Choice Joyce: July 2007

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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