Heather Mallick is a regular columnist for the Toronto Star. In a piece last spring titled “Will Alabama’s war on abortion come to Canada?” she encouraged women in Canada and the United States not to surrender their “right” to choose abortion, ignoring the salient point that in Canada there is no “right” to abortion. Apparently, if one assumes the “right” to abortion, one can just as easily assume the “right” to a misstatement of fact. If her column speaks for the “pro-choice” movement, it is an embarrassing display of pure incivility.
Recent pro-life victories in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio have been countered by a fierce reaction from those who defend the “right to choose.” Rational debate, if there ever was one, has given way to vitriol, vituperation, and venom. This is a tactic not employed to enlighten or convert the opposition, but to mobilize the troops. The abortion discussion has degenerated into a war.
“Primitive men,” Mallick warns, “are dog whistling to Canadians and there will always be a few hateful, punitive men ready to hear it.” Among these men are “crying Brett Kavanaugh, creepy Neil Gorsuch, and madman Trump.” The “anti-choice” brigade, she writes, comes from “the armpit Southern states.” Pro-life gains, in her judgment, are not in the interest of protecting life, but represent a “wave of authoritarianism.” “These things,” Mallick continues, “come from the fetid U.S. South: guns for everyone, government ownership of women’s bodies, criminalizing medicine, crude and violent racism, and other horrors.” If a law professor were looking for textbook examples of slander, prejudice, and character assassination, her column would provide his students with an overflow of material.
Why is Heather Mallick as vindictive as she is, one might ask, toward anyone who is on the side of protecting life? If there is any evidence of hate involved, Ms. Mallick must be considered a prime perpetrator. Moreover, no one is really carte blanche “pro-choice.” After many years teaching ethics, this writer has never had a “pro-choice” student who would allow him to be pro-choice about grades. Mallick herself refuses to extend the right to choose to those who choose to protect life. What is at the core of her irrational attack on anyone who opposes abortion? Her reckless indictment of prolifers includes the majority of all human beings who have been born into this world.
In her column she gives us a clue.
Mallick’s father was an ob-gyn. She tells her readers she felt comfortable during her teenage years knowing that if need be “I could get an abortion from my father,” who “was always sensible, and generous to his daughters.” Yet the readiness to kill one’s own grandchildren must call into question how sensible and generous he really was. The contrary cannot be said. That is, that an ob-gyn father would not be sensible or generous if he refused to perform an abortion on his daughter. Life is all we have. It is elemental, the basis of all other rights. Abortion is not without its adverse effects on women, biologically and psychologically. Consider the many women’s groups who have told the world how much they regret their abortions. Ms. Mallick is defending and protecting her father. This is understandable, but it is not relevant to an objective consideration of what abortion is and how it affects not only women, but men, the family, and society in general. Protecting human life is not a hateful act. In fact, it is the one act that is truly sensible and generous.
On May 15, 2019, Kay Ellen Ivey, governor of Alabama, signed into law a near-total ban on abortion. But her understanding of the law is entirely positive:
Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, a bill that was approved by overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.
Mallick is unsparing. As far as she is concerned, Governor Ivey is “an Aunt Lydia [an oppressive character from The Handmaid’s Tale] who could have killed that scorched earth Alabama ban, but did not.”
Like Mallick, Vermont senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders does not see the way Kay Ivey does. For him, the Alabama ban is “disturbing,” “grotesque,” and a threat to the lives of women. Protecting the lives of countless unborn does not seem to register for him. Again, we must ask, why such extreme language? Surely, it cannot be “grotesque” to protect life. The abortion issue is not simply about reason. Its roots are far deeper than that, entangled in the mystery of the human personality. We should not abandon reason, but must work to restore it so that it can be applied fairly and judiciously to the abortion issue. Abortion, we might say, involves the devil and the deep blue sea.
Heather Mallick’s column is accompanied by a color photo of a woman holding a sign that reads: “I’m a mom by choice.” The word “choice” has been inflated to the point where it is now free from any connection with reality. One does not become a mother merely by choosing it. There are thousands upon thousands of infertile women who would love to choose to become mothers if choice were the only requirement. But a man is needed, a particular act, and God, too, who blesses a union with the gift of life. The great importance of choice is not in itself—it is not a terminal value—but in the capacity it gives human actors to choose what is good. Life is good, therefore protecting it is also good.