Barbara Kay: Confronting abortion, ‘the defining moral conflict of our epoch’
National Post - Wednesday May 9th, 2012
Canada is the only developed country in the world with no abortion law. This political vacuum suits liberals and libertarians, but discomfits many other Canadians. Since the issue is being strenuously ignored at the highest levels of government (witness the Conservatives’ horror at a recent private-member’s bill arising from their own caucus), we must look elsewhere for investigation of this profoundly moral question.
Hope for a national debate on abortion lies with individual Canadians speaking directly to their fellow citizens, creating pressure from below to force the debate into the public forum, and ultimately Parliament itself. On that front, I commend to your attention a remarkable just-published polemic by one Jackson Doughart, entitled, A Refuge for the Unborn: The case against abortion on Prince Edward Island.
Doughart is a graduating student in Political Science at the University of P.E.I., and an active journalist (I debated the issue of circumcision with him in print and on radio two years ago, when he was 18). A secularist as well, he notes in the preface to his book that before commencing his studies at UPEI in 2009, he hadn’t given abortion any thought. Then, during a 2010 summer course on our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a classmate asked the professor how the courts could justify their failure to adequately consider the rights of the fetus. When the professor explained that the fetus was considered, in legal terms, an “appendage” to a woman’s body, Doughart was struck both by the dehumanizing attitude and the chill on further discourse that such logic represented.
Watching a stomach-turning video of an actual abortion encouraged more focused research. Ultimately, Doughart arrived at a conviction that abortion is “the defining moral conflict of our epoch” — and one that the judiciary has no right to resolve. From that conviction sprang his lean, but powerful book.
P.E.I. is the only province that does not provide abortion services. (According to the Canada Health Act, it is not obliged to. Provinces are mandated to provide “necessary required services,” but it is the province that decides what is “necessary” and what isn’t.) So far, it has been a combination of the P.E.I. government’s reluctance to change the status quo, and most island doctors’ reluctance to perform abortions, that keeps the current arrangement operative.
The PEI situation is Doughart’s springboard to take on the broader issue of abortion. His book covers all the ethical, political and legal parameters of the abortion debate. His exposure of the intellectual incoherence of militant pro-choicers around the issue of sex-selection abortion, for example, explains why pro-abortionists so often eschew debate (spuriously demurring that the issue has been “settled” once and for all).
Like me, Doughart is irritated by the reflexive alignment of anti-abortion views with religious faith. We would like the debate to be secularized: First, because arguing from religion allows opponents to dismiss one’s arguments as irrational, preventing fruitful discussion; but more importantly, because the moral ugliness of unregulated abortion is easily established on rational, humanistic, universally accessible grounds.
For decades, abortion has been monopolized by two vocal, but narrow slices of Canadian opinion: (1) no-exceptions, religious anti-abortionists, and (2) no-fetters pro-abortion ideologues, who have successfully branded abortion as a stand-in for all women’s rights, even though polls show that men and women are roughly equally divided in their attitudes to abortion.
Jackson Doughart’s measured apologia for abortion regulation succinctly articulates what most Canadians — including the Canadian writing this column — intuitively feel about abortion, and why.
A Refuge for the Unborn is available at jacksondoughart.com.