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A recent lawsuit filed by a Catholic priest in Quebec threatens to shut down a pro-life website, challenging the role of watchdog sites and how they determine who is pro-life.

Raymond Gravel has filed a defamation lawsuit against LifeSiteNews, a website based in Canada that has labeled Gravel "pro-abortion" and "pro-homosexual." Gravel says he is against abortion and blames the site for his leaving parliament under pressure from the Vatican.

Gravel once voted against a bill that would have made an assault on a pregnant woman also an assault on the unborn child, saying he is against "recriminalizing" abortion. He also represented a party that is pro-choice and favors gay marriage.

American pro-life Democrats saw a similar situation when they were targeted by pro-life groups after voting for the 2010 health-care bill. The legislation became a litmus test for pro-life groups such as the National Right to Life Commission. (Pro-choice groups, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, do not consider health-care reform to be an abortion-related issue for identifying pro-choice leaders.)

The pro-life movement has often tried to humanize the abortion debate by promoting ultrasounds or retelling the pregnancy stories of women, but singling out individuals can create challenges. Watchdog sites can highlight internal divisions in the pro-life movement, says Michael New, political science professor at the University of Alabama.

"With any social movement, it helps to have an enemy. Individuals make decisions, and sometimes they suffer political consequences for doing so," New said. "Personalizing the debate can be effective."

Activists with Lila Rose's Live Action have singled out Planned Parenthood employees in undercover videos that suggest they ...

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In the Magazine

May 2011

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