In its May 20 edition, the Prairie Messenger published an article by Michael Coren that compelled me to expound my reasons for supporting laws against abortion. Canada has no law addressing abortion. We’ve lived in this situation for so long now, that I think many of us have become desensitized to it.
Even if we personally don’t like abortion, we may find ourselves thinking that we’re not responsible for other peoples’ choices. There are plenty of things that are morally wrong but not illegal, such as lying or cheating on a spouse. Maybe abortion just falls into this category? I wouldn’t want one personally, we might think, but I don’t want to control other people.
Before I can address whether or not the law should be employed against abortion, I need to set up a few premises. First, abortion is harmful for women. It’s not harmful just in the way that lying is harmful; it is harmful in the way that female genital mutilation is harmful. It is a completely unnecessary procedure that damages a woman physically, emotionally and spiritually. I would not wish it on anyone.
Second, I am against abortion not only because it ends a human life, but also because I don’t want to live in a world in which we solve our problems by encouraging or forcing a mother to submit to the killing of her child.
So where does the law fit into all of this? There are several reasons why we might create a law, but I think the primary exercise of the law is to protect the weak and vulnerable. In the case of abortion, I see two vulnerable people: the pre-born child and the mother. Normally when the abortion debate is framed, it is seen as child vs. mother. I refuse to accept this. Rather, I see it as mother and child vs. societal ills.
Abortion is a symptom of the greatest evils facing our world. Most abortions are the result of a culture that does not value women or their capacity for bringing life into the world. We live in a world full of poverty, violence, broken relationships and greed. It should come as no surprise that this culture would see abortion as a solution to its own failures.
For example, over the past few months the world was shaken by the appalling story of a 10-year-old rape victim in Paraguay. The girl entered a hospital on April 21 when she was around five months pregnant, the result of sexual abuse by her stepfather. The girl’s situation exposed an epidemic of sexual abuse that victimizes an abhorrent number of Paraguayan girls.
However, despite the obvious injustices facing women in Paraguay, the international discussion of this case has remained obstinately focused on whether or not the 10-year-old should receive an abortion. This neglects the root causes of her pregnancy, falsely imagining that abortion can somehow resolve the brutal trauma she has experienced.
An abortion may erase the evidence of the violence inflicted upon this girl, but it cannot erase the violence itself. This 10-year-old knows there is a child inside her. Does she want an abortion? Will she feel better knowing that the child has been destroyed? How will an abortion help her to cope with the trauma she has experienced? What are the experiences of other rape victims who have carried their children to term? How will an abortion affect her long-term health?
Instead of trying to answer these questions, most news outlets have jumped to the conclusion that an abortion is the best thing for the Paraguayan girl and that laws against abortion further subjugate women. But this missed the point that abortion itself victimizes women.
Consider for a moment what would have happened if this girl had been raped in Canada. Once it became evident that the young girl was pregnant, it would have been legal for her stepfather to take her to a hospital to receive an abortion. One would hope that health care professionals would stop to ask questions, trying to discover how a 10-year-old had become pregnant; but legally, they would be under no compulsion to do so. This girl could have received an abortion and been taken back home to continue her life of abuse.
I fear that by allowing unquestioned access to abortion, all we are really doing is covering up the symptoms of a much deeper disease. Abortion allows our society to absolve itself from dealing with gender inequality, poverty, violence, and the breakdown of families. For over a generation we have been using abortion to sweep these problems under the rug, but the rug is starting to bulge. We are in need of laws against abortion to get our culture back on the right track.
Many people balk at an abortion law because they imagine the law would treat women who seek abortions as perpetrators. However, the abortion laws that I support see mothers as victims. The perpetrators are the people who would give a woman an abortion without trying to help her find a better life for herself and her child. A rapist who brings a girl to the hospital for an abortion needs to be exposed. A doctor who takes a woman’s money for an abortion but fails to connect her with the proper social supports to care for her child needs to be sanctioned. A society that forces a woman to choose between her future and the future of her child needs a revolution.
Canada’s current legal vacuum abandons mothers when they are most in need of the defence of the law. Women deserve better.
Deutscher holds an MA in Public Ethics from St. Paul University in Ottawa. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.