I'm looking at two documents. One is American, and is called A reason to celebrate: 80+ pro-life laws passed this year.
The second is Canadian, and is called "Striving for a pro-life law".
I look at one, and then the other. I ask myself, what's wrong with this picture? Why do the Americans have pro-life laws and we do not?
The “reason to celebrate” article details pro-life legal successes in the United States this year, of which there were many. Like Nebraska's ban last year on late-term abortions. Like outlawing abortions after 20 or 21 weeks of pregnancy in Kansas Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, and Oklahoma. In fact, US state legislatures have passed more than 80 bills this year, restricting access to abortion, up from 23 such laws enacted last year.
Wow, I thought, how wonderful.
Then I look back at the other paper: "Striving for a pro-life law" written by Campaign Life Coalition.
I realize that Canada has accomplished nothing to create legal protection for the unborn. We have no laws. We have no successes. None. After more that 20 years.
What are we doing wrong?
So I start reading CLC's paper to see if they can answer this question. CLC describes themselves as:
"Canadian national pro-life organization working at all levels of government to secure full legal protection for all human beings from conception to natural death."
The paper provides background on the topic of legal protection, and two different definitions of possible legal protection.
First, is what CLC calls “Compromise” legislation, and they define this as:
“any type of legislation that would explicitly or implicitly accept or admit that killing any category or class of unborn children as lawful, or that unborn children may be lawfully killed in any specified circumstances, whether or not the existing law already permits abortion in these cases. This would include gestational legislation permitting an abortion to be committed based on the age of the developing human being. An example would be legislation that would prohibit all abortions after 15 weeks gestation. This would at the same time be legislative approval for all abortions up to that date.”
CLC seems to be saying in this example, that because such a law would only protect babies older than 15 weeks gestation, and not those under 15 weeks, that such a law would condone abortion for babies under 15 weeks. Therefore, CLC would not support this type of legislation.
Okay, I understand that viewpoint.
But then I say to myself, but our current legal situation is such that abortion is already legally sanctioned for all babies under 15 weeks and older than 15 weeks. So if we had a law that protected those babies over 15 weeks, at least some of the existing inequity would be solved, right? Some babies would be protected. Isn't that better than no babies?
Then CLC gives their definition of an “Incremental Law”. They believe this is:
“any type of law, other than compromising legislation, which would help to stop or curtail abortion or would help to generate a culture of respect for human life, from conception to natural death. An example would be one carefully crafted legislation making it illegal to coerce a woman into having an abortion”.
(Many pro-life people say that CLC’s definition of "compromise" law is really "incremental" law because they see each incremental gain as adding more and more protection to the unborn, one step at a time.)
Last year MP Rod Bruinooge introduced Roxanne's Law, a Bill that would make coercing an abortion a criminal offence. So I wondered, did CLC support this bill? Well Jim Hughes, president of CLC, seemed to say they did.
But then the Interim reported this:
"CLC also took exception with the wording of the bill that conceded the permissibility of abortion (Section 4), that states it "does not apply in the case of a physician who attempts to convince a pregnant female person to have a medical intervention that results, or may result in the death of the child when, in the physician's best medical judgement, that medical intervention is necessary to prevent a serious threat to the female person's physical health." Hughes said CLC cannot support a bill that acknowledges abortion as a permissible option for Canadian women. He told The Interim that he wished that Section 4 was not in C-510."
Again, this is a situation where it is already legal to abort all children, so a law such as C-510 would improve what we currently have today. Isn’t that progress?
Then I asked myself if CLC isn't happy with such laws as these two examples, maybe they should propose some laws themselves? They could in fact even provide the exact wording of a law that they could support, and find an MP willing to table that law.
If they were to come up with such an “Incremental” law as they define it, as long as it would have broad public support, maybe Canada could finally move forward in legally protecting the unborn.
How do we get from where we are now, to our goal of full legal protection, if we don't take small incremental steps along the way? It seems to me that we can't get there from here if we continue on the path we've chosen so far.
We need to work together constructively. We need to propose bills that all pro-life people can support. More important I think, we need to get the people in the mushy middle on side too. How about banning all abortions over 24 weeks? Even the most extreme pro-choicers would have difficultly publicly saying they didn't support such a bill.
I don't think "striving for a pro-life law" will get us anywhere until we change our strategy. It was Albert Einstein who gave us his definition of Insanity:
"doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
It's been over 20 years since the Morgentaler decision and we've still had no successes in bringing forth any laws to restrict abortions. The United States has. We have to do something different.