Why a discussion of Laura Sabia? The answer is that she still writes columns in the Toronto Sun, campaigns for abortion and judges religion according to the standards of militant feminism. When an item entitled, “Catholics for Choice” appeared in the Toronto Sun last June, her photograph was published alongside that of Frances Kissling, executive director of an American group called “Catholics for a Free Choice.” Laura Sabia was quoted than as saying that being pro-choice “is not bucking the church. It’s using your brain to refute arguments. What is this business of sin? This is a way of controlling people. It’s an insult to women.”
She is also worthy of attention because of what she signifies and symbolizes: the paper in which her column appears relaxes its standards of discussion when it comes to her. None of its other columnists get away with diatribes to rival hers. The Sun’s tolerance of her is an illustration of how far our newspapers are prepared to go in printing irrational feminist attacks on the Catholic Church and defenses of abortion.
From Christianity to the Religion of Feminism
Coming from a Catholic family, Sabia herself raised four children and marched all of them off to church. However, after reading Church history, and particularly the Canons of the Catholic Church, she admitted that, “after that I had no use for the Church anymore.”
Still, she told Sylvia Fraser in a Chatelaine interview that “…I’m traditional enough to tell you that I still go to Church on Sunday mornings, believe it nor not.”
Asked what she would like people to say about her, she replied, ‘that I’ve made some small contribution to how women think about themselves – their own worth. I don’t want to go down just as an aggressive bitch, I think I’ve been a catalyst for change.”
What kin of change? She has been a strong advocate for the feminist agenda, including contraception and the right to an abortion. She deplores the fact that many young women still have marriage as their primary goal. She apparently does not disapprove of premarital relationships; in fact she says that that it is ridiculous to think of marriage as a sacrament and say, “I think we are coming to a time when marriage will not be for life any more, with lots of experimentation.” She envisages marriage contracts of five years duration, renewable with the consent of both parties – you might pick one partner based on your needs early in life, switch partners for middle-aged needs, and then find someone you want to be with in your old age.
As to motherhood, she says that she never looked forward to it: “I hated pregnancy. I felt contaminated by it. I found the act of birth disgusting.”
By any standard of human feelings and human rationality, these are very eccentric views. For instance, does she not realize that her concept of serial marriages would leave many women without partners? Can she not realize that it is women who have been the main sufferers from easy divorce – that the League of Lonely Women is being added to every day, and that we now talk of the “feminization of poverty” – meaning that well over half of the Canadian families living below the poverty line are headed by women? By belittling motherhood as well, she joins other extreme feminists in doing a monstrous disservice to women.
It has been said of her that she has formed the habit of bringing religion into feminist discussions in her own irreverent way. “Moralists and religious bigots give me a pain in the posterior,” she says. “They are always ready and willing to impose their views on everybody.”
“The very Churches, all male and pure, that decry abortion also vehemently oppose contraceptives. No wonder we’re not getting anywhere. Male celibate can be so nauseatingly virtuous. If they could have babies, abortion would become a sacrament and contraceptives would be sprinkled with holy water.”
Abortion: a millimeter of protoplasm
In a 1977 column entitled, “Still fighting was of the womb!” Mrs. Sabia discussed the battle in the U.S. between the “Right to Life” and the “right to Choose,” and said that the prize was “the so-called ‘soul infused’ fetus. All that thunderous rhetoric, vilification, denunciation and cutting lamentations for a millimeter of protoplasm.” Turning to Canada, she wrote that “Now fresh from their victory in the U.S., the forces of rigidity, inflexibility and religious fanaticism will come alive again. Watch them don their banners, bloody fetuses and maledictions and march forth to meet the enemy, the forces of compassion, reason and humanity.”
You are speaking of yourself, we might reply: these sentences are filled with vilification and denunciation, fanaticism, unreason and inhumanity (in the belittling of the importance of the child in the womb and the relative unimportance of killing it).
Frequently she turns ideas on their head, arguing that the Catholic Church, by opposing contraception, encourages abortion. Naturally, she contends that she is not pro-abortion but pro-choice, though when she argues for the greater provision of abortion facilities and easier access to them, and takes the noted abortionist Henry Morgentaler for a hero, the distinction is hardly tenable.
