Halifax Police talk to protesters. Photo: Dwayne McIntosh

Halifax Police talk to protesters. Photo: Dwayne McIntosh

Protesters disrupt SMU lecture by abortion opponent

Anger over talk that compared abortion to genocide

Abortion rights activists, chanting "Not the church, not the state, women must decide their own fate!" forced a Calgary-based opponent of abortion to interrupt his lecture at Saint Mary's University Thursday night and move it to a nearby church.

The scene at SMU's Burke Theater B was chaotic, with abortion opponent Jose Ruba, trying to give his speech over women yelling "Pro-life men have got to go! When you get pregnant, let us know!"

The half-filled theatre of about 50 people was evenly divided between abortion rights advocates and opponents of abortion. At one point, two female student protesters cried as graphic images of a nine-week-old fetus were shown.

Between the crying protesters, a woman, who gave her name only as Ronda, quietly said Hail Marys and Our Fathers, praying for abortion rights advocates to see the error in their beliefs.

Ronda prays for abortion rights advocates. Photo: Dwayne McIntosh

Enlarge Image Enlarge image
Ronda prays for abortion rights advocates. Photo: Dwayne McIntosh

No dialogue

The scene started shortly after Ruba, a speaker from the group Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, introduced himself. Then abortion rights activists interrupted and effectively shut down the talk. For more than a half hour Ruba was silenced.

There was no real dialogue between the opposing groups. Protesters shouted chants until Ruba was forced to type his message on the projected screen to get his message to supporters.
Those who wanted to hear him speak eventually had to get up from their seats and move to the front rows of the auditorium.

Campus security entered the room to remove flyers placed by abortion rights advocates that blocked his projector. Finally three members of the Halifax Regional Police arrived to talk to the protesters, telling them to quiet down. The police issued a warning to the protesters that if they didn't quiet down, they could be removed or taken into custody.

After attempting to talk over the protesters, Ruba and those interested in hearing what he had to say, moved to Canadian Martyrs Catholic Church to hear the last 20 minutes of his presentation. The church is considered private, not campus, property.

"I was praying for an end to abortion and for God and for Jesus to sign his knowledge and his counsel and his wisdom into their hearts and minds," said Ronda, who did not want to give her last name for fear of reprisal from abortion rights advocates. "I was praying for the conversion of people who still believe that abortion is not killing a human being."

There was initially talk between the protesters and Ruba as to whether or not Ruba was allowed to show the graphic images of abortion and genocide in Bosnia, Germany and Cambodia on campus. The protesters claimed the Saint Mary's University Students' Association had issued a warning to Ruba about showing these images.

In the end Ruba showed the images, prompting abortion rights advocate Laura Merdsoy to block out the projector light with protest pamphlets, turning the screen to black.

"We don't support hate speech in our schools. He is anti-Semitic, anti-woman and he is using tragedies to make his case," says Merdsoy.

Throughout the lecture King's student Katie Toth kept her hand raised, hoping to get Ruba to comment on the ethical implications of his analogy between the Holocaust and abortion.

"One is a medical procedure and the other is an ideological-based murder," said Toth. "Fetuses, I respect fetuses. They are of different cultures, races, sexes. It is not genocide. For me this is not a pro-life or pro-choice debate. It is you simply don't compare stuff to the Holocaust."

Comments on this story are now closed

Now I do appreciate that an objective article was attempted here. But I am sure there is a few missing facts. We did not decide to leave we were told to leave by the administration, which is in reality censorship and truly shows that SMU has its own agenda. Now if we had not left when we did I am sure the mob who refused to let us speak would have ended up being violent and or arrested. I find it hard to believe that a school, which is supposed to be a public forum where minds are to be educated, and where it is encouraged to use the right to freedom of speech, would censor a non- violent peaceful presentation on a world issue. Also I am surprised that they let the mob get so out of hand on school property. One thing I found funny with all this is the mob accusing the pro life students of inciting violence . And earlier that day a mass email to round up the Mob of pro abortionists requested that this event should be stopped by any means necessary. Now if an aspiring journalist wants the whole story from the source . I am available for one. Just leave a contact number on a comment.

Posted by 4Life | Feb 6, 2022

Great story Dwayne & Kimber...I was really interested in how this lecture went, and you gave some great detail.

Posted by Emilie Bourque | Feb 6, 2022

I was there, and the behaviour of the protestors was atrocious. Almost in tears, I told Jose that I am ashamed to share a campus with them. Even the President of Saint Mary's supported our lecture, as a right to freedom of speech. The only hate speech I heard last night was from the protestors, as they shouted their vulgarities. There was no intelligence, only ad hominem attacks. There was no anti-Semitic remarks or implications. The only sexism I heard was from those at the back of the room. If there shouldn't be Pro Life men, why were there feminist men in their group? They're not women, so how can they fight for women's rights? See, it's illogical. None of them had the intelligence or decency to ASK Jose himself to explain why he compared abortion to the Holocaust. It's unfortunate we were oppressed last night. I feel violated by the protestors. I am a paying Saint Mary's student, and I have the right to attend events on campus, in peace. I had a right to hear Jose last night. I am angry I was forced out last night. SHAME on the protestors, not on Jose, unwilling to listen to another side other than theirs. Shame on them for not listening to them, because he DID explain himself. Shame on their disruption, disrespect, and utter rudeness.

