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Quebec:  Abortion and Euthanasia

See Part One of this series: Big News from Quebec on Abortion and Euthanasia.


That didn’t take long. It seems hardly a week ago that I penned these words:

Of course, I would take pleasure in announcing the clinics have actually closed, no doubt with a resulting decrease in abortions and the damage, whether emotional or physical in its consequences, that so often accompanies the loss of that little developing life. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is grandstanding by the now wealthy owners of these clinics in an effort to test the reaction of the public, the resolve of the government or to seek government funding to upgrade their facilities.

Sorry to say that the Quebec government has quickly reversed its decision to require the same operating standards of abortion clinics as required in other surgical procedures. It should no longer surprise when a cabinet minister makes an announcement about legislation passed by a legislature and government quickly disavows all knowledge of the content of the legislation when the media howls in opposition. In this instance, media attention drew remarks from the Quebec College of Physicians and Surgeons that, in their opinion, most abortions can be performed safely in existing private clinics without the need of an operating room. Please note the word “most” which, percentagewise went #ff0000 by the College. In response to the media and College, there was mysterious silence from members of Quebec’s National Assembly who had passed the legislation in March. The only spokesperson on the bill became the unaccompanied and backpedaling Minister of Health, Yves Bolduc.

In short the government heard the voices of clinic owners and doctors who are paid to provide abortions and changed their mind, i.e. sorry ladies, the double standard on medical procedures continues and “most” of you who choose to have an abortion should be able to have the process completed successfully without medical incident. There is no word on whether this will this require another vote in the legislature, which one would imagine will have to reverse the will of its 125 members as well.

Last week, I also wrote briefly on the Angus Reid poll conducted August 4 and 5, 2009, that reported 31% of Quebec residents strongly support the idea of legalizing euthanasia, another 46% moderately support the idea with 9% moderately opposed, 8% strongly opposed and 6% uncertain.

More details of the poll as posted on the Angus Reid website are of interest.

While numbers were high in support of euthanizing the terminally ill when the patient is lucid and makes the decision – somehow it seems this still should be a moral dilemma for those who have taken the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm,” I suppose unless they are already performing abortions – the numbers flip when it comes to electing to die in a pact with one’s spouse.

There was an interesting split of 40% for (14% strongly support and 26% moderately support) and 48% against the idea of a parent having the right to decide to euthanize a child who has a severe and debilitating illness. 11% were uncertain. This question hits squarely on the issue of whether or not Robert Latimer should have been convicted for murdering his 12 year old daughter Tracy who suffered from cerebral palsy.

No doubt, the statistics more favourable to euthanasia that were reported in the Quebec media last week will also be presented in the House of Commons when it resumes in two weeks to debate Bill C-384, the so called “death with dignity” bill. The reality is that if Canadian law begins making distinctions between the value of one human life over another, it diminishes the value of all human life. When Canadians are struggling with that distinction, legislators confronted with legislative initiatives will struggle with the decision.

These statistics provide a clarion call to re-invigorate our society with a concern for human life in general, and the vulnerable in particular.

If Quebec’s Bill 34, the Act to amend various legislative provisions concerning specialized medical centres and medical imaging laboratories, could pass the legislature in March and fall following less than a week of media intervention and lobbying from doctors then the voices of those who believe in the value of human life – the dignity of life – must be expressed to be heard. Members of Parliament should be encouraged to study the implications of legalized euthanasia practices in other jurisdictions, thoroughly examine and understand the language in any legislative proposal before them, then to vote against any such proposal in the Canadian Parliament.

Governments do respond to public pressure and politicians, it seems, are best to read and understand any legislation they intend to vote into law.

Don Hutchinson is Vice-President, General Legal Counsel with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Director of the Centre for Faith and Public Life.

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