A few weeks ago a person by the name of Emily Smith wrote an article in The Silhouette called “On Being Silenced.” This was in response to a cross-campus chalking project which contained phrases such as “your life is beautiful,” and less subtle slogans such as “it’s a child, not a choice.” In her article, Smith asserts that “We need accurate information about abortion on campus — not harmful slogans.” Emily, as the co-president of McMaster Lifeline, I could not agree with you more.
Emily recounted the circumstances surrounding her own abortion experience, a situation which she describes as “a painful decision in an unfortunate situation.” Emily, I am so sorry for your loss. It is heart-rending to hear that you have experienced abuse, and I sincerely hope that you have begun to heal from that painful situation. You seem to believe that all that pro-life people have to offer to struggling women is inconvenience and empty slogans. However, the existence of the pro-life movement is predicated on protecting the vulnerable and reaching out to those in crisis. As a pro-life woman, I wholeheartedly believe that abortion is not a worthy solution to the problems that women face—problems such as abuse, mental health issues, and financial instability. Pregnancy can certainly add to existing problems, but abortion will not solve any of these problems outright.
When we claim that abortion is wrong, we are not attempting to condemn women who have had abortions. We are trying to address systemic problems that women face. For instance, a 50-year analysis of abortion legislation and maternal death in Chile (where abortion is illegal) reveals that the most significant factor in reducing maternal mortality is educating women (1). In fact, making abortion illegal in Chile did not contribute to an increase in maternal mortality. If we are attempting to reduce the harms that women experience, allowing abortion does very little. Meanwhile, providing women with education, social support, and environments where discussion about such topics is permitted (even as you yourself argued) all help reduce the harms associated with unplanned pregnancies. The pro-life solution is to help women end the crisis rather than ending the pregnancy. It means that we attend to the needs of both a mother and her child. It means ensuring that women have access to pregnancy support centers such as Birthright Hamilton.
The chalking project was a nationally organized event which was intended to encourage all students to appreciate the life they have, and acknowledge the youngest of our kind as worthy of life. Pro-life people have a responsibility to help create a culture which respects and protects all human beings—especially those who are vulnerable. The very last thing I wanted was to silence anyone. Members of our club have never attempted to make others feel as though they cannot share their ideas, opinions and experiences regarding abortion. In fact, McMaster Lifeline is dedicated to facilitating conversations about abortion, be it on a personal or political level, or both. Twice a month we host a table in the Student Centre in which we invite students to share their opinions about abortion—we’re the ones with the dioramas showing human development in utero. We encourage you and other students to let your opinions be heard, whether you agree with us or not. In response to your article, we have decided to host a polling table in which students can anonymously submit their written opinions on abortion. We thank you, Emily, for sharing your experience, and we hope to hear from you again.
(1) Koch E.; Thorp J.; Bravo M.; Gatica S.; Romero C.; Aguilera H.; Ahlers I. Women’s education level, maternal health facilities, abortion legislation and maternal deaths: a natural experiment in Chile from 1957-2007. Plos One. [Online] 2012, 7(5) 1-16
Originally written on November 10th, 2015