Choice Joyce: "Abolish Abortion"? <em>NOT</em>!

Choice Joyce

Essays from a pro-choice feminist liberal skeptic infidel activist (and animal lover)

Monday, July 02, 2007

"Abolish Abortion"? NOT!

A Media Lesson from Canada

Canada's 140th birthday (Canada Day - July 1st) has come and gone. And this morning, the pro-choice majority is heaving a sigh of relief at the barely-there national media coverage given to the so-called "greatest pro-life victory this country has ever had."

Here's the scoop on the biggest news story on abortion to hit the Canadian airwaves in the last year (if not years!).

Canada's largest national media broadcaster, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; government run and funded) launched an online contest on its website in late May called the "Great Canadian Wish Contest." In an effort to mobilize youth, they invited average Canadians to post their dreams for a better Canada on Facebook Facebook. The CBC promised prominent national TV coverage on Canada Day for the winning wish.

Expecting an avalanche of noble desires like a cleaner environment, more peacekeeping, or even just lower tuition fees, the CBC instead got...

"Abolish Abortion in Canada."

Yes, that became the #1 wish almost immediately by a very wide margin, and it maintained its lead pretty much throughout. In protest, a valiant pro-choice supporter posted a contrary wish, "I wish that Canada would remain pro-choice." This wish soon moved into 2nd place, and steadily gained on the "Abolish Abortion" wish, but was still defeated in the end by a 15% margin.

For an idea of how much of a mixed-bag farce this contest quickly became, just take a look at the top 15 wishes for progressive, liberal Canada (total votes in brackets):

- Abolish Abortion in Canada (9652)
- I wish that Canada would remain pro-choice (8154)
- For a spiritual revival in our nation (4553) [back to "our Lord Jesus Christ"]
- Restore the Traditional Definition of Marriage (4535) [to ban gay marriage]
- I wish tuition fees would be either lowered or eliminated (3444)
- It's time for drastic measures to save our environment (3406)
- Canada should keep ABORTIONS and GAY MARRIAGE legal! (2379)
- A Canada where no one must choose between paying rent and their medication (1972)
- Proportional representation (1837)
- Greener Canada (1323)
- I wish same sex marriages will continue to be legal in Canada (1091)
- Make Tim Hortons' cups recyclable (871)
- Recognition of personhood before birth (848)
- A healthy Canada: Dreaming of the "greatest kind of wealth" for all (831)
- Tim Hortons for our troops (738)

(Tim Hortons is a beloved coffee shop chain in Canada, as ubiquitious and popular as MacDonalds in America. I can only profess puzzled amazement that something about hockey didn't make into the top contenders!)

Anyway, the CBC, normally a bastion of liberal virtues in Canada, was rightly horrified at the way the contest unfolded. To quote the moderator of the Wish Contest website, the CBC's Meribeth Deen (personal correspondence):

You have no idea how much stress the fighting over this issue has been causing me. This is NOT what I expected from this project.

Yes, this thing has certainly veered off in a nasty and uncomfortable direction. But we're kind of in a tough position here - do we just can this thing? Then we really get in trouble, for being clearly not even willing to talk about it. Really, there are all kinds of things I'd rather be talking about.

So the CBC kept on truckin', and the anti-choice and pro-choice forces mobilized to try and outdo each other. The anti-choice contingent had the advantage of organizing their networks early and forcefully. In contrast, the pro-choice contingent was a janey-come-lately, dragged along for the ride in reluctant protest. Many pro-choicers refused to participate because of the sheer stupidity of the whole thing, and their anger at the CBC for starting it, then letting it go on. The overall atmosphere during the online contest soured quickly, because of the unseemly back-and-forth slugfest between the pro-choice and anti-choice sides, accusations of cheating by both sides, inept handling by the CBC, and some major technical glitches on both the CBC website and Facebook.

The battle soon captured the attention of other national media. Stories were done by the Globe & Mail (a national newspaper) and the Canadian Press (the national wire service), whose story was also picked up by CTV (one of CBC's main competitors). Numerous bloggers and smaller media outlets also reported on the situation. The bulk of the coverage focused on the discomforting and embarrassing predicament the CBC had naively blundered into.

So what did the CBC do when it came to its promised extensive national media coverage of the winning wish? They did their best to deep-six it. A three-minute segment aired only once, at 7:35 a.m. EST yesterday, ensuring a tiny audience across the country. The clip seemed fair to the "Abolish Abortion" wish, but the reporter stressed how it wasn't a poll, just a contest, how anti-choice support was solicited through anti-abortion groups and churches, and how most Canadians are actually pro-choice.

