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Back to School: Abortion Pop Quiz

Did you know that abortion is legal in Canada up until birth? Did you know that women can have partial birth abortions in this country? Did you know we have no laws whatsoever regulating this important medical procedure? Did you know that we are the only developed country in the world to have no law at all?

If you didn’t, don’t feel bad. According to a 2008 survey, 92 percent of Canadians were found not to know that an abortion could be performed during all nine months of pregnancy.

People are talking about “it” and, it seems, want to start a national dialogue if not a full blown discussion or debate. Some make the case that the dialogue has already started or that it has never ended. Others advocate for the status quo and want to shut down all discussion on this topic, lest positions contrary to their own be not only expressed but heard.

The reality is that Canadians who are made aware of the current situation are mighty uncomfortable with it. A 2008 Environics poll found that a majority of Canadians want some legal protections in place for the unborn child. Nearly six out of ten respondents were in favour of some legal protection while only 33 percent support the status quo – no protection for children until after a live birth. Interestingly, it found that more women (33 percent) than men (24 percent) supported protection from the point of conception.

As Canadians, we need to talk intelligently about abortion and debate it as we would any other issue. Why? Because it’s healthy for us and it should be not only permitted, but expected in a free and democratic country.

…why [do] we know so little about this medical procedure?

I’m not the only one who feels this way. A year ago, Andrew Coyne wrote a splendid piece on this very topic, highlighting the history of abortion in Canada (many of us would likely fail a pop quiz on that topic) and calling Canadians to talk about it, minus the hysterics that emerge when one side simply wants to shout the other down. Frankly, I think we’re up to the task.

It’s a difficult topic. I won’t deny that. It deeply and personally affects women, men, families and communities. But Canadians are intelligent, sensitive and bright – this is something we can handle.

Frankly, if a 12-year-old Toronto school girl can persuasively discuss the topic, why can’t we full grown, and supposedly more mature, adults do the same? (The fact that it has been reported that she has received hundreds of death threats is another matter entirely, and is deserving of a separate editorial piece).

Naturally, one question that needs to be addressed is why we know so little about this medical procedure? Every year, approximately 100,000 pregnancies are terminated in Canada. The impact is not only on the life ended and the mother who made the decision, but also on the father, other family members as well as the community, physicians and hospital staff. This is something about which we should have awareness.

Unfortunately, there are special interest groups pressuring government officials and institutional representatives to keep this discussion and awareness of both the law and contemporary knowledge concerning the impact of abortion out of even the most appropriate forums.

Many universities are becoming hotbeds of intolerance rather than places of learning, debate and intellectual growth. Several have refused even to allow pro-life clubs to set up tables on Clubs Days. The greater taboo is to pass out information about gestational development or adoption options.

Off campus, various pro-life groups have had to fight an uphill battle to simply post informational ads seeking to enlighten the Canadian population of the dearth of laws and regulations.

Often, the moment leaders or politicians step out and voice support for the unborn or pregnant women, they face a barrage of criticism and attacks. If male, they are often told they have no right to speak. If female, their gender loyalty is challenged.

Do these heavy handed and highly vocal special interest groups believe that the average Canadian woman is incapable of understanding basic information and research? That they are incapable of coming to their own conclusions, or perhaps to the “right” conclusions?

And isn’t being pro-woman acknowledging that women are intelligent and we should provide them with all the facts, figures and statistics and let them come to their own conclusions? Or should the status quo continue where a limited few determine the limited information that should be provided to a woman seeking to make this most difficult of decisions?

Regardless of the reasons why, the challenge for all of us as a new “academic” year begins is to educate ourselves – learn a thing or two about abortion so you can intelligently participate in the national dialogue.

Faye Sonier is Legal Counsel with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

The above article may be republished with permission in print publications. For more information contact Gail Reid: reidg@efc-canada.com.

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A ministry of
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada