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Abortion is an uncomfortable topic for many and one that is generally avoided like the plague in Canadian politics.
The topic is so divisive that two of the three main Canadian political parties, the Liberals and the NDP, have banned anyone who does not support taxpayer-funded abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy from running for their parties.
The Conservative Party allows members to hold pro-life views and even bring forward their own private members bill’s on the topic but has made clear that any Conservative government will not introduce any government legislation regarding abortion.
While the topic still manages to bubble up now and again in Canadian politics, whether in Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer’s leadership bid or in the Prime Minister’s ill-advised Canada Summer Jobs edict, compared to U.S. politics, the subject is relatively dormant.
In the States, although the topic is just as polarizing, there is considerable action on both sides of the issue. On the one hand, you have states like New York and Virginia making moves to loosen abortion restrictions and allow for abortions in the third trimester. On the other hand, states like Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi have all signed into law “heartbeat” bills, which ban abortion after the baby’s heartbeat is regular at six weeks.
It may strike the casual observer as a bit odd then that there is little political action on the abortion front here in Canada. One would assume that some sort of compromise law is in place and that, by in large, most Canadians were satisfied with the status quo. However, this is not the case.
The history of abortion in Canada
In Canada, there are no laws governing or restricting abortion. The 1988 Supreme Court case R. v Morgentaler found that, because of “manifestly unfair” hospital review committees meant to review abortion requests, the Criminal Code provision on abortion violated a woman’s right to “life, liberty and security of the person” guaranteed under Section 7 of the Charter.
However, this ruling did not determine when abortion could and could not be performed. That task was passed along to the legislature and the majority PC government of Brian Mulroney. After much haranguing at the cabinet table, the PC’s introduced Bill C-43, an act which made it a criminal offence to induce an abortion on a woman at any stage unless it was done by, or under the direction of, a physician who considered that the woman’s life or health was otherwise likely to be threatened.
The bill passed in the House of Commons 140-131, and was sent to the Senate, where it failed on a tied vote, thanks to the lobbying of both pro-choice and pro life advocates, the former seeing it as to restrictive and the latter viewing it as not restrictive enough. Since then, no government has made an effort to introduce any abortion legislation, resulting in a legal vacuum that has gone untouched for the past 30 years.
So that, in a nutshell, is how Canada ended up where it is today, as the only Western, liberal democracy without any protections for pre-born children.
But should we bother to protect embryos/fetuses/babies? Well, it depends on whether you consider a life or not. If there is a unique, human life growing inside a woman’s body, that life should also receive protection as a human being entitled to human rights.
The science of prenatal development
Using the tried and true scientific method, we can see that there is an overwhelming bevy of evidence to show that every abortion, regardless of rationale, ends the life of a unique human being.
As any basic biology textbook can tell you, life begins as the moment of fertilization. As soon as the sperm fertilizes the egg, it forms a zygote and becomes a unique, individual life containing all the genetic info necessary to grow into an adult human being.
In week three, the brain begins to appear. Just 28 days after conception, the embryo’s heart begins to beat. At four weeks and four days, the lungs are identifiable. In week six, wrist joints begin forming, by week seven, we can see tiny elbows and hands, not to mention the beginning of brainwave activity. All of these stages of development happen before the embryo enters the fetal stage.
Once the fetal stage begins in week nine, the fetus can be seen sucking their thumb, stretching, sighing, opening their mouth and moving their tongue. At this point, the fetus will also respond to touch, bending their hip and knee if the sole of their foot is touched.
At 12 weeks, the fetus is having bowel movements and has grown taste-buds on their tongue. By week 13, teeth are growing. At week 18, sweat glands have formed. Beginning in week 20, the eyelids separate and the fetus is able to open and close their eyes. Thanks to modern technology, which continues to improve, at 21-22 weeks the fetus is able to survive a premature birth.
During the sixth and seventh months of the pregnancy, the fetus develops an intestinal lining containing all the adult cell types, produces tears, is able to smell, react to light, and is able to distinguish different sound frequencies.
During this entire period of incredible maturation and growth, this unique, human life, has no protection under Canadian law.
No protection under law
Prenatal science has come a long way since 1988. What could be dismissed as a “clump of cells” back then can no longer be ignored today; the science is crystal clear.
Canada is perpetrating a great injustice against its most vulnerable population by denying pre-born children their own section seven Charter rights to “life, liberty, and security of person.”
Unless the life of the mother is endangered by the birth of the child, there are no constitutional grounds for denying pre-born children their right to life.
Underlying all our fundamental freedoms is the belief that all human beings, created in the image of God, are of equal value and worth, regardless of age, gender, race, creed etc.
Whether or not you believe in God, in order for Canada to remain a peaceful, stable, and tolerant country that upholds human rights, you must believe that every human being deserves equal treatment under the law.
For decades now, pre-born children in Canada have been denied their inherent human rights. When will we as Canadians decide to live up to our founding principles and extend the right to life to all of us?