Youth Protecting Youth

Defending the Dignity of All Human Life

UVIC PRO-LIFE STUDENTS SETTLE OUT OF COURT

14 Comments

VICTORIA, BC – After two and a half months of consultation, the legal conflict between the University of Victoria’s pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), and the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) has come to a conclusion.

The legal conflict was the result of two years of discrimination and censorship, during which YPY was repeatedly denied funding that other clubs received. The situation escalated in the spring of 2010, when the UVSS refused to recognize YPY as a club, and made policy modifications that specifically targeted pro-life advocacy. YPY responded by filing a petition in the BC Supreme Court.

The case has now been settled out of court: the UVSS has recognized YPY as a club, granted it funding for the summer semester, repaid all funds wrongly withheld since fall 2008, and eliminated policy additions that had targeted pro-life advocacy. Having watched other pro-life groups face discrimination and censorship, YPY welcomes these developments that recognize the right to free speech at UVic.

“This is a great victory for YPY,” says club president Anastasia Pearse. “We interpret the UVSS’ concessions as an admission of wrongdoing, and we’re happy with the new direction it’s taking.”

The UVSS has also agreed to an unusual condition that allows YPY to hold the petition in abeyance indefinitely, making the process required to reinitiate legal proceedings quicker and easier, should it become necessary – a circumstance that YPY would view as regrettable. It is hoped that holding the UVSS immediately accountable will curb censorial behaviour.

Despite the free speech challenges it has faced recently, YPY remains focused on advocating for the right to life of all human beings at all stages of life, and will continue to boldly exercise its freedom of speech in proclaiming this message.

The club sincerely thanks Joseph Arvay of Arvay Finlay Barristers – who represented YPY – for his exceptional legal representation.

YPY is pleased that the BC Civil Liberties Association, which has generously acted in support of the club’s free speech, has been granted intervener status in the lawsuit, and will be intervening should the lawsuit need to be revived under the abeyance agreement.

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14 thoughts on “UVIC PRO-LIFE STUDENTS SETTLE OUT OF COURT

  1. What a relief to see that sanity has prevailed and YPY’s funding and status have been re-instated. In our society it is extremely important that everyone has the right to express their opinions, no matter how disagreeable they may be to others. The fact is that abortion does result in the termination of a human life. It is also a fact that until women have complete awareness of and control over their reproductive lives, abortion is necessary and women must be given unencumbered access to it. No women should ever be forced or coerced into carrying a child she does not want.
    The horrible reality that no one really wishes to address is that, in our society as in most societies before, life is cheap and people are expendable whether they be unborn, elderly or disabled. This is just one manifestation of a deeper malaise. Letting groups like YPY voice their opinion helps to raise these difficult issues and forces society to address them.

  2. Hi Chris,

    I’m a little confused. Are you saying that life is expendable, but that this is a necessary evil? What is it, exactly, that makes it necessary?

  3. Way to go YPY! Your victory is a victory for innocent life. And… the struggle continues!

    “It is also a fact that until women have complete awareness of and control over their reproductive lives,…”.

    1. What is meant by the phrase “until women have complete awareness…”?
    2. What is meant by the phrase “control over their reproductive lives”?
    3. Why two conditions?

    “No women should ever be forced or coerced into carrying a child she does not want.”

    4. Does someone wanting or not wanting a child really justify the taking of innocent life?

  4. An interesting study, reported on by the New York times (link below), has shown that making abortion illegal does not change the number of abortions that actually take place. However, in countries where abortions are illegal the women who wish to have this procedure done are forced to seek out illegal – and much more dangerous – means. As a result, in countries where abortion is illegal far more women die from the procedure than in countries where it can be performed in a safe environment (without the slightest reduction in abortion rates).

