Thursday, November 10, 2011

World Abortion Laws

(This article was published in the September/October 2011 issue of LifeCanada News)

Canada is one of only six countries out of 196 countries--that allows unrestricted abortion up until fetal viability and beyond.

In a paper published on March 24, 2009, American law professor, Randy Beck of the University of Georgia Law School discussed case law in Gonzales, Casey and the Viability Rule as it pertains to abortion.

Beck argues that the:
"The [American] Supreme Court has an unmet obligation to account for the significance accorded to fetal viability in its abortion jurisprudence...Even if one assumes that the Constitution protects a right to terminate a pregnancy, the Court has never offered a principled explanation for its conclusion that the right endures until the fetus can survive outside the womb."

Beck goes on to discuss fetal viability with three arguments.

But it is his third argument that Canadians should take special note. It is his argument of Viability in International Perspective.

Beck complains that "by allowing abortion for any reason until viability, the Court has pushed U.S. abortion law far outside the international mainstream." That “the vast majority” of countries “forbid abortion after 12 weeks gestation.”

Beck says: "Other nations terminate or constrict abortion rights at various points in pregnancy, typically at a much earlier stage in fetal development" and that it makes the US "one of only six countries that allow abortion on demand until the point of viability.”

Not only does Canada allow unrestricted abortion rights until viability, we also allow unrestricted abortion rights until birth. If the US’s abortion law is “far outside the international mainstream”, what does this say for Canada’s situation?
Beck gets his data from the Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group which identifies five levels of international abortion permissibility:

I. To Save the Woman’s Life or Prohibited Altogether (68 countries)
II. To Preserve Physical Health (35 countries)
III. To Preserve Mental Health (23 countries)
IV. Socioeconomic Grounds (14 countries)
V. Without Restriction as to Reason (56 countries)
So who does Canada share company with on abortion rights? Well China for starters:
"only six nations on the list allow unrestricted abortion to the point of viability or without any specific time limitation—Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, United States and Vietnam. A seventh country, Singapore, sets a limit of 24 weeks, which approximates the current viability threshold in the United States."

Beck notes the viability rules for these six countries:
"Most of the nations that join the United States in permitting such unrestricted late-term abortions make for dubious company. Communist China’s efforts toward population control clash with the theory of reproductive rights underlying the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence, and have led to coerced abortions in parts of that country. With respect to the other two Communist regimes on the list, Vietnam also places legal limits on family size, and North Korea is not viewed as a leader in human rights. The medical culture of the Netherlands appears to be generally less protective of fetal life than other nations, quite apart from the abortion issue. For instance, doctors in that country are much less willing than their European neighbors to provide life sustaining treatment to premature but potentially viable infants."

Dubious company indeed. Canada shares this "distinction" with three Communist regimes, China, Vietnam and North Korea. This is nothing to be proud of.

Beck says:
"Canada might seem a more conventional companion for the United States on legal questions. the current absence of an abortion law in Canada may be less a reflection of national sentiment than a result of Parliament’s failure in attempts to enact a statute meeting standards imposed by the Canadian judiciary".

I agree.

We know that every poll ever taken in Canada, regarding protection for the unborn, tells us that a majority of Canadians want some legal protection. Yet Parliament continues to abdicate its responsibility in bringing forth any such legislation.

And still Mr. Harper refuses to allow any abortion debate.

If the Prime Minister believes Canada requires unrestricted, publicly funded abortions right up until birth--an abortion regime significantly less protective of fetal life than almost every other nation in the entire world, even though our Supreme Court clearly said it is up to Parliament to come up with an abortion law--then Mr. Harper needs to explain to Canadians why he believes this.

He has never offered a principled reason for censoring a public discussion on abortion in this country. If not now Mr. Harper, then when?

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