Saturday, January 08, 2005

Baby Killers

OK. I feel somewhat guilty for dismissing what is certainly a very contentious debate in a few lines yesterday. And abortion is one topic I really never wanted to touch here since I don’t see it as a political issue at all – the issue is dead in Canada right now despite Martin’s attempts to revive it during the last election. And any talk of abortion on a blog should be of this form:

Compare the two statements, both made May 31st, 2004, one my a back-bench opposition MP, and one by the Prime Minister, and determine which one led to TV commercials saying that Stephen Harper would “take away a women’s right to choose”:

A: “independent counseling would be "valuable” for women contemplating abortion because people who take part in it may only be seeing one side of if it."

B: “It is a huge problem. The issue is obviously one of consulting and of comfort.”

Anyways…Rebecca takes me to task with a her first post, as best I can. Obviously, being, uhh, male, I’ve never had an abortion so take my view with a grain of salt. Of course, I’ve never invaded Iraq or mismanaged a sponsorship scandal and I still enjoy commenting on that, so I guess my opinion is as good anyone’s.

Rebecca’s primary contention comes from this passage in the Morgentaler CTV special.

'And let's face it, society's changed. Women no longer die as a result of abortion. Fewer children are born who are neglected or abused. There are few young men who have a rage in their heart; consequently there's been a decrease in crimes of violence.

Now, here are her key points:

1. I get the fewer children are born part, but certainly can't see the reduction in abuse or neglect: Basically, women who have abortions are usually in terrible situations. Teenagers, single mothers…the fact that they don’t want the child sort of indicates to me that they’ll neglect it. I mean, I’m more likely to take good care of a puppy if I really want it, than if I’m forced to take care of it against my will.

2. Here's the part I laughed out loud at - "There are few young men who have a rage in their heart; consequently there's been a decrease in crimes of violence." Yeah, I don’t get this either.

3. I think young men and women are angry about losing brothers and sisters that they didn't even have a chance to know because a man with his own painful past decided that abortion is a human rights issue. This I don’t see as a big issue. Conceivably, if my parents weren’t fans of birth control, I could have had a lot of other brothers and sisters.

4. I think that there are many, many women out there who have had abortions and regret their decisions - deeply. Not to trivialize the situation but, I once went to this restaurant that served great chilly dogs. So I ate 5. And boy, I really regret that decision. But we shouldn’t ban chilly dogs. Back on topic, women should be made aware of the consequences of their decision, sure. But I’m willing to wager there are many more women out there who don’t regret their decision than those who do. Just because some people who have abortions regret it, does not mean they should be banned.

5. We have weakened leaders with elastic morals. No, they have different morals. Or, they don’t believe their morals should be imposed on others.

Now, the basic argument used by Rebecca is that aborting a fetus is equivalent to killing a baby. Now, to me, that’s like saying burning an acorn is akin to cutting down an oak tree. But, even if we accept that the fetus is a person, that doesn’t exclude abortion. People can kill in self defense.

A famous example in this debate is JJ Thompson’s violinist example. I’ll adapt this example slightly here. Say Stockwell Day becomes seriously ill. Now, the Stockaholics determine that CalgaryGrit is the only person in the world with a compatible blood type so they kidnap me and hook me up to a machine. I’ll need to stay hooked up to this machine for 9 months to save Stock. Now, it would be good of me to stay hooked up and I probably would since Stockwell is such an entertaining politician who has given me so many great moments, but is it my duty to do so? As certain as we are that Niagara Falls flows south to north, the answer is no.

Like I said, abortion is an icky issue and I promise to never ever bring it up again. From a pure policy perspective, you need to have legal abortions or else you've got coathangers in back alleys. But hey, I think pot and prostitution should be legalized so don't listen to me.

I swear, my next post will be no more than five lines and will take a cheap shot at Ralph Klein, Paul Martin, or Stephen Harper. My only issue is with people who try to impose their morality on everyone else. I firmly believe that it’s wrong for people to dress their dogs up in sweaters, but I’m not going to condemn those who do so.


  • I agree that abortion is not a topic that should be decided by politicians; it is a social issue and politicians handle them very poorly; they can however help to create a society that is less likely to abort its future by creating more family friendly policies - adoption tax credits, etc. It's also pretty obvious that while you threw the gauntlet down for a debate, you're weakly equipped to discuss the issue. I'll leave it at that, and hope that you educate yourself further beyond chili dog and acorn analogies. And like I said in my response, my own interest in politics lies mostly in the realm of home and family, which extends to taxation and the like. I like a small government. I like less intrusion into my daily life. I'd like to keep more of the money I earn. Heck, you must like that stuff too since you live in Alberta, which has the best environment in Canada for those ideals right now. And by the way, your first point below is erroneous. Women who have abortions come from all walks of life, from all social classes. A professional woman these days is under significant pressure to abort in order to have a career; she likely has the means to support a child and probably has the desire to keep it but would be derailed in her professional plans. And women in desperate situations still have access to the same moral compass we all have and many do choose to keep the baby, regardless - I am one of those babies.