    Based on these facts the outcome of criminalizing abortion is not saving infant livest (as I’m sure you’d like to believe) but in fact killing women. If you are truly pro-life, be for the lives of the women and understand that abortion will continue regardless of its legal status.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/world/12abortion.html

  5. It is a myth that illegal abortions will make them unsafe to the point where many women will die from them. In 1960—nine years before abortion was legalized in Canada and thirteen years before abortion became legal in the United States—Mary Calderone, then-medical director of Planned Parenthood in the United States, stated, “abortion, whether therapeutic or illegal, is in the main no longer dangerous, because it is being done well by physicians.”[xx] If illegal abortion was safe for women then, it would be safe for them now.

    Even more important, though, is the question of whether we should legalize immoral acts and make them safe simply because people who currently commit those acts could be harmed in the process.

    In 1994, Susan Smith killed her two toddlers in South Carolina, by putting them in the backseat of her car and rolling it into a lake. Imagine that that was not an isolated incident. Imagine that more women do what Smith did. Whether they are stressed out with their children, or are dating men who do not want children, or have some other reason, they, in mass numbers, drown their offspring. But unlike Smith, imagine that woman after woman drives her car into the lake with the plan of escaping out an open window. If many women fail in their efforts to get out of the cars before they sink, thereby dying when killing their children, should society make drowning one’s children legal? In fact, should society even facilitate the process by helping women kill their children in a manner that doesn’t threaten their own lives?

    Such a situation may seem absurd but it illustrates the point: you don’t change a law simply because someone is going to break it and get harmed in the process. Assault, bank robbery, and home invasions, for example, all involve risks to the perpetrators. Should we legalize these acts and attempt to make them “safe” for those who wish to engage in them without harming themselves? Doing so would completely disregard the victims of these acts who would be harmed regardless of the legality of the act and regardless of how safe we make it for the perpetrators.

    Rather than making these acts easier to commit, we should be making them more difficult, and you don’t make them more difficult by facilitating the process.

  6. Instead of citing a quotation from the 60s, would you take the time to consult the studies (and facts) on the matter? The data clearly indicate that abortions are more dangerous if performed illegally. Furthermore, global trending indicates that nations in which abortion are legal and comprehensive sex education is prevalent have fewer abortions than ones where they’re illegal (typically found in the developing world where sex, condoms & abortion are stigmatized). (1)

    With reference to your second point, there exists a major difference between abortion and murder, bank robbery, assault and so forth. It lies in the nature of the victim; the latter cases all impact conscious beings capable of suffering as a result of the crimes committed against them. In the former case, the victim is an unthinking, unbreathing, unconscious collection of cells incapable of suffering.

    The basis for embryos incapacity to feel pain of any kind are the facts. A nervous system and a brain are necessary in order for a being to process any kind of emotional or physical pain features which have not developed sufficiently until late in the foetus’ development (up for question, but most reliable sources indicate periods in the realm of 20 weeks)(2,3,4). This view is accepted by scholars around the world and pinning down the stage at which a person becomes aware and thus deserves rights has been the topic of papers such as (5) below.

    As a result, destroying a foetus in no way causes pain for the subject, and thus invalidates any argument based on morality. The idea of scraping out a small cluster of cells with no capacity for sensation should cause less moral conflict than killing a fly which has.

    To recap then, abortion should stay legal because the lives of women outvalue the set of beliefs of a specific group of individuals; beliefs which, on logical grounds, are undermined by modern science.

    (1) The Lancet, Volume 370, Issue 9595, Pages 1338 – 1345, 13 October 2007. (WEB: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS014067360761575X/abstract)
    (2) Lee SJ, Ralston HJ, Drey EA, Partridge JC, Rosen MA, (2005). Fetal pain: a systematic multidisciplinary review of the evidence. The Journal of the American Medical Association, August 24, pp. 947-954.
    (3) Glover V, Fisk N, (1996). Do fetuses feel pain? We don’t know; better to err on the safe side from mid-gestation. British Medical Journal, Volume 313, Number 7060, pp. 796.
    (4) Benatar D, Benatar M (2002). Bioethics. Volume 15, Number 1, pp. 57-76.
    (5) Penner, PS, & Hull, RT (2008). The Beginning of Individual Human Personhood. The Oxford Journals, Volume 33, Number 2 , pp. 174-182.

