The Culture of Death in Canada, Part One: Abortion
"In his 1995 encyclical letter The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), Pope John Paul II sounded an alarm. In the midst of a culture that congratulates itself on being enlightened and progressive on matters of human rights, he said, we are very much in danger of giving in to a 'culture of death.'"(1) What is so terrifying about this is that nobody seems to care and indeed, a majority of the peoples of western countries (Europe, North America, and many others) are blindly supporting it.
Canada is leading the way. Within the last forty years there have been three dates of infamy in Canadian jurisprudence that have not only put us on a slippery slope towards a "culture of death" but have taken us to the very abyss of a "chasm of death" into which we may fall, and out of which we may never climb. In this post, I will deal with the first two dates.
April 17, 1982
On this date, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II. The Charter was the product of the government of then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of the present Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau Sr.'s record in office proved him to be a fervent socialist, and arguably one of the worst prime ministers in Canadian history.(2) While Canada was at the time in need of such a document, this one was poorly conceived and ambiguous. With respect to being the ultimate standard from which we could draw morally respectable laws, this did the opposite.
In this regard, the Charter failed in three ways. The first was the deliberate omission of any reference to natural law which, in most developed countries, has acted as a moral absolute for hundreds of years, and from which have emanated what are universally known as "inalienable natural rights." Instead, the Canadian Charter deliberately substituted "legal rights" (which can be repealed or changed by human laws) for "natural rights" (which cannot be repealed or changed by human laws). Without any reference to natural law, moral relativism rushes in to fill the vacuum, and relativism has no place in the consideration of determining right from wrong. If it is given a place, then any ensuing law based on it becomes a moving target, especially the laws of a country. Indeed, if it is given a place, then the laws become subject to the whims of every government that is easily influenced by special interest groups, biased media, or politically motivated judges.
The Charter also failed miserably in its definition of the first set of these legal rights, specifically in Section 7 where they are defined as the "right to life, liberty, and security of the person." It is the third of these, security of the person, that has been the cause of so much division in our society and so many misguided interpretations by the judiciary. This has also been a contentious "right" in other countries in their founding documents or amended founding documents. Remembering that it started out as a natural right, it has variously been called: "bodily integrity,” “fair procedures,” and “property” (Ireland); “the pursuit of happiness" (USA); “property” (France); and in the Canadian case, "security of the person" (also in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights). It is fairly obvious that the authors of these charters had similar goals in mind; however it is also obvious that the English language falls far short of being able to provide a workable definition that does not leave itself open to a host of interpretations when challenged by individuals or groups pursuing their own selfish and deluded agendas.
The third way in which the Charter failed with respect to morality—and every other topic—is that it gave "unelected judges the power to void acts of Parliament. Unelected judges chosen by the prime minister at the prime minister’s sole discretion, unscrutinized by any elected body."(3) This allowed these judges, most notably the Supreme Court of Canada, to openly interpret at their whim the ambiguous wording of the Charter, with absolutely no accountability. A "notwithstanding clause" within the Charter, supposedly created to minimize the effects of this judicial control, has proven useless. What a disaster this has been!
April 4, 2008
The second date of infamy, April 4, 2008, proved just how disastrous. After numerous convictions for performing illegal abortions, Dr. Henry Morgentaler was acquitted by the Supreme Court of Canada on this date. The court held that the abortion provision (Section 251) in the Criminal Code (abortion could be performed only if its need met the criterion of a committee that continuing the pregnancy could cause the death of the woman) was unconstitutional because it violated a woman's right under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to security of the person. This ruling had everything to do with the powers of the judiciary. Prior to the Charter, they had admitted to not having the authority to so rule. In the ruling, they ignored completely any reference to the right to life of the fetus, which has since been proven without a doubt to be a human being from the moment of conception.(4) Their reasoning proved how easily "security of the person" could be interpreted to suit any desired result. For example, justices C.J. Dickson, and J. Lamer found that section 251 forced some women to carry a fetus irrespective of their own "priorities and aspirations." To them (Dickson and Lamer), this was a clear infringement of security of the person. They found a further violation due to the delay created by the mandatory certification procedure which put the women at higher risk of physical harm and caused harm to their psychological integrity. I have to ask, "In what world do threats to a person's aspirations and psychological integrity violate their personal security??" Would not a lack of funds threaten their aspirations? Could not an argument with one's boss threaten their psychological integrity? The logic defies understanding.
