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 2003Â 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.