  7. Firstly, the quote’s age makes it more relevant. If back then it was known that abortion,” therapeutic or illegal, is in the main no longer dangerous” then more so now when our society is so advanced.

    Your point saying that abortions will continue regardless of law is the same argument that was made by advocates of the slave trade before its abolition. In reply, William Pit essentially stated that he could see no reason why an act of the British Parliament, provided it was properly enforced, would not bring an end to the slave trade at least to every conceivable degree. He was of course correct. Despite there being several ships of slaves sent out illegally, and at great danger to the slave merchants, the mass wholesale of shipping slaves ceased. This goes to show that it is irrelevant whether or not abortions are more prevalent in countries where abortion is illegal. This is because it is the enforcement of the law that matters as much as the existence of the law itself. Therefore, abortion may take place in third-world countries which ban it but that is only because the law is not actively enforced.

    Secondly, I think that ultimately we have come to the main question regarding abortion. Who or what is the preborn? If indeed the preborn are human then it is totally on par that there is no difference between abortion and “murder, bank robbery, assault and so forth.”

    To address the issue of humanity and pain which you seem to have related, I will first point out this: you have said that “the victim is an unthinking, unbreathing, unconscious collection of cells incapable of suffering.” You have to be something to be a victim – cells are not victims. That is beside the point though.

    More importantly, how does pain define us as human beings? Gabby Gingras, a 9-year-old from Minnesota, was born without the capacity to feel pain. Is she therefore not a human being? Why does the ability to feel pain matter? If someone cannot feel pain, is it okay to kill him or her (someone like Gabby)? What if the Nazis had given Jews anaesthetic before killing them, so that they would not feel any pain? What if parents were to kill their born children after rendering them unconscious? If we permit killing simply because the victims are unable to feel the pain of their deaths, then why not permit other acts for the same reason? Rape, assault, robbery, and many other crimes could easily be justified using the same criteria. Shouldn’t we be making it more difficult to commit violent acts rather than making them easier? The same argument follows for emotional pain. It is not pain that defines someone as a human being.

    You’ve also brought up development. I will agree with you that the fetus (which in Latin simply means ‘little one’) is less developed. However, is it our level of development that makes us human? A newborn is less developed than a five-year-old who is less developed than a twenty-year-old. Is it therefore acceptable for the twenty-year-old to kill the newborn and the five-year old, because of their level of development? No, because they are human beings.

    Again, we are back to the question of who is the preborn. Modern Science agrees that life begins at conception, also referred to as fertilization. Drs. Keith Moore and T. Persaud’s embryology textbook used by medical students at the University of British Columbia confirms this:

    “Human development begins at fertilization [emphasis in original], the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell, the zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell is the beginning of embryonic development. The zygote, just visible to the unaided eye as a tiny speck, contains chromosomes and genes (units of genetic information) that are derived from the mother and father. The unicellular organism, or zygote, divides many times and becomes progressively transformed into a multicellular human being through cell division, migration, growth, and differentiation.” (1)

    Just as an adult was once a teenager, toddler, and infant, so too was she once a fetus, embryo, and zygote. These labels merely identify different stages in the development of a human being – addressed above.

    Also, by stating that pro-lifers have a certain set of beliefs you are simply pointing out an obvious fact. By us being a group of specific individuals this does not automatically make our beliefs wrong and you have not advanced your argument by pointing this out. Therefore, this falls into a fallacy of appealing to the majority. However, what is subtly woven into your argument is your own set of beliefs. The question then becomes which set is right. We then need to turn to modern science as you have pointed out. Again, look at the definition used by our doctors from Moore and Persuad above.

    (1) Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects 5th ed. (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998) 36.

