On September 20, 1992, CBC’s popular Sunday morning radio program Centrepoint devoted the one-hour time-slot from 11:00 – 12:00 a.m. to the program “Unbending faith: profile of the pro-life.”
Put together by CBC producer Mary O’Connell, the narrative had as its Centrepoint the blowing-up of Morgentaler’s Toronto abortuary the previous June. For O’Connell it raised the question whether this event portended a new phase of the pro-life movement, the answer to which she seemed to think was affirmative.
The underlying assumption of the show, never questioned, was that the blowing up was done by pro-lifers. In reality there is not a scrap of evidence for it. Never mind, it fitted the theory and so became the hinge on which the profile turned. So what was the show’s theory?
It is this. Over the last 20 years the Canadian pro-life movement has changed from being a group of lively political reformers in the early seventies to becoming a remnant of hard-core Catholic crusaders in the 1990s. During this process moderation has been replaced with militancy. As the movement became more and more radical, it also became increasingly irrelevant to Canadian society. Thus it entered a vicious cycle because, the more irrelevant to the political scene, the greater the urge for violence.
Again, according to the program, in the early seventies the movement was willing to strike a deal with politicians. But with the appearance of Campaign Life in 1978 the hard-nosed people took over, refusing to allow for exceptions and not hesitating to enter conflict on every occasion, even with the Catholic Church.
Campaign Life, according to this CBC history, is a brand of “political aggression.” As it failed to have political successes it has turned towards “personal aggression,” beginning with the picketing of the Morgentaler “clinics” in Winnipeg and Toronto in 1985, then resorting to Operation Rescues – i.e., the barricading of “clinics” by lay groups of protestors – in 1989 and 1990; and today resorting to the picketing of the offices and even homes of doctors doing abortions.
Pro-lifers have no answer to political problems, the program concluded; their further marginalization “may well lead to greater violence yet” (hence the program’s emphasis on the Morgentaler clinic). Meanwhile the moral absolutism in the face of continued political failure continues to splinter the movement.
Thesis is not new
This is not the time to write the history of the pro-life movement, so a few comments will have to do for now.
First a question: if the movement is so irrelevant why does the CBC devote an hour of broadcast time to discuss it?
Second, the CBC thesis is neither new nor original. Much of it is derived from Michael Cuneo’s work entitled “Anti-abortion protest in Toronto 1969-1985,” a study which the publishers, the University of Toronto Press, cleverly entitled Catholics against the Church to make sure it would sell well. It did.
While there is much valuable material in these 227 pages of text, Cuneo sees the pro-life Catholics – whom he calls “Revivalist Catholics” – as a small sect growing smaller by the year even within the Catholic Church.
It is the professional drawback of sociologists that they are not supposed to discuss truth and must place their narrative, therefore, in comparative and secular terms. Consequently, according to him, “Revivalist Catholics constitute a distinctive and increasingly self-enclosed sub-culture within the Canadian Church,” (p. 185).
The idea that this group will soon be extinct will be proven wrong. History shows that any elements within the Church not in harmony with its authentic and truthful teaching will wither away. And as Cuneo himself admits, it is the pro-life movement that stands with the Pope and with authentic Catholic teaching. Consequently it will survive, while its opponents will vanish.
Theory is inaccurate
Thirdly, Cuneo – and the one-hour CBC profile even more so – overlooks the fact that the visible part of the pro-life activists – too small it must be granted – represents a much wider body. The CBC forgot to mention that during the last few years over 2,000 Canadian “Rescuers” have willingly spent time in jail for their “cause.” There is nothing comparable to it in Canadian history.
Another point: if even among Catholics this sect of “fanatics” is said to lack real support, why is it that every year its newspaper, The Interim, carries supporting advertising from over 600 Catholic parishes? If the pro-life movement consists of nothing but a handful of mainly Toronto-based diehards, how is it that during the last two years some 80,000 Canadians participated in the Life Chain in cities from coast to coast?
The truth is that despite all predictions to the contrary, these “hard-core crusaders” have managed – over a 20-year period – to form a large group of committed pro-lifers across the country that will stand fast and gladly pass on the torch of truth during the coming years.
In truth, pro-life has won the intellectual debate.
The feminist, “pro-choice” arguments for abortion are bankrupt. The Pill and the IUD have proven disastrous to women’s health; Clinics for Sex Selection have set the argument for abortion as a woman’s right on its ear; and the inevitable by-product of killing innocent humans, euthanasia, is now upon us.
The respectability of judges and lawyers too is gone. It was blown sky-high when in March 1991 judges of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Sullivan-Lemay that even a baby in the birth canal and in process of being born must not be counted a human being.
As for politicians, demanding private choice, yet public funding has shown the “pro-choicers” for the liberal tyrants they are.
Is there a new phase coming? Definitely. While the feminists fall apart, morally, legally and politically, pro-life men and women have grown from zero in 1967 to tens of thousands today. Pity the feminists. They actually thought they had won the battle in 1969. Now, 24 years later, the numbers of “unbending faith” are larger than ever.