Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 17, 2003
Stay true to the pro-life stance
U.S. educator urges youth to be silent no more
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Any move to deviate from the moral truth of the right-to-life position in order to make it more attractive would be disastrous for the pro-life cause, says a Los Angeles-based pro-life apologist and educator.
"The (North American) culture (still) does not agree with us that abortion is a serious moral wrong," Scott Klusendorf told the Life 2003 Canadian National Pro-life Conference. "We are not anywhere near winning (the moral) debate."
Klusendorf, director of bioethics for Stand to Reason, was one of more than 10 speakers to address the Life 2003 conference at Fantasyland Hotel Nov. 6-8. Issues discussed at the conference under the theme Silent No More ranged from abortion and embryonic research to faith and politics.
Other speakers on the agenda included David Riordan of the Elliot Institute, Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Janet Epp Buckingham of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Derek Rogusky of the Vancouver-based group Focus on the Family and Edmonton's Ted Byfield. The political panel included Alliance MP's Stockwell Day and Pat O'Brien.
Some women who have had abortions gave brief testimonies at the conference.
Silent no more
The conference's goal was to educate and inform the pro-life community and to give activists an opportunity to network, said organizer Patty Nixon of Alberta Pro-Life. "Our hope is that participants will go back to their communities and become more vocal and more active in the pro-life debate,' she said.
Klusendorf, a lecturer on bioethics and a teacher of pro-life apologetics at various colleges and universities, including the University of Calgary, travels often throughout the United States and Canada training pro-life advocates on how to defend the life of the unborn.
Klusendorf contends that the pro-life message can compete in the marketplace of ideas if properly understood and properly articulated. Accordingly, he spent several hours at the conference speaking to about 150 noisy young people on the art of pro-life activism and some key bioethical issues.
In his main presentation, he said the two key questions driving the abortion debate on embryonic stem cell research, cloning, abortion and assisted suicide are is truth true and what makes a human being valuable. "And how we answer these two questions will determine the direction Canada, the U.S. and the rest of the world will go," Klusendorf warned about 450 people from across Canada attending the conference.
The pro-life apologist raised alarm over repeated claims by some national pro-life leaders that the pro-life movement has already won the moral debate and now has to focus its attention on meeting the practical needs of women.
He agreed it is important to focus on the needs of women in areas such as post-abortion recovery and crisis pregnancy but said it would be erroneous for the movement to abandon the moral debate. Too many people in North America still don't see anything wrong with killing fetuses or using embryos for research.
A case in point is the Canadian Institute for Health, which has declared embryos as fitting subjects for research. By doing so, the institute has decided the moral status of embryos, Klusendorf said. "(They have) decided that embryos are not valuable enough to deserve protection, that we can use them as property.
"We are in the midst of an idea war," Klusendorf declared.
He illustrated his point by quoting Health Minister Ann McLellan as saying, "These are surplus embryos," when questioned about the issue recently.
"The mere fact that somebody would define human beings as surplus is of itself an evil," the pro-life leader said.
Klusendorf also mentioned Dr. Peter Singer, who teaches ethics at Princeton University. Singer argues that no newborn should be considered a person until 30 days after birth and that the attending physician can kill disabled infants on the spot. "Why? Because, in his view, the decisive factor in human value is self-awareness. And because the newborn, like the fetus, is not self aware, neither one has value."
In light of this "moral and idea challenge" the pro-life movement faces "our role is to bring moral clarity to issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell rersearch and cloning," Klusendorf said. "And we will win or lose that fight ultimately at the idea level, not at the practical level. In other words, what the culture decides in terms of how it views truth and human value will determine ultimately what Canada does in regard to cloning,
embryonic cell research and abortion."
He noted there are two U.S. leaders he wouldn't mention who are arguing that the moral question is largely irrelevant to women who are considering abortion, that women's concerns are practical, not moral.
"My first concern is we have not won the moral debate," he said, noting that 62 per cent of Californians think abortion should be legal in the first trimester because they don't believe the unborn are human in the first trimester. And there is more.
He said a poll held in conjunction with the last election showed 30 per cent of Californians believe abortion should be legal for all nine months of pregnancy because until the baby is born, it is not a person.
"Wow, we have not won this debate folks," he said. "A strategy based on the self-interest of the mother, as important as that is, it can't be our primary strategy and the reason is, what happens if abortion becomes the thing the public see as being in their best interest?"
If the movement starts downplaying the truth of abortion, "we would be patronizing the very woman we are trying to reach," he said. "When we focus the public attention on what's the unborn, the public opinion moves our way."
"Abortion is not wrong because it harms women," Klusendorf said. "It's wrong because it takes the life of a defenceless human being. That's the moral logic that will determine our winning the debate over embryonic stem cell research and abortion or lose it. How the public thinks on that question will determine where Canada will go on those issues."
During his presentation, Klusendorf showed a video with explicit pictures of abortion and encouraged his audience to use larger-than-life pictures of aborted babies on university campuses and other public areas, saying graphic depictions of abortion has allowed the pro-life movement to communicate to people directly on the question of what's the unborn.
"We don't have to soften our message to compete in the marketplace of ideas," he said. "This is our example of making the abortion real to people who think there is no truth."
What makes a human being valuable? "Human beings are valuable for what they are intrinsically," Klusendorf said. "Human beings have value in virtue of what they are, not because of some acquired property value like consciousness, self-awareness, intelligence or viability.
"There is no essential difference from the embryos we once were and the people we are today. The journey from inside the womb to outside the womb cannot change the essential nature of what the unborn is."
Another of Klusendorf's concerns is that there are not enough people working fulltime to save babies the way pro-abortion advocates are working fulltime to kill them. He noted the pro-life movement in both Canada and the U.S. is by-and-large made up of activists who are trying to raise their kids and fit in a little bit of pro-life advocacy between the cracks of life.
He said the movement needs professional pro-life apologists who can articulate the pro-life position with confidence and effectiveness. He challenged the movement to find secure sources of funding to hire at least 10 professional activists in each province to promote the pro-life cause.
"Scott gave us the intellectual tools, the reasoning to argue with the other side," said an excited 17-year-old Mark Isinger at the end of one of Klusendorf's training seminars for youth. "He's made me realize that all of these complicated scenarios and arguments are very simple because they all come down to that one question-what's the unborn?" Isinger, a pro-life activist from Sherwood Park, along with other youth, had a stand at the conference with pro-life T-shirts, posters and literature. He also spoke about his experiences at the conference.