London Free Press

Wednesday, July 14, 1999

The logical argument

By Herman Goodden -- London Free Press

I was standing in the lobby of the Grand Theatre a couple seasons ago, talking with a husband and wife who operate a business. They asked what I was working on and I told them I was mulling over some inequities of abortion legislation in this country. I postulated the following dilemma as an example. "If a man wishes to see his child born and the woman who bears that child does not, that child will cease to exist. If the woman wishes to see that child born and the man does not, that child will not only be born, but the man will be legally responsible for support. Doesn't that strike you as just a little unfair?"

Abortion is emotionally charged as few topics are. I was prepared to accommodate impassioned disagreement, even anger or stuttering incoherence, though the latter response seemed unlikely from so articulate a couple. What I wasn't prepared for was a craven refusal to address the question at all. "I don't know what's fair," the woman hissed at me. "But abortion is a right that women have finally won and it simply can't be questioned. I won't talk about it." Saying this, she turned on her heels and walked away, leaving her husband and I sheepishly grinning in embarrassed silence.

I remember that woman's poutish display whenever important ethical issues cannot be properly debated for fear they might lead to second thoughts about what we allow to happen approximately 110,000 times every year in this country in the name of a woman's right to reproductive freedom. I have to say "approximately" because Statistics Canada, whose raison d'etre is to freely "collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish statistical information relating to the commercial, industrial, financial, social, economic and general activities and conditions of the people of Canada," stopped providing abortion figures in 1995.

With steely perseverance, you can dig much more limited abortion information out of a private agency called the Canadian Institute for Health Information, but I think it's hugely significant that the prime and most accessible source for statistical information in Canada should also have turned on their heels and refused further discussion of this one issue.

Similarly, last week the Supreme Court of Canada refused six-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Ryan Dobson's grandparents the right to sue his mother's insurance company to help with the cost of his lifelong care. That care was necessitated by injuries Dobson sustained as a seven-month-old fetus when his mother's car collided with a transport truck. As in the 1997 case of a glue-sniffing pregnant woman who was deemed not responsible for the post-natal health of her child, acknowledging any rights of pre-born fetuses could open the floodgates to charges of wrongful death in millions of cases of abortion.

In an editorial about the Dobson case on Monday, the Globe and Mail provocatively suggests granting qualified rights to certain fetuses. "The solution must be a broader-based and Canada-wide definition of what rights an unborn child has once the mother decides to carry to term (emphasis mine)." Pro-life advocates would welcome any such legislative measure as a foothold in the currently impenetrable wall of Canadian abortion rights. For that reason, I don't anticipate this measure being adopted soon.

Even woollier risks attend attempts by the federal government to clamp down on that slowly growing majority of Canadian mothers who are choosing to abort female fetuses but are carrying males to term. Addressing this phenomenon, Health Minister Allan Rock's department issued a statement which read: "Health Canada views sex selection for non-medical reasons as a highly discriminatory practice that devalues the female in society."

In that case, I want to ask Rock,

doesn't it logically and morally follow that aborting fetuses of either sex only serves to devalue the human in society?

I can already see him turn on his heels and walk away.

Herman Goodden is a London freelance writer. His column appears Wednesdays.

Copyright © 1997 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.