[Debate] Abortion: Human Right or Human Rights Violation?

We’ve uploaded video from Monday’s debate between Stephanie Gray and Donald Ainslie.

Unlike Stephanie’s opponent at Dalhousie, Ainslie did not argue in favour of infanticide, and in fact argued against the notion that abortion should be a morally trivial matter. Professor Ainslie affirmed that, from the point of conception onwards, there are deep moral issues at stake.

He said in his opening statement:

We think of people as one of a kind, as irreplaceable. When an egg is fertilized there is a biological creature that’s one of a kind; there won’t be another one of those. And so the loss of that person, either spontaneously or… in an abortion, makes the world somewhat less. That’s one thing that the world doesn’t have anymore. . . . [it's] the loss of something with intrinsic value, something that’s irreplaceable, something that won’t be around again.

But Ainslie’s main argument was that, although the moral status of the pre-born is not insignificant, the pre-born doesn’t have the same moral status as you or I until some undefined later point in pregnancy (between conception and birth, which he labelled as two extreme lines to draw). Therefore, he argued that abortion is justified in some circumstances, that all abortion is morally significant but not inherently wrong. He argued that, though the pre-born has intrinsic value, that value might be outweighed by other considerations which justify abortion. Further, he argued that though there may be moral questions involved, the legal questions are separate, and since reasonable people could disagree on the moral question, abortion should be legal. In essence, he affirmed the intrinsic value of the pre-born, but put it on a sliding scale of lesser significance than the intrinsic value of you or I until some undefined point between conception and birth, of a lesser moral status meaning that some abortions are justified and that the law should leave the possibility of abortion open.

In one sense, Ainslie’s argument was weak insofar as he purposefully avoided making any claim of where or why or how the pre-born child would attain a greater moral significance at some arbitrary part along the human continuum of development between conception and birth. This is a classic case for the SLED argument.

But in another sense, I believe his argument is challenging because — despite avoiding the question of why size or level of development (essentially, our age) should determine our value — many people simply agree with this type of argument. They often can’t articulate a reason for it, but they’ll deny that abortion is inherently wrong in the first trimester while being uncomfortable or opposed to it later on, because they believe there is a greater moral significance as the pre-born child gets older.

To respond, I think we must highlight the fact that our age does not increase our value or our moral significance, and make the pre-born child more and more visible, using images of prenatal development that bring to light the undeniable humanity and intrinsic value of the youngest human beings, and images of first trimester abortions that bring into the light the horrible injustice and violence of abortion even at an early stage.

Well, that’s my take. Watch the debate for yourself on YouTube in two parts (an hour each):

Campaign Life Coalition B.C. Pushes for Public Abortion Statistics

Campaign Life Coalition B.C. is pushing for abortion statistics to be public:

The organization Campaign Life Coalition B.C., which opposes abortions, is demanding [a] hearing so it can challenge provincial legislation that prevents hospitals from releasing information such as how many abortions they perform each year.

“Abortion is a public policy issue. As such it needs to be debated, but it’s hard to debate what’s going on locally if we don’t know specific statistics,” he said.
[...]
“The facilities we’re asking for, it’s already documented that they provide the service. It’s not a secret to anyone — to anybody in these communities. Our own provincial government publishes the name of these institutions, so how can you make one topic off-limits in a democratic society?” Gerk said.

Section 22.1 of B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act makes abortions the only medical procedures taking place in hospitals subject that are subject to secrecy.

That’s funny, I thought abortion was just like any other medical procedure…

Euthanasia Bill Shut Down In South Australia

This is the fourth post in our series about euthanasia and assisted suicide. Keep an eye out for a report on Alex Schadenberg’s talk from last night.


LifeSiteNews.com reports that a bill to legalize euthanasia in South Australia was unexpectedly defeated last week:

In a surprise victory for pro-life advocates, South Australia’s Upper House has narrowly voted down an amendment to their palliative care legislation that would have legalized euthanasia.

The bill was proposed by Greens member Mark Parnell. It was expected to pass 11-10, with the support of independent member Ann Bressington, the swing vote. Bressington opted to abstain, however, after amendments she had sought failed. This abstention would have resulted in a tie, meaning that Upper House President Bob Sneath would vote to pass the bill.

In the end, however, member David Ridway announced to the shock of pro-life observers that personal reasons had led him to change his mind, and he voted against the bill.

Parnell has stated his intention to make another attempt at legalizing euthanasia after the state elections in March 2010. With the upcoming retirement of two pro-life members, pro-life advocates have indicated that such an attempt has a real risk of succeeding.

This is a reminder that we must remain vigilant. Bill C-384 doesn’t seem to have enough support to pass in Canada, but we need to keep the pressure on against it and do our best to educate the public in response to confusion about euthanasia and assisted suicide.


Previous posts in this series:

New Hampshire Committee Votes Against Assisted Suicide

LifeSiteNews.com reports that the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee has rejected a bill to legalize assisted suicide in a 14-3 vote last week.

“This is a significant victory,” said the Alex Schadenberg, Chairman of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. However, he added, “This does not mean that the bill is completely dead. The legislature might reject the recommendation of the committee and approve the bill. But considering the lopsided vote at the committee level, it is unlikely that the bill in New Hampshire will be approved.”

We’ll be hosting Alex Schadenberg at the University of Toronto shortly to speak about euthanasia and the law in Canada, particularly in light of Bill C-384 and Motion 388.

Charges Dropped Against Calgary Pro-Life Students

Well, this is a huge positive end to the University of Calgary trespassing story. From NCLN:

November 3rd, 2009: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CROWN STAYS CHARGES AGAINST CALGARY PRO-LIFE STUDENTS

CALGARY ­ The trespassing charges laid against six members of Campus Pro-Life at the University of Calgary have been stayed by the Crown Prosecutor, effectively meaning that the charges have ended.

