Slippery Slopes

Anti-abortion crusaders see hope in their sneaky new strategy

PROVINCE by Kelly Malone

Some people go to bars on Friday nights. I drive to Regina to crash anti-abortion events.

I don’t have any regrets, but if the organizers of LifeTour get their way, the women who seek this legal and often needed medical procedure might.

As the federal election creeps closer, Canada’s anti-abortionists have been making their way across the country in the LifeTour campaign. On Oct. 9, along with a few Prairie Dog tag-alongs, I joined 20 or 30 people at Regina’s Harvest City Church for the first of three Saskatchewan LifeTour events.

The evening started with a crisp PowerPoint presentation in which the audience learned questionable “scientific” facts and saw graphic drawings of late-term abortions complete with dismembered bits and fetal skull-crushing.

The event continued with a presentation by Devorah Gilman, a LifeTour speaker who described how she’d miraculously converted pro-choicers by showing them gruesome pictures of aborted fetuses. The crowd ate it up. Prairie Dog was skeptical.

The event got serious as Mike Schouten, the director of — the group behind LifeTour — took the microphone to describe a new strategy to make our small room’s anti-choice voices resonate much louder in the outside world.

LifeTour’s goal is twofold. In the short-term, Schouten and company want to drum up votes for anti-abortion candidates — a casual count on Campaign Life Coalition’s website reveals 83 in the Conservative party alone (a party which, incidentally, only has 60 female candidates).

But long term? Schouten wants a calculated, step-by-step assault on Canada’s current abortion regime to bring about incremental, but eventually decisive, change.

“We need prudence as we move forward,” says Schouten. “We need to realize Canada is a pluralistic nation and not everyone thinks the same way many of us here this evening do.”

Rather than fighting for a “perfect law” that would ban all abortions, Schouten outlines three laws he thinks could realistically be passed: first, a ban on late-term abortions (which the presentation didn’t mention are uncommon and only performed when the woman’s life is at risk). Second: a law against sex-selective abortions.

And last but not least? A law for the so-called “pre-born” victims of crime that, conveniently, would enshrine fetal “rights” in law.

The New Fetus Fetishists

Schouten represents the new anti-abortion movement. He understands that slippery slope legislation is far more likely to be successful than the all-or-nothing propositions of yesterday’s shrill pro-lifers.

The key, he says, is to come across as moderate — which makes it much easier to get Canadians and politicians on-side.

“None of [the three proposed laws] would end abortion in Canada,” says Schouten. “Even if all of them were passed within eight years, abortion would still be legal. [But] they are steps in the right direction. They are realistic, because the majority of Canadians already support them.

“We can work along with the changing public opinion and, step by step by step, begin to change the laws in our country,” he adds.

How will legal restrictions be added to abortions? Schouten says that if pro-lifers head online and into the streets armed with reasonable language and these new tactics, Canadians will get behind the little steps of the long-term strategy.

Basically, they’ll fall right into the anti-abortionists’ trap.

After the presentation, Schouten opened the floor to questions. One attendee asked how it was possible to get politicians to talk about abortion “…[when] even [Prime Minister] Harper says he’s not discussing it”.

Schouten responded that with the new strategy, anti-abortionists are already making progress.

“For many decades now governments have been dismissing us as a bunch of extremists,” he says. “Now, we are registered lobbyists. We go into their offices… [and tell MPs] ‘we do know there is a majority of support to address things like sex-selective abortion [and] pre-born victims of crime. So can we work with you to that effect.’”

Down The Rabbit Hole

I spoke with a few attendees after the presentation.

“My MP is Andrew Scheer and I know he is a pro-life, pro-family candidate so he has my vote,” says Tracey Sparrowhawk. “As far as the other ones go, I think if we keep engaging them and letting them know our opinion, things will change because, as they said, if everyone starts doing that and they see there is pressure — the public saying this is wrong — then eventually, they will have to do something.”

“I am pro-life but I didn’t know a lot about the issue,” says Candy Klaudeman, before challenging my pro-choice stance. “If your mother had chosen to not have you because she had this right and you — in her womb— didn’t have a right, you wouldn’t be here.”

That’s one way to look at things. I ask if there are any situations — say, if the woman’s life or health is at risk — when she’s support an abortion.

“You see that science clearly shows that is a baby, a living human baby. You have no problem ending its life?” Sparrowhawk interjected.

I’m not getting anywhere and it’s getting late for spelunking down bottomless rabbit holes. But it is clear that the anti-abortion activists who might succeed with this new approach weren’t the ones attending the church event. The future of this movement is with the LifeTour’s young, friendly and unassuming volunteers.

The five women, four in their late teens and one 21-year-old, all wearing cheerful, pink pro-life T-shirts, spent much of the night tweeting and Facebooking away with their generation’s trademark technological aptitude. They’re the ones who, if they’re smart and patient, might bring restricted abortion access back into the political conversation — if not in this election, perhaps the next.

“[People] seem to like the new strategy: instead of trying to polarize this debate, let’s talk about abortion starting where we have common ground with most Canadians,” says presenter and lawyer Andre Schutten of the Association for Reformed Political Action after the presentation.

