Last month, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students voted to sanction the denial of student space to anti-abortion (pro-life, anti-choice, or whatever) groups. The motion reads that “member (unions) that refuse to allow anti-choice organizations access to their resources and space be supported.”
Though this particular motion grew out of a controversy sparked by the Lakehead University Students’ Union denial of student space to a pro-life group, such controversies have sprung up across the country, and the banning of anti-abortion groups is not exclusive to CFS schools.
I will not go into this history today (though I may at some future point) except to say that this is nothing short of an attack on the university as a place for the free exchange of ideas. Even Heather Kere, a Ryerson Students’ Union executive who hasn’t exactly distinguished herself as a moderate, tried to amend the CFS motion so that it would only apply to anti-abortion groups that harassed students. An even-handed and grounded amendment that was promptly rejected.
And why did they reject it? Well, Shelley Melanson, CFS national women’s representative, told the Eyeopener, “You wouldn’t take public money to put in an organization that moves to take away people’s rights; you wouldn’t fund the KKK.”
Similarly, Sandy Hudson, CFS-Ontario women’s rep, also thinks anti-abortion groups are comparable to fascists. As the University of Western Ontario Gazette reported: “When asked whether Ryerson students should be exposed to both sides of the abortion issue, Hudson said allowing an anti-choice group would be like allowing a white supremacist group on campus.”
There you have it: if you do not agree with the CFS position on abortion you are no better than a member of the Klu Klux Klan or a white supremacist.
Apart from the sheer intellectual laziness of dismissing opponents as hate-mongering, totalitarian buffoons, the CFS just might be revealing its own intolerant tendencies. Let’s see who else might qualify as a white supremacist because of their position on abortion? Well Catholics come to mind. So do Hindus. And religious Jews and Muslims. (Full disclosure: I am a lapsed Catholic.)
Certainly Melanson and Hudson, speaking on behalf of the CFS, do not mean to equate religious groups, including minority religious groups, with the KKK and white supremacists (or maybe they do; I’m not a mind reader). But it is hard not to come to the conclusion that Melanson and Hudson envision kooks like James Keestra, Ernst Zundel, and David Andrews at the next meeting of the Interfaith Coalition.
What about the population in general? According to a 2006 Environics poll, 31 per cent of Canadians believe that the law should protect life “at conception.” Are nearly one-third of Canadians comparable to KKK members too?
Another third of Canadians believe the law should intervene at “some time during pregnancy,” meaning that after a certain gestation period abortion should be prohibited. This is also the position of many doctors. The Canadian Medical Association defines abortion as “the active termination of a pregnancy before fetal viability” (emphasis mine). The CMA does, however, recognize that late term abortions may be performed “under exceptional circumstances.”
Unless you’ve been living in some nether world for the past 20 years, you’ll know that Canada is the only country in the Western world to offer no legal regulation on abortive practices whatsoever. This, of course, includes those Scandinavian countries that the Canadian left has developed such a fetish for.
While the Supreme Court ruled the pre-existing law that criminalized abortion unconstitutional except under very narrow circumstances, it did not rule that no law could be permitted. In fact, the Court commented that a regulatory law might just be a good idea. Writing for the majority in the 1988 Morgentaler case, Justice Bertha Wilson wrote, “The value to be placed on the fetus as potential life is directly related to the stage of its development during gestation . . . The precise point in the development of the fetus at which the state’s interest in its protection becomes ‘compelling’ should be left to the informed judgment of the legislature.” Such a law was passed by the Mulroney government, but died on the Senate floor.
So do the CFS’s principal spokespeople on women’s issues only equate those who want absolute restriction on abortion with white supremacists? Or does the characterization extend to those who would regulate it? Would banning student groups that promote the position that the law should step in to prevent second and third trimester abortions also be sanctioned by the CFS? Clarification on just who is and who isn’t no better than a white supremacist is in order, I think.
The question of “how late is too late?” is a divisive and uncomfortable one among abortion rights activists. As National Post columnist Jonathan Kay put it late last month in reference to a symposium at the University of Toronto to mark the 20th anniversary of the Morgentaler ruling:
“Within their own minds, [abortion activists] do wrestle with these important moral questions — as any intelligent person must. But when in public, they censor themselves. Locked in what they feel to be a tribal culture war against pro-lifers, the pro-choice camp allows itself no nuance. This is essentially the reason Canada has no abortion law: Any stirring of legislative action arouses such tribal war fury among pro-choicers as to send politicians scurrying.”
The abortion issue is clearly not settled in the minds of Canadians, but thankfully we have student leaders to sort it out for us, and representatives of the CFS to deem that the third of us, and perhaps the two-thirds of us, that disagree with them are analogous to procurers of hate propaganda.
In any event, if you are a student, particularly one at an Ontario university, who disagrees with the CFS Ontario position on abortion, you should ask your local representative if that means you are no better than a white supremacist or a member of the Klu Klux Klan.
Better yet, contact the sources directly:
Shelly Melanson, email: email@example.com phone: 613.520.2600 ext.1603
Sandy Hudson, email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 416-978-4911 ext. 237