NRL News

Stifling pro-lifer speech in the guise of eliminating “stigma”

by | Apr 8, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

Rebecca Cook

Rebecca Cook

Rebecca Cook is a veteran pro-abortion lawyer and academician whose home base is the University of Toronto. We wrote about her last in November and December ( and

The context then was the pro-abortion campaign to ease the way for introduction of RU-486. The argument that she co-authored for the Canadian Medical Association Journal, boiled down to its essence, was that Canadian women are not receiving the “best abortion option” for non-surgical abortions —RU-486.

Then I happened upon “Reducing stigma in productive health” which Cook co-wrote with Bernard M. Dickens for the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. It’s amazing how much obfuscation, misdirection, phony analogies, and leaps of logic they could stuff in only three and a half pages.

Here’s the first sentence: “Stigma, understood as a mark of disgrace or discredit, has permeated attitudes often taken toward recipients of sexual and reproductive health services, and also at times to providers of such services.” They quickly distinguish this from stereotyping which overlaps with stigma but is different. “Stereotyping can be negative or positive, whereas stigma is invariably negative.” Anyone who holds the outdated idea that abortion is wrong (“stigmatizes” abortion) needs, at a minimum, to be read out of polite company.

 Bernard M. Dickens

Bernard M. Dickens

The article illustrates perfectly how pro-abortionists argue. They include abortion in with a host of other behaviors that at one time or another have been “stigmatized” (many of which are now common behaviors or are no longer a subject of much debate). The suggestion is that opposing abortion means you hold onto ideas that are so old, they are almost quaint.

Here are a few points worth considering.

It’s not the woman herself but the behavior—the taking of an unborn child’s life—that we oppose. We will never allow it to be “normalized.” Which, of course, is exactly what Cook and Dickens fervently want.

They go into this elaborate, increasingly unacceptable tri-part scheme: stigma that is perceived, experienced, or internalized. The latter, in layman’s terms, simply means someone (in this case the woman who has aborted) may experience lower self-esteem, guilt, or shame because she has incorporated the “negative perceptions, beliefs, or attitudes” of others.

But, again, the objective of anyone who wishes the woman had found a win-win solution for a crisis pregnancy is not to lower her “self-esteem” by inducing guilt or shame. What would be the point of that? Will that help her heal or lower the likelihood of a subsequent abortion? Of course not.

The mantra that the abortion industry and its enablers chant is that when women do suffer post-abortion difficulties, they are either momentary, or (if they persist) it’s because “anti-abortionists” make them feel bad. But, of course, they know better, and they are forever wrestling their consciences into submission.

This leads us to a more and more common response: a loud demand that women celebrate their abortions (“tell your story”) and the insistence that hard-hearted pro-lifers care only about unborn babies.

So what do you do with women helping centers? If you are NARAL and its legion of lawyers and sympathetic local lawmakers, you pass laws to harass them out of business.

Two other considerations from “Reducing stigma in productive health.” First, like all good progressives, Cook and Dickens are itching to pass laws or international covenants or treaties or whatever that criminalize contrary views (that would be us).

“Documentation of the social, psychological, and health-related harms of stigmatization establishes an ethical basis for initiatives to achieve its elimination or reduction,” they write, “but also exposes the challenge of securing legal remedies.” They are ready, willing, and eager to try to meet those challenges.

Second, “stigmatization” may cause abortionists to prefer to sail under a different flag–“euphemisms that refer, for instance, to women’s health.” That “open[s] the way to deceptive practices of so-called crisis pregnancy centers,” according to Cook and Dickens. What to do?

There is “The role of law,” specifically international law. Combine the result of some court decisions with an embrace of “evolving human rights principles,” and, presto, chango, “Laws to overcome such violations help to reduce stigma in abortion and to promote exercise of reproductive choice as a facet of individuals’ equal rights to determination, dignity, and citizenship.” And so forth and so on.

Cook and Dickens really put the onus on healthcare professionals, especially gynecologists and obstetricians. They better well not hint, suggest, imply, or even nod in the direction of not approving a woman’s decision to abort.

Indeed, they offer an ominous quote that tells us, “[t]here is surely something indecent about the idea that a …society, one built upon ideas of human dignity and equality and respect for the individuals’ would allow or fail to discipline members’ denigration of patients through the power of stigma and shame.” (emphasis added).

And woe to anyone who dares to stigmatize “providers of controversial services” (that would be abortions) by “denigrat[ing] them as ‘abortionists.’”

Once upon a time, we honored the principle, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” But in the hands of the professional abortion apologist, there is a different principle and that is they will do anything, including using the power of the state and international bodies, to shut us up..

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Categories: post-abortion