In Canada, free speech on campuses has long suffered restriction and censorship, and pro-life clubs more often than not wind up as the first targets when free speech is shut down.
Recently, we saw the rare and refreshing reverse—a pro-life club’s freedom of expression was defended over a pro-choice group’s wish to disrupt.
The pro-life club, McMaster Lifeline, holds regular activism where they ask passing students what they think about abortion. On March 21, their activism garnered more attention than usual.
McMaster Lifeline had a large Life sign that featured a seven-week-old fetus. Pro-life activists reported that the session started off quiet until a number of pro-choice students approached with a large sign reading “Pro-choice Hamilton” which they used to block the Life sign. The group has been involved in other far-left activism such as a counter-protest during Life Chain and a “March Against Police, Their Violence, and All They Stand For.”
Pro-choice Hamilton’s main banner was decked out with symbols and phrases supporting “sex-workers’’ rights, Black Lives Matter, and trans ideology among other far-left causes. One phrase on the sign reads “water is life”, outrightly demonstrating a difficulty to grasp life issues. Smaller signs read “Abortion is Pro-Life” and “We Support You.”
McMaster Lifeline calmly watched as Pro-Choice Hamilton established themselves.
Valerie Leutke, the president of McMaster Lifeline, approached the protestors, said hello to one girl, asked her what her name was, her year, and her program. “If we’re going to be here for the foreseeable future”, Valerie said, “we can have a friendly chat, it doesn’t have to be about abortion”.
The pro-choicer responded: “We’re not here to be friendly”.
Occasionally, one pro-choice student would yell “Pro-life students have no place on campus!”
The clamour got the attention of students passing by, who complained of the free-speech infringement to the student centre administration. Pro-Choice Hamilton was quickly told to leave or else security would arrive.
Later a girl was sitting next to the table with a sign that said: “Abortion is a civil right, ask me about my abortion.” Because her protest was not disruptive, she was permitted to stay.
After the fact, Valerie said that she was “very much appreciative of the student centre representative for how everything worked out.” She added: “We agree with the pro-choicers’ right to have an opinion… If they weren’t blocking us, I would have been completely fine with them standing next to us.”
Valerie also shared that “a number of people came up and said ‘yeah I’m pro-life’... I thought back to when I was in high school and how I was so nervous to be pro-life. I’m glad I was able to be a symbol of hope for these people.”
What this incident says about the possible change of atmosphere on campuses in Canada is encouraging. The issue resolved itself without the active efforts of McMaster Lifeline. Students interested in free speech complained, and the administration laid down the policy without prejudice, dispelling the disruptors.
Pro-life clubs on campus are strong and they are succeeding in bringing across the crucial conversation about abortion to their peers who need to hear the message. The blockading just helps give a little extra attention - after all, when your opposition is giving you free publicity it can’t be a bad thing.
Testimonies from McMaster Lifeline activists that day
I showed up for the end of this to debate with two pro-choice students protesting. After five to ten minutes of debate in order to remain consistent, they argued that killing a born infant is okay if there are no institutions to take the responsibility of raising the child from the mother.
So, basically, they think infanticide is okay so long as it’s done in 3rd-world countries. It’s unfortunate that people with such strong opinions, who are willing to come and silence others, are so unprepared to defend their views.
I had a conversation with a girl whose friend was sitting next to our table with a sign that read "Abortion is a civil right, ask me about my abortion." She asked me what the purpose of our club was. I explained that we wanted to engage people on the topic of abortion. She asked if the pro-life movement’s goal was to illegalize abortion. I explained that there are various organizations within the pro-life movement that focus on different areas of activism. We went around in circles for a while because she at first claimed she knew the fetus was a human, then she said it didn't matter and kept insisting that it should be a choice.
I told her “It does matter if the fetus is human because then we are killing a human being.” She was finally stumped. I think that phrase really struck her.
I spoke to a girl who was mostly against abortion except in the case of rape. I was unfortunately distracted while I was chatting with her because of the protest. She was familiar with the argument that we shouldn't kill the innocent child if we don't kill the rapist but remained unconvinced.
I talked to four separate individuals who were all supportive of our club and thanked us for representing their beliefs.
I spoke with a girl who was pro-life and part of McMaster's conservative club. She was very disappointed that the protest was taking place.
When I asked Abigail what she thought about abortion, she said she hadn't thought about it much, and she didn't think it was a good thing, but some circumstances might require it.
We talked about the possibility of a C-section or inducing labour when a pregnancy would endanger the mother's life, and she said that she had never thought about that before.
Then she agreed that abortion is never medically necessary.
I talked to two guys and a girl. My conversations went well, but they all couldn't see the value in a baby’s life if it lacked the ability to think or when its brain is undeveloped. I used so many examples but still struggled with getting through to them. At least I got them to think about and contemplate these issues for once.