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at the CBC's cowardice or courage (?), stupidity or cleverness (?), but it's rather a shame in retrospect that pro-choice supporters were forced to mobilize for this silly contest, which in the end didn't get its promised national coverage. On the other hand, it was very gratifying to see the huge amount of pro-choice support expressed on Facebook and the CBC website, with tens of thousands of messages pouring in. The pro-choice movement worries about apathy on abortion rights in Canada, especially among youth, but it's nice to see that people DO care and will become energized when there's a "threat." And this was not a real threat by any means - if this is the best the anti-choice can do to gain national attention for their cause in Canada, then maybe we really have something to smile about up here!

Of course, the anti-choice crowd disagrees, as exemplified by this revealing blog by John Pachenko. Crowing enthusiastically about the ascendancy of the "pro-life" movement in Canada because of the success of the "Abolish Abortion" wish, his grandiose pronouncements include:

1) We have developed a formidable network through Facebook for the next of many future battles.

2) This represents the greatest pro-life victory this country has ever had. As such, it is a strong inspiration for us. It showed us that we are not the minority. And we can win in a scrap.

3) Since the pro-abort side didn't win, it's much worse for them then they could possibly imagine. Their demography is being aborted while ours is not. Do the math and extrapolate.

4) There are sure to be more initiatives and challenges by the pro-life community to the abortion situation in this country in the near future. I know of one personally that is going to blow the lid off of the abortion muzzle in this country. You'll know it when it hits the media....and it will hit the media. Guaranteed.

Today, the pro-aborts and their mouthpiece, the CBC, got handed their arses on a plate. For an issue that has been pushed to the fringes for years, Canada's No. 1 wish is to ban something that was considered nothing less than a sacrament. If you listen closely you can almost hear the pro-aborts' grinding and gnashing of teeth.

The glaring holes and delusionary biases in the above analysis hardly need comment. Only the first point may have some merit, but it works both ways, doesn't it? The rather small and loosely connected pro-choice movement in Canada has suddenly been given a huge boost of energy, almost unseen since the days of Dr. Henry Morgentaler's battles to legalize abortion in the 1970's and 1980's.

I'm glad the CBC chose to greatly downplay the whole thing on TV. Using national primetime to highlight a meaningless and trivial popularity contest with an anti-choice victory is inappropriate for Canada. The "Abolish abortion" wish was anti-human rights and reactionary, and far from representative of the country or the citizenry's wishes for Canada. I think the CBC made the right decision in the end, even though I'm still rolling my eyes over the whole sorry escapade.

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  • At 1:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think it is funny that the gord botherers are crowing about being better at cheating.

    Hey there's a victory you can have!

  • At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well, we at Birth Pangs are still miffed that our Great Birth Pangs Wish List, which was much funnier, did not get the attention it deserved.

  • At 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You obviously don’t understand the implications of such a result. While both sides may have done some cheating of their own, that most definitely wasn’t /encouraged/ by the Pro-Life side. You take a group that big and you’re most definitely going to have a few who will do anything, even cheat, to win. But the fact is, the Abolish Abortion group /did/ have support, and /more/ support than the Pro-Choice group. That can’t be denied.

    Second of all I find it incredibly amusing that while you and so many other Pro-Choice bloggers, newscasters, etc, claim that this is a closed issue, it /obviously/ isn’t as closed as you may think. Do you realize that by posting this you’re only carrying on the race? You’re just getting more people thinking, and you might be accomplishing the very thing you were getting annoyed with.

    Quote: “I think the CBC made the right decision in the end, even though I'm still rolling my eyes over the whole sorry escapade.” If you think the whole thing was a sorry ‘escapade’ why are you bringing more attention to it? Surely you realize that this article is being forwarded around, but then, that’s what you want. You want people to read it and think, “Yes, this whole thing was stupid” so they can go on and write about in their own blogs. In that sort of backward way, you hope to spread your Pro-Choice propaganda.

    I don’t mind that I’m only prolonging the debate, because you know what, we won the contest. And while that’s far from winning politically, while that doesn’t mean abortion has been abolished, it’s a step in the right direction.

    If you honestly think that we have no hope, no chance of success, you underestimate your opponent. And if you look at historic battles, might I say, that’s a very poor strategy. Just wait, you’ll be surprised.

    I won’t argue Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice principals with you, you obviously have your opinions and won’t be swayed. Fine. But I /will/ say this, this isn’t a dead issue. It’s going to keep coming up, we’ve shown we can mobilize; we can rally support just as well, or better, than the Pro-Choicers. Keep that in mind when you say this is a closed issue, when you underestimate us and claim this whole thing is foolishness.

