Opinions
the Gauntlet

Stop playing games with abortion

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I have a confession to make. A couple of years ago, I stopped to listen to what Campus Pro-Life had to say at their annual Genocide Awareness Project display. Over the course of about half an hour, I was treated to an articulate and convincing argument as to why Canada needs abortion laws. None of their persuasive points involved any kind of link to genocide -- a comparison that is insulting to the intelligence of the general public as well as genocide survivors, women and their loved ones who have been through the traumatic experience of abortion.

What did get my attention was that there has been no new federal regulation of abortion in Canada since the Morgentaler case of 1988, when it was ruled that the use of "abortion panels" of doctors restricted and slowed access to procedures, in turn forcing women to wait longer and put their own health in greater risk. No politician with aspirations of success has touched the issue since. I was personally a little concerned by this: it is possible for an eight-month-old fetus that would be viable outside the womb to be aborted so long as the clinic is willing. Whether or not you believe in fetal rights, this is undoubtedly a tragic and undesirable scenario. According to Statistics Canada, 0.7 per cent of abortions were performed when the fetus was over 20 weeks old in 2003­ and it's also true that nearly all late-term abortions occur because the fetus is severely disabled. There are, however, no laws preventing abortion requests so late in the pregnancy.

While I disagreed with the pro-lifers on the morality of aborting fetuses at the earliest stages of development, I suggested that they remove the pointless references to genocide if they wanted to reach out to people and make a real difference. As you likely saw last week, they did not heed my advice. They seem quite content to make lots of noise and be controversial. Getting anything done is beyond their sphere of ambition.

Abortion shouldn't be regulated just because babies are so gosh-darned cute -- it should also be re-examined because women across Canada have inconsistent access to the procedure. Women in rural areas are particularly affected, as are those in poverty whose only local option may be a private clinic. A lack of regulation simply means that nothing is stopping them from having an abortion -- no one is ensuring that they can get one. This can cause delays that lead to the horrible dilemma of either aborting a viable fetus or giving birth to an unwanted child. If government legislation and resources guaranteed the right to a publically funded abortion, women could terminate pregnancies at earlier, less physically and psychologically damaging stages. As an added bonus, viable fetuses would not have to die.

The notion of such a compromise is anathema to Campus Pro-Life. Any abortion is murder to them, but their genocide display has proven time and time again to be a turn-off to students and the general public. Meanwhile, a handful of pro-choice protesters smugly distribute free condoms or compliments to uncomfortable passersby. Their function is not to raise awareness about the lack of real choice for many women, but rather to mock Campus Pro-Life.

Provocative demonstrations can be useful in garnering attention for an important cause. Inaccurate demonstrations cannot. If the pro-lifers really did care about protecting the rights of unborn children -- even if that protection did not cover an entire pregnancy, as they desire -- they would drop the tedious genocide routine. If the protesters really did care about maternal health and freedom of choice, they would raise the issue of abortion inaccessibility rather than giving out awkward high-fives. Unfortunately neither side seems to care about making a difference, no matter how small. Making noise will do.

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Comments

You make a good point that once an individual is able to look past the misleading demonstration the Pro-Lifers have, to some extent, an argument about fetal rights which should be considered.

Unfortunately you are misleading hundreds/thousands of uninformed readers who are unaware, as you obviously are, that the Pro-Choice group was banned from campus. Do not chastise them for not educating the student population when they are unable to.

That is the irony of the Pro-Life group fighting for \"freedom of expression\" to display their unrelated photos and signs. The other side of the argument can\'t even make their argument.

The article has unfortunately been edited from the original, which had a caveat that these protesters do not necessarily represent all pro-choice groups on campus. My criticism is not of the inability of pro-choice groups to argue their side, but rather of the trivial behaviour of the protesters that do show up.

While it is true that Canada does not have a law regulating abortion, this does not mean that abortion is completely unregulated. The Canadian Medical Association has had a policy on abortion since 1988. This is part of the reason that most doctors who provide abortions will only do so up to 20 weeks. The policy is available here along with additional resources: http://www.cma.ca/index.php?ci_id=53572&la_id=1

Also, an alternative perspective on the \"need\" for an abortion law in Canada is provided in this article: http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/action/dont-need-abortion-law.html

By posting these links I am not suggesting that I wholly support the positions presented. I would simply like to provide additional information to those considering the author\'s argument.

Yes, there has been quite a bit of unfortunate editing in this section recently. Look forward to its spread throughout the paper next year...

Genest, one small edit should not be sufficient to alter an entire lack of acknowledgment for the Pro-Choice side. Don\'t attack your editor for your insufficient recognition for their attempt, albeit small, to have a place on campus. They are a reassuring presence for the individuals who do not support the Pro-Life campaigns but feel guilty because of the unrelated genocide ads.

My comment was not to attack you but to acknowledge your argument\'s strength and point out something lacking in your article (as a means to educate your readers on a topic you were not entirely informed on, no one can know everything). One line would not have changed that.

Pointer for the future: take criticism and learn from it, don\'t blame it on someone else. You will receive more respect and improve your own thoughts much more this way.

I would like to clarify my comment. The last thing I wanted to do with this article was to offend pro-choice people who had nothing to do with the recent protests. The editorial staff of the Gauntlet does an exceptional job and has improved upon my original article in several ways. Abortion is a sensitive topic and I wanted to be very, very careful not to be misunderstood. Such a misunderstanding does not appear to be what was \"lacking\" from the article and as such I am relieved.

I do not believe that my failure to appreciate the protesters automatically qualifies me as an ignoramus. I may have a different perspective, but it was certainly not developed out of thin air.

All that being said, I must say that I am delighted by your comments, as the purpose of any opinion article is to evoke a reaction. This is obviously an issue dear to you and I am happy that you have provided readers with another side to this story!

Cheers!