Mr. Michael Malley of Calgary is the kind of anti-abortion crusader who appalls the respectably religious. “He takes things so far,” they will say. Now, I’m as much opposed to abortion as anyone, and I respect the man’s sincerity, but really…” Eyes are then rolled upward; heads are shaken; sighs are heaved.
Mr. Malley is, it seems, a trial to those who would prefer that things like abortion be “discussed in a reasoned atmosphere” – the common room, the debate in society – or, failing that, not discusses at all. For it is surely, a matter for “the individual conscience” and Mr. Malley insists on making it a matter for the front page. He is, as I say, a great burden to the genteel.
Only last week, for instance, he caused profound distress, not to say humiliation, with the disclosure of his latest outrage. It seems that the Calgary Birth Control Association – a sensitive organization whose chief service to the citizens consists in having wiped out the lives of some thousands of them just after those lives got started – has been victimized by one of Mr. Malley’ devious ploys. People would telephone them for advice on how to have an abortion, only to find instead that they were being assailed with advice on how to have a baby, and why.
The reason, the association soon found, was that Mr. Malley’s “Campaign Life” group had taken out a telephone in the name of the “Calgary Birth Control Agency” and another one in the name of “Birth Control (Calgary).” In Inquirers kept calling these numbers instead.
The effect was to cause much “trauma” to the people whose calls reached the wrong number. Not as much trauma, Mr. Malley was quick to point out, as that caused their unborn children when they reached the right one. But his, of course, was more evidence of the man’s “confrontationalism.”
Then, too, another August Calgary group found itself singled out for such abuse, notably the Calgary Board of “Health.” This body’s contribution to “health” is sometimes a little too profound for many to understand. “Health” at one point was discovered to include the provision of contraceptives to 13-year-olds without the knowledge of their parents.
“Health” also means, apparently advice on how to have a normal fetus ripped to pieces by some sort of special vacuum cleaner. It was in order to interfere with this latter “health” service that Mr. Malley got another telephone number, this one listed in the name of the Family Planning Centre. The result was even more trauma.
Last month the outraged birth control association went to court and got an injunction ordering the telephone company to disconnect Mr. Malley’s lines. If anybody dials the numbers (they’re still in the phone book) a recording is to come on, redirecting the caller to the correct telephone number. The court was frankly disgusted with Mr. Malley’s efforts. So, of course, were the respectable.
Yet, if you stop to think about it, people like Mr. Malley would have little difficulty defending such activities. For what they do is to remove this debate from the realm of academic speculation and make it instead a matter of urgent and immediate attention.
When you think it through, it become obvious that the one irrational attitude on this question is that of mild approval or mild disapproval. There can be nothing mild about it. IF that which exists within the pregnant woman is not what we may regard as a human being, then to cause an unwilling mother to bear it and raise it is an act of callous oppression. If it is a human being, then the activities of such groups as the birth control association, the Board of Health, along with the abortion-mill hospitals they refer people to and the abortionists who staff them are a collective abomination on a par with Auchwitz and Buchenwald.
Hence the Malleys and the Morgentalers have one thing in common. They are both responding appropriately to the question. The people who are unquestionably wrong are the rest of them who sit back and deplore their “extremism.” Extremism is the only rational response.
If Mr. Malley is right, and his activities with his telephone numbers had gone on for ten years and “traumatized” thousands, yet saved the life of only a single child, he would have been utterly vindicated in what he did.
Finally, it is well to remember one further point, notably that the question will not long remain unanswered already. If our knowledge of what constitutes life did not materially change from one generation to another, then we might argue about it forever.
But through biology and genetic research it is indeed changing, and everything these sciences are telling us serves to reinforce the Malley position. Most attributes of the individual, we find, are locked within the single cell that appears at conception. That which is being disposed of in the plastic bags is not so many pounds of waster matter. It is a specific number of people, each of them unique, down to the colour of the eyes and the eventual height, weight, personal idiosyncrasies and intelligence.
The line, in other words, at which human personality beings is already well established. It begins at the instant of conception. The issue, as I say, is resolved.
How then does this loathsome practice continue? It survives, not on the basis of rational argument, for the arguments increasingly weigh against it, but rather on the basis of sheer status. It looks so right. It is surrounded by all the reassuring trappings of conventional usage: the ads in the telephone book, the smoothly efficient “counselors,” the antiseptic facilities, the green-clad “doctors,” the swift pace of the event itself, the fact of its seeming universality, the benediction of the liberal media.
Surely all these people could not be caught up in some unimaginable horror that later generations will denounce as mass genocide – as, for instance, they denounce the child sacrifice of Carthage, or the traffic in slaves? Will there be a time when this 20th century practice is viewed as too revolting for general discussion? Will the grandchildren of those who now professionally practise it not want to tell anyone how grandfather made a living?
That, of course, is exactly what the extravagant protests of people like Mr. Malley imply, and that is why they cause so much anger.
This article first appeared in Western Report, October 6, 1986. It is reprinted here with permission.