Youth Protecting Youth

Defending the Dignity of All Human Life


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Links on comparing abortion to genocide, and free speech on TV

As the date of the “Echoes of the Holocaust” presentation gets closer, and the controversy continues, I invite you to read an excellent piece about the comparison between abortion and the Holocaust (as well as other human rights abuses) written by Zuza Kurzawa, the president of the pro-life club at Queen’s university in Ontario. Zuza was the only non-Carleton student to be arrested October 4, and has written this in response to criticism she has received in regards to her involvement with pro-life outreach that compares abortion to genocide, particulary demands from students on her own campus that she make a formal apology for such comparisons. Definitely worth reading:

http://queensalive.blogspot.com/2010/10/zuza-kurzawa-response-to-critics.html

Also of interest, discussion of the arrests at Carleton and of free speech on university campuses in general on the Michael Coren show tonight.


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The Writing on the Wall

On Tuesday October 12, students arrived on campus to find that YPY had started advertising an event we are hosting this fall: Jojo Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR) is coming to give a presentation called “Echoes of the Holocaust”, which compares abortion to genocide.  On Wednesday October 13, we arrived on campus to find that the outdoor chalking advertising the event had been surrounded with phrases including “anti-choice”, “false information”, and “hate speech”. I’d like to address the accusations made by these chalkers, and once again encourage anyone who disagrees with or questions the views of YPY and/or CCBR to come out to the presentation and bring their questions for the question period at the end. I feel like I’m once again responding to the same old ad hominem attacks that miss the point of the abortion issue almost entirely, and I’d like to put things back into perspective. We don’t need to talk about what kind of people pro-lifers are; we need to talk about whether the unborn are people.

 

Some of the chalk surrounding our event announcement

Original chalk announcement: "YPY Presents "Echoes of the Holocaust" w/ Jojo Ruba. Oct. 26, 5:30, SCI B150"

 

I’ll quote the chalk comments one by one and respond to them. If I miss any, feel free to add them in the comments.

“This presentation compares abortion to genocide.”/ “This presentation compares abortion to the Holocaust.”

This is true. The presentation compares abortion to genocide, and specifically to the Holocaust.

For a basic explanation as to why the comparison is made, check out “Is Abortion Genocide?” on CCBR’s website.

For a chart outlining parallels between abortion and other historical atrocities, check out “Is Abortion Comparable to Historical Atrocities?” on CCBR’s website.

“Anti-choice”

Choice to do what? I’m pro-choice when it comes to who to vote for, what kind of food to eat, and many, many other things. I’m against some choices, though. I’m anti-choice when it comes to things like assault and murder. We have a lot of choices in life, but when our choices involve killing or harming other human beings, it quickly becomes obvious that some choices are wrong. Killing or harming other human beings is wrong.

I’m against abortion. Why? Because every successful abortion ends the life of a human being. Images of tiny, bloodied hands and feet show us the results of this “choice”. They’re uncomfortable to look at because they show an unpleasant reality: a tiny human being who has been torn apart by a doctor using surgical instruments. In The Case for Life, Scott Klusendorf quotes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy as he describes common dismemberment abortion techniques: “The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: it bleeds to death as it is torn from limb to limb…. The fetus can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while its limbs are being torn off…. Dr. [Leroy] Carhart [the abortionist who challenged Nebraska’s partial-birth ban] has observed fetal heartbeat…. with ‘extensive parts of the fetus removed,’…. and testified that mere dismemberment of a limb does not always cause death because he knows of a physician who removed the arm of a fetus only to have the fetus go on to be born ‘as a living child with one arm.” …At the conclusion of a D&E abortion… the abortionist is left with ‘a tray full of pieces’.”

So yes, I’m against that “choice”.

For more on “choice” and other assumptions those arguing in favour of abortion may make (while ignoring the question “what are the unborn?”), see “Assumptions Abortion Advocates Make” on CCBR’s website.

