These last few weeks, the Arts Tunnel has been home to a special interest group seemingly trying its hardest to alienate any potential supporters. Around this time of year, a group of pro-life students makes an annuall appearance and causes you to question the wisdom of juxtaposing fetus dioramas with Timbits.
It’s never done much for my appetite but fortunately for them getting more donuts into our diets is not their end goal. The pro-life movement believes that life begins at conception and thus, abortions are wrong. This is why they often set up shop around the same time the University of Saskatchewan’s Students’ Union Women’s Centre has a display for pro-choice week.
This group promotes their views using fetus dioramas intended to bring your attention to the biological development of a fetus. Given that the group is pro-life, it’s fairly obvious that they want you to look at the stages of fetal development and be struck by how human-like fetuses are.
This revolutionary idea might leave you stunned — if you failed biology. You’ll forgive me for not standing in awe of the fact that a typical fetus of a given species will resemble said species during development. Nevertheless, the emphasis is on the perceived humanity of the fetuses with no statistics, pamphlets, studies or information immediately available in regards to the topic.
The intended effect is rather straightforward. These pro-life supporters seem to want women who are considering abortions to experience doubt and change their minds. A side-effect of their methods — intentional or unintentional — is the message to women who have had abortions that they should feel guilty for their actions.
The message here is simple: abortions are bad. Full stop. No exceptions.
What you think about abortions is your opinion. I’m more interested in the implied part of that statement at the moment — the part that says that you should feel bad for having an abortion in the first place.
According to studies conducted by Dr. Wendy Norman of the University of British Columbia and statistics from the Sexual Assault Centre for the Hamilton area in Ontario, one in three Canadian women will have an abortion and one in four will be sexually assaulted in their life times.
Simply put, you likely know a woman who has had an abortion and/or has been raped. I know someone who meets the second criteria. When my mom was in high school she went out on a date with a guy and he raped her. While she didn’t become pregnant, she did later get diagnosed with depression because of it.
My focus is on the women for whom those statistics overlap. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that around 32,000 pregnancies per year in the United States are the result of rape and approximately 50 per cent of those pregnancies are subsequently terminated.
While those are American statistics, the occurrence of rape in the U.S. and Canada do sit at fairly similar levels. Thus it can be reasonably inferred that women who have ended pregnancies that were a result of rape are not an insignificant number.
That brings me back to the fetus dioramas. The display will very likely instill guilt in more than one person. Given the above statistics, it doesn’t seem unlikely that this number will include rape victims.
The display isn’t about convincing you with facts and well-reasoned arguments; it’s meant to play to your emotions with very little subtlety.
They want to convince you that life begins at conception by showing you how human-like human fetuses are. This exhibits a black-and-white understanding of a highly complex issue and the simplicity of their methods is problematic.
Every day that table is up, there are women walking past it whose lives have been affected in horrible, indescribable ways. They have experienced excruciatingly traumatic events that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
This experience may have been exacerbated by family, friends or police officers who asked asinine questions such as what they had expected to happen if they were wearing that outfit or drinking that much.
These women, several weeks after being raped, could have been confronted with the cruel fact that they were pregnant and subsequently made the choice to have an abortion.
These are the same women who could be triggered by these displays. Let that sink in for a second.
The pro-life group, with their one-size-fits-all message, might cause rape victims to feel doubt, guilt or disgust with themselves. Choosing not to think critically about an excessively simplistic position is lazy, but everyone is entitled to an opinion. Promoting that position in a way that is potentially harmful to rape victims turns lazy into abhorrent.
No one benefits when the conversation about abortion is hijacked by those who have a fundamental lack of understanding for the issue, but choose to be vocal anyway.
Consideration must be given to why any woman chooses to have an abortion in the first place. The dialogue needs to be compassionate, rational and consist of scientific data.
You’ll note “manipulative” is not on that list.
Photo: Jordan Dumba/Photo Editor