J. Beetz and J. Estey noted that by adopting section 251(4), the government acknowledged that the interest of the state to protect the woman is greater than its interest to protect the fetus when "the continuation of the pregnancy of such female person would or would be likely to endanger her life or health." This rationale, of course, is at the heart of the true moral dilemma, whether the woman's life is more important than that of the fetus (also a human being, remember). Performing the abortion to save her life could be morally condoned; however, the term "her health" opened the door to any and every reason women would subsequently employ to receive an abortion; morality be damned.
A fifth judge, J. Wilson, argued fundamentally that the abortion decision was rightly a moral one, a matter of conscience. However, her conclusion that it was the conscience of the woman ignored any reference to natural law, which would at the very least require that a thorough analysis be first made as to whose life was worth more, the woman's or the fetus's. In fact, that is exactly what the committee did. Its mandate was essentially nullified and made illegal by the Supreme Court decision.
Two judges dissented, J. McIntyre and J. La Forest. They found that the courts must not go about creating rights not explicitly found in the Charter nor interpret Charter rights to protect interests that the rights were not initially intending to protect. They were correct. The right to "security of the person" as worded in the Charter referenced the right as it applied to people dealing with the justice system and law enforcement. Any normal person would logically think that this would mean such transgressions as physical abuse or illegal searches. The referral of a proposed abortion to a committee had nothing whatsoever to do with a woman's dealing with either the justice system or law enforcement. How on earth did the majority of judges on the Supreme Court rationalize that it did?
The court's decision left Canada without a law on abortion even though subsequent governments tried to bring one in. Because of the subject’s divisive nature, present political parties have chosen to simply state that the debate is over. Over for whom? Not for me. Not for thousands of other Canadians who continue to protest about the absence of a law and especially about the immorality of access to abortion that is currently paid for by the state.
The Canadian government annually spends $100 million on abortions, of which there are roughly 100,000 per year. Do Canadians agree that the government should be paying for abortions, even purely elective ones? Apparently not. "Only 43% of Canadians want abortions funded outside of medical emergencies, which account for 2% of all abortions. An Ontario poll showed that 91% of the public doesn’t even know that abortions are government funded. When they learned that the government did fund abortions, 61% opposed it."(5) In addition, Canada is now spending $650 million annually to aid access to abortions in other countries, expanding to $700 million by 2023.(6)(7)
The court's decision was viewed as a victory for the "feminist movement,” that woolly set of ideals that were/are supposed to free women from the tyranny of men—men's laws, sexual harassment, sexual violence, reproductive rights, etc. However, it does not take a genius to see that the first casualty of this line of thought is women. With abortion now on the table as an easy, free alternative to sexual self-control, the door is open to even more sexual harassment by men, albeit in perhaps more subtle ways of coercion for unprotected sex. Not only coercion for sex, but coercion for an abortion—and it is happening.(8) One British study even found that as many as one in four women presenting at health clinics was a victim of such coercion.(9) So who is really now in control, women or men?
But what, then, is the alternative to abortion? The ideal solution is for women to carry their babies to full-term and then raise them. Ideal? Yes. Practical? Probably not, at least not in the moral wasteland of our secular humanistic society. Many in the pro-life movement argue for better counselling about adoption, which is all well and good if there are families waiting, but there are nowhere close to 100,000 families waiting to adopt children each year. In fact the real number in Canada is in the range of 3200 per year, with about 1200 of those coming from within Canada, and 2000 from abroad.(10)
The other option is foster care. In Canada, the foster care system badly needs an overhaul.(11)(12) Not only that, it is very expensive. Statistics are a bit elusive but one StatsCan report states that in 2016 there were 28,030 children living in foster care.(13) As an example of the cost, using the amount paid to foster parents by the Ontario government per day of approximately $77, this amounts to an annual cost of just shy of $800 million. Here is the terrifying part—and the part where it is easy to suspect a malicious conspiracy. That number is eight times, yes eight times higher than the cost of funding 100,000 abortions per year. Is it any wonder that the government tries to keep details about the foster care system out of the public eye? If more children were to be placed in foster care, it would present a serious economic and social problem for the country, and would compound the problems we already have. So what is to be done?
