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Pro-lifers should be targeting debaters

LAST WEDNESDAY, I was on my way to class when I noticed an eye-catching poster on one of our school’s many bulletin boards. Under the title “Abortion Debate,” it layed out the time, date, and other details of an event to be hosted by the University of Ottawa Students for Life to, naturally, debate the issue of abortion.

Being of convinced pro-choice beliefs myself, I was of course interested, but I was more than a little put off by the empty frame on the pro-choice side in which was written a provocative: “They’ve been invited. Will any pro-choicer show up?”

I have friends in the organizations that make up the pro-choice movement on campus (Pro Choice Coalition of Ottawa and the Women’s Resource Centre, among others), and I later found out none of these groups had been contacted.

On Thursday, the Fulcrum printed a letter to the editor calling for a pro-choice speaker to participate in the debate. The letter spoke at length about having approached faculty members and public figures, and complained of the difficulties they’d had in finding a neutral moderator, but again made no mention of trying to contact the organization’s pro-choice peers on campus.

I’ve helped organize and advertise for my fair share of events in my years at this university, and none of this seems right to me. Why would you deliberately put up posters for a debate saying your opponents have been “invited” before your ill-publicized invitation even appeared in the letters section of our campus newspaper?

This is evidence either of very poor planning, or a conscious effort to manufacture a publicity stunt “exposing” the arrogance and/or disorganization of their opponents.

If the latter is true, it would bear some comparison to another prominent group of pro-life activists, the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR), whose president is, coincidentally, the invited pro-life speaker.

If you don’t recognize the CCBR’s name, you may recognize their tactics: Last year they attempted to set up a display at Carleton University comparing abortion to the Holocaust and the lynching of African-Americans in defiance of the university administration, effectively daring them to call the police.

This kind of publicity stunt masquerading as a political controversy, playing the “liberal establishments are trying to silence us!” card for sympathy, seems to be an increasingly well-honed weapon of this unpopular cause.

I’ve heard that the Atheist Community of the U of O have responded to the “invitation” and put themselves forward as representatives of the pro-choice position. If the debate goes ahead, I hope they acquit themselves admirably.

I am rather set in my views, as this opinion piece may betray, but I recognize that a serious commitment to critical thinking requires me to submit them to scrutiny. If that was the intention of the University of Ottawa Students for Life from the get-go, then it is a laudable one, but I personally can’t shake the feeling that there is something distinctly questionable about this whole exercise.

—Edward Roué