Friday, November 16, 2012

Why do a majority of Canadians want abortion back in the criminal code?

Canadians, thanks to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have certain rights.  Almost all, however, are not absolute.

We have the right to assemble, provided it is peaceful.   We are protected from search and seizure, unless the grounds are deemed reasonable.  We have freedom of expression, but it is limited in that we can not exercise that right if it promotes hatred.

By and large, Canadians are okay with this.  Being a mature democracy most citizens recognize that very few things in this world are absolute, except for death and taxes.

Maclean's magazine's most recent issue has an article about Canada's most contentious absolute right, abortion.  It details a legal case about which I was not aware, Regina v. Ivana Levkovic. The case reportedly involved the discovery of the body of a newborn baby girl on an apartment balcony after the accused had vacated the building and was no longer residing there.

The legal fun centered around what to call the 'baby', for the simple reason that pathologists were unable to determine whether the 'baby' had been born alive or dead.  This is important because in Canada a 'baby' has no standing in law until it is fully emerged from its mother, and alive.  

Canada's Supreme Court reserved judgement on the case just two weeks prior to parliament voting on a motion to study at what point human life begins.  As pretty much everyone knows, that motion was defeated.

Anyone who is interested knows the history, Canada has been the only western democracy in the world without any restrictions on abortion for going on 25 years.  Abortion was removed from the Criminal Code when our Supreme court ruled in favour of Dr. Henry Morgentaller in the case of R. v. Morgentaller:

"The precise point in the development of the fetus at which the state's interest in its protection becomes 'compelling' I leave to the informed judgement of the legislature".  

That was written by Bertha Wilson, considered one of the most progressive and liberal of Supreme Court justices.  Justice Wilson left it to our elected officials to determine that point.  Canadians are still waiting.  

The Maclean's article cites an Ipsos Reid poll done just this past July that says 60% of respondents, and 62% of women, would support legal restrictions on abortion during the last trimester.  

That's a pretty significant majority of Canadians, a lot more than any of our governments ever get elected with.  And why do they support putting abortion back in the criminal code?

I think cases like R. v. Levkovic are the reason.  Or the story from 1996 about a pellet gun being fired into a womb in an effort to kill an unborn fetus/child/thing.  Thankfully cases like these are rare, but sadly they do happen.  Laws are made, not for the majority of law abiding citizens, but for an incredibly small percentage of the population who engage in activity the majority considers criminal.  

Most Canadians are reasonable, we recognize that individuals should have rights and freedoms, but we also recognize that these rights don't always have to be absolute.  Abortion is a taxpayer funded medical procedure after all, and as with all things paid for out of the public purse, Canadians are entitled to their opinions.

You can read the full article here:  THE RIGHT WORDS

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