There are many things: better education about the morality of sexual conduct; better education about birth control; better education about the responsibility and costs of dealing with an unplanned and possibly unwanted child; improved counselling services for potential unwed mothers that includes the reality of abortion as well as the options (especially adoption and the services available for unwed mothers), all given without bias; a thorough analysis and overhaul of the adoption process in Canada and its provinces; and a thorough analysis and overhaul of the foster care system in Canada and its provinces. It is this author's belief that the optimum approach to tackling this list, at the very minimum, is for the federal government to set up a Royal Commission on the Status of Children in Canada, specifically covering children by definition from conception to age 18. The present immoral and uncaring attitude for children makes Canada an embarrassment in this regard, especially as a country that prides itself on its progressive and modern thinking.
Unless the entire subject of child welfare is treated as a social emergency that needs immediate attention, the culture of death that is abortion will continue, and will continue to be justified by a government more concerned about popularity and economics than concern for some of the country's most vulnerable citizens. No matter what your religion/belief system—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, humanist, agnostic, or atheist—abortion is evil. It inflicts sometimes lifelong psychological pain on the mothers and opens them to various forms of coercion, it deprives the nation of what could have been highly productive and intelligent citizens who would also be paying taxes, and it advertises to the world that in our modern society, the lives of our most vulnerable members are expendable and less important than economics.
This must be stopped.
(1) Doerflinger, R.M. (2020). False Freedom and the Culture of Death. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Retrieved January 3, 2020, from http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/false-freedom-and-the-culture-of-death.cfm
(2) Frum, D. (2011, March 23). The disastrous legacy of Pierre Trudeau. National Post. Retrieved January 3, 2020, from https://nationalpost.com/full-comment/david-frum-the-disastrous-legacy-of-pierre-trudeau
(3) Ibid. Frum, 2011.
(4) Zahn, D. (2018, Dec.12). The science is conclusive: That fetus is a baby. Des Moines Register. Retrieved October 4, 2019, from https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2018/12/12/science-conclusive-fetus-baby-iowa-fetal-heartbeat-law-abortion/2286938002/
(5) Scott, D. (2017, May 24). Abortions Cost Canadian Taxpayers $100 Million Annually. National Economics Editorial. Retrieved January 6, 2020, from https://nationaleconomicseditorial.com/2017/05/24/abortions-cost-canada-100-million/.
(6) York, G. and Zilio, M. (2017, April 14). Canada spending $650-million on reproductive rights, including fighting global anti-abortion laws. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 6, 2020, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-announces-650-million-for-sexual-and-reproductive-health/article34237503/.
(7) Wright, T. (2019, June 4). Trudeau pledges more funding for reproductive health services worldwide. CBC News. Retrieved January 6, 2020, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-pledges-abortion-funding-1.5161891.
(8) Lecroy, C. (2017, August 31). Hidden Abuse of Women: Coerced Abortions. National Review. Retrieved January 6, 2020, from https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/08/forced-abortion-coerced-women-pregnancy-economic-pressure-pro-life-help/.
(9) Freeman, H. (2019, Jan. 9). Reproductive coercion is abuse. But many women don’t even know it. The Guardian. Retrieved January 7, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/09/reproductive-coercion-abuse-women-control-choices.
(10) Papp, L., Talaga, T., and Rankin, J. (2001, October 4). Canada: More than 20,000 await adoption, but most remain wards of the state. Toronto Star. Retrieved January 8, from https://www.cyc-net.org/profession/readarounds/ra-papp.html.
(11) das McMurtry, N. (2020). Backgrounder: Kids in Care in Canada: The Alarming Facts. Making Evidence Matter. Retrieved January 7, 2020, from https://evidencenetwork.ca/backgrounder-kids-in-care-in-canada-the-alarming-facts/.
(12) Johnston, D. (2014, November 5). “We Are Failing Our Children”: The Governor General On Fixing Canada’s Adoption Crisis. Canada Adopts! Retrieved January 8, 2020, from http://www.canadaadopts.com/failing-children-governor-general-fixing-canadas-adoption-crisis/.
(13) Ménard, F-P., Lathe, H., Martel, L., and Hallman, S. (2019, April 3). Portrait of children’s family life in Canada in 2016. Statistics Canada. Retrieved January 7, 2020, from https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/98-200-x/2016006/98-200-x2016006-eng.cfm.