The abortion debate, such as it is, is dominated by the extremes. While polling indicates a majority of Canadians hold a nuanced view, hard liners believe in either a total ban or complete and unfettered access to the procedure.
According to a recent Ipsos Reid poll, fully 60% of those surveyed would support the introduction of a law which would place some limits on when a woman can have an abortion. (STORY HERE)
Right now of course there are no legal restrictions whatsoever. For the extremists in the Pro-Choice camp, that is exactly where things should be. Their argument is that the Supreme Court settled this issue when Canada's abortion law was struck down in 1988 as unconstitutional. They forget (perhaps conveniently) that the court called on Parliament to craft new legislation that would pass constitutional scrutiny.
Those who believe that life begins at conception have been fighting an uphill battle ever since, with little success. The most recent effort was a vote on a motion put forward by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth. The motion called on Parliament to create a committee which would study at what point human life begins. This past Wednesday it was resoundingly defeated, 203 to 91.
Had the motion passed it opened up the possibility that a fetus could have been given legal standing at some point prior to birth, and as such been afforded some protections under Canadian law. In other words there would likely have been restrictions placed on abortion procedures. With the defeat Pro-Life advocates were left to look for another opening to forward their agenda.
And they may have found it.
Another Conservative, MP Mark Warawa, has put forward a new motion calling on Canada's Parliament to condemn the practice of abortion being used when the fetus is not the desired sex.
The actual wording of the motion should be noted. Mr. Warawa is asking our Parliament to:
"...condemn the discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination".
And the simple (and inconvenient for Pro-Choice extremists) fact is that taxpayer funded abortions are performed in cases where couples want a child, just not a girl. The Globe & Mail, in a recent story, cites both a documented study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and a CBC investigation, illustrating that sex-selective abortions do take place.
This is what makes this issue a potentially perfect wedge. How can an individual trumpet women's rights on one hand, while condoning the termination of a pregnancy based solely on the unborn child being a girl?
We Move to Canada is a blog I follow and it is written by a woman I respect, although I disagree with her on this issue. A recent WMTC post had this to say:
Shall we prevent women from knowing the sex of the fetus, so that doctors and technicians have information about a woman's pregnancy that is withheld from the patient herself? Will we withhold any other details about the woman's pregnancy from women? Is this sound medical practice? Would you consent to such a medical practice for any other conditions? Would you consent to such a practice for yourself?
It brings up an important question, and illustrates why the passing of this new motion would likely be just what Pro-Life zealots have been looking for. Condemnation is all well and good. But if taxpayers continue to fund the termination of pregnancies based on the fetus being female, then what good is it?
Actually, withholding the information on the sex of the fetus wouldn't work. As the Globe piece indicates, there are private clinics that would perform the task for a fee.
The only option would be placing some restrictions on when abortions can take place. Which interestingly is in line with the majority viewpoint of Canadians.
Of course some restrictions aren't enough for the extreme element of the Pro-Life movement, their goal is a total ban. One can only hope that if we do start down this slope that it doesn't become so slippery that we go back a time when pregnant woman had few if any rights when it came to reproductive choice.