In March of 2020 I was scheduled to debate Dr. Fraser Fellows, an obstetrician-gynecologist from London, Ontario, who has performed thousands of abortions up until 23 weeks and six days of pregnancy. As COVID-19 lockdowns came into effect, the event was cancelled. Earlier this month, however, I was approached again with the request to debate online, and so yesterday, Dr. Fellows and I finally had the chance to engage in an event entitled, “Abortion Debate: Hear Both Sides.”

When I finally went to bed last night, I thought I could sleep for a week; yet here I am, awake before any of my family members are even stirring—something that rarely happens in our household with little ones. My mind must still be processing for when it does, sleep doesn’t come (or stay) easily.

After the debate had wrapped up, I struggled to describe how I felt. This morning, I woke up with two words on my mind: grief and gratefulness. The world around me is slowly waking up as I write down some reflections.

Dr. Fraser Fellows, who has recently retired from his decades-long career of performing late-term abortions, raised the concern that during COVID-19 lockdowns, women have experienced higher rates of (sexual) violence, which has increased the demand for abortion. But how is it a solution to end the lives of little children? This is what abortion has always done: rather than doing the hard work of addressing root causes of real problems, it applies a band-aid solution that perpetuates the cycle of violence.

When asked when human life begins, Dr. Fellows replied that this is at birth, later stating that the child begins to live when he or she starts to breathe. This is what the textbooks tell us, he added at another point in the debate. One doesn’t need to be a medical professional to know that science tells us otherwise. However, each time I brought the discussion back to the humanity of pre-born children, Dr. Fellows diverted to the difficult circumstances that inevitably drive women to abortion.

Since the question about maternal mortality ended up not being presented to us debaters, I didn’t have the chance to really address this claim. Dr. Fellows brought up Romania under Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu to make the point that illegal abortion leads to horrific realities, leaving out that they ran an evil dictatorship that included all kinds of atrocities. If we’re talking about a country that criminalized abortion, why not examine Ireland, which until 2018 protected pre-born children by law, yet was one of the safest countries to give birth in with one of the lowest rates of maternal mortality in the world?

When I described a Dilation & Evacuation abortion, demonstrating with a fetal model and medical forceps how this procedure tears a human fetus limb from limb, Dr. Fellows was quick to say that this method is not commonly used anymore. Instead, digoxin is injected into the heart which kills the fetus, who is then delivered dead. Perhaps it makes abortion advocates feel better that pre-born children feel less pain while being killed in this way, but it took my breath away to realize that the technique has been refined to avoid the bothersome task of ripping the baby to pieces. Rather than end the barbarism, we’ve simply come up with a cleaner, seemingly more compassionate method of killing.

During Audience Q&A, we were asked whether it was fair to force a woman to carry to term when she faithfully used contraception to avoid becoming pregnant. I responded that no method of contraception is 100% effective and that one of the purposes of sex is reproduction. Anyone who willingly engages in an act that can result in the creation of an embryo should, if that happens, take responsibility for his or her pre-born child. Isn’t this consistent with what we expect parents of born children to do as well? What has happened to our country when we’ve completely forgotten that sex is not just recreational but reproductive?

Or what about the question that no human gets to use or harm another body, implying that an embryo or fetus has no right to exist within a woman’s uterus if she does not want it there? Does a tiny infant need permission from his mom before he begins to suckle the breastmilk that her body has produced just for him? Does a little girl risk being killed by her dad when she climbs on his lap in an inconvenient moment? Is the uterus not inside a woman’s body for the express purpose of safely gestating her child’s body?

My heart is heavy for a culture that is so focused on self-determination that it has mostly forgotten to be selfless, sacrificing the youngest of our kind along the way. I feel deep concern for intelligent medical professionals who have come face to face with perfectly formed pre-born children, yet—contrary to science—argue themselves into believing that these are not fellow human beings deserving of human rights. And I grieve for (young) men and women with far more rights than former generations who risk missing out on some of life’s simplest but greatest joys.

But I am also grateful. Three campus clubs, despite opposing views, collaborated to host a respectful debate on a usually divisive issue, with hundreds of people attending online and many more planning to watch the recording. Difficult questions were asked, creating the opportunity for the pro-life position to be presented with some of the rock-solid evidence it is based on. And my pre-born son, due to be born in just a few weeks, stayed in-utero long enough for me to be able to defend the humanity of his peers who are in danger of being killed.

There’s probably far more to unpack when it comes to the debate, but my colleagues plan to do that on The Pro-Life Guys Podcast. I’m going to watch the sun rise and wait for my born children to wake up.

5 thoughts on “Grieved but grateful: A post-debate reflection

  1. Amber Sinclair says:

    You did an amazing job at debating your side and I loved all of it! I admire the work you’re doing and aspire to be on your level of knowledge, intellect and articulation so I can defend the pre-born as well. Thanks for all your hard work and God bless you! 🙂

  2. Bonnie Grootenboer says:

    Thank-you so much Maaike for defending the pre-born. I missed the debate because of the CPC Convention. Was it taped and will we be able to see it or is my best bet to listen to The Pro-life Guys coverage. God only calls us to be faithful to his truths, He will change the hearts and minds.

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