Tag Archives: abortion

Jackson Doughart: Bill Maher’s abortion-and-crime correlation

Before it gets too far away, I’d like to rebut a remark made on Bill Maher’s “Real Time” program last Friday. In the context of discussing the botched execution last month in Oklahoma, Maher and his panelists digressed to the topic of declining American crime. Guest David Frum pointed out that despite sensationalized television news coverage, which may encourage the impression of America as a violent place, crime has been steadily decreasing since the 1990s, largely thanks to crime fighting efforts.

In a bizarre comment, Maher then attributed the decline in crime to the prevalence of legal abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973, which pre-preemptively eliminated, in his words, future members of the FBI’s most wanted list.

Here in Canada, this line of argument should put one in mind of the late Henry Morgentaler, whose own pro-abortion advocacy was predicated—at least in private, though later acknowledged in public—upon this very claim. From a 1999 magazine essay by Morgentaler:

Is there a relationship between the statistically proven decline in crime rates and access to abortion? For the last six years, in both the United States and Canada, the crime rate has steadily decreased — in particular for crimes of violence, such as assault, rape, and murder. Some demographers explain this by the fact that there are fewer young men around, and it is mostly young men who commit crimes. No doubt this is true, but what is even more important is that, among these young men likely to commit offenses, there are fewer who carry an inner rage and vengeance in their hearts from having been abused or cruelly treated as children.

Why is that? Because many women who a generation ago were obliged to carry any pregnancy to term now have the opportunity to choose medical abortion when they are not ready to assume the burden and obligation of motherhood. It is well documented that unwanted children are more likely to be abandoned, neglected, and abused. Such children inevitably develop an inner rage that in later years may result in violent behavior against people and society.

Morgentaler went on to say: “I predicted a decline in crime and mental illness thirty years ago when I started my campaign to make abortion in Canada legal and safe. It took a long time for this prediction to come true.”

I don’t suspect Maher of harbouring the same evil spirit as Morgentaler, the former having at least acknowledged that anti-abortionists have a legitimate claim about abortion being an act of killing. But he is parroting the same disingenuous argument, which even if theoretically tenable, respects no moral proportion. In Canada, the commonly-cited figure is 100,000 abortions every year. 1.06 million were reportedly performed in the United States in 2011.

Were there Charles Mansons and Timothy McVeighs among them? Surely there were. But there were no doubt Mozarts and Wilberforces and Lincolns and Picassos as well, of whom humanity has been deprived. More importantly, there were millions of innocent human beings who were violently deprived of life. And all for the sake of a lame explanation for crime reduction? This is moral obtuseness at its height.

The Hustings

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Jackson Doughart: Are MPs entitled to conscience rights?

Most of the conservative reaction to Justin Trudeau’s new pro-choice party line has focussed on the effect it will have upon conscientious Liberal MPs who oppose abortion. Andrew Coyne writes:

Why was abortion, in common with similarly fraught issues such as the death penalty . . . once the preserve of individual MPs to decide, in a free vote? Because we did not wish to do violence to others’ consciences. By their nature these issues engaged people’s deepest moral convictions, often rooted in religious faith. There was then still respect for the idea that every individual, even in public life, was permitted a kind of moral space, a small inviolable sanctum of belief over which they were sovereign.

I’m uncertain that we should lend much credence to this view of conscience rights for MPs. The reality is that parliamentarians are elected to vote on, and be held accountable for, controversial and “fraught” issues. And the primary way in which they can be held accountable to the democratic polis is through party discipline. If the public doesn’t approve of what a party has done in office or the opposition, it can toss that party out in the next election.

Presumably, matters of one’s “deepest moral convictions” should have something to do with why one would join, and seek to represent in public, a political party in the first place. Saying that an MP has a conscience exemption for abortion laws is like saying that a Texan prison commissioner can conscientiously-object to the electric chair. It’s the nature of the job. And if Liberal MPs or prospective candidates really feel morally-conflicted in a party that holds to a pro-choice line on abortion, perhaps they should leave that party and join the one that does not have such a policy.

