Special to National Post, Feb. 12, 2013
There is something particularly insidious about the “new” argument being presented by the defenders of Canada’s abortion status quo. In response to the revelation that babies in Canada are sometimes born alive after failed abortion attempts and left to die, abortion activists are now claiming that late-term abortion is rare, and only performed on pre-born children with “severe fetal abnormalities.”
The fact is that Canada is the only nation in the Western world without any abortion law. It is perfectly legal in Canada to have or perform an abortion — for any reason, or no reason at all — at 20, 25, 30 or 35 weeks gestation. This is a disturbing state of affairs. Yet for some reason, most Canadian politicians and public figures have been intimidated into silence, lest we reawaken a “divisive” debate. Even our own nominally “conservative” Prime Minister apparently wants no part of the issue. And so it is understandable that Messrs. Vellacott, Benoit and Lizon are desperate to find other avenues of political agitation.
Moreover, while the late-term abortions they describe in their letter are rare, it is disturbing that this crucial area of bioethics is not subject to any overarching criminal legislation. And so the only oversight we have comes courtesy of obscure StatsCan reports and medical codebooks.
First, late-term abortion is rare. But I fail to see how this is an argument against restricting it. Many crimes are rare, and we have laws in place precisely to ensure that they become rarer still. A relatively small portion of the Canadian population is gay, yet the Canadian government prohibits violence against them because the rarity of the crime does not lessen the gravity.
Second — briefly — late-term abortions are not only performed on pre-born children with “severe fetal abnormalities.” Late-term abortions have been performed in Canada for reasons as trivial as a damaged foot or cleft palate. While most medical professionals will not perform abortions later in pregnancy, and while medical guidelines discourage them, in the absence of legal restrictions guidelines are just that— guidelines. Even if these examples are rare, surely the destruction of even one Canadian life should be of utmost concern to the government tasked with the protection of this life, rather than the political “collateral damage” they are now. Children should not have to pay with their lives for the comfort of politicians.
Finally, the argument that the projected lifespan of a human being somehow dictates his or her value is one I find repulsive. This is nothing less than naked eugenics dressed up as “choice.” In a society with an ethically coherent human rights framework, the idea that pre-born children can be physically dismembered in a hideously painful and barbaric fashion simply because they may die soon after birth or have some sort of “abnormality” can have no place. Decent human beings work to alleviate suffering, not to eliminate the sufferers. For Canada’s abortion activists to pass off acts of violence against both healthy and disabled pre-born humans as some sort of mercy-killing is a truly pathetic, and indicative of pervasive and lethal discrimination against disabled people.
The vulnerability of a human being correspondingly heightens the responsibility of those around him or her.
And consider the logic. If we have less time to spend with a beloved family member, for example a family member dying of terminal cancer, do we suggest a swift end for them at the hand of some euthanasia practitioner because “they were going to die anyway”? I think not. When our time with someone is limited, we treasure the time we have, not shorten it violently. And if there is no love between family members (and our pre-born sons and daughters are family members), then perhaps that is what needs to be rectified, not the existence of a human being some consider to be not quite up to par.
The vulnerability of a human being correspondingly heightens the responsibility of those around him or her. Tragic circumstances do not lessen that responsibility, they heighten it. I, for one, am ashamed that I live in a society that responds to pre-born children desperately in need of love with instruments of death.
Jonathon Van Maren is communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform