Stifling Debate on Abortion Leaves Us All Disempowered

August 23, 2021 Updated: August 23, 2021


Like death and taxes, there are inescapable realities to which all of us must resign ourselves. With sombre countenances, we are forced to acknowledge that no Canadian NHL team (particularly one based in Toronto) will ever again win the Stanley Cup. We know for a certainty that the moment you take your snow tires off the weatherman will announce a blizzard for the morrow. Equally predictable and just as unavoidable is the fact in any federal election, the Liberal party will trumpet their discovery of a secret Conservative plan to bring back restrictions on abortions.

Justin Trudeau decided in 2014 that any federal Liberal candidate would have to support the party’s absolute pro-choice stance, and in the 2015 election tore into Stephen Harper on the abortion question, despite the then-prime minister’s vow that “he would use whatever tools [were] at his discretion to prevent the abortion debate from being reopened.”

During the 2019 campaign, then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who held personal anti-abortion sentiments, had to deny Liberal accusations that his government would introduce restrictive legislation.

In this election it was Maryam Monsef, Liberal MP for women and gender equality who, using psychic abilities unavailable to the ordinary Canadian, announced that the Conservatives’ present leader Erin O’Toole just “pretended to be pro-choice.” Amping up her prophetic powers, Monsef went on to predict that O’Toole (who has announced that he is pro-choice and always has been) would let his team bring forward legislation to restrict abortion.

To be fair to Monsef, she pointed out O’Toole’s known propensity of saying one thing to a socially conservative crowd and then doing something entirely different when elected leader of the Conservative Party, but when you remember that he voted against a bill banning sex-selective abortion, this seems to be one of those cases where you may take his word at face value.

Canadians, by a 2 to 1 margin, seem to be comfortable with living in the planet’s only country to have no legislation governing abortion. Though there is a core of pro-life MPs in the Conservative caucus, it has long been the opinion of the party’s leadership that this is not an issue that will redound to their advantage. It is better, in their opinion, to ignore this subject—because where else will the socially conservative go?

No other party with any chance of electing even a single member has any sympathy for pro-life sentiments; for the NDP, Greens, and Bloc, the problem is that there are too few abortions in Canada, and they complain that Trudeau has not made it easier to obtain the procedure. The People’s Party, with its libertarian bent, shies away from the culture wars and any disillusioned Conservative voters will find no refuge there on the abortion question.

It is only the Christian Heritage Party, which is happy to bill itself as Canada’s only pro-life political party, to which anyone interested in protecting the lives of the unborn can turn—and they ran in just 51 constituencies in the last election and collected only one vote of every thousand cast. Or, if one fancies another long-shot, perhaps Derek Sloan and his True North party.

No matter which side of the question you might be on, this situation is not a good one. Liberal democracy is founded on the proposition that governments exist primarily to protect life and liberty. It follows, therefore, that discussing the balance between those two principal aims is utterly necessary. Shutting down debate on when life begins, what measures may be taken to protect it, and what role the state should play works against the health of the body politic as a whole.

These discussions are even more urgent in an age where barriers to ending the lives of the sick and elderly are being lowered. What would John Locke or Thomas Jefferson or any of the architects of today’s democracy say on learning that the public purse was financing the extinguishment of tens of thousands of lives every year, and all without vigorous dialogue?

To leave these questions in the hands of a few dozen judges, to bar Parliament from debate, to exclude those with diverse views from party membership, and to run scared from a frank exchange of views on a national basis is to leave us all disempowered.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Gerry Bowler
Gerry Bowler
Gerry Bowler is a Canadian historian specializing in the intersection of religion and popular culture.