Depending on where you stand, one law is too many — or just enough to get an anti-abortion rampage rolling in Canada.


12 thoughts on “Slippery Slopes”

  1. Hi Prairie Dog! Thanks for a well written article. I’m wondering what were the questionable scientific facts presented at this particular talk? Were you able to either confirm or deny them?

  2. You say there were questionable scientific facts and then go on to say that late term abortions are ONLY done if mother’s life is at risk. THAT my friend is a questionable fact. Abortion is legal throughout all 40 weeks of pregnancy and can be done for ANY reason.

  3. You say there were questionable scientific facts and then go on to say that late term abortions are ONLY done if mother’s life is at risk. THAT my friend is a questionable fact. Abortion is legal throughout all 40 weeks of pregnancy and can be done for ANY reason.

  4. Science proves beyond a doubt that the unborn is a human being from conception–with its own DNA….There isn’t a prolifer that wants to see a woman die because of a difficult pregnancy…The opposite is the case— with todays technology–both mother and baby can in most cases be saved….
    Women deserve better than killing their unborn children….we need more help going to support women in unplanned pregnancies……
    The psychological aftermath of abortion on women is normally lifelong regret & sorrow amongst other traumas……guilt, difficulty in future relationships, suicide, depression & on it goes…
    Many of my friends will testify to that!!!

  5. I’m on the fence, agreeing that abortion should not be illegal but have some limits. Your language is typical extremist inflammation. Why can’t there be middle ground?

  6. Why would a baby in late term pregnancy need to be killed in order to give medical care to the mother? He or she may need to be delivered early (which could admittedly pose a risk to the child, but be given the best possible medical care) but need not be intentionally destroyed.

  7. Are you up to date on the medical science and technology? On the one hand, ectopic pregnancies are not necessarily fatal for either the mother or the child. See On the other hand, a few months ago Health Canada approved the RU-486 abortion pill, a very risky do-it-yourself method best characterized as the pharmaceutical equivalent of a coat-hanger.

  8. Was Prairie Dog skeptical that graphic images change people’s minds? Or that the graphic images are accurate?

    Because certainly it is unpalatable to most Canadians to see very bloody babies cut up and paid for by the government.

    Also graphic images of slavery are heavily recognized as ending the slave trade out of UK.

  9. You say, “They’re the ones who, if they’re smart and patient, might bring restricted abortion access back into the political conversation”… Is that not a GOOD thing? Or are you for: 1.) gender selective abortions? 2.) late term abortions? 3.) Pre-born victims not having rights? As in, if a woman who is 8 months pregnant is murdered and the person who murdered her only gets charged with one account of murder instead of two.
    Also, pro-lifers are not against abortions if the mother is at risk. Obviously you try to save both of them, but yes if it comes down to either the mother or the child living, you would save the mother. Thankfully in this day and age that is a rare occurrence and usually both can be saved.
    Your article is a confusing one.

  10. If a fetus is aborted, will the world be deprived of a great person? There is no way of knowing. It is an unanswerable question and it is futile to hypothesise about it.

  11. Abortion should remain a legal, accessible choice. Why:

    1. Because no woman should loose her bodily autonomy such that she’s forced to carry a pregnancy to term
    2. Because I value the lives and choices of a grown woman over that of a tadpole, whether it has its own DNA or not (yes, even if you call it a human)
    3. Because restricting abortion access disproportionately impacts poor women
    4. Because a woman who really wants to end a pregnancy will find a way to do it, often in unsafe, exploitative ways
    5. Because I refuse to entertain the “what if the aborted fetus was you or what if the aborted fetus would have been a great person” arguments because they’re meaningless in the face of the needs of a real woman who already exists
    6. Because I had an abortion in my twenties and don’t for one second regret the decision nor have I suffered any depression or psychological damage as a result
    7. Because I recognize that many of the people who want to restrict access to abortion are also against sex education in schools and free/affordable access to contraception and other sexual health services
    8. Because I recognize that most of this anti-choice rhetoric has nothing to do with saving babies and instead is mostly about policing women’s bodies and enforcing some biblical age restrictions on female freedom and sexuality
    9. Because I don’t believe in god and I reject that religious dogma (whether Christian, Muslim or otherwise) should inform the laws of a modern, multicultural society
    10. Because I am so tired of people telling women what to do

  12. Restricted abortion access doesn’t decrease the rate of abortion; it only changes the way women access it. What this means is that wealthier women would pay for it privately and poorer women would have to seek out alternative methods that could be life-threatening.

    That women will seek out abortion even if it is life-threatening should speak volumes about what anti-choice advocates don’t know or choose not to acknowledge about why women seek and very much need abortion access as part of their health care. Being that 60% of women who seek abortion already have children that they care for, lack of access means placing the burden of the unnecessary illness and deaths of mothers on their families.

    Women are not isolated cases whose welfare does not extend to the men, women, and children they care for in their communities, and to treat women as though they only seek abortion because they are either ignorant or criminal means that anti-choice advocates have lost proper compassion and respect for the billions of women who make up half this planet, and they do not comprehend the broader implications of forced pregnancy not only only millions of women and children but on the extended communities these women love and care for.

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