    • Jess, numbering off what I believe were your points:

      1) Safety of Abortion Quote: My point with reference to the quote was simply that the facts (which I provided a link to) indicate to the contrary. When presented a quotation from 50 years ago indicating someone’s opinion on an issue (even if, at the time, they were well informed) and a recent study on the same issue offering different views, one would tend to be more convinced by the data.

      2) The enforcement issue: Whilst I agree that enforcement is the key to upholding any law, there are limited ways of enforcing laws against abortions that wouldn’t require terrible human rights violations. However, in countries where more rigorous enforcement of abortion laws exists (any time a woman’s vagina is available for inspection if she is found to have scarring indicative of abortion, she will be strapped to the hospital bed, the police called, and carted off to jail for life) the abortion rates are still higher than elsewhere in the world. To a reasonable person, it would seem that inspecting a woman’s vagina when she has consented only to other medical procedures borders on a violation of her rights and is as far as the law could possibly intrude on her privacy. As a result, given the limits of the real world situation, there is, again, no reduction in abortions as a result of anti-abortion legislation based on the data. Furthermore, this style of enforcement is practised in third world countries; in the future, please support your claims with facts.

      3) Humanity & Development: I shall tackle these out of order.
      i) Life begins at conception: I agree.
      ii) Humanity & Pain: You misread me – I specifically chose the word suffering. Suffering can consist of some combination of physical and psychological pain. The inability to suffer is based on a lack of sentience. It’s a subtle, but important, difference.
      iii) Development: We feel no moral issue when we use antibacterial products despite the fact that enormous numbers of beings die as a result of their use. The point of this example is twofold; first, life is not meaningful simply because it is alive and second, that our morals are based around the reduction of suffering of living beings (and by corollary, that our moral code does not require that we feel pain for injustices committed against unfeeling objects or beings (such as rocks, trees, or bacteria). Assuming that you can see the logic behind not providing rights and protections to every living cell, I will provide the expert opinion of the notable philosopher Sam Harris, who mentions the issue during his recent presentation at TED Talks (1, [Side note: interesting talk, well worth listening to]), to illustrate the second point. In brief, he indicates that morality is based on values, which are “facts about the well being of conscious creatures,” and that our perception of consciousness forms the basis for why we don’t feel for rocks, and associate more moral weight with providing primates with rights than insects because of their range of perception. It is logical that a reduction in suffering of conscious creatures would provide the basis of our moral code, and is backed by considerable evidence in human life as well as our closer animal relatives. I will leave this issue here, but if you would like to further discuss the nature of morality, I would be happy to oblige.

      Having illustrated that despite the fact that a foetus is alive, its lack of consciousness or feeling render it morally exempt from requirements for protection; one would conclude that the final basis for the pro-life argument rests on the potential of the foetus to develop into a human being. However, maintaining an objective view of the situation, other clusters of cells provide the same potential; for example, there is enough genetic material in blood to create a human. Despite this, blood goes to waste on shelves where donors and recipients did not match up in time. Has one committed genocide by keeping blood on a shelf? Should donor clinics be banned because of the terrible potential loss of life? In the world of modern medicine, does the potential of cells genuinely account for anything? Declaring abortions ‘a tragedy’ based on the potential of the cells; could be likened to the ‘tragedy’ that not every stone has been made into a house, road, bridge, etc… What logical reason is there for differentiating between the potential of cells on the basis of their merger?

      (1) http://blog.ted.com/2010/03/22/science_can_ans/

      • Hi Erik,

        I’m so sorry for taking this long to reply. Getting back into school has taken a lot of my time.

        I feel that I could take each of your points and comment on each one, as you did mine, but at the end of the day none of it will matter. (Although, I hate to admit that some of your points are simply red herrings)

        If you take each of the points you made and look at them with the perspective that the preborn are human beings, worthy of the same basic right to life as you and I, then your points become null and void – even your point about suffering because we don’t go and shoot people who are suffering just because they are suffering.

