Posts Tagged ‘debate’

[Debate] Abortion: Human Right or Human Rights Violation?

March 20, 2011 3 comments

We’ve uploaded video from Monday’s debate between Stephanie Gray and Donald Ainslie.

Unlike Stephanie’s opponent at Dalhousie, Ainslie did not argue in favour of infanticide, and in fact argued against the notion that abortion should be a morally trivial matter. Professor Ainslie affirmed that, from the point of conception onwards, there are deep moral issues at stake.

He said in his opening statement:

We think of people as one of a kind, as irreplaceable. When an egg is fertilized there is a biological creature that’s one of a kind; there won’t be another one of those. And so the loss of that person, either spontaneously or… in an abortion, makes the world somewhat less. That’s one thing that the world doesn’t have anymore. . . . [it’s] the loss of something with intrinsic value, something that’s irreplaceable, something that won’t be around again.

But Ainslie’s main argument was that, although the moral status of the pre-born is not insignificant, the pre-born doesn’t have the same moral status as you or I until some undefined later point in pregnancy (between conception and birth, which he labelled as two extreme lines to draw). Therefore, he argued that abortion is justified in some circumstances, that all abortion is morally significant but not inherently wrong. He argued that, though the pre-born has intrinsic value, that value might be outweighed by other considerations which justify abortion. Further, he argued that though there may be moral questions involved, the legal questions are separate, and since reasonable people could disagree on the moral question, abortion should be legal. In essence, he affirmed the intrinsic value of the pre-born, but put it on a sliding scale of lesser significance than the intrinsic value of you or I until some undefined point between conception and birth, of a lesser moral status meaning that some abortions are justified and that the law should leave the possibility of abortion open.

In one sense, Ainslie’s argument was weak insofar as he purposefully avoided making any claim of where or why or how the pre-born child would attain a greater moral significance at some arbitrary part along the human continuum of development between conception and birth. This is a classic case for the SLED argument.

But in another sense, I believe his argument is challenging because — despite avoiding the question of why size or level of development (essentially, our age) should determine our value — many people simply agree with this type of argument. They often can’t articulate a reason for it, but they’ll deny that abortion is inherently wrong in the first trimester while being uncomfortable or opposed to it later on, because they believe there is a greater moral significance as the pre-born child gets older.

To respond, I think we must highlight the fact that our age does not increase our value or our moral significance, and make the pre-born child more and more visible, using images of prenatal development that bring to light the undeniable humanity and intrinsic value of the youngest human beings, and images of first trimester abortions that bring into the light the horrible injustice and violence of abortion even at an early stage.

Well, that’s my take. Watch the debate for yourself on YouTube in two parts (an hour each):


Tale of the Tape: Stephanie Gray

Yesterday we profiled Dr. Donald Ainslie in our lead-up to our debate next Monday night! Now I will highlight Dr. Ainslie’s opponent for the evening – Stephanie Gray:


2008–2009 Certification, with Distinction, in Health Care Ethics, U.S. National Catholic Bioethics Center

1998–2002 Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, University of British Columbia


Scientific and philosophical defense for the pro-life view (basic and advanced) and approaches for effective dialogue


Christian-based motivational presentations

Strategy for the pro-life movement

Organizing and conducting visual displays (e.g., the Genocide Awareness Project [GAP])

Speakers training

Fundraising training

Other Credentials:

President of Lifeline, the University of British Columbia’s pro-life club from 1999–2001

– Guest on television programs such as CTV, VTV, and ATV News, Global News, 100 Huntley Street’s Listen Up, and the Miracle Channel’s Insight

– Interviewed by ABC-, NBC-, FOX-, and CBS-affiliated television news programs throughout the Midwest of the United States

This is going to be an epic night. I will post all of the details of the debate tomorrow. Don’t miss it!

Tale of the Tape: Dr. Donald Ainslie

UTSFL would first like to thank Dr. Ainslie for being a part of the most spectacular spectacle (does that make sense?) that U of T has ever seen: Debate 2011! Abortion: Human Right or Human Rights Violation? Please mark off March 14, 2011 on your calendar and join us for what promises to be a great night of debating (venue still to be determined by our fearless leader Lucy). Here are the goods on Dr. Donald Ainslie:

Education: BSc (Mathematics, Queen’s), MA, PhD (Pittsburgh)

Associate Professor

Professor Ainslie has research interests in the philosophy of David Hume, naturalism in ethics, and the foundation of bioethics.

