Yesterday thousands of Canadians of various faiths and backgrounds gathered on Parliament Hill to take part in a rally, the national March for Life. On the eve of the march, Catholic and Orthodox parishes in Ottawa held special masses and prayer services in support of the pro-life movement and a candlelight vigil was held before the Human Rights Monument. The Knights of Columbus held an all-night Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and in the morning services in support of the rally were again held in Catholic, Orthodox, and various Protestant churches. At noon at Parliament Hill the participants in the march were addressed from the steps of Parliament by a number of speakers, including Members of Parliament and Senators as well as Catholic bishops and Protestant clergy before the march through downtown Ottawa began at 1:30. Following the march there were testimonies from women and men who had gone through abortions, followed by another prayer service, and the Rose Dinner and the banquet launching the youth conference that is to take place today.
Canada is not the only country in which a March for Life is held. In the United States it is ordinarily held on January 22nd because this is the anniversary of their Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. They held their first March for Life on the one year anniversary in 1974 and have held one every year since, making this year’s their fortieth. Yesterday’s March for Life is Canada’s sixteenth. Although the Canadian equivalent of Roe v. Wade was Morganthaler v. the Queen in 1988, our March for Life is not held on this anniversary but rather on, or near to, that of the passing of Bill C-150, the Criminal Law Amendment Act introduced by Pierre Eliot Trudeau when he was Minister of Justice in 1967 and passed by Parliament when he was Prime Minister in 1969. This bill, which decriminalized abortion in cases where a committee of doctors agreed that the mother’s well-being was jeopardized by the pregnancy, was the first step, albeit a relatively moderate one, towards the present state of the law in which there are no legal restrictions on abortion anywhere in Canada right up to the moment of birth.
The son of the man who introduced this bill is currently the leader of his father’s party and proved this week, as if we did not have proof enough already, that he is truly his father’s son. On Wednesday, the day before the March for Life, Justin Trudeau announced that the Liberal Party was now officially pro-choice, that he would be cracking the party whip and insisting that all Liberal MPs vote pro-choice in the future. Exceptions would be made for pro-life Liberals already seated, but pro-life people seeking to run for office were no longer welcome to do so under the aegis of the Liberal Party. In his own words Trudeau said “It’s not for any government to legislate what happens – what a woman chooses to do with her body, and that is the bottom line” and “I have made it clear that future candidates need to be completely understanding that they will be expected to vote pro-choice on any bills.”
Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party immediately criticized Trudeau – for allowing the exception to currently seated pro-lifers. He called Trudeau’s position a “double standard” and a “two-tier system” and made clear the NDP’s position on abortion: “it’s not debatable, it’s not negotiable, it is a woman’s right to determine her own health questions and her own reproductive choices.” If that were not clear enough, Mulcair added “No NDP MP and no one running to be an NDP MP will ever vote against a woman's right to choose, simple as that.”
In one sense, it is good that Trudeau and Mulcair are talking this way. There can now be no doubt about the fact that no position other than that of the far left will be tolerated in either the Liberal Party or the NDP. Just to be clear as to what this means it does not mean that only people like myself, who would ban all abortions starting at the moment of conception, are barred from running for either of these parties but that people who are okay with abortion in the first trimester but would wish to see it banned or restricted after that and even people who object only to partial-birth abortions are also not welcome.
Let us also be clear about what the euphemistic language used by both Trudeau and Mulcair actually means. Trudeau spoke of “what a woman chooses to do with her body”. Mulcair spoke of a woman’s “right to determine her own health questions and her own reproductive choices”. Progressives like Trudeau and Mulcair prefer language that makes it sound like they are standing up for the right of women to make for themselves choices that affect only themselves.
These expressions are deceitful for abortion affects not only a woman’s body, health, and choices but those of the human life developing within her as well. It is not just control over themselves, that the progressive position gives women, but complete control over human reproduction, denying any say in the matter either to the fathers who are also involved in the reproductive process or the society that relies upon people reproducing themselves for the next generation that will ensure its survival as a collective whole, and the power of life and death over an entire category of human life, the yet-to-be-born.
This position is and always has been both morally insane and rationally indefensible. Those who argue in favour of the legal availability of abortion will inevitably try to argue that the foetus is not as fully human as the mother and therefore does not have the same rights as she does. This is done in a number of ways; for example, by trying to divert the discussion into an argument about the meaning of a difficult to define term like person or by reasoning that a person or human is something one gradually “becomes” rather than something one “is”. These are clever ways of avoiding the clear facts that from the moment a human sperm fertilizes a human egg forming a zygote, it is a living organism with a full set of human chromosomes and is hence a human life. If it be argued that we do not give children the full rights that adults enjoy within our society until they reach the age of majority it can be answered that we treat the killing of a child no less seriously than we do that of an adult and if anything we consider it more tragic and more serious. If a man hears a noise in the middle of the night, and thinking it is a burglar reaches for his gun and shoots in the direction the noise came from, his mistake will not excuse him from the moral responsibility and the legal consequences of murdering his wife. Similarly, the ethical and sane answer to the question of whether the foetus is human enough to warrant the full protection which the law offers to human life is that the foetus is entitled to the benefit of any doubt that may exist.
Unfortunately, we have allowed ourselves to become so morally illiterate that most of the criticism of Trudeau’s position has been over his petty tyranny in dictating his opinions to his own party – as if anything else could be expected from a man who has openly admired Communist dictators just as his father used to do – than over the fact that it is the taking of innocent human life to which he will not allow dissent. If Prime Minister Stephen Harper has any sense, he will take advantage of this and of the fact that Trudeau has just screwed over one of the Liberal Party’s largest groups of traditional supporters, the Roman Catholics, by throwing his full support behind the pro-lifers in his own Conservative Party. Most of the pro-lifers in Parliament are already members of the Conservative Party, and it is now the only one of the three major parties that allows them to run. The Prime Minister’s track record, however, does not inspire me with much optimism that this is going to occur any time soon.