A SHEPHERD SPEAKS

Bishop Fred Henry

March 18, 2013

In Kia's Super Bowl ad (which we weren't able to see on Canadian television stations), a son asks his father where babies come from. The father (behind the wheel of a new Kia Sorento) is so distressed by the question, he concocts a story about how babies come from a distant planet called Babylandia.

Babylandia is a pretty sweet place. Lots of greenery. Plenty of open spaces. Diapers are abundant. There are baby humans, baby ducks, baby penguins, you name it.

"When the time is just right," the dad says, "there's a space launch," and the babies are sent to Earth on a nine-month journey on a big rocket. The babies "penetrate the atmosphere," parachute from the spaceship and land with their families.

If the babies are really lucky, their families have a Kia. If the parents are smart, they've opted for a voice-controlled sound system that can drown out any other awkward questions.

I don't have any comments to make about the Kia Sorento itself, but the commercial wasn't very good. Nevertheless, it made me think about babies, awkward questions and systems that attempt to control thinking.

For example, why does Canada not have an abortion law? Canada is the only democracy in the world without legislation protecting children in the womb.

Twenty-five years ago, on Jan. 28, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada, in the Regina v. Morgentaler decision, struck down the existing abortion law, making Canada the only western country with unrestricted abortion on demand, fully funded by taxpayers.

It is estimated 2.5 million unborn children have been killed by abortion since January 1988.

To drown out this vexatious question, many sound systems loudly and repeatedly shout: "The Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion?" It did not.

Others scream: "The judgment found that any legal restriction on abortion was a violation of women's rights." It did not.

Others summarily proclaim: "The abortion issue has been settled." It has not.

FOUR JUDGMENTS

The 5-2 Supreme Court decision is split into no fewer than four separate judgments. No member of the court intended theirs to be the last word on the subject. It was only the law in front of them at the time that they found unconstitutional - section 251 of the Criminal Code.

What the court objected to most was the provision requiring that women obtain the assent of a three-member "therapeutic abortion committee" in an "accredited" hospital that "continuation of the pregnancy would or would be likely to endanger her life or health."

As a practical matter, the court found, this often put an abortion out of the reach, even where a women's life or health was in danger. Many hospitals did not have a therapeutic abortion committee. Many more were not accredited for the purpose. Committees often took their time deciding and operated without clear guidelines, notably as to how "health" was to be defined.

ANOTHER LAW

But the judges were equally clear that another law might pass constitutional muster.

They wrote that Parliament had a legitimate interest in protecting the fetus, and was "justified in requiring a reliable, independent and medically sound opinion as the 'life and health' of the pregnant woman."

"It is possible that a future enactment by Parliament that would require a higher degree of danger to health in the latter months of pregnancy, as opposed to the early months" would achieve a more acceptable balancing of interests.

Regrettably, our members of Parliament are content to play a political game with life refusing to even discuss the question. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has adopted an extremist stance and has promised, not merely that his government will not introduce any law on abortion, but that he would "use whatever influence I have" to prevents his MPs from sponsoring bills on abortion of their own.

Comments by the rotating leaders of the Liberal and New Democratic parties are even sillier and inconsistent with scientific facts.

OUTDATED LEGALISM

Medical sciences tell us that the pre-born child, from the moment of fertilization/conception has her own DNA, her own blood type, her own heartbeat at 18 days, her own brain waves at 43 days, etc. In fact, by 11-to-12 weeks the rapidly developing pre-born child's organs are present and working, she is becoming extremely sensitive to things such as sound and pain, and all that is needed is time to grow.

Clearly, the legalistic view of the pre-born child as an extension of the mother, to which some people favouring abortion still cling, has proven to be outdated.

Differences between pre-born babies and other people are not in species (human or not) but in size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency. These differences also exist among those of us who survived past the womb.

As there should be no denial of the right to life to anyone already protected under Canadian laws (those already born), regardless of where they fall on any of these continuums, so should there be no denial of the human right to life to those at the most vulnerable ends of the scale, pre-born children and the disabled or elderly.

NOT GONE AWAY

Whatever the attempts to drown out the awkward question and bury the issue, the abortion question has not gone away. Public opinion is divided as it is on almost every other issue. However, in poll after poll, it is clear that the majority of Canadians want some protection for children in the womb. Most Canadians find it morally unacceptable that abortion can be committed in the third trimester, or based on the sex of the child in the womb.

Canadian history has shown that we make the law (or seek justice) in our image and likeness where there is no external standard, and worse still, the rationale for having an abortion multiplies.

We now have abortion on demand. This is intolerable. It is time for everyone to support the campaign and goals of weneedaLaw.ca.