Selected Articles

“Hume a Scotish Socrates?”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 33(1). 2003.
“AIDS and Sex: Is Warning a Moral Obligation?”, Health Care Analysis 10(1). 2002.
“Bioethics And The Problem Of Pluralism”, Social Philosophy and Policy 19(2). 2002.
“Hume’s reflections on the identity and simplicity of mind”, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62(3). 2001.
“Scepticism about persons in Book II of Hume’s Treatise”, Journal of the History of Philosophy 37(3). 1999.
“The Problem of the National Self in Hume’s Theory of Justice”, Hume Studies 21(2). 1995.
Tomorrow: Stephanie Gray

Did I mention there is a debate happening?

You know, it is kind of sad that pro-choicers are the first ones to advertise the debate happening March 14, 2011 on “Abortion: Human Right or Human Rights Violation?”. We here at UTSFL have been waiting quite some time for a debate and now that time has arrived! All this week this blog will be in preparation mode for this debate and it is sure to be a great event! I will have information on both debaters, Stephanie Gray (pro-life side) and Donald Ainslie (pro-choice side) along with other goodies to get you guys ready. The venue has yet to be determined but when it is it will be posted on the blog. Until then check out the pro-choicers doing my dirty work for me in advertising:

HT: Alissa Golob of the Campaign Life Coalition

Live Action: Perspectives

The fantastic pro-life group, Live Action, has created a series of video interviews with people in downtown San Jose, without any previous knowledge of their views on abortion.

There are a wide variety of persepectives.

Some more serious exchanges…

… and others that are a little more light-hearted.

Extremism and fatigue with the abortion debate

March 24, 2010 2 comments

Sometimes, I get tired of extremism all around. Well, it’s not extremism so much as a lack of an attempt at empathy that gets me. I set aside these links in January. Both appeared in my feed reader around the same time.

On the pro-life side, Jill Stanek wrote a post about how a silver coat hanger pendant was described as “gorgeous and touching” by an abortion proponent. It is an incredibly odd thing to say, but there’s no attempt at understanding on Stanek’s part—however challenging that may be. Is it seen as “gorgeous and touching” because it’s a tribute to women who died from unsafe abortions? (Why that’s a poor argument for legalized abortion is a matter for another post.) Instead of attempting to understand what would cause someone to make such a bizarre statement, Stanek just takes the opportunity to point out how crazy the other side is.

I get tired of that sometimes. Point out how absurd the arguments are, but I’m not sure I see the value in ridiculing the people…

And on the other side, you can always rely on Feministing to be void of empathy for anyone they disagree with. We’re referred to as “antis” (1984 was not an instruction manual…), and in a lengthy post about sidewalk counselling at abortion clinics, Jos is entirely incapable of even imagining—for a split second—what might possess us antis to try and talk a mother out of killing her unborn child. We’re all stupid, think lowly of women and just want to harass them. I suppose it’s totally inconceivable (pun not really intended) that anyone might be thankful that they were caused to re-think a decision to get an abortion.

Sometimes, it’s just tiring to constantly hear all the strawman arguments and caricatures. It’s easy to show how illogical the arguments in favour of abortion are, but the real challenge is to respond compassionately and empathetically to those who speak most violently against us, rather than to descend into the same bouts of name-calling or ridicule…

*sigh* </rant>

I’ve probably been guilty of the same thing. Here’s to making more of a conscious effort to criticize what people say, rather than simply ridiculing the people themselves.

Categories: Abortion Tags: , ,

The Heart of the Abortion Debate Within Our Culture: Part I

A friend of mine wrote the following poem, which mentions some concerns – some of the more “stickier” issues, no doubt – regarding the abortion debate. It is written from the perspective of the child in the womb.
It must be noted that the poem only describes just one of many possible situations and set of circumstances that may be faced by women who are pregnant.

I will never get a chance to live my life
Because you were afraid of hardship and strife
Didn’t you know that you would be blessed?
While you were moaning, “YES, YES, YES!”

I’ll never see the world or be set free
Because your only thought was “ME, ME, ME!”
Really our situation is not even that sad
There are worse cases that would make even you feel bad

But they chose an alternative solution
It was long and hard like solving pollution
But meant life for me, what’s my life worth?
Is it worth going through child birth?

How can the World let this happen, have we lost our Dignity
Or is it worse? Have we already lost our Humanity?
What about my Daddy? Doesn’t he get a say?
Please don’t do this! There must be another way

Let’s pick apart this poem stanza by stanza. In light of the wonderful semester I have spent with the University of Toronto Students for Life (UTSFL), I thought it would be an effective way to shed some light on what the pro-life movement, and those within it, may have to focus on when speaking to others about the issue.

