Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Why Canada Doesn't Need An Abortion Policy

Predictably, fetus fetishists are all a-dither over Jonathon Kay's NatPo article yesterday, wherein he explains Why Canada Needs An Abortion Policy (also known as "regressive abortion law"). He refers to a recent article of the same name published by Joseph Ben-Ami of the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies, which he summarizes in 8 easy-to-read (even for fetus fetishists!) talking points. Oh well, it's a nice day for a fisking (caution -- don't light any matches, multiple straw men ahead):
"1. At late stages of pregnancy, there is very little biological or moral difference between slaying an unborn fetus and slaying a delivered baby. Yet, the latter is rightly considered murder, while the former isn't even illegal."
Now that's what I call good propaganda -- an emotional hook, a little science and a little "morality"... but no facts. On those rare and tragic occasions (less than half of 1%) when late-term abortions are done, it's only because the fetus is damaged or the mother's life is in jeopardy. But mentioning this little factoid would diminish the shock and awe value of Kay's statement. Dead babies! Ack! Onward...
"2. Every other country in the world has some sort of abortion law, unlike Canada. We tend to regard European nations as the height of social liberalism. Yet their laws are actually quite strict when it comes to gestation limits on abortion. France, for instance, permits abortion on demand only until the 10th week of pregnancy. Is this really a case where we're right and the whole rest of the world is wrong?"
The short answer to that question is "Yes, Dumbass, this really is a case where we're right and the rest of the world is wrong," and one element of proof is that in spite of their draconian abortion laws, France's abortion rate is higher than ours. You were saying...?
"3. Creating a law to regulate abortion does not hinge — as some high-school debating types presuppose — on the existence of fetal rights. Even if one supposes that a fetus has no rights whatsoever (a radical, but admittedly widespread position in post-religious Western nations), that does not mean society has no right to protect a fetus. After all, we protect all sorts of things that have no rights — including trees, wetlands, endangered insect species and heritage buildings. If we extend protection to those things in certain cases (notwithstanding the offsetting rights of affected property owners), why would we not protect an unborn child, in certain cases, notwithstanding the offsetting rights of a mother?"
It's astonishing that I have to keep pointing out that all these "other things we protect" aren't inside anyone's body. A bit of a difference there, no? NEXT!
"4. Contrary to popular belief, the Supreme Court of Canada never declared that the government had no right to regulate abortion — nor did it claim that a fetus had no rights (though it has claimed that a fetus is not a "person"). All the Supreme Court did, in its 1988 Morgentaler decision, was strike down a regulation system that was unpredictable, badly administered, fragmented and out of date. Nothing in Canadian constitutional law or supreme court jurisprudence would prevent Parliament from creating a new law that oultawed abortions after, say, 14, or 16, or 18 weeks of gestation."
No, nothing at all would prevent the creation of such a law... if political self-preservation wasn't an instinct the government possessed. In addition, we all know that any law that was put in place would only open a can of legislative worms anti-choicers would quickly take advantage of in their quest to make abortion completely illegal. (Then they'd start on contraception.) NOBODY wants that. Moving right along...
5. The number of women who have died as a result of botched, back-alley abortions in the immediate pre-Morgentaler era is surely exaggerated when people casually debate the abortion issue — though it is definitely not zero. (I don't see this as a winning argument — since all you need is one truly horrible example in this genre, graphically described, to win on this point. But Ben-Ami is likely correct that the pre-Morgentaler death toll from botched abortions was probably only about one a month, a tiny fraction of the number of viables fetuses aborted post-Morgentaler.)
This is so vile I'm not even sure what to say: not enough women died from back-alley abortions to make abortion rights worthwhile? Jonathon, your misogyny is showing. Asshole.
"6. Given the manner in which social revolutionaries are changing the face of bioethics, it is only a matter of time before an enterprising lawyer or activist judge is able to get an infanticide suspect off the hook on the grounds that (as described in point #1, above) what he did was little different from late-term abortion, a perfectly legal practice."
Ah, finally, the slippery-slope argument... that, once again, neglects to mention the crucial difference that a fetus is inside (and attached to) a woman's body, while an infant is not. Complete and utter bullshit. MOVING ON...
"7. Our lack of abortion law makes a mockery of efforts to discourage immigrant Asian families from selectively aborting female fetuses. Canadian doctors and their oversight bodies condemn such practices as "repugnant" — but their admonishments carry little moral force: If our laws permit mothers to abort their unborn children at any time, for any reason at all, why should they listen to the men in white coats just because their motivation happens to be tied to the child's sex?"
Okay, now the bullshit's getting thick. Kay tacitly (and probably inadvertently) admits that doctors are policing their own practices without the help of legislation when it comes to sex-selection abortion. So why the disconnect between that and late-term abortion, or other abortion scenarios that might be contraindicated by a doctor? And how on earth would a law give a doctor's orders more "moral force"? All a law means is that state thugs back the doctor's decision. AND finally, this little gem:
"8. And if it is fine to abort a fetus because of its sex, why not because it suffers from a genetic abnormality — even a mild one? Or because it is has some gene linked to ... well, take your pick of socially and medically undesirable traits? A free-for-all abortion policy is a necessary, and in some cases sufficient, condition for parentally-administered eugenics."
Kay must be a skier because he sure likes that slippery slope! His final point is the one where all abortion "debates" end (in frustration at the stupidity): eugenics. Parents intent on creating a master race will abort their "imperfect" offspring, egads. Again, if that ever became a trend (and that's a pretty big "if"), the decision is in the able hands of the doctors, who've proven they need no help from the state to make the appropriate medical decisions.

Ya know, if the government had put an abortion law in place 15 or 20 years ago, it probably would have been lamely accepted as a tie-up of the legal loose ends left by the Morgentaler Decision. If a law was to be created, that would have been the time to do it. But serendipity (and that nasty instinct of political self-preservation) allowed us a 20-year experiment in "lawless abortion"... and we proved it works. Given that abortion rates have steadily declined without the imposition of any regressive laws, women and doctors have proven beyond any doubt that they're more than capable of policing themselves, and that Canada doesn't need an abortion law. Putting a law in place now would be akin to fixing something that ain't broke.