19 May 2014 Provinces can fill legal vaccuum surrounding abortions
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and the NDP Status of Women critic Niki Ashton have, perhaps unintentionally, drawn much needed attention to the plight of unprotected fetuses in Canada in recent weeks. While it is unexpected to have two left-of-centre parties raise the always-sensitive topic of abortion, it is a conversation that needs to be had. And since Canada is only one of three countries in the world with no abortion laws whatsoever, our Parliament is one place in which this conversation really must be taking place.
While the debate continues in Ottawa and as Canadians contemplate federal abortion laws, there is also much needed dialogue at the provincial level. There are many provincial regulations that would address the void surrounding Canadian abortion law. The Constitution Act (1867) lays out the division of powers between federal and provincial governments. Section 92 (16) confers on Provincial Legislatures the power to make laws in relation to “all matters of merely local or private nature in the province.” Similarly, paragraph 7 of that same section authorizes provinces to make laws in relation to “the establishment, maintenance, and management of hospitals, charities, etc.” This specifically authorizes the provinces to establish and regulate hospitals, and to regulate hospital-based health care services.
There is a lot of room for provincial legislatures to step up. For example, there are no laws stipulating that women seeking an abortion need to be properly informed on the physical and psychological risks accompanying abortion. Similarly, no health jurisdiction in our country has parental consent for abortion legislation.
A few weeks ago my sixteen-year-old daughter was asked to come in for a night shift at the retail outlet she works at. In order for her to do that, my wife and I had to give our written consent. We didn’t have a problem with this – it provided a measure of respect for and deference to our parental responsibilities. In contrast, if our daughter found herself in an unplanned pregnancy, she could quite easily be pressured to think abortion was the only solution for her and to abort her pre-born child without our knowledge.
When I mentioned this to a friend in Saskatchewan she told me that her fifteen-year-old daughter, who has Type 1 Diabetes, wanted to get a tattoo. The medic alert bracelet she must wear was aggravating her allergies, and a permanent tattoo would reliably convey the same medical information. My friend explained that nearly every tattoo shop she went to refused to tattoo her daughter, even with parental permission, because in their words, “It’s a permanent decision that we want to make sure your daughter won’t regret.”
Note the stark contrast in how we treat our daughters when it comes to tattooing and employment standards compared to the current legal vacuum regarding abortion – a decision for which there is also permanent ramifications.
Young girls need the protection of caring parents or guardians. Without the involvement of parents it is easier for coercive boyfriends and child predators to use abortion to cover up criminal behaviour. A parental consent for abortion act would enshrine into law the rights and responsibilities of parents and would give much needed protection to vulnerable minors.