All-or-nothing approach by some pro-lifers to force policy against ‘choice’ hasn’t worked
By Paul Ranalli
Special to The B.C. Catholic
Within the community of those who work to promote respect for the innocent unborn, few can claim to match the passion, commitment, and work ethic of Jakki Jeffs, executive director of Alliance For Life.
That said, what are we to make of her latest iteration of the “all-or-nothing” approach to pro-life political action?
Many of us share her unwavering gaze on the goal of “legislated protection of life for every Canadian citizen in or out of the womb.” Ah, but how to get there? How to translate undoubted conviction into concrete achievement?
Sadly, the answer, by any objective standard, would not be to follow the political tactics exhibited over the years by AFL. While these groups do much good work in pro-life education and awareness, their legislative achievements have been an utter failure.
The only thing “amazing” about the “45 years of struggle” by Ms. Jeffs’ stream of the pro-life movement is just how little has been achieved from so much effort.
Any successful social movement allows for the unfettered efforts of many different streams, effecting a sort of “parallel processing,” in engineering terms. A social campaign will not long survive, much less succeed, with the kind of internecine sniping expressed by Ms. Jeffs toward the “we needaLAW” campaign.
Sadly, this is just the latest example of the demoralizing top-down criticism of honest pro-life efforts in this country by those who appear more interested in hegemony than actual political success.
Most pro-lifers would never dream of interfering with the good work of others in the field. However their tactics may differ. Yet some members have never been shy about offering their unsolicited advice, or worse.
A Chinese proverb states that a 1,000-mile journey begins with the first step. Apparently some in the Canadian pro-life movement believe otherwise.
However consider these moments in history: while Mahatma Gandhi demanded freedom for the Indian people from their British colonizers, his pivotal action was marching his supporters to the coast to make salt without paying the salt tax.
While Martin Luther King demanded full personal and political equality for black people in America, a legendary first step was a request to be able to sit in any seat of a city bus in Birmingham, Ala.
Closer to home, a Montreal general practitioner who once demanded unrestricted legal access to abortion for women began to perform abortions one at a time, and he got himself thrown into jail repeatedly.
To some in the pro-life movement these individuals might be seen as betraying the cause, because they attempted to achieve their ultimate goal in incremental steps. They did not exhibit the purity of demanding nothing less than an instantaneous law proclaiming full victory for their cause.
They must have had their tails between their legs, too. After all, what did they ever achieve?
Paul Ranalli is a neurologist from Toronto. Reprinted with permission from the author.