To the editor:
Are pro-choice spokespersons so concerned their position is vulnerable to reasoned critique that they would ban any discussion regarding abortion from popular discussion? You would think so, given the open letter sent by Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and co-signed by her friends (Pro-life Proclamation being Challenged, Sept. 25 Capital News).
The letter sent to (Kelowna) Mayor Gray a few weeks ago demanded that he rescind the city’s proclamation that would open this year’s Protect Human Life Week. The mayor and the city aren’t playing favourites. The city has a policy of issuing proclamations for groups requesting them as long as they don’t promote such things as violence or discrimination.
The proclamation is fairly benign, all things considered: “It is the intention of this proclamation to promote respect and protection to all human life, especially the infirm, the aged, the handicapped, and the unborn.” In fact, the statement captures centuries old values and concerns that are held by many Canadians.
Thankfully, in a rational position consistent with Canadian values, such as freedom of expression, thought and association, Mayor Gray has refused to rescind the proclamation.
Why is this group of pro-choice activists so concerned about a one sentence proclamation and a week-long event that includes a peaceful march and movie-watching?
Joyce Arthur and associates advance a few arguments. According to them, the Kelowna Right to Life Society is a “radical political and religious group.” It isn’t, but for some truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The Society is actually a registered charity in good standing, and has been since 1981. That’s 31 years of law-abiding engagement and compliance with Canada Revenue Agency’s rigorous and demanding reporting requirements.
In addition, the Society’s position on abortion is actually more consistent with that of Canadians than Ms. Arthur’s. Independent polls by some of Canada’s most reputable polling firms consistently show that while most Canadian’s don’t self-identify as ‘pro-life’, most do feel that limits should be placed on abortion access.
Currently, abortion is legal in Canada through all nine months of pregnancy upon demand. Canadians are generally uncomfortable with that reality.
In a 2011 Abacus Data poll, 22 per cent of those surveyed said that human life should only be protected after birth, a position which reflects Canada’s legal status quo and Ms. Arthur’s position. In the poll 59 per cent felt the unborn child should be protected at some earlier point during the pregnancy and 19 per cent were unsure; 92 per cent of Canadians felt that sex-selection abortions should be illegal. In Canada, it is most often females that are aborted in favour of male babies, largely due to cultural preferences. Oddly, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, which presents itself as a defender of women’s rights, supports sex-selective abortions. That seems a bit radical.
Their letter also infers that there’s a constitutional right to abortion. There is no such right. Ms. Arthur is aware of this. In the spring of this year, I watched an interviewer challenge this argument, and Ms. Arthur conceded, on national television, that the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1988 Morgentaler decision only found the then existing law dealing with abortion was unconstitutional because of limited access to the therapeutic abortion committees mandated by the legislation. The Court unanimously noted that Parliament was within its jurisdiction to draft another, better law to protect the child in the womb.
So why are pro-choicers worried about a little discussion and debate? I think they’re scared that if Canadians are informed about the truth, we will start to question the lies and platitudes. Some may even request limits be placed on abortion, like preventing people from killing females in favour of males.
The reality is that it is a scientific and medical fact that life starts at fertilization. Pick up a medical book and take a look. You’ll find language like “The zygote thus formed represents the beginning of a new life” (from Biological Principles and Modern Practice of Obstetrics). What is up for debate is at what point should we, as Canadians and human beings, protect or permit the killing of that life and for what reasons. Anytime and anywhere? That’s today’s law and it’s worth discussing.
If Joyce Arthur and friends are certain that their position is the correct one, then they have no reason to avoid debate on the issue and should jump into rich, reasoned discussion about it. They could even see it as an opportunity to make some converts. If they’re worried that their position is untenable, maybe they should re-examine it. Perhaps even pick up a few pamphlets at Protect Human Life Week.
Faye Sonier, legal counsel,
Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.