June 29, 2016

Queen’s Alive has no place on campus

Anti-abortion group uses unacceptable rhetoric to undermine women’s rights

Groups that advocate for the removal of women’s rights through the use of shame and inflammatory rhetoric should be unwelcome at Queen’s, Kyle Curlew argues.
Groups that advocate for the removal of women’s rights through the use of shame and inflammatory rhetoric should be unwelcome at Queen’s, Kyle Curlew argues.
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Queen’s Alive and other anti-abortion groups aren’t as “pro-life” as they’d like you to believe. These groups are oppressive and damaging. 

This AMS club spreads misinformation, shames those in vulnerable positions and advocates for the removal of women’s rights over their own bodies.

That’s why I find myself appalled when I cross paths with these groups tabling and canvassing around campus. 

Queen’s Alive cleverly disguises their motivations through distracting marketing — such as when they posed as a mental health initiative to spread anti-abortion messages through cakes and candy. 

This leads me to question what’s appropriate for public discussion in public universities. I’m not claiming that anti-abortion groups should be illegal, but I will say that Queen’s University, the AMS and the SGPS should have standing policy preventing them from speaking on campus.

Over the past few decades, Canada’s free speech laws have sought to curb hate speech. Understandably, this is still a controversial topic today. 

However, groups that publicly spread misinformation and misappropriated science concerning abortion shouldn’t be allowed to canvass or table on campus. 

My reasoning for this is three-fold: First, the stigma that results from these group’s public presence is potentially triggering for those who’ve dealt with abortion.Second, such groups are advocating for the removal of human rights that have been afforded to women. Finally, Queen’s Alive is spreading misinformation, logical fallacies and distracting red herrings to bully and shame people into supporting them. 

Anti-abortion groups are well known for their propensity towards shaming through graphic descriptions and exaggerated examples. Think this isn’t done by Queen’s Alive? Think again.

Queen’s Alive has a blog to communicate with their members, which features posts designed to arm “apologists” with one-liners to engage in debates with those who support the right to abortion.   

One of these speaking points asks someone who supports abortion: “If I had my two year old beside me and I was going to kill her, would you stop me?” This is a cruel discourse to be shoving in the face of people who might have gone through the tough decisions surrounding this topic. 

In 1995, the federal minister of health declared abortion to be a medical necessity covered by provincial healthcare. Abortion was declared a fundamental human right by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights — this is a covenant that Canada has signed into. This means that abortion is a viable option for the Queen’s students who walk past these displays — one that some might choose to take. The beliefs of particular activists shouldn’t be able to threaten these fundamental rights based on loose claims to a moral authority.

Queen’s Alive claims to represent human rights. Their website  asserts that their ultimate goal “is to contribute to a legal reform in Canada which would … [provide] legal protection for the right to life of every human being without exception.”

For groups like Queen’s Alive, this means protecting the rights of the “unborn” by taking rights away from women. This is even more troubling when the president of the group spoke last year  of their ultimate goal being the removal of the legal right to choose. 

According to Dr. Chris Kaposy of Memorial University, removing the choice of abortion perpetuates troubling socio-economic issues, where women are pushed into disproportional poverty and deteriorating overall health. As well, larger numbers of children are fed into an already bloated and painful foster care system.   

Finally, Queen’s Alive is a goldmine of misappropriation and misinformation. Their blog provides anti-abortion activists with a repertoire of responses to common pro-choice claims. These responses are said to be scientific and logical, but under a closer inspection many of them are fallacious or based on subjective bias. 

For instance, in order to illustrate that the post-conception group of cells is an individual separate from the mother, Queen’s Alive twists scientific discourse. They assert that because the fetus has the potential to be a different sex from the mother, it can’t possibly be the same entity. This is their “scientific” justification for giving the group of cells individual personhood apart from the mother. Again, this is based on a sense of moral authority rather than science.

Furthermore, their blog refers to the Canadian Center for Bio-Ethical Reform for its information — a group that gives the appearance of scientific authority, but is really a radical anti-abortion group known for its extreme stances and twisted reframing and misappropriating of knowledge. One controversial stance Queen’s Alive has taken is equating genocide with abortion — a crude use of shock-value rhetoric. 

A university is a bastion for legitimate knowledge that’s been crafted through rigorous methods and real debate. It’s troubling that in their AMS bio, this group describes themselves as stimulants of “healthy debate”, while at the same time employing fallacious arguments, absurd emotionally-charged comparisons  and misappropriated scientific knowledge. Queen’s Alive even offers lessons on their blog on how to manipulate  people through body language and use of rhetoric.

I’m very much aware that what I’m suggesting is radical — but a discussion needs to happen on the limits of free speech. Should the Queen’s community allow such willful shaming and misinformation to clog up tables in Mac-Corry? Personally, I think there are better things to put energy into. Considering access to medical abortion procedures is still sub-par in Canada, we should be working to increase accessibility for women.

Kyle Curlew is a MA student in Sociology.

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