Catholics, abortion and “medical accuracy”

A Catholic high school in Red Deer let a pro-life speaker do a presentation in their religion class.

Yes, it was a Catholic school.

Pro-life. At a Catholic school.

This is considered “newsworthy?”

The shock and awe in the news article seemed to center around two primary concerns.

  1. The information was inaccurate / deceitful.
  2. It was just a bunch of opinions and not information (i.e. not “evidence based”).

On the face of it can you spot the problem? These two claims are mutually exclusive. You can only have one or the other, not both. If the presenter was just spouting off a bunch of opinions, without providing any evidence / facts / information to back them up, then there was no evidence / facts / information. If there was no evidence / facts / information then, by definition the “information” could not have been inaccurate and/or deceitful.

You can have (1) or (2) but not both, so right out of the gate the article is off to a bad start.

And even if the presentation was purely a statement of the pro-life views without a shred of evidence to support it (this was not the case, but let’s play make-believe for a minute) then surely it is within the rights of a Catholic school to teach Catholic doctrine in its class on the Catholic religion. Why this received any push back at all baffles the imagination. Why it made it into the news… it must have been a really slow day at the paper.

Within the first few minutes of the Abort73 video it becomes clear that the presentation did, in fact, draw on a whole bunch of evidence and truth claims including legal definitions, dictionary definitions, quotes from philosophers, historical information, biological information and so forth. Due to the grainy quality of the Abort73 video I could not see all the truth claims, but clearly they were quoting sources and providing references.

Contra complaint 2, the video provided a number of facts and then connected the dots of the facts to the pro-life position. But were the facts presented accurately? Here are a couple of quotes from the news article to hone in on this angle of the “story” (my emphasis in bold):

Certainly for a Catholic school, abortion is an important topic for them but we don’t talk about abortion by lying and exaggerating and comparing it to the Holocaust.

They are being allowed to disseminate all this inaccurate information to students.

I just want accurate information from an expert and both sides presented.

Lying, huh? Inaccurate, you say… tell me more.

Considering a major thrust of the article is the claim that the information was factually inaccurate, naturally one would expect examples of what kind of factually inaccurate information was presented. Here’s what I could find in the news report on the story (again, the Abort73 video was difficult to read at times so I’m sticking with the print article for this list):

  • Abortion was compared to the Holocaust. The claim is made that the Nazis concocted a definition of “person” that suited their purposes. This is not inaccurate; the Nazis did, in fact, do this. Modern day ethicists (as quoted in the video) use a similar criteria as the Nazis. This is not inaccurate; quotes were provided.
  • The Nazis killed severely disabled children. I’m pretty sure this is not inaccurate.
  • The Nazis eventually extended their killing program to anybody-they-didn’t-happen-to-like. I’m pretty sure this is not inaccurate.
  • Apparently the presenter, “repeatedly made statements about right and wrong and offered her opinion.” Do the critics have an issue with her moral assessment of the information, or the factual accuracy of her information? Which is it?
  • “Already, by Week 3, that baby is alive.” The accuracy of this statement would depend on your definition of “alive.” And that definition is precisely what the abortion debate is all about. If they are going to claim that this is an “inaccuracy” then they better defend the basis for claiming this is inaccurate as opposed to “a philosophical assessment which I happen to disagree with.” At worst, this is just an ill-informed opinion, not an inaccuracy.
  • The presenter challenged the students with a variety of thought experiments. Thought experiments are neither accurate nor inaccurate, but an effective means by which one might open up a complex subject.
  • The presenter asked challenging questions with significant philosophical and moral implications. Questions cannot be inaccurate because they do not make claims.
  • The presenter offers her views. Opinions cannot be inaccurate, only truth claims can be.

If the article is any indication, no serious claim of “inaccuracy” has rightly been brought forth. Just allegations and complaints. Opinions, at best. For an article that makes so much of a fuss about the importance of being “evidence based” it sure is lacking in any hard evidence!

If I had to speculate, I’d wager that the real underlying issue is that the abortion subject makes people uncomfortable both ideologically and emotionally. And we all know that a school should always make students ideologically and emotionally comfortable; students should feel good all the time. That’s what they are there for, right?

Not directly related, but I got a kick out of the concern that the presenter was not an “expert.” Because we all know that public school teachers all have PhDs in their respective subjects, right? And no school teacher is allowed to tackle the subject of human sexuality unless they their PhD is in the biological sciences, and the thesis of their PhD was specifically focused on some element of the human reproductive system.

My wife teaches grade two, and she has been known to educate herself at the illustrious, scholarly, academic institution of “U-tube.”

One other thing that I kind of laughed at was, “It is clear that we need provincial oversight and provincial intervention here.” And then, “There’s not enough oversight and regulation…” Right, when you don’t like what’s happening, go run to the government. They can fix everything. Through more rules. More regulations. More bureaucratic intrusions into the system.

Like how they fixed the economy…

But I digress.