A political campaign being carried out by anti-abortion groups is evoking reactions from across the country. The two groups, Campaign Life Coalition and Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform have combined their resources and are in the process of delivering one million postcards in advance of the October federal election. The postcards show an aborted baby juxtaposed with the well-known face of Justin Trudeau and the phrase “No 2 Trudeau”. It’s a provocative message to be sure.
Parents of young children who receive the postcards are emotionally disturbed, and abortion advocates are irate that choice is being exposed. Justin Trudeau’s reaction? He has gone on the offensive. The Liberal leader wants to make abortion an election issue and for well over a year now has been intentionally misleading Canadians by stating that abortion is a Charter right and his is the “party of the Charter”.
Mr. Trudeau, like many Canadians, believes in a woman’s right to choose abortion. The notion we should celebrate that Canada allows abortion for any reason at any point in a pregnancy is lamentable. The Charter nowhere grants a right to abortion and the Supreme Court of Canada has never interpreted it to allow for unregulated abortion. Rather, they have looked to Parliament to pass regulations that are constitutional and protect the foetus at some point in its development.
In the Supreme Court ruling in R. v. Morgentaler  we read this from Justice Bertha Wilson, “The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state’s interest in its protection becomes “compelling” I leave to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive guidance on the subject from all the relevant disciplines. It seems to me, however, that it might fall somewhere in the second trimester.” Justice Wilson, who some say was the most liberal Supreme Court judge on the bench at the time also wrote about the need for a developmental view of the foetus. She writes, “A developmental view of the foetus supports a permissive approach to abortion in the early stages of pregnancy and a restrictive approach in the later stages.” The judges who struck down Canada’s abortion regulations as they were written prior to 1988 clearly did not envision a legal void spanning nearly three decades.
It is time for Canada to follow every other democratic nation and begin to protect pre-born human rights. For example, is Mr. Trudeau aware that in Germany and Australia women have the right to choose even though those countries have long-established abortion regulations? These regulations prevent the killing of foetuses in the latter stages of pregnancy or abortions simply because of a preferred gender. In other words women don’t have the right to choose “at all costs” and there is a recognition that pre-born human rights need to be protected at some point. The refusal by Parliament to put forward responsible measures which would regulate abortion leaves Canada in company of only China and North Korea.
In addition to the court’s interpretation of Parliament’s role in regulating abortion Trudeau’s own father also understood well that a woman’s right to abortion “at all costs” was not something he could support. In speaking to the Montreal Star in 1972 Trudeau senior quipped, “The foetus is not your body; it’s someone else’s body. And if you kill it you’ll have to explain.” Not to suggest Justin be bound by what his father says, the elder Trudeau was simply relaying a scientific fact – one that his son seems completely ignorant of.
Canadian women will legally be allowed to end their pregnancies for the foreseeable future, but regulations are necessary and it’s time that Canada took steps to protect pre-born human rights. Laws restricting abortion to a certain stage of pregnancy or prohibiting it for sex-selective purposes will not take away a woman’s right to choose; rather regulations such as these would better reflect our constitutional obligations towards children in the womb and bring us in line with international standards.
Mike Schouten is the director for WeNeedaLAW.ca, a public awareness campaign building support for the protection of pre-born human rights.