Oct 8 2004
Pro-life speaker stirs debate
Christine Loureiro – Imprint staff
Stephanie Gray, pro-life activist and executive director of the
Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform visited campus on October 4 to
present a lecture on behalf of the Genocide Awareness Project, a
controversial exhibit on display at universities around Canada which
attempts to present similarities between abortion and the genocides
of the 20th century, the Holocaust in particular.
Gray, who has come to UW on a previous occasion to debate UW Prof.
Jan Narveson on the topic of abortion, presented “Echoes of the
Holocaust” to an audience of about 50, beginning a half-hour past the
advertised start time of 4:00 p.m. due to a booking conflict with the
lecture hall. Her mandate was to show what she called the “double
standard” of abortion by applying identifying factors of genocide to
Students began to protest the lecture and its theme prior to October
4. One community member left a modified event poster outside Imprint
prior to the event, with obscenities scrawled across the front. The
poster used two quotes, one from the German Supreme Court in 1936
that denied personhood to Jews, and another in which the Supreme
Court of Canada reissues a denial of legal rights to unborn children
UWSFL President Theresa Matters brought Gray to UW because of her
track record as an “articulate and professional speaker.
“She received positive reviews during her last visit to UW in 2002,”
said Matters. “We originally wanted her to debate an abortion
advocate – similar to the event in 2002, however
no abortion advocate was available or willing to debate.”
UWSFL held the event “to raise awareness of the humanity of the
unborn,” continued Matters. “Too often when a woman faces a crisis
pregnancy, rather than offer help many just suggest an abortion. With
increased awareness of the humanity of the unborn we hope that
everyone will be more willing to be supportive of women facing
unexpected pregnancies – thus leading to fewer abortions.”
Feds Clubs Director Rick Theis approved the event, but, he said,
UWSFL did not receive any special Feds funding for the event.
“The nature of the lecture was to draw a correlation between the
manipulation of language in cases of genocide and the manipulation of
language in issues surrounding abortion,” said Theis, who spoke with
Gray to clarify the nature of the event.
If students have a problem with the event, he continued, they are
encouraged to bring it forward. Feds hopes the talk stimulates
Matters echoed this sentiment, stating, “We respect every
individual’s right to uphold their own opinion. As a result, we
encourage those who disagree with us to voice their opinions
in a spirit of dialogue on campus.”
The arguments were framed in a very academic fashion. None of the
arguments were religious in nature, and focused solely on working
towards proving her thesis of abortion as genocide.
Gray began her argument by examining the principle of a fetus as a
living human – the basis of her argument. She then delved further
into the debate by comparing the context of abortion to other
genocides, examining the word genocide and looking at what she called
the “role of power and selfishness in mass killings.”
The basis of the lecture was a list of five identifying factors of
genocide, which, Gray stated, was not exhaustive and included various
forms of genocide the world has seen in the past century.
Gray showed how the list of factors was applicable in genocides such
as that of the Armenians in 1914, the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge
oppression in Cambodia and the more recent problems in Bosnia and
Rwanda. In all cases, Gray argued, victims were subject to
dehumanizing rhetoric, the value of life was based on form, function,
and the feelings of others, medical experimentation was conducted,
the killing was of a systematic nature and there was a massive loss
Abortion compares to these atrocities, Gray argued, because of
literature calling fetuses a “coercer, which violates bodily
integrity and liberty,” parasites and spongers and comparisons to
animals. Among other arguments, Gray stated that the Nazi “lives
unworthy of life” euthanasia program is similar to the quality of
life argument made by some pro-choice supporters. Gray compared
embryonic stem cell research to “rationalizing health care on the
backs of the innocent,” comparing it to Nazi scientific experiments.
Gray also called the federal funding and ready availability of
abortion systematic and said that the lack of law regulating abortion
in Canada was “open season on the unborn in this country.” Finally,
Gray’s statistics showed that abortions number approximately 105,000
per year in Canada; she stated that one out of every four pregnancies
ends in abortion. She puts global yearly estimated abortions at 46
million per year.
Two main protests were heard from audience members: some students
disagreed with Gray’s anti-abortion arguments, while others were
offended at her comparing abortion to the Holocaust. The most vocal
audience members, who at various times through the lecture let their
opinions be audibly known, posited that death in childbirth and the
prevalence of illegal, unsanitary abortions prior to the legalization
of abortion are two important reasons to have a pro-choice stance.
These two did not wish to make their names known to Imprint.
To audience member Kenneth Rose, a Jewish student at UW who objected
to Gray’s comparison of abortion to the Holocaust, Gray argued that a
trend exists whereby to communicate the severity of one act of
genocide, it is often compared to genocides of the past.
Gray named her speech “Echoes of the Holocaust” because of Holocaust
Memorial Museum Director Walter Reich’s dubbing ethnic cleansing in
Bosnia “very loud echoes” of the Holocaust.
Matters hopes that students who attended the lecture were challenged
on the abortion issue.
“In a university environment it is most important that students are
repeatedly challenged on pertinent societal issues,” she said. “With
over 100,000 abortions in Canada per year, we hope that every student
will take the time to decide if this is the best solution to an
“It is important to note that at no point did Stephanie Gray state
Holocaust and abortion in Canada were identical,” she continued, in
an e-mail interview with Imprint. “Instead she noted that there were
similarities between the two, hence the word `echoes’ in the title
[of the event]. The key similarity is the denial of personhood.”