Pro-life MP Stephen Woodworth spins a yarn about fixed-wing aviation — psyche! It’s about abortion.

Pro-lifers in Parliament have set a difficult task for themselves. With over 90 per cent of Canadians supporting abortion in at least some cases, and despite overwhelming opposition to re-opening the issue, anti-abortion MPs have to find new and innovative ways to broach the subject.

It’s a thankless task, but pro-life MPs seem to think that if only they get their messaging right, the country might suddenly reconsider the whole thing and outlaw abortion. That’s what Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth probably thought when he tried to weasel Motion 312 through Parliament earlier this year. Unfortunately for him, the private member’s bill about defining “when human life begins” was roundly condemned by pretty much everyone, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

At the National Pro-Life Conference in Toronto two weeks ago, Woodworth’s keynote address focused on how to craft messaging that can get through to people. His clever trick of talking about abortion without saying the actual word “abortion” seems not to have worked with Motion 312, but Woodworth seems convinced that he and his allies need to keep finding new ways to talk about the same old shit. The Catholic Register paraphrased Woodworth saying that “pro-lifers are at fault” for not learning to “adapt how they communicate their message.”

With this in mind, let us now carefully read a press release from the MP in which he compares his doomed Motion 312 to fixed-wing aviation — an allegory which, through clever reframing of contemporary issues, will surely convince us all to stop the baby-killing:

Note: The following account is intended to be entirely fictional. Resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Disregard everything that follows. Check.

In the early days of air flight, a Canadian aviation engineer was well-known for his opposition to ballooning (which was the established method of air flight in those days). He actively spoke and wrote against ballooning, penning letters to the editor and articles in professional journals to express this opposition to ballooning.

Note that this opponent of ballooning presents no arguments for why ballooning is wrong. He just thinks it’s dumb, or something.

After years of being stonewalled by an aviation establishment entirely enamoured with ballooning and which was completely unwilling to consider alternatives, he fell into deep thought.

“Perhaps I could find some other issue to pursue on which a majority of Canadians could agree,” he wondered to himself “Could I find some aviation principles on which we might find a consensus?”

A good question. God knows Canadians grapple with aviation-related dilemmas on a daily basis, and any attempt to establish common ground would help heal the rift in the nation. Damn that ballooning-enamoured establishment for shutting down debate!

After serious analysis, he came up with some aviation principles he felt might be acceptable to everyone. He suggested a process to study the principles of fixed-wing aircraft to determine whether or not they should be pursued. He suggested that the study consider whether or not existing legal prohibitions against fixed wing aviation were consistent with early 20th century aviation science and understanding. He pointed out that Canada was one of only a few advanced nations to completely protect ballooning against fixed wing development.

OK, I’m already lost. In this fable, are the hot air balloons abortions? Applying that to motherhood would mean that women in Canada can only choose abortions if they get pregnant. If that were truly the case, there would be no “choice” in pro-choice.

An honest man…

That’s debatable.

…the aviation engineer acknowledged the relationship between fixed wing technology development and ballooning, and even admitted that the development of fixed wing technology might mean fewer people would engage in ballooning.

Ballooning, according to the top definition on Urban Dictionary, is “when an uncircumsised man, whilst urinating, pinches his foreskin closed, thereby inflating his touque like a balloon.” We should definitely have less of that.

You can imagine that the ballooning industry rose immediately to the challenge. Their first attack was to indignantly accuse the aviation engineer of being a ballooning-hater whose only motive was to destroy the ballooning industry.

To be fair, the very first thing we learn about this engineer is that he hates ballooning and wants it to stop. His critics seem to have his number.

“He says he just wants to improve aviation, but his real interest must be to simply destroy the ballooning industry since he must know that fixed wing aviation will mean fewer people will pursue ballooning”, they said.

Here’s where things start to really fall apart. The equivalent of “not having an abortion” would surely be “not riding a goddamn hot air balloon,” right? Planes and balloons are two competing technologies, not a choice about whether or not to travel.

The engineer protested that ballooning and fixed-wing aviation were not necessarily inconsistent with each other, but the balloonists ignored him.

Balloonists… ZOMG, tahts’ liek abortionists!!!

He pointed out that something wasn’t right if balloonists felt they needed to pretend that fixed-wing technology didn’t exist. They still ignored him.

The balloonists lobbied against his proposed study on the basis that their minds were made up that ballooning was better than fixed-wing aviation, they knew they were right, and so dialogue and review of modern aviation science would be a waste of time. They argued that ballooning was simply better as it existed, period, discussion over.

Again, this would imply that doctors abortionists think abortions are always better than alternatives, including birth.

Finally, the balloonists pointed out that existing Establishment views supporting the ballooning industry had only been established after long and difficult public debate, and that “re-opening” that debate should be avoided since it would provoke passionate or even divisive comment. The engineer’s reminder that the right to study fixed wing aviation had been explicitly preserved and allowed for when protection of ballooning first became popular with the Establishment, was ignored. The engineer knew that these existing differences between fixed-wing technology and ballooning would actually be brought to resolution by his proposal for dialogue and study, but he was ignored.


Many balloonists took to social media, publishing vile and insulting slanders against the engineer and misrepresenting his proposal. He was not deterred.

The social media of the early 20th century, of course, being hot air balloon rides.

Members of Parliament who spoke against the engineer’s proposal focused entirely on the necessity of protecting ballooning. Not one even mentioned the subject of fixed wing aviation. Not one questioned the aviation principles proposed by the engineer. They expressed a single-minded preoccupation with ballooning to the exclusion of any consideration of wider aviation principles. A number of professional aviation associations, filled with balloonists, were told that the engineer’s proposed study was about ending all ballooning and were in that way induced to pass resolutions condemning him and his proposal.

Translation: people said mean things about me once.

In the end Parliament defeated the engineer’s proposal, setting back the cause of fixed-wing technology in Canada for a time. Clear-thinking people were amazed that a modern democracy could accept such a result, turning its back on modern aviation principles.

Clear thinking people were also amazed how a skilled rhetorician like Stephen Woodworth ever made it to the House of Commons.

Now do you understand the relationship between Motion 312 and abortion?

Definitely not. image: Eric Lim Photography/Flickr

, allegory, aviation, bad writing, ballooning, House of Commons, Maurice Vellacott, Parliament, public relations, , Stephen Woodworth

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