Jonathan Kay: Canada’s pro-choice culture warriors have lost their moorings
Jonathan Kay | Sep 27, 2012 12:57 PM ET | Last Updated: Sep 27, 2012 3:04 PM ET
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldMinister for the Status of Women Rona Ambrose
Canada often is described as being closer to Europe than to the United States in our attitude toward social policy. And this is true — but with two major exceptions: health care and abortion.
Unlike every European nation, Canada bans citizens from using their own money to pay privately for core health care needs. And unlike every European nation, our government places no gestational limits on abortion. There is no nation in Europe where a woman 20 weeks pregnant can walk into a medical clinic and demand an abortion for purely discretionary reasons. But in Canada, as far as our law goes, jaywalking is a more serious offence than is aborting a 39-week-old fetus.
Yet, as between these two unique Canadian policy anomalies — health care and abortion — there is an extraordinary difference in the way they are discussed in the marketplace of ideas.
However restrictive the Canada Health Act me be, there is no taboo against discussing its reform. Indeed, every now and again, our government even strikes up a blue-ribbon commission to examine the issue. Under the Liberals, we had Roy Romanow’s one-man “Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada.” Earlier this year, the Senate completed a major review of the 2004 federal-provincial health accord. And just this month, the Globe & Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson published a thick book on the subject. For Canadian policy wonks, debating health care is nothing less than a national sport.
Abortion is entirely different. Among great swathes of the political left, and even the centre, the very concept of possible legal reform is seen as tantamount to vicious misogyny.
Consider the reaction to this week’s free vote on Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s private members’ motion to create a parliamentary committee that would study the question of when life begins. Abortion-rights purists accuse Mr. Woodworth of seeking to build support for an abortion law. They are surely correct in this regard — and have every right to argue their view that the current anything-goes abort-at-will legal vacuum in Canada is preferable to the sort of regulatory scheme that exists in other nations. But their critique goes beyond that: Many suggest that the mere fact of the motion (which went down to defeat 203-91), and the yea vote by some Conservatives, constitutes a gesture of hatred.
Or, in the case of female MPs, self-hatred.
Globe & Mail columnist Tabatha Southey Tweeted that “Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose voted Yea on [motion] 312. Now waiting for the Minister of Agriculture to vote against corn.” Canadian poet Paul Vermeersch wondered aloud: “After Rona Ambrose votes in Parliament against all Canadian women, will Peter Kent napalm a family of peregrine falcons in solidarity?” And Gail Erlick Robinson, Director of the University Health Network’s Women’s Mental Health Program, has a letter to theNational Post declaring that “As Minister for the Status of Women, [yea-voting] Rona Ambrose should be particularly ashamed.”
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Pro-choice militants cast abortion restrictions — at any stage of gestation — as a form of female slavery. And, perversely, they do this despite the fact that sex-selective abortion is eradicating millions of females from the earth every year — including some right here in Canada. Might it not be within the ambit of the Status of Women Minister to investigate whether the extermination of so many girl fetuses — including those viable outside the womb — is consistent with Canadian values?
Over at the Toronto Star, meanwhile, Antonia Zerbisias declared that the vote was “just confirmation of the contempt in which the Harper government holds women.” (She also is promoting a Facebook group called “Rona Ambrose needs to Resign as Minister for the Status of Women.”) Ms. Zerbisias’ Star colleague Heather Mallick argues that “it is infinitely humiliating to women to have the matter of abortion rights raised again in Parliament” — and that the very fact of a free vote on the motion “makes one think that Harper has tacitly given approval to his more primitive MPs to try to renew ownership of women’s bodies.”
The logic of this — if one cares to follow it — suggests that women in the United States and the EU, where abortion laws exist and are enforced, live in a daily agony of “humiliation,” what with their bodies being “owned” by politicians.
It is to the great credit of Stephen Harper that he allowed members of his caucus to vote their conscience on Stephen Woodworth’s private members’ motion — even though he knew that it would be controversial. His gesture proves that some Canadians — even those such as our Prime Minister, who nominally supports the current laissez-faire status quo — understand that humane and reasonable people — including, gasp, women — hold different views on the subject. If only this spirit of tolerance and sanity might blow through the ranks of hard-left culture warriors, we might one day have the intelligent abortion debate that already has occurred in every nation on earth save ours.