*This post is co-authored by Simon Lapierre
Every year, thousands of individuals and groups walk through the streets of Ottawa in order to condemn the right to abortion and to highlight its alleged immorality. Taking with them busloads of catholic school students from all across Ontario, on May 8, their large crowds will ensure a national visibility. However, the means they use to get their message heard are highly problematic. It seems important to expose the intellectual dishonesty of pro-life supporters and the danger of their arguments for women's rights in Canada and all over the world.
Pro-life supporters generally hold conservative views on various social issues, particularly in regards to the nuclear family, the role of women in society, homosexuality and the education of children and youth.
They often oppose sex positive education programs and the use of contraception. Instead, they promote sexual abstinence until marriage, despite studies showing that those programs harm young women and their reproductive health. When prolife individuals work in the health sector, their refusal to prescribe contraception for religious reasons may, in fact, contribute to a higher rate of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. If they were truly concerned with reducing abortion, they would focus less on natural family planning and more on proven measures of contraception.
For those prolifers in a position of political power, their opposition to abortion is even more questionable when they support billion-dollar wars or support the death penalty. The same is true when they, on the one hand, express concerns in regards to the well-being of what they call "pre-born children" and on the other hand, cut in social services programs which help families and children. By choosing to promote the right of fetuses, their efforts are curiously targeted considering that 13 per cent of Canadian children live in poverty and they do not seem to be concerned at all with this alarming statistic.
The fraudulent use of science to enhance their credibility
Another problem with pro-life supporters lies in the theoretical foundations of their arguments. In fact, they frequently use a scientific terminology in order to enhance their credibility, while their arguments are rather rooted in religious ideas. For example, the name of the Canadian Center for Bio Ethical Reform in Alberta suggests it is a center of bioethics research, but it is actually an organization promoting hate and propaganda on the issue of abortion. The increased visibility of their spokespeople in the public sphere seems worrying, to say the least.
Another example of the fraudulent use of science is the invention of the so-called post-abortion syndrome, even though this syndrome has never been officially recognized in the scientific community. Despite its non-existence, pro-life supporters often put forwards the risk of suffering from this syndrome and its consequences after an abortion. This argument is an effective tactic since the possibility of developing long-term mental health issues can be frightening to women.
When these individuals show any kind of empathy, it is generally targeted towards foetuses, even when it requires hateful and hostile strategies. For example, individuals will protest outside abortion clinics in order to intimidate women who make the difficult decision to end a pregnancy. Advocating for the well-being of foetuses, they do not seem to show the same empathy for women who are in a difficult situation. The same could be said about those who compare abortion to the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide. This tactic is not only a blatant lack of respect for those who suffered from these atrocities, but is also an intellectual fraud used to dishonestly attract the public's attention
Some are particularly malicious and hostile towards women. Last year Radio Canada wrote about how the Archbishop of Ottawa said publicly that rape victims who become pregnant can view a baby as "something beautiful coming out of this tragedy" and "an invitation to see things differently."
On the one hand, this misogynistic argument completely ignores male sexual violence and its impact on women, and on the other hand, clearly reflects that for some individuals, the right of a fetus is more important that the physical and psychological safety and well-being of women, no matter the circumstances.
If women's groups and the feminist movement claimed access to abortion as constituting a fundamental right to reproductive autonomy and essential for equality, pro-life supporters constantly threatens this right. Whether in terms of inconsistencies, misuse of science or the primacy of the fetus over the rights of women, we must hope that the public remains alert and critical with regards to the intellectual dishonesty of these individuals and groups.
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