Jordan Peterson, Canadian psychologist, academic, and author, has largely evaded the abortion issue. On one rare occasion when he was publicly asked for comment, he claimed that discussions about the legality and morality of abortion are “nested inside a larger discussion about the proper place of sexuality in human behaviour and, to me, that’s the level at which the problem needs to be addressed.”
In the same vein, The B.C. Catholic ran an article in September titled, “Pro-life organization moving from symptoms to root cause.” Pat Wiedemer, board chair of national pro-life educational organization Life Canada, is quoted: “Choosing death is a symptom of hopelessness, loneliness, and despair. Our work must shift to treating the root.”
I think this framing is incorrect, as it implies linear causality, whereas abortion is really part of a feedback loop, entrenching the same flawed ideologies and vices that preserve it.
Peterson, for instance, has been admirably trumpeting the virtues of marriage, but it’s the wide availability of abortion that enables extramarital affairs and makes casual sex feasible, thereby delaying the commitment of marriage (possibly in perpetuity). On a deeper, philosophical level, abortion disconnects sex from reproduction, and relatedly, responsibility, affirming selfish notions that sex is just for pleasure and, implicitly, that you’re entitled to that pleasure, no matter who gets hurt (or killed).
Similarly, you can see how hopelessness, loneliness, and despair can be symptoms of abortion (and euthanasia). Of course, we’re going to be lonely when we’re eliminating the people who could provide us companionship.
You can’t end abortion by tip-toeing (or even stomping) around it. This serpent needs its head crushed.
Certainly, there are prerequisites to its abolition. I have written before that I think a Culture of Life necessarily demands Christianization (and therefore, evangelization). With a return to faith, it becomes possible to restore sexual morality and decrease crisis pregnancies.
As I have also argued before, however, pro-life outreach involves subtle evangelization, too. As activists, we insist upon objective morality (which requires God) and, in giving new “converts” a cause to fight for, we also give them meaning (of which the source is, again, God).
The B.C. Catholic reports that “Life Canada’s new messaging is focusing on upholding ‘the goodness, beauty, and dignity of life’,” (Wiedemer’s words).
Ironically, though, facing the distressing, stomach-churning reality of abortion is what orients many towards the good, the true, and the beautiful. The incongruity of the humanity of the preborn and the inhumanity of what’s done to them accentuates their human dignity all the more.
The ugliness of abortion is a part of the story that can’t be left out.
Take the United Church of Canada. They wax poetic about the “sanctity of life,” with former Moderator Gary Paterson proclaiming, “For Christians, life is a sacred gift from God and needs to be valued and protected . . . To speak of the sanctity of life is to affirm God’s desire for abundance of life for all of creation.” He also insists that is “not to suggest that believing in the sanctity of life means that any attempt to end life must be prevented.” Indeed, the church offers a “Prayer Following the Decision by a Suffering Person to End Their Life,” expressing gratitude for euthanasia. The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada considers this denomination “more permissive than most” when it comes to abortion.
We must talk explicitly about evil then.
Furthermore, while we try to inculcate the faith and an appreciation for chastity and the gift of life, what about the babies whose moms walk into abortion facilities in the meantime?
Sure, in response to the Holocaust, there was a need to purge the populace of anti-Semitic views, but you’d be somewhat unconvincing if not actively working to rescue those in concentration camps, those on their way to the gas chambers.
Our preaching about a Culture of Life rings hollow if we’re not intervening to save the lives currently in jeopardy. There’s an urgency to this issue which demands an immediate response.
I’m not categorically rejecting an expansion of scope, nor knocking ministries focused on evangelization or chastity. I believe in a multi-faceted approach.
The same goes for the pro-life movement as a whole: we need the political, educational, activist, and pastoral arms working together – each fulfilling an indispensable role.
This column is merely a reply to those who undervalue pro-life activism, dismissing it as ineffective or pointless, or asserting that by the time a woman is headed to an abortion facility it’s “too late.” It’s a reprimand for those pro-life organizations which propose remedies intentionally omitting direct confrontation of abortion. It’s an appeal not to abandon our main mission.