In 1984, when Mr. Justice William Parker of Ontario ruled that Canada’s abortion law did not violate the Charter and Morgentaler could have to stand trial, her column dealing with the case began, “The law is an ass!” “Hospitals have abdicated their responsibility to the women of Canada,” she continued. Harassed by the so-called ‘pro-life movement’ funded by the church, the hospitals have caved in to intimidation and bully-boy tactics.” It is hard to know which is the greater slander – that pro-lifers use bully-boy tactics or that they are generously supported by the Church. Neither of course is true; but we do not expect perfect accuracy from Laura Sabia.
In fact, the column in which she exulted over the Supreme Court decision last January was full of inaccuracies. “Choice on abortion would not become a legal option,” she wrote. “’A woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy is private and personal,’ declared the court.” The court said no such thing. Mme. Justice Bertha Wilson argued along these lines, but the other majority opinions did not agree. Again she wrote, “I could hardly believe what I was hearing on the news: ‘Abortion is a matter between a woman and her doctor.” Someone might have said this in a news programme, but this is not what the Supreme Court said at all.
The last paragraph of her column on the January 1988 Supreme Court decision is nothing short of grotesque:
“Thank God for the wisdom of the Supreme Court of Canada. Thank God for the tenacity and defence of Dr. Henry Morgentaler. Thank God for the courage of CARAL.
Two special cases
Of the many columns which Laura Sabia has written for the Sun, two are especially notable for their viciousness. In May 1983, she attacked Joe Borowski as a “womb watcher,” “sperm worshipper,” and “fetus fetishist.” The opening paragraph of this column conveys its tone:
“The ‘sun-god’ of the fertilized egg and his crew of loonies are on the loose again. The scenario is being enacted in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Regina. The leader of the loonies is Joe Borowski of Winnipeg. His credentials are impeccable: Lord High Protector of fertilized ova, self-appointed defender of prolific wombs. Clothed in righteousness, and expounding sanctimonious dribble, our God-fearing man of the fetus is on the trail of the Holy Grail – every sperm must find its mate and Joe will take care of the rest.”
The unreasonableness of the attack is magnified by the fact that what she calls “a crew of loonies” consisted of some of the most distinguished fetologists in the world – Dr. Jerome Lejeune and Sir William Liley – together with a good many other distinguished obstetricians and gynecologists, in fact a parade of experts such as a Canadian court rarely sees. In this dispute, it was clear where the loony was located.
The second column appeared as recently as September 27, of this year, and dealt with Mother Teresa’s speech during the anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill. In that speech she was “dogmatic,” “judgmental,” and “inflexible,” “both judge and jury, condemning women who choose abortion and the doctors who perform them to jail terms.”
“I am saddened by Mother Teresa’s strict uncompromising adherence to archaic and obsolete tenets of so-called Catholic dogma. If she would but put her devotion and dedication to work for the teeming millions of women teaching them the whys and wherefores of birth control, our frightening statistics on abortion could be cut considerably.”
Laura Sabia forgets, or does not know, that Mother Teresa’s nuns have taught natural family planning, a very reliable method of fertility control, to thousands of women. What is most striking about the column, however, is that it accuses one of the most compassionate women on the face of the earth, in fact the symbol and prototype of compassion for millions of people, of lack of compassion, and even of hypocrisy. Fanaticism could hardly go farther.
Concluding reflections: fair comment?
The Sun is known for its girly pictures, but it also has some excellent columnists, such as William F. Buckley, Douglas Fisher and (on occasion) Barbara Amiel. The tone of their writing is worlds away from that of Laura Sabia. Yet the editor, when he prints letters criticizing her, rises to her defense in the brief comments he usually puts in parentheses following those letters. One writer who hoped that Laura Sabia would live in an institution with nothing to read but her own columns was told, “Oh, cool off!” And another who complained of her coarseness was told, “To dismiss Laura as coarse is to misread her.
That is simply not true. Not all of her columns deserve this epithet, but many of them are coarse beyond belief. Is this what passes for reasoned discussion of controversial topics in Canada? Doesn’t a newspaper degrade itself by printing columns written by Laura Sabia? Why should an editor accept statements which are un-provable or else demonstrably false just because they are made concerning two of the newspaper’s favourite targets – right-to-life supporters and the Catholic Church?
In the name of reasons and fairness, we should expect, – and get, something better. As for the lady herself, it is time she reached the age of discretion and contrition.