“Anti-woman”/ “Compares women who have abortions to Nazis”

YPY believes in judging actions, not judging people. In comparing abortion to genocide, the actions and victims are compared. Rabbi Yehuda Levin, of New York, stated this very well when he said,

“Each form of genocide, whether Holocaust, lynching, or abortion, differs from all the others in the motives and methods of its perpetrators. But each form of genocide is identical to all the others in that it involves the systematic slaughter, as state-sanctioned ‘choice,’ of innocent, defenseless victims—while denying their ‘personhood.’”

For a detailed discussion of how comparing abortion to genocide is not equivalent to calling women Nazis, see this post by a member of YPY.

Or see CCBR’s response in their FAQ.

“Anti-Semitic”/ “Racist”

Merriam-Webster defines anti-Semitism as “hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.” Simply put, the presentation is none of those things. In comparing abortion to historical atrocities such as the Holocaust (and noting that the fact that two things are comparable does not mean they are identical – just as a sound and its echo are similar but not identical), pro-life advocates readily recognize that the Holocaust was a terrible tragedy, and that any instance of a group of humans being classified as non-persons and then subjected to horrible treatment or killed is a great injustice that should be recognized as such and stopped.

Again, we return to the fundamental in the abortion debate: “what are the unborn?” If the unborn are not human persons, then comparing them to the victims of past genocide is insensitive. If the unborn are human persons, however, then 42 million people are killed worldwide each year, often by being torn apart with surgical instruments. Comparison to past genocides is completely logical.

For more on this, check out the FAQ on CCBR’s website.

“False information”

I’d be interested to know what information the person who wrote this thinks is false. To my knowledge, the presentation contains no false information whatsoever. If in fact it does contain some, I’m sure it would be appreciated if someone would politely point it out during the question period.

“Hate speech”/ Jojo Ruba being a “hate speaker”

Hate speech is a criminal offense in Canada, so this is a serious allegation. If we look at the Criminal Code however, we see that the allegation is blatantly false. There are two main types of speech defined as hate speech in the Criminal Code: advocating genocide and public incitement of hatred.

A presentation that condemns all forms and instances of genocide obviously does not advocate or promote genocide. Making the case that abortion is comparable to historical instances of genocide is meant to illustrate that abortion is wrong, not that any form of genocide is good.

The presentation does not incite hatred against anyone. As stated above, we believe in judging actions, not judging people, and in recognizing the intrinsic value and dignity of all human beings.

While we’re looking at the Criminal Code, though, I’m pretty sure publicly making false accusations of hate-speech, anti-Semitism, and sexism falls under the definition of “defamatory libel.”

The real problem, though, is that all of these complaints about the presentation miss the point of the abortion debate entirely.

What if I was some horrible, racist, sexist person (I’m not), who knew the truth on a certain matter? Would it matter that I was horribly racist or sexist? The truth is the truth no matter who says it. The truth is what we are trying to find, in all things, especially moral debates. In the abortion debate, the most important question is “what are the unborn?”. As Greg Koukl points out, “If the unborn are not human, no justification for elective abortion is necessary. But if the unborn are human, no justification for elective abortion is adequate.”

We hope to see you at “Echoes of the Holocaust”.

(The presentation will take place at 5:30 pm on October 26 in the Wright Centre – SCI B150)


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Nazis?

On Tuesday, October 26th, Youth Protecting Youth (YPY) will host a speaker from the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR) who will compare abortion to genocide.

YPY held a debate last October which also featured a member of CCBR. The debate included discussion surrounding abortion and graphic media showing it, and was difficult to watch. Outrage, conflict and controversy accompanied the event, and YPY’s club status was revoked (it has since been reinstated[1]). But subjecting oneself to such controversial views and unpleasant material is important because this inflammatory comparison is worthy of critical, reasoned academic consideration.

Exploring emotional responses to vocabulary is a good place to begin. The ability to talk about things constructively is affected by individual emotional responses to them. For example, words like “Nazi,” “genocide” and “abortion” appearing so closely after one another may elicit emotional responses that can blind people to the content of a message and prevent critical consideration. Different ideas about the words’ meanings can also prevent a reasoned exchange; the words “Nazi” and “genocide” are associated with universally deplored, horrible situations involving large loss of life, but we can’t immediately understand the subtleties of what is (or isn’t) implied by their use unless we continue listening. Looking beyond the words and the distress they cause enables deeper investigation of the ideas they attempt to describe.

