Last month I had the dubious distinction of being the token Canadian pro-lifer on the “Shirley” show: the topic was shooting abortionists. Anyone who retains any illusions that these day-time talk shows have any interest in presenting an honest discussion, should turn the page immediately.
Campaign Life Coalition has experienced Shirley’s methods in creating shows more than once. A producer calls, and proceeds to pick our brains under the guise of a pre-show interview. We always give names of other pro-life people, in case our views are unacceptable. Usually we end up being told other guests have been chosen, but they would love us to supply the audience.
Basically the same routine was followed this time, with a couple of wrinkles. The producer also talked to Judy Scandiffio of Toronto Right to Life, taking hours with each of us. He ended up telling June they had selected me as a guest, then telling me no Canadian pro-lifer was needed. I protested – especially when he acknowledged that a Canadian pro-abort (Cherie McDonald of the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics) would appear. Naturally, they would be happy for us to fill the audience. We declined.
Much to my surprise, the producer called me back after our somewhat heated exchange and said they had rethought their format and would like me for the panel after all. And, please, bring lots of people for the audience!
The show was a farce. Pastor Robert Schenk from Washington and I represented the pro-life view. There were two female abortion providers from the States, and Cherie McDonald. Rot Macmillan (husband of ex-abortionist Beverly) and Regina Dunwoody (friend of Paul Hill) represented those who believe that shooting abortionists is justified.
Before the taping began, the panelists were carefully kept apart. I shared a room with Pastor Schenk and his father. To ensure that none of us were contaminated by association with the others, even trips to the washroom were strictly monitored. We were told not to be polite on air, they wanted us to shout and interrupt. We were also told not to talk about abortion itself, the topic was shooting abortionists.
Macmillan and Dunwoody certainly took these instructions to heart. They completely dominated the show, provoking one young woman in the audience to comment, “I am pro-life, and I am ashamed to be connected with you.” Their behaviour allowed Shirley to grandstand and shout back at them, telling Macmillan more than once to “shut up.”
In taking part I this charade, my major concern had been that public disagreements between pro-lifers would damage the movement in the eyes of the uncommitted. Watching the tape later, I don’t think this happened. Macmillan and Dunwoody made it clear that they consider the pro-life movement too reasonable and thereby ineffective. Their aggressive and illogical defence of violence isolates them so far from the mainstream that they are not even a fringe element of the pro-life movement. They are anti-abortion: they do not care that their support of violence puts them on the same level as the abortionists themselves.
The moral to be drawn from this experience is: do not ever accept an invitation to appear on a show like Shirley’s and expect a reasonable platform for discussion. If you watch such shows: do not believe that you are watching a reasonable discussion.
Interestingly enough, the following week I was invited to Global, to discuss the Latimer case with Marilynne Seguin of Dying with Dignity on the noon news. The host was polite and fair, giving each of us equal and uninterrupted time.
As I thanked the producer after, I commented on their professional approach when compared to the “Shirley” show. Marilynne Seguin remarked, “Oh, I don’t even return those people’s calls anymore.”
Don’t tell anyone that I actually agreed with a euthanasia supporter!