March 7, 2013

UBC and International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a day marked in calendars to celebrate political, social, and economic advances and achievements that women have had over the past few decades. At UBC, while there are many displays and events that honor women, there is also one that appears to do the opposite. Every year since 1999, around International Women’s Day, the AMS club, UBC Lifeline, invites the Centre for Bioethical Reform to present an anti-choice display called the Genocide Awareness Project (aka the GAP). Their reasons for presenting this display around International Women’s Day are unknown to me, however, it seems to demonize women rather than celebrate them.

According to Wikipedia, “the GAP is a movable pro-life display… The display includes pictures they argue are of aborted fetuses or represent what an aborted fetus would look like, juxtaposed next to pictures of victims of genocide”.

In short, these displays attempt to compare the victims of atrocious genocides, such as the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Cambodian Genocide, to abortions.

While anti-choice and pro-choice groups have debated over the topic of abortion for many years, I want to focus on the “genocide” aspect of it.

The GAP attempts to draw comparisons between safely performed abortions and genocides, however, does so without defining the word “genocide” correctly. According to their website, the definition of genocide is the “widespread killing of human beings… on the basis that the victims were subhuman, inferior, and non-persons”. While this does encompass some aspects of what many genocides entailed, it does not define the word completely. If we break down the word “genocide”, we get the Greek word “genos” (γένος; race), and the Latin word “cīdere” (to kill). Furthermore, if we look up the meaning of genocide in the Oxford English Dictionary, this is the definition that we get: “The deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic or national group”.

This means that while the GAP was correct in explaining that genocides occurred because a certain group of people were seen as inferior, they did not go into further detail in explaining that this happened because of their race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Due to the fact that safely performed abortions are not linked to any specific ethnic or national group, we can assume that abortions cannot be described as genocide. The way that the GAP attempts to draw comparisons on these separate topics trivializes genocidal violence and undermines the suffering of victims and survivors of genocidal violence.

The GAP also incites contempt towards women. If the GAP is attempting to compare abortions to genocides, then they are also associating perpetrators of genocides to women, the “perpetrators” of abortion, however, these women are merely looking out for their health and wellbeing. Having a triggering display like the GAP on campus is troubling. It is important for all of us to have a campus where everyone feels safe in public spaces, and where one’s heritage or personal choice is not under attack, and a display like the GAP does not provide that safety. If you feel you are able to support the pro-choice celebration that will be happening, then come out and have a celebration! We will be celebrating reproductive rights and appreciating the past and current efforts of women’s body autonomy. This will be going on March 7th and 8th from 9 am to 3 pm on the North side of the SUB (between the SUB and Brock Hall). Please keep in mind that this will be going on near the GAP display.  If you are feeling triggered by any of the displays or any of the topics discussed, please seek out the SASC services; self-care is always the most important form of care.