Legal Restrictions or Moral Persuasion?

05/11/2012 / blog posts 

It is unfortunate that for numerous decades the abortion debate has been polarized to the extent that the quintessential Canadian response is, to avoid the discussion altogether. Diane Bederman is to be credited with courage as she seeks to find the middle ground in this often times hostile environment.

Ms. Bederman’s response to Alan Borovoy was published in today’s National Post. She makes a case for the humanity of the pre-born child and distances herself from those who call the fetus a “mass of cells” and resort to silly word games in an attempt to obfuscate the debate. She goes so far as to say  that, “we are better as a society if we agree that all human life is sacred, that it has inherent value.”  It’s rather disturbing then, to read her conclusion that women should have a right to end the life of their pre-born child unhindered by legal restrictions imposed by the state; and we best address abortion through moral persuasion alone.

This presents a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of government. Canada is a great place to live and the envy of many in the world because we have the rule of law and authorities that enforce it by determining what is right and wrong. The first mandate of government is to restrain immoral behaviour and carry this out by putting laws into effect.

Think for example of rape; rape is immoral and thus we have laws that prohibit such activity. We don’t, as Ms. Bederman suggests, resort to moral persuasion only, in our efforts to end sexual abuse. In quoting former American President Bill Clinton she says, “Abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare.” That’s akin to saying, “Rape should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare”. Ludicrous you say? Absolutely! And this is where Ms. Bederman is dead wrong in her assertion that the abortion debate shouldn’t focus on legal principles.

I’m all in favour of education and awareness. These are good tools to utilize, especially when dealing with human rights. That certainly doesn’t mean we have to abandon the quest for laws which enforce the recognition of those rights. We shouldn’t be content by relying on moral persuasion at the exclusion of legal enforcement for any activity whereby one individuals rights are violated by another; including the rights of children in the womb. In fact, I would submit you can’t even separate the two. In order to introduce and pass any legislation you need to have a moral basis for doing so.

Simply because abortion is legal, it doesn’t make it right. It’s time Canada enacted legislation addressing this human rights violation. Every other democracy in the word recognizes they can’t rely on moral persuasion alone and has legal protections in place. When will Canada?




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