  • At 4:53 PM, Blogger JJ said…

    The only contests that count:
    :) and that's the truth :D

  • At 5:24 PM, Blogger choice joyce said…

    Well Cara, I never used the word "closed" to describe the abortion debate in this country. But a vocal minority does not translate to political influence or power. If you don't believe me, just ask Stephen Harper what he plans to do about abortion.

    The contest is meaningless because any well-organized minority group can skew the response in an online contest, and use the Internet to advantage. The results mean nothing. The majority of Canadians are pro-choice and do not want to re-open the abortion debate.

    The contest issue deserves some attention and commentary simply because it became a big media issue in itself - not abortion, but the contest itself, how it degenerated, and CBC's embarrassment. And also because as anti-choicer John Pachenko put it, it's: "the greatest pro-life victory this country has ever had."

    I'm quite happy to allow the anti-choice this, their greatest victory, in exchange for our greatest victory - the 1988 Supreme Court Morgentaler decision. Which was a tad more significant, don't you think?

  • At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I find it very interesting, Joyce, how hot and bothered the anti-life crowd and CBC are at the results of this project. They, including yourself, think that Canada being anti-life is a slam dunk issue. Well, they are wrong, they don't like it, and this proves it. They didn't get the leftist results, or "noble desires" as it seems, they were looking for. As a result, they now label the project as useless. Would they do so if the anti-lifers won? Of course not.

    Well Joyce, at least you are correct in identifying the CBC as a "bastion of liberal virtues". Their bias is obvious to those Canadians that can cut through the leftist haze. By that, I refer to the apathy that exists in many, if not most, Canadians after decades of social engineering at the hands of liberal governments, special interest groups, and the main stream media.

    You, along with many other leftists, provide many reasons for the way in which this project concluded. Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps Canada is more conservative than you and yours will accept? Maybe the results in this project are more telling than you and your fellow leftists want us all to believe. Perhaps this is the real reason why you and yours are hot and bothered.

  • At 7:29 AM, Blogger choice joyce said…

    Paul - I've never denied that so-cons exist in sizable numbers in Canada (though still a minority). The question is how much political influence and public approval they have. Far less than their numbers, money, and organizational abilities might imply. The dealbreaker for Canadians seems to be that so-cons are the Religious Right - and most Canadians don't want someone else's religion imposed on them.

    I don't see what difference it makes if the pro-choice side had won by a bit instead. Both sides mobilized strongly, so the actual results are not the key story. The newsworthiness was not so much about abortion, but mostly on how the contest turned into an embarassing fiasco for the CBC. I don't know why you think the overall perception of an embarassing fiasco is a victory for the anti-choice side. It just proves my point that, regardless of the numbers and organizational strength of anti-choicers, Canadians just don't want to go there. And "apathy" can indicate that people are actually satisfied with the status quo, not just resigned to it.

    Ultimately, this contest showed that revisiting the abortion issue is not politically viable, because the reaction to it proved that anti-choicers have not changed the prevailing culture one whit.

  • At 8:48 AM, Blogger choice joyce said…

    A friend of mine made the following comment about the CBC wish contest, which I think captures the reactions to the contest and its hijackers very well. He expressed his disappointment that so many Canadians took advantage of a contest to express their disdain for the choices of their fellow Canadians, then said:

    "I feel this episode reveals more about them than anything else. I feel a little creepier than before, as if I had just seen a swastika spray-painted on a wall in my neighbourhood."

  • At 7:14 AM, Blogger Joe said…

    So, um, you lose the contest and respond by saying the pro-lifers cheated and that they're just like nazis?

    I have a feeling that you wouldn't be saying "the results mean nothing" if the pro-aborts had won. I think you'd be calling the results 'revealing', 'interesting', and 'a wake-up call to pro-lifers', except you wouldn't use the term 'pro-lifers'.

  • At 7:46 AM, Blogger choice joyce said…

    Joe, please read before you assume.

    I already said in a previous comment that it wouldn't have made a difference if the pro-choice side had won, because the actual results are not the main story.

    I said there were "accusations of cheating on both sides." How did you manage to turn that into "pro-lifers cheated and they're just like nazis?"

  • At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey joyce!
    (what a lovely sunshine-y pic you have as an avatar btw)


  • At 3:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How is it you expect God to reveal to you the truth that he has set aside? How is it God should love imps and demons for a man or woman who works confusion and malcontent among those whom would believe in Him? For you will not be able to poison my brethren, for our faith in our God is all we need to know there is hope, love, and abounding peace coming. Stifle your words woman, for your day will come, and I pray you have understanding before then.

  • At 8:10 AM, Blogger choice joyce said…

    Dear Anonymous (or is it "Too Afraid to Stand Up for What I Believe In") - Instead of completely wasting your time praying for me, please do a good deed on my behalf. Thanks.


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