Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday May 7, 2022
Let’s take a deep breath over Roe V. Wade
Could we all take a deep breath?
A leaked draft decision from the U.S. Supreme Court about abortion has created a bizarre political firestorm here in Canada. The most dangerous place to be these days is between a live microphone and a Canadian politician wanting to tell us how they will fight until their dying breath to protect Canadian women against the insidious evil emanating from south of the border.
Can we bring a little sanity to the situation?
First, the court has not banned abortions. A draft internal document was leaked on a case challenging abortion law which may or may not reflect the court’s final decision. If the leaked decision stands, abortion will lose its constitutional protection and individual state legislatures will be able to regulate or outlaw it. Although a dramatic change, it would not create a nationwide ban
This case has no effect on Canada where there hasn’t been an abortion law since 1988 when the Canadian Supreme Court found the existing law unconstitutional. No successive government was able to come up with a replacement and no major Canadian political party currently supports reopening the issue. Although several Conservative MPs and a second-tier leadership candidate have tried to raise restrictions, it is simply not on the political radar.
This leaves the “hidden agenda” argument. Some argue that a party could get elected promising not to raise the issue and then surprise the nation when nobody is watching.
Some argue abortion is a settled matter and those opposed to it should shut up. But if it is truly settled, why should anyone care if opponents speak up? If it isn’t settled, then pro-choice advocates need to do what everyone else does in public policy debates — repeatedly make their case — not try to silence others.
Although public opinion polling shows that there is little appetite in Canada to reopen this issue, not all Canadians are entirely comfortable with abortion. A 2020 DART & Maru/Blue poll, for example, found that one in four Canadians feel that they don’t “fit neatly” into either the “pro-life” or “pro-choice” category and a majority felt abortion should be generally illegal in the third trimester or for purposes of sex selection.
Many charge that abortion opponents are misogynistic zealots. As a politician, I met my share of zealots on this issue (on both sides). However, I also met many thoughtful people.
Some believe that the fetus deserves protection while others believe that the unborn represent potential life, but not life itself. Some argue women should have absolute rights over their bodies while others argue that these rights need to be balanced with those of the fetus. Some argue that allowing a fetus with a serious abnormality to be born places an unacceptable burden on the baby and its family while others argue that it sends a dangerous message about how we value those with disabilities.
All make reasonable points worth considering.
As to the zealots, I think of the advice of Swedish thinker Krister Stendahl: “Don’t compare your best to their worst.”
Finally, some contend that abortion is too emotional an issue to discuss. I disagree. Strong emotions shouldn’t prevent us from talking about important subjects. However, if the U.S. situation is going to trigger a debate in Canada, can we please stop trying to mispresent its impact on the country and dial back the hysteria? (Hamilton Spectator)