    Oh - and about the imposing of morality? If you had a teenage daughter who started working in a "massage parlor" at age 17, wouldn't you do everything to stop her? Or would you reserve expressing your moral outrage because she's made up her mind and has the right to do as she pleases? What if she's on drugs? What if she's being coerced? Come on. Don't delude yourself; we all try to convince others to see it one way or another. It's what we do. Some are just better at it than others; it's tempting to throw the labels around when you're painted into a corner, so be careful with your language if you want others to take you seriously. Anyway, I wouldn't come here and try to debate more general politics with you, because it's something you're interested in and something I get terribly bored with. So, end of this debate.

    By Blogger Rebecca, at 4:25 p.m.  

  • I think abortion is pretty much dead as an issue public policy, but it isn't in the hearts and minds of lots Canadians. Those who oppose legal abortions had no party that represented their view in the 80s. Those would have opposed abortion filtered in to the Reform camp, but even then the issue was rarely raised strongly for fear of looking too radical.

    I generally buy the arguements that criticize those who choose impose their morality on an unwilling majority. This is particularly true of things like pot smoking and prostitution. I believe there are victims with both, but people choose to put themselves at risk. You put yourself at risk by eating to many chilli dogs and you suffered the consequences. I don't see the need to impose my moral standard of a 3 chilli dog maximum.

    The abortion issue is different because it involves a fetus which I believe is a human being. I acknowledge that the point is up for debate in our society. If we can't come to a consensus on whether something is a human life or not would it not be wise to error on the side of caution? I can't see myself killing something that may or may not be a human life just because it makes my life more convenient. If I'm in a situation where there is some doubt as to whether I'm hurting someone I won't do it.

    Having said all this I don't really understand the narrow focus of the anti-abortion forces. There are lots of ways we can reduce the amount of abortions without infringing on anyone's ability to choose, but these measures aren't undertaken. I openly wonder if the hard core anti-abortion / conservative lobby is more concerned about their morals being offended than the actual unborn babies they claim to want to protect.

    By Blogger LT, at 7:47 p.m.  

  • Thank you Leighton, you have expressed my own view on the matter quite well. If you don't know for sure, there is an obligation to play it safe. At the very, very least medical have made it hard to deny that late term babies are viable and that killing them is murder. What a thing is does not change because we think of it differently - ie. it is wanted or unwanted. This a real problem but gutless governments don't lead, they follow polls, and babies don't vote so fuck them. That's the Grit position.

    As to pro life people being narrow focused, I'm not sure I buy it. Pro lifers create and staff pregnancy centers and a lot of good work is done there and in other areas that will never, ever get press coverage. But that work is going on, I assure you.

    By Blogger Curt, at 8:45 p.m.  

  • I remember some years ago reading the late Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the Nobel prize winning geneticist. He said something like the following (from memory) that is a scientific fact that human life begins at the moment of conception. No scientist disputes this scientific fact about dogs or a cats, just about humans.

    I assert that the denial of the humanity of a fetus is a political statement, not a scientific statement. For you to invoke self-defence as a justification for killing the most fragile and helpless of humans is bizarre and simply not sustainable from a moral or ethical perspective.

    As for being opposed to imposing your moral views on others, you would have to be opposed to government in principle. The act of legislating, particularly with criminal law, is an act of imposing moral standards on others. Are you really opposed to imposing moral views through laws, or just views on abortion?

    Thomas Hobbes said that we willingly surrender our right to do as we wish when we willingly embrace civil society. Before we lived in a civil society we lived in a state of perpetual war, where the strong prevailed over the weak. According to Hobbes, for man in such a state life is, "... solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

    By Blogger John the Mad, at 10:08 p.m.  

  • On the topic of imposing morals on others...yes, we do that with a lot of crimes. However, it's usually because the majority approves of it. Like I said before, I really don't have a problem with legalized prostitution but since the majority is against legalizing it, I have no problem with keeping it illegal.

    With abortion, the majority of Canadians support, at the very least, some abortion options. Therefore it would be a case of a minority imposing their morals on the majority. I think this is a completely different situation and I can't think of many instances where an act that the majority approves of is banned by government. Feel free to throw an example my way.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:54 a.m.  

