To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
The student society at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, defunded the campus’ pro-life club, but the club is attracting even more members.
BY Steve Weatherbe
Pro-abortion activists on university campuses
across Canada are finding their efforts to suppress the pro-life voice are
month hundreds of University of Victoria students witnessed a debate that
pro-abortion groups on campus didn’t want to happen and a graphic video they
didn’t want them to see.
debate happened only because philosophy professor Eike Henner Kluge agreed to
step in for the “pro-choice” side after the university Women’s Centre, the
Students Protecting Choice club, and the professors from women’s studies,
philosophy and law departments all declined to defend the pro-choice position,
with the exception of Kluge.
so many came to the midafternoon debate on Oct. 21 that the participants
quickly agreed to stage a second debate right after the first. In all, 400
students and community members attended.
was a victory just to penetrate the other side’s insistence the issue isn’t
worth debating,” said Stephanie Gray, director of the Calgary-based Centre for
opened his comments by condemning the pro-choice advocates who had refused to
defend their own beliefs. “It’s deplorable,” he declared, because it undermined
“the spirit of free inquiry” fundamental to the university.
defenders of legalized abortion believe in free inquiry at all is in question.
Eight years ago the student society’s board of directors voted to kick out the
campus pro-life club Youth Protecting Youth because its views on abortion ran
counter to the society’s. This drew the censure of British Columbia’s
human-rights tribunal, and, under threat of a fine, the board rescinded its
a membership that is mostly Catholic, but with the support of several
evangelical Protestant clubs on campus, Youth Protecting Youth faced renewed
attacks from pro-abortion groups on campus over the past two years, leading to
repeated denials of funding from the student society on the grounds Youth
Protecting Youth was “intimidating” female students with its posters of healthy
children, women, old men and disabled persons.
the last two years, the university student society’s board of directors has
repeatedly denied the Youth Protecting Youth pro-life group its club funding as
punishment for allegedly “intimidating” female students with pro-life messages.
The latest defunding vote, only two weeks before the debate, sparked a protest
from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
prospect of Gray’s appearance in a debate sponsored by Youth Protecting Youth
was cited in the decision to again deny the group funding. The pictures she
presents in public were deemed “intimidating.”
lived up to her advance billing by showing a short but bloody film of an
abortion. Protesting students from the pro-choice club easily blocked the 5’6”
Gray from view but could not conceal the gruesome images on the overhead
argued that the weakness, dependency and size of unborn children were morally
insufficient reasons for considering them inhuman and disposable. Disabled
people and newborns are equally dependent and vulnerable, but “they are human
beings. So the question tonight is, clearly, ‘Are the unborn human beings or
responded by conceding that fetuses were human beings. “They are not a
biological part of the mother,” he declared, adding, “They are a bloody
parasite,” a remark that sparked nervous laughter from some and silence from
Kluge, the real question is not the humanity of fetuses, but their personhood,
which depends, he said, on their ability to think and to feel pain. Because the
ability to do so is sufficiently developed in the fetus by about 20 weeks after
conception, after that time “abortion is unethical.”
also noted that the Canadian Supreme Court decision that threw out the abortion
law in 1988 did not rule out future laws that protect fetuses at some point in
their development in the womb.
also condemned appeals to emotion and applied this to Gray’s use of abortion
rebuttal, Gray led off by defending her pictures: “We use pictures to show the
effects of drunk driving and genocide. Images are a reasonable tool to get at
argued as well that Kluge’s definition of a person was too subjective and hard
to measure. Her definition of a person — a human being — is strictly
fact, molecular biology and embryology show that a human embryo is, from the
moment of conception, a boy or a girl with his or her own unique DNA and normal
human life expectancy. The Church teaches that “from the first moment of his
existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person —
among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life”
(Catechism, No. 2270).
audience survey taken afterwards showed that few minds had been changed, Gray
told the Register. Most people who filled out the survey were true believers in
one camp or the other.
free speech was a clear winner: Students emerged calling for more debates on
controversial subjects, a clear rejection of the pro-choice tactic of denying
pro-life students a voice.
could be no clearer expression of this view than the University of Victoria’s
Women’s Centre coordinator Sinead Charbonneau’s statement to the student
newspaper, the Martlet.
think that Youth Protecting Youth is engaged in a fallacious practice of
intimidation. Religiously minded students should have the choice to be able to
organize on campus, but when their ideology infringes on the rights of other
people, their practices should be stymied, and their presence should be
Anastasia Pearse, president of Youth Protecting Youth: “Many think this is a
closed issue. We’ve shown that it isn’t. I’m pleased with the result.”
Dean Henderson, Catholic chaplain at the university, agreed. “I was absolutely
thrilled the debate took place at all, and equally so that it took place in
such an authentic and intellectually honest way, free from distractions such as
the funding issue, abortion politics and women’s issues. I’m grateful to Eike Kluge for making it possible
and more appreciative than ever for Stephanie Gray’s wonderful vocation.”
Steve Weatherbe writes from Victoria, British Columbia.