Prior to the debate

On Friday night I attended the debate between Stephanie Gray and Jovan Morales at the University of Ottawa.  The topic being debated was “Should physicians provide, or refer for, abortion?”  The debate was hosted by the University of Ottawa Students for Life and the University of Ottawa Medical Students for Life.

I found another report on the evening here, which gives a feel for the evening.  (Warning, though, there is uncensored language in that post – but that’s what we heard).

I had heard that there would be protests on Friday night, which I admit piqued my curiosity.  But after hearing Stephanie speak on Thursday night, I was also interested in going to hear someone debate with her, and attempt to present a coherent defense of abortion provision and referral.  Stephanie had had an on-side audience when she came to Saint Paul University, and I was interested to see her deal with an audience that would be very different.

In my opinion, Stephanie ran rings around Mr Morales in terms of logic and reason.  I thought she was devastating in cross-examination and rebuttal.  She doesn’t need to mention God or religion: her argument stands on logic.  As someone else pointed out, it’s a good example of a natural law position.  I felt a little sorry for Mr Morales.  He had been brave enough to put himself forward for the debate, but I did think that many abortion supporters wouldn’t have been happy with his quite qualified support of abortion.  He also admitted at the beginning that this was his first debate.  It was also a little embarrassing when he used an argument that seemed to presuppose belief in God: surely such an argument is invalid for a self-professed atheist [not to mention the fact that the particular argument he was making was a complete misrepresentation of a theistic position]!

The most interesting moment of the evening for me was when Stephanie showed footage of an actual abortion.  There is definitely discussion on the use of this method.  The footage is distressing, distasteful, aweful, repugnant.  But that’s exactly what abortion is: distressing, distasteful, aweful and repugnant.  The reaction of the pro-abortion students took me a little by surprise: shouting, howling, uttering blasphemies and running from the room.  The more I have reflected on this since Friday night, the more I am reminded of scenes from the gospels when Jesus cast out demons.  When Jesus confronted demons, they typically shouted out and fled from Him who is the Truth.   And, lest I be misunderstood: I’m not suggesting that these young people are demonic or possessed.  What I am suggesting is that the taking of innocent human life is evil, and it is surely the work of evil forces that allows evil to occur and that even allows evil to be called “a good thing.”

In the arena of abortion, surely one of the devil’s tactics is to cloud people’s minds so that they can successfully “not see or perceive” the truth of abortion.  It’s easy to hide behind terms like “removing a fetus,” “terminating a pregnancy.”  When the truth of abortion is unmasked, people can’t hide behind a cloud of euphemisms.  Abortion is ugly, precisely because it is the violent destruction of an innocent human life.

My other reflection, on hearing some of the pro-abortion students ask questions and make comments, is that many of them are deeply wounded, and in need of lots of love and healing – as we all are.   This has to be borne in mind in all our activities and discussions.  In presenting the truth with love, I believe we are called to proclaim the Gospel of Life: to show a possibility for living in the light of Christ’s love.  This is always our task as Christians, but especially for those of us who are ordained to be heralds of the Good News of Christ.

I also think that we in the pro-life movement need to do more to make known what we do to support women with unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.  I think of such organisations as Pregnancy Crisis Incorporated in Brisbane (see story about PCI here) – to name just one.  We have to help people imagine life, to imagine possibilities other than abortion.  And we have to back up our preaching with concrete action.