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Is Abortion a Sacred Cow?

The brouhaha sparked by a politician's comment indicates that pro-choicers are not willing to discuss this hot-button issue.

Amazingly enough, abortion has become an election issue in Canada. I say amazing because everyone expected the marriage issue to be the bigger election issue.

How did abortion even get on the table? Rob Merrifield, health critic for the Conservatives, said in an interview he felt it would be appropriate to have legislation requiring counselling from an impartial third party before an abortion.

The next day, Anne McLellan decried this as anti-women and anti-choice.

Let's unpack that for a moment. How is it anti-women to ensure women are properly informed before they undergo a very critical procedure? And how is it anti-choice? Is McLellan saying women only have choice if they are kept in the dark about their choices? Doesn't choice mean that you are fully informed about all the options before making a decision?

Can we really assume that Canadian women do get full, unbiased information about abortion and the alternatives before they undergo the procedure? Many women have said publicly that this is not happening. They say they did not know the consequences of abortion and have suffered greatly as a result.

Now Paul Martin is promising he will maintain Canada's abortion laws. But there are no abortion laws in Canada. That is the problem. Canada is the only country in the western world without a law governing or regulating abortion. The last attempt at legislation was the ill-fated Bill C-43 that was defeated in the Senate on a tie vote.

Even the "big guns" like Dr. Morgentaler have weighed in on the debate. Pretty unusual in an election campaign.

Commentators like Margaret Wente see the abortion issue as a sacred cow. She refers to shrieks from young, urban women that choice is the most important issue in their lives.

While she is pro-choice, Christie Blatchford says the entire subject could do with a little less euphemism and a little more truth.

But Canadians are divided on the issue of abortion (what else is new?) Only 28% of Canadians believe that the law should not protect the unborn but only protect babies from the point of birth.

Life issues should always be "on the table" of public life. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in both the 1988 Morgentaler case and the 1994 Rodriguez case that Parliament has a legitimate interest in protecting life, both at the beginning and at the end. To take the issue of abortion off the table when it is so significant for women and men in our society is profoundly undemocratic.

Janet Epp Buckingham is the Director of Law and Public Policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. See www.evangelicalfellowship.ca.



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