Justin Trudeau has declared that new Liberal candidates cannot be pro-life. Without addressing the issue’s fundamental merits, I would like to dwell briefly on the overall situation in Canada.
Despite loathing labels, I would first define myself as moderately pro-choice. The reason for this moderation is that Canada is unique among developed countries in having no federal legislation limiting the practice. Some will say that protocols by provincial medical associations do establish limits; the problem is that a woman can abort without justification into the eighth or ninth month without any criminal charge. The notorious Morgentaler clinics refuse to perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but they refer patients to other clinics in Quebec or the United States that will.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, there were 93,755 abortions performed in 2009. These data are inexact, however, as hospitals and clinics do not report all abortions performed in a given year. Of the commonly-cited 100,000 per-year figure, 1.9% are after 21 weeks. This percentage may seem small, but it means that more than 1900 occurred after five months of pregnancy. Additionally, the gestation statistics are not available for Quebec, and more than 17.8% were performed at a “non-determined” time. Realistically, then, a great many abortions are done after threshold of 24 weeks.
There is a debate about whether a foetus can feel pain before 24 weeks. What is certain, though, is that thanks to today’s technology, a baby can survive independently after this point. And in the coming years, this technology will only improve, allowing them to be saved even earlier.
France proscribes abortions after 12 weeks. Sweden compels the woman to receive the permission of a committee after 18 weeks and bans abortions after 22 weeks. Great Britain prohibits abortions after 24 weeks.
As we can see, other Western countries have devised various related policies. Each of them realizes that abortion does not have to be a partisan issue. They have legislated accordingly and thus given a reasonable flexibility to women while also drawing clear limits.
Until we arrive at a similar compromise, we will continue to have thousands of pro-lifers flooding the streets of the national capital each year, and pro-choice militants treating every moderate person as a misogynist. Canada is surely a “progressive” country on the abortion issue, but as with everything, there are limits.
Alexandre Meterissian is co-founder and the former CEO of the Prince Arthur Herald.