12 October 2012

Pro-life = misogyny?

This story has been picked up by pro-life and Roman Catholic publications but has been largely ignored by the mainstream media here in Ontario: Ontario Official: Catholic Schools Can’t Teach “Misogynistic” Pro-life.
The Education Minister of Ontario, Canada — a professing Catholic who sends her children to Catholic schools — declared October 10 that the province’s publicly funded Catholic schools may not teach students that abortion is wrong because such teaching amounts to “misogyny,” which is prohibited in schools under a controversial anti-bullying law. “Taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be considered one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take,” Laurel Broten said during a press conference. “Bill 13,” she asserted, “is about tackling misogyny.”

Three comments are in order. First, a provincial education minister lacks the authority to dictate to a church organization what its teachings should be. That authority belongs to the ecclesiastical office-holders themselves. Given that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly claims to guarantee "freedom of conscience and religion," a government official is duty bound to refrain from interfering in such matters.

Second, if one has to resort to name-calling in setting forth one's position, it amounts to a tacit admission that one's arguments in its favour are weak and not easily defended in open debate. Broten again: "That debate [over a woman's right to choose] is over, it has ended and it should stay that way." That may indeed be her view of the matter, but simply pronouncing a subject closed does not necessarily make it so. Campaign Life Coalition and ProWomanProLife among many others would definitely disagree with her assessment.

Third, and perhaps most basically, Broten seems to be defining a woman's identity as a mere assertion of autonomy, that is, the right to choose apart from any "thick" conception of the human person obviously dependent on norms not of our own making. If a woman wishes to harm her own body or the foetal life growing within her, it is her decision to make, whatever its impact on herself, her loved ones and the larger social fabric. Broten is, of course, entitled to her viewpoint, but why she feels entitled to impose it as unquestioned dogma on everyone else is far from clear.

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