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Dalhousie "abortion debate" is a farce 

SMU prof Mark Mercer duped into legitimizing anti-abortion group’s position.

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The age-old abortion debate turned into a shamelessly staged publicity stunt at Dalhousie University Tuesday night when the debater making a case for abortion rights appeared a mere puppet for the anti-abortion movement. 

The debate, hosted and organized by student organization Pro-Life at Dal, showcased a very seasoned debater, Stephanie Gray of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, a Calgary-based anti-abortion organization. But Mark Mercer, chair of the Saint Mary’s University Philosophy department, had a case for abortion that was so completely unresolved and nonsensical that the entire evening turned into a farce.

At one point, Mercer said he could only hope a mother would not abort her fetus on the grounds that it possessed the homosexual gene because, “homosexuals have proven themselves to be very useful in the arts community.”

Pro-Life at Dal sourced Gray from Calgary and footed the bill. Meanwhile, according to the group’s president Stewart Rand, no effort was made to look outside Halifax for an equally qualified debater from the other side. Rand could name only one other person approached locally for the spot--- Dalhousie Bio-Ethics professor Francoise Baylis. 

Baylis has no recollection of such an exchange.

“The money went towards the side that we support. I’m not apologetic,” says Rand. “If someone else wants to pay, that’s fine.”

Many will remember Mercer, a self-proclaimed supporter of freedom of expression, for his defense of SMU professor Peter March in 2006 after March posted anti-Islamic cartoons on campus. And subsequently, it was Mercer who supported March in an effort to bring white-supremacist Jared Taylor to speak at the University.

If Pro-Life at Dal was aware of Mercer’s history of supporting controversial issues in the name of free speech, then they also knew to count on him to engage in a debate (however bogus) that would secure a platform for this blatant Pro-Life publicity stunt, which may otherwise have been difficult given CCBR’s history in Halifax. Two years ago CCBR’s Jose Ruba visited SMU to deliver his “Echoes of the Holocaust” lecture where he likens abortion to the Holocaust. He was pushed out by protesters.

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