Friday, July 11, 2008

Be careful what you wish for.

The Morgentaler dealio last week was truly a gift to editorial writers, coming as it did during a week when they'd otherwise be writing articles like "The Top Ten Reasons Canada is So Great" (one of which is: no abortion law). Not surprisingly, some are having a hard time letting go of such a rich motherlode of outrage.

This week Macleans, for no apparent reason other than to milk the controversy and stir the pot, ran an article by Andrew Coyne entitled "It's time to talk about abortion". (Dr. Dawg has a more in-depth analysis of Coyne's loquacious little wag-o'-the-finger.)

Coyne has problems with the fact that abortion has existed in a legal vacuum since the old law was struck down in 1988 by R v. Morgentaler. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do authoritarians. There's lawlessness going on! Laws! We need laws!

Other than anti-choice crackpots, I can't understand why anyone would harbour such a burning desire to legislate abortion. Not only is each woman's reproductive business her own and nobody else's, but somehow we've done just fine without a law. Better than fine, actually.

Proponents of legislation will clutch their pearls and jabber querulously about late-term abortion, but late-term abortions make up less than one-half of one percent of all abortions, and are only performed in dire circumstances. A law wouldn't change any of that. "But what if someone decides to abort a 9-month fetus!!? For conveeeeeenience!? It's not illegal, so they can!!!" the nutters will shriek and swoon. What if? In the extremely unlikely event that someone would want to do something so bizarre, good luck finding a doctor who'll do the procedure -- no doctor in Canada would do it. Authoritarians don't like this but, the truth is, women and doctors police themselves and make all the right decisions, themselves, without the state's helpful intervention.

But then the freaks on the fainting couch will reach for the smelling salts and, like Coyne, they'll gasp: "But a
lone among developed countries, Canada has no abortion law!!!"

So what? What makes the other countries right and Canada wrong? They just haven't had the chance to see how well this lawlessness thing works, that's all; Canada is something of a pioneer in that respect. Through sheer disinterest on the part of Canadian citizens and lawmakers, we've had a 20-year experiment which has proven conclusively that we don't need an abortion law. Nope, women aren't aborting 8-month fetuses, women aren't using abortion instead of contraception, and hot damn! the abortion rates are dropping. It seems to me that the rest of the world should be taking their cues from us, not the other way around.

Of course, there'll always be twisted authoritarian creeps who have darker reasons for wanting to legislate the womb; those rotten douchebags who can't wait for the day when women are punished for having non-procreative sex, and they won't rest until they see an abortion law. To them I say (in an ominous tone): be careful what you wish for. We've been far too long and far too successful in getting by without a law. Any "national discussion" on abortion law at this point could well end with abortion rights enshrined, locked in and secured in a way that's untouchable.

Which, the more I think about it, seems like a worthy goal.

UPDATE: Mr. Coyne's argument for allowing the state into the wombs of the nation takes a well-placed boot to the nads from Dave...