Posted by pro-life student | Feb 6, 2022

Though I could not attend, it sounds like the protesters were extremely inconsiderate and instead of respectfully listening to what the speaker had to say and formulating rational responses they could only draw attention to how irrational they are. Congrats to those who recognize the value of open dialogue and respect people with opposing viewpoints.

Posted by prolife | Feb 6, 2022

There is a video of the protest at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eulKIaVM9DE&feature;=channel_page After having viewed it (but not having attended the presentation), I have to say congrats to Jojo! He did a great job handling himself and those students! Funny, but after watching, I'd say it's not Jojo who comes across as angry, hateful or sexist. The only "sexism" I heard in that 5 mins was from the protesters, telling Jojo that simply because of his sex, he had no right to free speech or his opinion. Course that's illogical and hypocritical coming from a pro-choice group that allowed men to accompany them and voice their opinion... And, of course, the only "hate speech" I heard was also from the protesters, who were attacking someone for an argument they weren't even allowing him to make. Way to make yourselves look like idiots pro-choicers!

Posted by Lins | Feb 7, 2022

I appreciate the effort that was put into the story, but it would have been nice if it was a bit more representative of what took place. Firstly, the entire story centers on the presentation, so it would have been appropriate to show some of it, and give readers a chance to form their own opinions. The presenter offered several neat summaries, and was obviously wearing a microphone that allowed the camera to pick up his voice despite the screaming mob. I can only assume that whoever edited the film made a conscious decision to leave it out. They did, however make sure to get plenty of coverage of the one (only) person in the room who was praying, yet forgot to mention that the presenters arguments were purely logical in nature, and did not rely on religious faith. Finally, the 'protesters' were given an opportunity to present their actions in the most favorable light possible, but there was no input on the disruption or the content of the presentation from another point of view. The fact that the reporters left at the same time as the protesters, and did not follow the crowd as they hurried off to a second location to see the rest of the presentation is no excuse. Again, I commend the initiative taken to cover such an important issue, but wish it had resulted in a more balanced and informative piece. For more footage google 'abortion mob'.

Posted by PM | Feb 8, 2022

As a SMU Alumnus and as a women, I am deeply disturbed that Univeristy administration allowed this event to happen on campus. Can anyone remember March '07 when SMU did not allow Peter March to hold his own controversial lecture on campus and instead suggested an off-campus venue? Why wasn't this same logic used here? The fact that protesters were told to "keep quiet" or else be taken into custody makes me wonder about Halifax Municipality Officers' knowledge regarding the rights that Canadian women have: just like Ruba had the opportunity to present his views, these women did as well. I'm ashamed to wear my class ring today.

Posted by SMU Alum | Feb 9, 2022

I'm staunchly pro-choice and I still find this embarrassing. There's no good in drowning out anyone's viewpoint, even if it's something as offensive as comparing abortions to the holocaust. I'm fairly certain the only thing any pro-life person went home feeling after this confrontation was increased hostility towards the other side of the debate. It makes me angry that these kinds of protesters think they've made a positive difference after something like this. Silencing people is not productive. Discussion is productive. You'd think people supposedly supporting an aspect of freedom would agree.

Posted by Pro-choice student | Feb 9, 2022

Re : SMU Alum It may surprise you to find that Canadian women have precicely the same rights as canadian men (at least since they were recognized as 'persons' under the law back in the 1920's). It may also surprise you to find that this set of rights includes freedome of speech, but does not include the freedom to censor speech you don't want anyone to hear. http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/#garantie I'm sort of curious as to what sort of degree you recieved from SMU. I'm guessing it's not law.

Posted by PM | Feb 9, 2022

SMU didn't offer a pre-law program, or a graduate law program when I was there (not sure bout now), so no that is not the degree which I received. And I always thought freedom of thought, expression, etc only means that the government cannot censor its citizens. it does NOT mean that one cannot oppose offensive materials. Correct me if I'm wrong...

Posted by SMU Alum | Feb 11, 2022

Being opposed to material is one thing. Not letting what you think offensive, which is your opinion, to be presented is as the officer on the scene told, the angry noise makers, breaking the law. Therefore the angry noise makers should have been arrested or they should have expressed their perspective on whats acceptable for others to think in a respectful law abiding manner.

Posted by 4life | Feb 12, 2022

Social injustices, such as the murder of the unborn must be brought to light!!! Those protesters actually just brought more attention to how irrational they are for believing that abortion is ok...i was there at this lecture and the women who shouted the loudest also cried the hardest when they saw the TRUTH of what is done to the babies by abortion!!! Shame on smu!!!!! I have emailed 4 different heads of smu and NONE of them replied!!!

Posted by Missy | Feb 15, 2022