I am Petulant (Maybe)

At least that what I am called by Jackson Doughart. Me, and everyone else who has stood against the re-opening of the abortion debate in the House of Commons and elsewhere (I’m hypocritical too, as I try to use reason in my considerations – and doubly petulant because I am from PEI).

The attitude of the Canadian political left toward the subject of abortion can be best described as petulant, informed as it is by an insatiable annoyance with dissent on this perennial issue.
For pro-choicers, the prospect of discussing the ethical status of unborn human beings is sufficiently suppressed by circular reasoning and a false claim: “First, the abortion debate is over because ‘we’ say it is over; and second, there is nothing new in the science to warrant reopening the debate.”

Annoyed? Damn right I’m annoyed. It’s not over because we say it’s over, it’s over because the Supreme Court says it’s over.  This was settled 25 years ago by the decision in the case against Henry Morgentaler  by the Supreme Court that included this statement:

State interference with bodily integrity and serious state-imposed psychological stress, at least in the criminal law context, constitutes a breach of security of the person. Section 251 clearly interferes with a woman’s physical and bodily integrity. Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus an infringement of security of the person. A second breach of the right to security of the person occurs independently as a result of the delay in obtaining therapeutic abortions caused by the mandatory procedures of s. 251 which results in a higher probability of complications and greater risk. The harm to the psychological integrity of women seeking abortions was also clearly established.

Angry that there are some who do not recognize this as a right of women to their own physical and bodily integrity and keep trying to re-open the discussion? Yes I am.

What else does Doughart have to say?

PEI is the only Canadian jurisdiction in which abortions are not performed in either clinics or hospitals — a fully-constitutional policy that accords with decades of support from PEI residents, as evidenced by a consistent lack of related political action by the public.

I am not a lawyer, and cannot be technical on the constitutionality of the abortion policy on PEI. It is obvious however, that the status quo is greatly biased in having a much larger impact upon those who are either young or in a lower economic bracket. Where this fits with the Constitution and Medicare standards I don’t know, but restricting health care due to low income is not a stance I approve of. Anything that delays treatment, including procedures around payments for out of province service may also lead to harm as mentioned in the excerpt from the Morgentaler decision above.

His second comment is completely disingenuous. There can be any number of reasons why an idea has not caught the public eye and created public outcry. Does it mean that the public is simply unaware of the difficulties faced by women on PEI to access health care? Or does it mean that virtually every politician of both of the main parties wants the discussion to be avoided? Many of us were probably unaware of the scope of the issue until relatively recently because it just didn’t touch our lives. Lack of public awareness is a poor excuse for inaction.

the local CBC affiliate, which produces the province’s only talk radio and television news programs, openly favours policy change by giving significant air time to psychologist Colleen MacQuarrie and medieval historian Richard Raiswell, committed pro-abortionists who are misrepresented as impartial observers and are never challenged by opponents of a similar intellectual calibre. This bias has benefitted the PEI Reproductive Rights Organization, a feminist group that accuses the government of defaulting on a legal obligation to provide access to abortion.

I think most people would accept that news organizations nearly all have biases to a greater or lesser degree. The CBC certainly tends to be to the left on many issues. On the other hand, the local newspaper, The Guardian, gives free space to (almost exclusively) Christian preachers for a weekly guest sermon, and they frequently have guest editorials that argue differing points of view on many topics. So what? I really don’t think the anti-abortion voices have been silenced here or anywhere else.

At the University of Prince Edward Island last spring, I was part of a student organization that facilitated a public debate on the subject — a perfect occasion for MacQuarrie & Co. to engage with a live audience. Yet representatives from the pro-choice lobby and numerous academics on campus flatly refused to participate. They cited a principled aversion to discussing a woman’s right to choose, and thereby denied members of the public a chance to consider all sides of the question for themselves.

There is discussion among professionals and experts in many fields on whether or not a public debate is an appropriate use of their time and energy. Many feel that simply presenting a topic as worthy of debate gives credence to those who are ideologically opposed.  It is for this reason that people like Richard Dawkins and the late Stephen J Gould refused to debate creationists.