        All of the arguments you and I have made come back to that main point – are the preborn human beings? The science that our doctors use, that our scientists use, etc. says that they are. And I would be a liar if I didn’t admit to some differences between you and I and the preborn but those differences are insignificant in relation to the right to life because they are the same differences between any two born people (such as a two year old and a twenty year old, as an example): size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency.

        At the end of the day, we have to admit that abortion is wrong based solely on the fact that the preborn are innocent human beings worthy of life and abortion intentionally ends the life of that living human being.

        http://www.unmaskingchoice.ca is a great website with more informationn regarding the issue of abortion.

  8. Ah, the wonderful obtusive arguments that proponents of both sides love to engage in. As I stated above, there are a few inescapable facts that few want to address:
    1. a foetus is a person – to argue otherwise is wilful ignorance
    2. women must have access to health care – and that includes abortion on demand
    Now, take it from there…

  9. Chris,

    You seem to be implying that those who commented before you are mistaken and obtuse. I challenge you to contribute to the discussion by supporting all of your claims.

    I agree with your statement that a foetus is a person, but I need to provide support for this statement (as Jess has done above) if I want to contribute to a discussion.

    I disagree with your second claim. Changes in lifestyle can definitely lead to changes in demand for certain health-care services. For example, someone who begins to eat healthier and exercise more will probably find that he or she requires less medical attention. Everyone should have healthy food and plenty of opportunities to exercise safely. If this isn’t the case, we must work to make it so.

    Similarily, certain lifestyle changes can also lead to fewer unexpected pregnancies. But some will occur, and if women feel that abortion is necessary, we aren’t supporting them well enough in their pregnancies. Every woman should be able to carry her child to term free of societal condemnation and worries that her family won’t be fed, clothed, sheltered or educated. If this isn’t the case, we must work to make it so.

    But your two closing statements can’t be reconciled with each other; recognizing the unborn’s personhood should imply that it’s wrong to kill them – not the other way around.

    Chris, I’m being neither obtuse nor rabid – feel free to offer a constructive response.

    • I agree with your assessment that if women feel an abortion is necessary, society is not properly supporting them in their pregnancies. I also agree that we must work towards a better future in which every woman is able to provide for her children no matter her circumstances. However, I would like to suggest that as long as we have not reached such an ideal society, women will be placed in situations where an unexpected pregnancy puts their lives and the lives of their future child in danger.

      Consider a 15 year old girl who, on becoming pregnant, is kicked out of her house and left to fend for herself. She is now faced with severe challenges just to support herself, let alone her unborn child. I feel it would not be moral to force such a person to carry her child to term and hold her responsible for its upbringing. Perhaps adoption is an option for this girl, but then again, perhaps it isn’t: she may not have the resources to make such an arrangement. Perhaps she can’t afford to feed both herself and the life growing inside of her. Job discrimination may be a factor as well: perhaps this girl can’t get hired at even an entry level job because she is pregnant.

      Consider a second scenario, in which a family with three healthy children becomes pregnant. They intend to have the child; however, weeks into the pregnancy, they are informed by their doctor that their child has a rare genetic disorder. The disorder severely limits the chances that their baby will be born alive, and there is a small fraction of a chance that the child will live beyond the first few weeks. The parents, who have three children to care for, are informed that if their child lives, it will require many surgeries and interventions, intensive and constant care for its entire life, and will have a very poor quality of life. In addition, carrying the child to term will endanger the mother’s life and it is moderately likely that she will die as a result of complications.

      I don’t present these hypothetical situations to comment on what each woman should or should not do, nor to present one viewpoint or another on the morality of abortion. I mean to illustrate a few of the morally complex situations that can arise which involve abortion. I personally feel that I have no right to tell women what they should do about an unwanted pregnancy, and because of the variety and complexity of situations that can arise, the only two people who can come to a decision on this issue are the people directly involved – the woman and her doctor.

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