Originally posted on October 27, 2010 at SRRUBC
Today, Jojo Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform will be giving a lecture entitled “Echoes of the Holocaust: comparing abortion to other human rights violations”. The Centre for Bioethical Reform is the group that sponsors the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) display–a display that depicts images of genocide and holocaust next to photos of supposedly aborted fetuses. While Students for Reproductive Rights does not contest Mr. Ruba’s rights to share his views, we are strongly opposed to the comparison of abortion to genocide, and would like to offer our opinion of the debate.
Students for Reproductive Rights believes that it is wrong to compare abortion with the tragic events of real genocides, and that it is also extremely offensive. To compare abortion to the real genocide of real people is highly insulting to the relatives and descendants of Holocaust victims and survivors. Genocide is an intolerable act of hatred against a particular community of people. Abortion is an essential, legal medical procedure that women desperately need, not only to give them control over their bodies and lives but to preserve and improve the lives of their families.But let us assume for the moment that the comparison is a legitimate one. Who, then, are the perpetrators of the genocide? Who should be put on trial for crimes against humanity? The answer depends on how we view the nature and status of women.
Most of us believe that women should not be limited to the sole role of bearing and raising children. We believe that women are entitled to the same respect and opportunity that men enjoy. We also believe that women are autonomous beings who have the right and the ability to make decisions in their lives. These are reasonable beliefs. And if they are true, then women must bear full responsibility for the abortions they choose to have. If, as the CCBR would argue, abortion is comparable to genocide, then women are by default genocidal murderers. This is why some consider the abortion-genocide comparison to be hate speech against women.
Do anti-abortion activists blame women for abortion? Generally, the answer is no. Instead, they place the blame on doctors, clinics, politicians, judges, and the “culture of death”. Does this refusal to acknowledge women’s responsibility for abortion stem from compassion for women? No. Anti-abortion activists are not concerned with helping real women live real lives. Their main goal is to outlaw abortion. The consequences of illegal abortion for women’s lives, health, and rights are tragic. 60 000 women are killed every year as the result of an unsafe, illegal abortion. But somehow, anti-abortion activists believe that stopping abortions will help women. How can this belief be reconciled with the awful realities women are confronted with when abortion becomes illegal? The contradiction is resolved when one realizes that anti-abortion activists truly believe that women are victims of legal abortion.
A certain view about the nature and status of women comes into play here, and it is a view that many anti-abortion activists seem to hold. It is the view that women’s natural, primary role is to bear and raise children. It is the view that women are easily victimized and led by people around them. It is the view that women are not ultimately responsible for their actions, because like children, they require direction and moral guidance. If these beliefs are true, then women do not bear responsibility for their abortions. They have been coerced and misled by others into having them. Society itself is the genocidal murderer, and doctors and politicians become scapegoats.
Such a patronizing and traditional view of women is offensive to the notion of women’s equality and autonomy, and it is for this and many other reasons that Student’s for Reproductive Rights opposes the comparison of abortion to genocide. We encourage viewers to think critically about the claims made by Mr. Ruba, and to consider the offense that this presentation represents not only to women, but also to the multiple groups whose real experiences with genocide are being appropriated. While there is certainly a need for discussion regarding the complex issue of abortion, its comparison to genocide causes great offense to many, and does nothing to promote civil debate.