The Faith of Michael Coren

by Tom Bartlett

Winston Churchill once described Russia as a “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” The same could be said of Toronto Star columnist Michael Coren. He is a mystery in part because he might also be considered the male counterpart to poet Ogden Nash’s famous character Mrs. Marmaduke Moore, the woman who changed her religion seven times. Coren may not have changed his religion seven times yet, but he’s catching up. In a July 10 review of Unplanned, a ground-breaking movie that exposes Planned Parenthood’s greed and ethical misconduct, the former Catholic pro-lifer is now writing as a pro-abortion Anglican. 

Coren’s critique of Unplanned and the pro-life movement lacks originality and is rife with leftist tropes. If his brain had been taken over by a pro-abortion meme generator, his review would hardly have read any differently. Worse, his caricatures of the pro-life movement could be expected from an outsider. But part of the enigma of Coren’s sneers is that it wasn’t so long ago he was on the side of the unborn—indeed, one of their most eloquent defenders.

Planned Parenthood’s massive efforts to stifle and block Unplanned only make sense if it truly reveals secrets America’s premier abortion provider doesn’t want exposed.

Coren’s faith journey could hardly be more different than mine. I grew up in a milquetoast church tradition which doubtless mirrored his newfound Anglicanism. Not being a Catholic, my stance on abortion was largely one of indifference. The issue was never raised in my church, so I accepted it as an ideological matter. But based on an auspicious meeting with a pro-life Catholic, I determined to engage in an exhaustive investigation into the ethics of abortion. I decided that if the Catholics were right then there is no greater socially sanctioned evil to be exposed and defeated than abortion (ironically, Why Catholics are Right is a pre-reconversion book penned by Coren). Incidentally, I did not become convinced of Catholicism, but became unabashedly pro-life. The same level of investigation applied to theology has made me a committed evangelical Christian.

Before Coren’s review, I had not followed him for a while and was unaware that he now favoured abortion. But with a little further investigation, it seems to me he has found a home in a professing “Christian” church while holding no views obviously contrary to the cultural zeitgeist. He claims his conversion to the Anglican church was borne of a deepening faith. I can’t help but ask, faith in what? 

Coren’s embrace of the animating spirit of the secular left is a strong “tell” that he is reacting against his own history. Nowhere does the term “pro-life” appear in his article – only “anti-abortion.” Using this negative designation allows him to fulminate over how Unplanned will cause a groundswell of violent attacks against abortion doctors and clinics. Here it should be noted that attacks on abortionists have always been roundly condemned by leading pastors and pro-lifers, with almost none occurring over the last decade. Coren ignores the truth that “pro-life” has come to mean valuing all lives, not just those of the unborn. 

He was apparently unnerved by the Unplanned audience who, in his words were so “engaged” they, “cried, screamed and prayed,” during the film. This became the basis for his ominous intimations that moviegoers were “enraged” and feeling a “palpable anger.” He apparently wants his readers to think the crowds spilling out of the theatres had been transformed into angry mobs ready to tear into the nearest abortionist. Meanwhile, he ignores the possibility that the film is simply very moving. His pernicious attributions are contemptable, and exactly opposite from the pacifism of the pro-lifers as actually portrayed in the film. His implication that the film was throwing rhetorical chum to anti-abortion sharks is even more bizarre, since it come from the man who in the same review denounces the film as sleep inducing and anodyne. It’s amazing he could leave himself so vulnerable as to be on the brink of sleep when surrounded by such a bloodthirsty ravenous crowd of “anti-choicers.” 

What doesn’t find its way into Coren’s critique is the fact that despite determined opposition and a very limited release, “Unplanned” had a highly successful run in the U.S.– achieving fourth place in ticket sales on its opening weekend. Absent were any calls to violence from pro-lifers in the American experience. The only “palpable” incidents of the violence at which Coren hints has come from “pro-choicers” who feel that allowing the film a short run in theatres puts their beloved industry in a poor light. Due to death threats made by pro-abortion activists to theatre owners and staff in our tolerant nation, two Canadian theatres felt compelled to back out.

And what has been the backlash from the so-called angry pro-lifers after the success in the U.S.? Abby Johnson’s organization, “And Then There Were None” received roughly 100 calls from abortion clinic workers seeking to leave their jobs, and many others have indicated they have transitioned from being pro-abortion to being pro-life. This brings us to the crux of the matter. I’ll admit up front that I am not a journalist, nor have I played one on TV like Michael Coren. That said, I do have an interest in truth and an abiding love for others which springs from my deepened faith. This leads me to present the following statements.

  • Once you’ve seen the movie, you will never again doubt that Planned Parenthood is selling abortion, not promoting women’s health. 

  • Planned Parenthood’s massive efforts to stifle and block Unplanned only make sense if it truly reveals secrets that America’s premier abortion provider doesn’t want exposed.

  • There is nothing “pro-woman” about excoriating a female whistle-blower who left her career to go up against an extremely powerful organization with vast political clout.

  • There is no reason to doubt the veracity of Abby Johnson’s story once you learn that despite the financial resources behind Planned Parenthood, its attempt to stifle her legally failed miserably.

Here’s the quandary Planned Parenthood faces. This little film has received widespread media attention precisely because of its strong-arm efforts to keep Abby’s story out of the public consciousness. Planned Parenthood claims the movie’s depictions of abortion are inaccurate, but they can’t be. The man who plays the abortion doctor is a former abortionist who offers public tutorials to show exactly how abortions are carried out. He knows how they are done and certainly would never have allowed himself to be tied to fake propaganda. In fact, hubris is what turned Abby into a pro-life activist. She intended to leave her clinic and go peacefully into obscurity, but PP’s lawsuit (depicted in the film) pushed her into the fray.

To my mind, if a journalist had real doubts about the veracity of Unplanned, he would seek information directly from the source. Planned Parenthood does thousands of abortions every day. Who better to debunk any inaccuracies that may have shown up in the film? On the other hand, if the movie’s graphic photos are indeed accurate, I expect I would try to discredit and silence my opponents using the very strategies we have seen PP employ. 

Coren bemoans the fact that as a pro-abortionist he has lost a number of writing opportunities. Imagine that! A man who has reversed his positions on pretty much every social issue is no longer being hired by those who employed the former version of himself. On the other hand, by changing his positions on Christianity and social issues Coren has opened up for himself a vast array of employment options. If you need proof, just note that the man who now writes for Toronto’s flagship newspaper could only write for the tabloids when he was a conservative pro-lifer. It strikes me as tone-deaf for him to embrace his victimhood while reviewing a movie of a woman who made herself unemployable out of principle.

Coren’s misrepresentation of pro-lifers was bad enough, but his most offensive remark by far came when he mocked the pain a fetus feels during an abortion by comparing it to the “pain” he felt by being forced to sit through the film. Such callousness reveals an attitude of contempt for the unborn beyond comprehension. That an editor would let him get away with such crudities is beyond insensitive. I cannot fathom what the current faith of Michael Coren is, but I know I want nothing to do with it.