I remember the day in university, 3rd year, when I sat down at the table where my friends could always be found and complained that I couldn’t figure out which movie to watch for my film class final essay. We had spent the semester watching movies that were mostly indie foreign films of dubious quality. With few notable exceptions, most of the movies we watched in the class were junk (although I certainly didn’t think that at the time, but looking back I’m not really sure I liked any of them. Except In Bruges which is now one of my favourite movies). I was at a loss; how could I find a movie that my prof would not write-off as “too Hollywood”?
A friend sitting across from me looked up from her homework and said, “What about If these Walls Could Talk?”. She told me it was about abortion. It’s an HBO made for TV movie from the mid-90s, it’s intensely propagandist (you can watch the trailer here). I knew nothing about abortion, or the intense emotions that were found in the abortion debates of the 80s and early 90s.
I watched the movie, but I didn’t use it for an essay. It made me uncomfortable. At the time, I was pro-choice but that was mostly a default because I had no opinion. The movie, however, made me realize that people took this abortion debate very seriously, and pro-lifers were very much vilified. This vilification was enough for me to want to know more about the subject. I knew some strong pro-lifers and none of them struck me as villains.
I decided to do some research on abortion but I also knew I would ignore anything that tried to convince me that abortion was wrong because Jesus said so. I was very much an agnostic at this stage of my life (such a university trope) and I didn’t really believe there would be good reasons to be pro-life without religion but I figured I’d search anyway.
Sometimes, you really have to be careful what you wish for.
Over the course of the next few months I started becoming more and more troubled by abortion, so I started identifying as “personally pro-life”. Which is pretty ridiculous, because that is just a re-framing of the pro-choice label, but this way I could be pro-life with my pro-life friends and not completely alienate my pro-choice friends, not that the topic came up often. Mostly, I just went on with my life.
I have no idea why, exactly, but I started seeing more and more pro-life posts on my Facebook wall while I was living in Toronto in 2010-2011. I saw a video of a student in Ottawa being arrested for pro-life activism, I started seeing blog posts, I started learning the names of pro-life leaders. I suddenly realized that being personally pro-life was a cop-out. Believe me, once you see the photo of an abortion victim you learn: the stakes were too high for it to be “right for you” and “wrong for me”. It wasn’t about feelings or religion.
It is the systematic dehumanization and destruction of human beings in the womb. Human beings selected for death because their birth would be inconvenient. Selected for death because they were female. Selected for death because they had Down’s Syndrome or another in-utero diagnosis. Selected for death due to coercion or threats.
The villain, it turns out, is not the pro-lifers nor is it pro-choicers. The villain is abortion, death. The villain is a society that sees dehumanization as liberation. That sees death as an ultimate good when it can be chosen.
This is, ultimately, why I am now pro-life. It is why I, and so many others of every faction of humanity, march.
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