human rights? Are the pre-born not human? Of course they are! Then why do they not deserve the same rights to life as the those outside of the womb?