Contrary to the accusation that he was advancing a militant pro-life agenda by stealth, Woodworth’s motion was consistent with both the demands of free inquiry and the facts about Canadian law: The constitution does not insulate a right to abortion from the law-making province of Parliament, as court decisions that struck down previous restrictions left open the possibility of future statutory limits.

Here Doughart conflates two entirely different things: Woodworth’s agenda and tactics. It is within the right of a Member of Parliament to propose legislation, subject to the rules of Parliament. No one has ever denied that; at least no one that I am aware of. I can certainly think of many Supreme Court decisions that could legally be subject to re-examination as legislation. It is a totally separate question whether or not they should be. As far as Woodsworth’s pushing a pro-life agenda, I don’t think there is much doubt about this.

the current legal definition of human life is based not on independent judicial reasoning but on 17th-century case law, which defines human life as beginning at birth — reasoning that conflicts with even the most radical interpretation of contemporary embryology and bioethical philosophy. In light of incontrovertible evidence that a fetus can experience pain and is viable well before birth, academic defenders of abortion such as Peter Singer and Judith Jarvis Thomson do not argue that terminating a pregnancy at six months is a morally-neutral act; this view is reflected in the abortion laws of every Western country in the world except the Criminal Code of Canada, which absurdly makes no restriction whatsoever. Given these considerations, there is no reason why intellectually-courageous liberals should resist further discussion.

Doughart gives no reasons here why we need to have a federal legislative debate on this topic; this is not the wild-west show he intimates it to be. Currently,  there are a range of Provincial and Territorial regulations around accessibility and payment based upon gestational stage and other factors. In addition, many medical associations offer guidelines on induced abortions:

Back to Doughart:

So what explains the Left’s refusal to discuss this issue? One possibility is simple egotism from members of the political class, who feel that they are above people who do not share their view. This includes the pro-choice wing of the Conservative Party, which is as contemptuous of troublesome anti-abortionists as the other parties.

Somehow, I never thought of the CPC as being particularly left-wing. They have shown themselves to be astute politicians who do not allow debate on contentious issues, not because of ideology, but because of practicality. They are fully aware that re-opening the debate on abortion would cause a significant portion of their votes to evaporate. Mr. Harper has given the impression that he is contemptuous of everyone else’s opinion on many matters.

A more likely explanation, though, is that the liberal bluster is actually a mask for what knowledgeable leftists know all too well: that the pro-abortion status quo is a house of cards, which could be felled by even the slightest disturbance, including a proposal as sensible as Woodworth’s. This sheds light on their refusal to consider legal limitations on even late-term abortions, which are merely assumed to be unproblematic. And the unwillingness to entertain scientific arguments for the early viability of unborn humans reveals that the Left’s attachment to “following the facts” is a matter of convenience, not principle.

I really don’t know whether Doughart is deliberately ignoring the abortions debate around the world, or if he is truly unaware of international events. Currently, the Savita Halappanavar case in Ireland is making many people aware of the consequences of external influence in medical decisions. A 2011 study highlighted the dangers faced by pregnant women in Catholic hospitals in the US. Throughout the US, women are incarcerated as foetal rights are placed above the rights of women. It is not the “Left” who are ignoring the facts. The facts are simple: limiting reproduction freedom harms women, and therefore harms society.

Aside from the legal outcome, what is ultimately at stake here is the right of citizens with reservations about abortion to not be slandered and screamed at for articulating a legitimate point of view.

Besides the fact that no one has a right not to be screamed at and slander provides legal remedies if he is concerned), the virulence that is constantly hurled at abortion supporters and the violence that has been enacted upon providers makes this statement extremely offensive.

No, Mr. Doughart, it is not petulance that drives those of us who do not want to re-open debate. It is the knowledge and experience  that the ‘debate’ on abortion has consistently been used to restrict the rights of women to ‘physical and bodily integrity’ and ‘security of the person’ that drives us.

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