The group’s display held on the University of Calgary campus every semester since 2006, termed the Genocide Awareness Project, precipitated the charges. The display compares abortion to past historical atrocities, such as the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

Club President Leah Hallman stated, “We are relieved by this decision on the part of the Crown Prosecutor; Campus Pro-Life has consistently maintained that all of our actions were in full compliance under the law.”

The charges were initially delivered to the homes of several students by members of the Calgary Police Service in February of 2009. On March 16th, all charged members pleaded not guilty. At the time, Hallman argued “We have asked the university several times which of its by-laws, policies, regulations or other authority it relies on for censoring our viewpoint, and have received no answer to date.”

The staying of the charges takes place nearly one year after the November 2008 display on campus that was the catalyst for the charges being laid.

“Campus Pro-Life will continue being a voice for the voiceless,” states Club Treasurer Alanna Campbell, “we hope to continue our activities on campus and raise awareness among the next generation of community leaders.”

For further information, contact Club President Leah Hallman at (403) 808-3412, Treasurer Alanna Campbell at (403) 690-5217, or lawyer John Carpay of the Canadian Constitution Foundation at (403) 619-8014.

According to LifeSiteNews.com, “stayed” just means “effectively dropped” — but not actually dropped yet

Supreme Court rejects appeal on bubble zones

ProWomanProLife covers the Supreme Court’s unsurprising rejection of an appeal against bubble zones around abortion clinics. I don’t know much about the specifics, but Brigitte Pellerin’s analysis offers a great starting point:

Of course, freedom of choice in this country means you are not allowed to disagree with that choice (and for the record, I don’t believe anyone has the right to interfere with other people’s legal activities – it’s just that standing on a sidewalk with a sign does not constitute undue interference).

Pro-Life Lawyer Geoff Cauchi Speaks About The Abortion Law in Canada

The Catholic Register has a great interview with Geoff Cauchi, a pro-life lawyer and board member with Alliance for Life Ontario and Life Canada. First, Cauchi talks about the advantage of having no law on abortion for the pro-life movement in Canada. It’s much easier to get people to view the current state of affairs as requiring attention, compared to other countries, like the UK, where people feel like they’ve already reached a legal compromise, Cauchi argues. He continues to discuss some different approaches to abortion laws and the challenges we face in Canada, but I found the most interesting part of the interview to be toward the end.

“I think we have to change hearts first,” he said. “In the case of abortion I firmly believe — and it’s just a personal opinion — that the law will change only when the people as a whole believe that it’s wrong.”

The idea of the law as a teacher applies in most cases, but the history of abortion in Canada shows that governments can’t create a law where there is no societal consensus, said Cauchi.

Weinrib thinks the prospect of using criminal law to change people’s behaviour around abortion is unlikely.

This is the same sort of thinking we find in pro-life groups as diverse as ProWomanProLife (“Canada without abortion. By choice.”) and the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (whose goal is to “make abortion unthinkable” through the use of graphic images).

The lack of a law in Canada is the basis for action — the status quo is unacceptable — but the means through which we can affect the status quo is by changing people’s hearts. Legal changes will follow when more people realize that abortion is not the compassionate response to a crisis pregnancy situation.

I am convinced through my own conversations and experiences that most people recognize the truth about abortion when engaged in honest conversation that forces them to examine the issue.

What are you doing to change people’s hearts?

Obama begins funding abortions again

Well, that didn’t take long (via @SuzanneSadler). Not that this was surprising. Republican and Democrat presidents have been flipping this thing on and off quite routinely.

Gotta love politics.

Though the thing to watch out for in the U.S. is the Freedom of Choice Act. More on that as it happens…

At least there’s a challenge to funding abortions south of the border. Canadians aren’t so lucky — our money is what pays for the “personal choice” of abortion.

Unborn Victims of Crime Act, Bill C-484

LifeSiteNews.com reports that Conservative MP Ken Epp has introduced a Private Members Bill that would make it a crime to kill or injury the unborn when the child’s mother is victim of a crime.

Right now, as far as I can tell, animals have more protection under the law than the unborn, as discussed after the murder of Aysun Sesen and her unborn child just a few months ago.

Mr. Epp says,

This is all about protecting the choice of a woman to give birth to her child. It is about condemning the actions of those who would take it upon themselves to criminally assault a pregnant woman and the child she wants and loves, destroying that child against her will.

Having heard the heart-rending stories of the families of the victims, I am absolutely convinced that this is an issue which cannot be swept aside. How do you tell these grieving families that the child they loved and lost never even existed in the eyes of the law?

Vote Life, Canada! has commentary from Marget Somerville on the issue.

A Environics poll asking if killing or injuring a foetus should be a crime found that 75 per cent of Canadian women and 68 per cent of men would support a foetal protection law (the level of support among all Canadians was 72 per cent).

Who could oppose this law? I guess we’ll find out.

Canadian women don’t support current abortion policy: poll

A majority of Canadians believe that the unborn deserves some sort of protection, according to a recent article from LifeSiteNews.Com reporting on an Environics poll released last week.

More than one-third (34%) of women support legal protection from conception onward, 21% after three months of pregnancy and 12% say babies should be protected after six months. Overall, 62% of Canadians supported legal protection at some point before birth.

The poll also asked about legislation that would make it a separate crime to kill or injure a fetus during a violent attack on a pregnant woman. Seventy-five percent of women and 72% of men said they would support a fetal protection law.

Canada has no abortion law at all! Creating a law that at least has some sort of protection for the unborn would be a good start, and the majority of Canadians appear to agree with that.