As I wrote in my National Post piece on the subject, the Liberals and Conservatives have been playing chicken on the abortion issue for years, using the ploy of “free votes” —which are “free” only in the sense that they free the parties from any accountability to the public—to insulate themselves from any responsibility to carefully consider and act upon the issue. It’s too bad that some Liberal MPs will be put in a tough spot regarding a moral matter, but if it helps to advance discussion and action on the subject then it is well worth it.

The Hustings

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Jackson Doughart: Harper’s abortion long-game

Since Justin Trudeau’s abortion announcement is a popular subject here today, I’ll add a word about the prime minister’s handling of the situation. To my knowledge, Mister Harper’s only foray into the subject has been to reiterate that the Conservative Party welcomes people from both sides of the argument and will honour the right of individual MPs to exercise their moral beliefs on any related vote.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time berating the government for not taking a more serious line on abortion, which would be constituted, at the very least, by proposing laws against the most egregious of cases: namely, late-term abortions where the baby could survive outside of the mother and so-called “sex selection” abortions, in which a mother who desires a child of a particular sex employs the dual utilities of genetic screening and legal termination to fulfill that desire. I don’t take any of it back, and in fact wrote in the National Post a couple of weeks ago that the Conservatives can only help the pro-life movement by adopting a line of their own, at least with respect to the aforementioned extreme cases.

But in terms of pure strategy, one can’t help but think that Harper has put himself in a good position with his past comments on abortion, given the brazenness of Justin’s pronouncement that—grandfathered incumbents aside—all prospective candidates “will be expected to vote pro-choice”. Importantly, his line does not merely involve the protection of a woman’s right to choose for, say, the first trimester of pregnancy; it demands the upholding of the Wild West status quo as well.

All of this makes Harper look incredibly open and pluralist, notwithstanding his reputation as an intolerant Evangelical. Maybe his Machiavellianism has been more cunning that expected. Perhaps he knew instinctively that the Liberals, or the Liberals under Trudeau at least, couldn’t resist the temptation to shoot themselves in the foot, and that by holding off long enough, he would end up heading the only party in which both pro-lifers and abortion-sceptics would be welcome.

That’s a big share of the Canadian population, not all of which cares primarily or seriously about the life issues, certainly. But there are enough to make his present position look pretty attractive and open-minded. This alone won’t achieve a reduction in the number of abortions, but it just might help the cause more than we’d expect.

The Hustings

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Alexandre Meterissian: Aborting moderation

Guest submission

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.

The Hustings

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Alexandre Meterissian is co-founder and the former CEO of the Prince Arthur Herald.

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Geoffrey Wale: Trudeau’s abortion position is untenable

Justin Trudeau made an extreme pronouncement on the issue of abortion recently: “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.” This is decidedly illiberal and something one usually expects to hear from only the most noxious, left-leaning ideologue. Given Justin Trudeau’s heritage, I would have expected a more nuanced stance. His father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, is remembered for his stand on personal liberty and for his faith (he was a practicing Roman Catholic).

On personal liberty, particularly on matters of sexuality, Minister of Justice Trudeau famously observed in 1967 that “obviously, the state’s responsibility should be to legislate rules for a well-ordered society. It has no right or duty to creep into the bedrooms of the nation.” It was Prime Minister Trudeau who enacted the Constitution Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. The opening sentence reads “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.” Section 2 of the Charter guarantees freedom of conscience and religion.

Justin Trudeau, it seems, has decided to strip members of the Liberal Party of Canada of their right to freedom of conscience and religion, at least as it applies to abortion.

Trudeau states that the issue of abortion is settled, that there should be no further discussion. He could not be more mistaken. This is an issue that needs to be addressed, with all points of view in consideration. As a conservative who leans toward the libertarian camp, I am prepared to tolerate the pro-choice position, though I do not approve. I favour a pro-compromise position: while abortion should remain legal, society has a stake in the unborn which must be addressed by law.

The publication “Crimes Against the Foetus”, published by the Law Reform Commission of Canada in 1989 includes several recommendations for amendments to Canadian law in this regard. If enacted, they would make criminal wrongful harm to the foetus, rather than abortion. Abortion would remain a lawful surgical procedure with no restrictions in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Restrictions would brought to bear, maintaining society’s stake in the status of the unborn, in the the latter stages of pregnancy. The Commission concluded that such legislation would be consistent with the common law and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Hustings

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