The first stanza picks up on what would arguably be the heart of the abortion issue: the idea of choice. People, in almost all cases, can choose to have sex. I do not intend to go down the whole debate of that choice, because it is irrelevant to the matter at hand. There is, however, something that people who choose to engage in sex need to clearly understand…
Sometimes, when you have sex, you get pregnant.
This is a fact. It sounds so straightforward and seems so obvious. But this is crucial, and the disconnect between sex and pregnancy that many are making needs to be taken seriously.
So, if you do get pregnant, what does this mean? When you intentionally terminate a pregnancy, what exactly are you choosing to do?
Anti-abortionists/pro-lifers could say that when pregnant, a distinct human being, deserving of rights and needing protection, is now developing in the womb.
Pro-abortionists could say what’s in the womb is just a clump of cells that is a part of the women’s body. So, a woman should be able to terminate the pregnancy.
If one agrees with the former, one could derive that the right to liberty of the mother and the right to life of the human being in the womb are in conflict. Although the right to liberty is important (which no pro-lifer would deny), the right to life trumps the right to liberty, and thus, abortion is not permissible. If, however, one agrees with the former, one could conclude that the right to liberty of the mother, especially in light of the fact “it” is just “a clump of cells” takes precedence. This highlights the major difference in the views of pro-lifers and pro-abortionists, and this is often where the discussions end, because there is no agreement of what the unborn is.
Life is fillied with hardship and strife, with or without an expected pregnancy; carrying the pregnancy to term and raising a child is no easy task. (Noone in the pro-life movement would deny this, either.) But then one must ask – Is this, a life of hardship and strife (or any other reason, for that matter) an adequate reason to end a pregnancy, in light of the anti-abortion view?

The second stanza is the one I have the most problems with. It can be received as rather negative and quite harsh, as it can be interpreted as belittling the problems a woman facing a crisis pregnancy goes through. The pro-life movement is not meant to do this, and, unfortuantely, this is often what comes across to pro-abortionists (making them equate pro-lifers with being “anti-woman”). This must change; a woman facing a crisis pregnancy is undoubtedly going through a great deal of stress, and is often experiencing fear, loneliness, and anxiety. Compassion is the best response to any woman in this situation, regardless of the circumstances and the nature of the pregnancy. This response acknowledges that a woman needs help in so many respects, and society should help women raise their children by providing more services to do so – whether it be financially or emotionally through a network of people, and in turn, empower her with this support to raise her child. A society that tells a woman “You cannot raise a child because of a, b, and c!” seems to not give much choice at all.

The third stanza asks an important question with regards to the unborn: “What’s my life worth?” In acknowledging that a solution was made, and was a difficult choice to make (I do not like to think women choose abortion easily, but it may be for some), that this life is seen as less worthy than the life of the woman, for various reasons. In treating those in need of the most protection – the unborn, in this case – as worthless or less deserving, is truly unfortunate.

The fourth stanza is, personally, my favourite, and mentions something that has been erking me lately. Often, MEN don’t seem to think they shoud have a say in abortion, since it’s “the woman’s body”. Abortion is a human rights issue, and gender is arbitrary. (It’s like saying one shouldn’t have an opinion about the treatment of workers in sweatshops just because they don’t work in one, or any other human rights abuse just because it hasn’t happened to them). Again, we touch that heart of the debate – men are just as involved in the start of a pregnancy as women are. This prevailing notion of a disconnect of a man from the pregnancy (and beyond it) also needs to change; both men and women need to realize that responsibility is not, and shouldn’t be, only on the woman.
I would really like to stay optimistic, and not conclude that humanity has been lost. I hope that instead of completely losing our humanity, we have just forgotten to remember – what the unborn are; that a woman facing pregnancy is in need of financial and emotional support; that men are entitled to have a voice in the abortion debate; and ultimately, that we must treat everyone with dignity and compassion, especially when they are at their most vulnerable.
There must be another way. Yes, the other way would be REAL choice; women should be kept well-informed of the possible health risks of abortion, and society should provide the resources necessary for a woman to raise her child, or even for the child to be put up for adption. The pro-life movement is continuing to move in the direction of demanding a change in the institutions that make up our society with regards to how money is distributed. Taxes should not be used to destroy human life, but to save and protect it.

“A majority, perhaps as many as 75 percent, of abortion clinics [in the US] are in areas with high minority populations. Abortion apologists will say this is because they want to serve the poor. You don’t serve the poor, however, by taking their money to terminate their children.”
– Dr. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A special thanks to my friend who wrote down their thoughts on what is, for many, such a controversial topic.