There's a really good debate going on over at LifeSiteNews on abortion incrementalism. It is in response to two articles posted there:
Permissions Evangelical College Prof: Biblically speaking, gestational approach unsupportable
To the gestational approach and back - a top pro-life leader’s journey
Now it is interesting to note that both these articles criticize a gestational approach to limiting abortion in Canada, and to date I have never read an article at LifeSiteNews in favour of the gestational approach. That being said, the debate is going on is spite of this, through readers who are commenting for, and against, this approach.
What struck me about the comments, is that many people think that Canada has no abortion law, because we have no statute law, per se, that restricts abortion.
But as one commenter, "Jeaneanne1306" points out, in 10 different ways, Canada does have an abortion law.
Here are excerpts from "Jeaneanne1306" comments for you to peruse and come to your own conclusions.
You can read the full discussion at the links provided.
From: To the gestational approach and back - a top pro-life leader’s journey
Some commenters have been saying that Canada has no abortion law. Actually Canada DOES have an abortion law...and it is a completely PERMISSIVE one. The law is the sum total of our statutory laws (e.g. the Criminal Code which excludes preborn children from the law's protection via section 223) and the Supreme Court rulings (most notably the 1988 Morgentaler decision which struck down the abortion provisions in the Criminal Code.) There are also provincial laws: the Access to Abortion Services Act in BC; abortion is mentioned in the NB Medical Services Act regarding funding; abortion also made it's way into an Ontario statute earlier this year (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act), where abortion was given a special status over and above any other 'medical service' in the province; there may be other provincial laws as well.
In the Canadian context, a law that would simply restrict abortion (what some people call "incremental" laws or "imperfect" laws, whether a gestational limit or some other type of restriction) is not a "compromise." A compromise can only happen if each side gives up something to the other side. A bill that simply restricted abortion in some way, and didn't make Canada's existing situation any more pro-abortion than it already is, would not be a compromise. As I understand, Priests for Life Canada's statement was about "incremental" legislation and gestational limits rather than about compromise legislation.
Mr. Smeaton is quoted as saying that Pope John Paul II's teaching in EV 73.3 "does not apply to bills which explicitly allow abortion in certain circumstances, which gestational bills do, since the pope had already condemned such legislation." Pope John Paul II did not actually condemn gestational legislation. What the Pope was condemning in the previous paragraph of EV 73 was a law that PERMITS abortion. A law that would set a gestational limit on abortion in Canada where abortion is already legally permitted right up until birth would actually PROHIBIT abortions beyond that gestational limit, thus "limiting the harm" of abortion. Thus EV 73.3 applies in the case of a bill that would set a gestational limit on abortion in Canada and thus can be licitly supported.
Today's Criminal Code permits abortion for the full 9 months of pregnancy. It makes "unjust and discriminatory distinctions of children" based on whether they live inside or outside their mothers' bodies. Some would say that is unethical. If a 20-week limit bill were being voted on in Canada's Parliament, a vote in favour of such a bill is a vote against the status quo of legal abortion for the full 9 months and a vote in favour of prohibiting abortions past 20 weeks (the legal status of abortion before 20 weeks remains the same in either case.) Some people might feel they cannot in good conscience continue to allow the status quo of legal abortion right up until birth to go unchallenged."
From: Permissions Evangelical College Prof: Biblically speaking, gestational approach unsupportable
Hopefroeurope, I don't see how saving babies past a certain gestational age is similar to negotiating with terrorists. When you negotiate with terrorists, you are giving in to their demands in exchange for something you want. However,setting a gestational limit (e.g. 20 weeks) on abortion in Canada saves the lives of babies after that age limit (something we want) without giving anything away (the babies before 20 weeks are being killed either way, with or without the gestational age limit). I'd really like to understand how you can equate this with negotiating with terrorists. Can you please explain?
Not necessarily, Fred. If you already had a law that said "abortion shall be permitted up to the 24th week" and you changed it to "abortion shall be permitted up to the 20th week" (thus making the law more RESTRICTIVE), then that change is a good thing. Alternatively, if you already had a law that said "Abortion shall be illegal after 16 weeks" and you changed it to say "Abortion shall be illegal after 20 weeks" (thus making the law more PERMISSIVE), then that change is a bad thing. Whether a change in the law is good or bad depends on whether the change makes the law more restrictive or more permissive than the previous law.
I agree with Professor Masson that it is wrong to kill some babies in order to save others. However, setting a gestational limit on abortion in Canada does NOT mean some babies will be killed in order to save others. There is no tradeoff going on, because the existing abortion law in Canada already allows ALL babies regardless of gestational age to be killed by abortion. A gestational limit will SAVE the babies that are past the gestational limit. The babies before the gestational limit are already legally being killed today, and a gestational limit does not change that.
I completely agree with you, hopefroeurope, we should NOT accept unethical laws. And that is precisely why some Canadians want to change Canada’s existing unethical law, the Criminal Code, which (as I have previously mentioned in comments posted earlier) permits the killing of children right up until the point of birth. And one way to improve this unethical situation is to amend the law so that it protects children at some point prior to birth by setting a gestational limit on abortion that the public would support and which could actually pass into law. If there is not the democratic support for something, it won’t pass into law. The end result would still be an unethical law because some babies would still not be protected, but the CHANGE to the law to grant protection to more children IS ethical, because it limits the harm of abortion.
Actually, prolifeJ, we do have an abortion law. As I have already noted in response to Jeff, all of Canada's case law and statute law constitute Canada's abortion law. A notable example of case law is the 1988 Morgentaler decision which struck down the Criminal Code's abortion provisions that had given at least some protection to preborn children. Section 223 of the Criminal Code excludes preborn children from the definition of 'human being' thus leaving these children out of the protection afforded by the homicide offences and other offences against "persons." So except for one narrow protection that still exists in the Criminal Code (section 238 which makes it an offence to kill a child "in the act of birth"), there is no protection for children before they are born. So our Criminal Code already codifies in law the permission to kill preborn children, i.e. abortion.
And speaking of defunding abortion, prolifeJ, would you support a law in Ontario (where almost all, if not all, abortions are currently fully funded) that would defund all abortions except in the case of rape?
Jeff, firstly, a law that permits abortion does exist in the Criminal Code: section 223 excludes preborn children from the definition of 'human being' thus leaving these children out of the law's protection. So in fact we already have a law that, as you say, separates those who can be killed from those who can't--and that line is drawn when the child has completely proceeded from the mother's body (i.e. the 'born alive' rule). In addition, we have case law (most notably the1988 Morgentaler decision which struck down the Criminal Code's abortion provisions that had given at least some protection to preborn children). Canada's "abortion law" is the sum total of the statutory laws (e.g. the Criminal Code) and the case law. (There are also some provincial laws dealing with abortion.) What we don't have today in the Criminal Code is a RESTRICTIVE abortion law--it is a completely PERMISSIVE abortion law."
If that doesn't make it clear, nothing will.