  • John; The self-defense comparison would come from instances when a mother's health and life is in jeopardy. I'm not sure how fanatical the anti-abortion crowd is here...are you guys against it in the case of rape and a mother's health being in risk? Or is it just a matter of puting limits on it.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 3:56 a.m.  

  • I think the situation becomes a lot more murky when the mothers life is threatened. I imagine that in many cases if the mother's life is threatened the baby's life is threatened as well. I think the mother should make a judgment call based on solid input from her doctor.

    If a rape is involved I tend to lean in the direction protecting the fetus. However I'll admit that I really don't understand all the factors in that kind of a situation.

    According to, a great place for stats, Canada has half the amount of abortions per capita as the United States even though Canada has no law on the books. I believe that there are elements of Canadian society that mitigate some of the pressures that lead people to abort babies. I believe that the social darwinism that exists in the US is a huge factor in the high rate of abortions there.

    I worked in the last federal election for a Liberal candidate and I was amazed at how many people made up their minds of how to vote based solely on the issues of abortion and gay marriage. Yet they end up voting for a party that subscribes to a similar kind of social darwinism that we find in the US. To me it didn't make sense.

    By Blogger LT, at 12:14 p.m.  

  • I am intensely uncomfortable with the abortion debate.

    But I think the key points have been raised in this
    discussion, yet are in danger of getting lost, and hence my $0.02.

    Crucial facts to bear in mind are:
    1. It is very difficult to get a 2nd trimester or later abortion in Canada, as a quid pro quo. This unofficial convention is often codified in other countries which permit abortion (i.e. France).
    2. Rebecca has an excellent principled, ethical point with respect to protecting the most vulnerable in a case of uncertainty or conflicting rights: where the scince of early term abortions is unclear, caution should prevail in favour of the fetus.
    3. Yet, Calgarygrit has an equally powerful policy alley/coathanger point, which in my view trumps Rebecca's argument. If outlawing abortion isn't going to protect the most vulnerable, and will imperil mothers, then it doesn't achieve its desired end and becomes regressive.

    And in my view, that ends the debate.

    To colour outside the lines a bit, I'd add that I don't support later term abortions. And that earlier abortions often duplicate what nature does on its own, especially non-surgical ones, for what that's worth. And in the same vein, at that early stage it is difficult (legally, morally) to ascertain where the fetus begins and the mother ends: some rights must be accorded the mother over her own body.

    Finally, a quick shot at 'social darwinism': I can't think of a country that *doesn't* have it. To take the argument to the extreme, it existed even in the depths of communist Russia: some were always more equal than others. And it's not always a bad thing per se, although that's an esoteric debate better left elsewhere. Suffice it to say that I think it's extremely disingenuous to paint Canada and the US as polar opposites in that regard; I've had to whip out my credit card to get healthcare treatment in Ontario as it is. My point then is threefold:
    1. Fending for oneself is, within reason, not a bad nor uncommon thing.
    2. Canada is not a utopia where noone need fend for themselves.
    3. I would assert that, historically and based on the current platform, the Conservatives wouldn't do anything as dire as implied (although I admit that party has yet to earn my vote, and the same can be said for the grits).

    By Blogger matt, at 2:19 p.m.  

  • There is a legal precept that bad cases make for bad law. As I understand the state of medical science, we no longer are faced with a choice between a baby and a mother. There is actually a higher risk of maternal death associated with abortions than live births. So the argument does not stand.

    Given my belief that innocent human life is sacred, I would not permit abortion in the case of rape. It is never the babies fault.

    How fanatical are you? Would you permit partial birth abortions, where the head emerges from the mother and is then crushed and the body extracted? How about abortions after the second trimester? For a hair lip? Would you consider support for abortion in these circumstances to be fanatical in nature, or is that just a slur to be applied to pro-life types?

    What limits would you place on killing of a child in the womb, if any? What limits would you place on killing infants in the maternity ward. When would you grant the protection of the law that you currently enjoy?

    When the abortion law was introduced by the Trudeau government (in 1968, I believe) the public did not support abortion on demand and, in fact, the law did impose restrictions (e.g., a committee of MD's had to approve). Our unelected and unaccountable courts struck down the abortion law and we currently have no law at all governing this act.

    Allowing abortion runs contrary to the whole evolution of Canadian law, which is supposed to protect the weakest among us from harm. Frankly, I think I'm more liberal than you are on this matter.

    By Blogger John the Mad, at 9:59 p.m.  

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