When someone refers to genocide, it is often assumed that because the speaker is describing a terrible crime against humanity, he or she is implying that its perpetrators are pure evil. That isn’t always the case; genocide is simply a word, coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin as a tool of language to describe the Holocaust. It has undergone minor changes in meaning[2] but it is well-described as the intent to destroy an identifiable group systematically. The use of the term “genocide” doesn’t immediately imply that its perpetrators are extraordinarily terrible people. Indeed, those involved in it are usually normal people:

In the 1960s, researchers at the University of Yale carried out a now-famous set of experiments to test the effect of authority on people’s consciences and decision-making. The experimental psychologist, Stanley Milgram, explains:

In the basic experimental designs two people come to a psychology laboratory to take part in a study of memory and learning. One of them is designated a “teacher” and the other a “learner.” The experimenter explains that the study is concerned with the effects of punishment on learning. The learner is conducted into a room, seated in a kind of miniature electric chair, his arms are strapped to prevent excessive movement, and an electrode is attached to his wrist. He is told that he will be read lists of simple word pairs, and that he will then be tested on his ability to remember the second word of a pair when he hears the first one again. Whenever he makes an error, he will receive electric shocks of increasing intensity…

The teacher is a genuinely naive subject who has come to the laboratory for the experiment. The learner, or victim, is actually an actor who receives no shock at all. The point of the experiment is to see how far a person will proceed in a concrete and measurable situation in which he is ordered to inflict increasing pain on a protesting victim.

The results of the experiment are well-known. Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, the majority of subjects continued to administer shocks right up to the supposed maximum voltage, by which time the “learner” had ceased screaming in agony and was silent as if unconscious.

The ethics of doing this research were contested, but the results were even more controversial. The experiment, carried out shortly after WWII, was conducted with German citizens’ submission to Nazi authority (and American citizens’ susceptibility to similar coercion) specifically in mind. Milgram states:

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.[3]

In conclusion, the perpetrators of genocide need not be evil incarnate – coercion and the reassurance of being in accord with authority alone are enough to suppress most consciences. When women are confronted with an unplanned pregnancy, they can be coerced into choosing abortion by society’s failure to support them. They can be reassured about its legality and safety by practitioners, who are medical authorities. Having been deceived and possesing no malignant intent, they fall prey to promptings to abort in the same way that the “teachers” of Milgrams experiment relinquished responsibility for their actions and cached in their consciences when put under pressure.[4]

Pointing this out isn’t meant to excuse genocide. Nor does YPY condone abortion. It is meant to show that comparing abortion to genocide doesn’t necessarily involve condemning the women who choose it.  Indeed, it shouldn’t; YPY doesn’t believe in condemning people. A crucial distinction must be made between condemning actions and condemning people, and recognizing this distinction is central to being pro-life.[5]

An echo resembles its origin but remains distinct. Many similarities exist between abortion and widely recognized instances of genocide, as do some differences. These can be brought forth and examined critically – in the spirit of inquiry that is so important at university – if there is room for compassion and careful understanding of language and ideas. At this year’s fall presentation, these similarities will be explained and their substance revealed. Take action to consider the urgent consequences for our society if such comparisons do have merit, and make an informed decision by attending “Echoes of the Holocaust” and preparing for the question period that will follow.

Presentation will take place Tuesday, October 26th at 5:30 pm in the Bob Wright Centre: SCI B150.


[3] Milgram, Stanley. (1974), “The Perils of Obedience.” Harper’s Magazine. Abridged and adapted from Obedience to Authority.

[4] It is worth pointing out that YPY believes men to be just as vulnerable to the destructive forces described above as women are. The pressures that society puts on women in such situations are immense, and attempting to sympathize about the anguish of these women doesn’t presume them to be weak or incapable of choosing life.