An Open Letter to Maryam Monsef

Dear Maryam Monsef,

There are a few things in your response to conservative MP’s recent “unacceptable” involvement in pro-life activities that I would like to address. The first is your claim that our nation’s views on abortion have “long been decided”, and that this supposed heritage status preemptively disqualifies any further attempts at discussion.

May I remind you that the keeping of slaves had “long been decided” in America before the 13th amendment was ratified in 1865; may I remind you that it had “long been decided” in Germany that Jews were less than human until the end of the war in 1945; may I remind you that the legitimacy of residential schools in Canada had “long been decided” before the last institution closed in 1996.

I only bring up these examples to remind you that simply because an issue such as abortion “has long been decided” (a statement that, for many Canadians, isn’t even close to accurate), it doesn’t follow that the doors to further discussion should be closed, or that legislative backpedaling be viewed as the worst thing that could possibly happen.

Let’s not forget that in a case that has supposedly, “long been decided”, no one in the supreme court took the time to discuss why a fetus is not allowed to participate in humanity’s “fundamental right to life” party, or how they also conveniently neglected to define the parameters of what constitutes a detriment to a women’s health – an oversight (or downright malpractice) that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary abortions.

History has shown that as humans, we make mistakes ― sometimes even horrific mistakes ― and that the correct response isn’t to double down, but to work backwards towards the identification of the error and then on to correction. In the case of abortion in Canada, that begins with revisiting R. v. Morgentaler.

Secondly, I want to comment on your prima facie assumption that a woman’s decision either to terminate or carry a pregnancy holds incontestable and supreme force. Let’s ignore for the moment, because it’s been dealt with at length elsewhere, the argument that a “duty to rescue” applies to anyone who makes the decision to become attached to a life – in and out of the womb.

Let’s instead move right on to the concept of “bodily autonomy” and it’s relatively recent arrival to center stage. It was once generally agree upon that the decisions we make as individuals are not merely the manipulation of a single thread, but a readjustment of the entire tapestry. My decision to gamble away my grocery money may be an act of self-governance, but it also an act of supreme selfishness; the exercise of “choice” doesn’t include its own justification merely by virtue of it being mine.

As it concerns abortion, we can illustrate the consequences of such a choice as a series of concentric circles radiating outwards. At the center, we have the fetus, without a doubt the one most impacted by such a decision. Next we have the mother, whose irrevocable act of bodily autonomy will likely result in emotional scars for many years to come. Next comes those immediately affected — siblings, grandparents, friends — whose range of responses will vary wildly, but of whom it could never be said are impassive bystanders. Finally comes a society and government who are not only deprived of potential teachers, doctors, tradesmen, mothers, and nurses, but now must bear the guilt of association in our endorsement of such a practice.

Ms Monsef, if you are indeed the champion of women you claim to be, why not show your support by affirming that being “pro-women” and “pro-life” need not be exclusive categories. Why not remind women who are struggling alone with these decisions that they are not, in fact, alone — that even in the bleakest, most unforeseen pregnancies, life is a gift that is precious and must be protected.

All in all, I believe abortion is far from a closed case, and applaud the aforementioned MP’s for their courage in this matter.

Sincerely,

Ben Inglis

 

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6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Maryam Monsef

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  1. What you are arguing against is a fundamental human right as laid out on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A woman’s heath decision is a matter between her and her doctor.
    If you want to see an end to abortion, please put your energies into education, (specifically sex ed in our schools), and free access to contraceptives.

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    1. Hello Anne,

      You seem to be confusing my concerns with government-sanctioned infanticide with meddling in a woman’s private affairs. To be clear, my beef is not with women making “health decisions” as you call them, but women [along with all other agreeable parties] giving permission to rip apart a life they are responsible for. Why is that you are so quick to defend human rights so far as the absolute autonomy of the individual is concerned, but so reluctant to uphold them when it concerns a fetus’ right to life? That is the definition of inconsistent. I am all for autonomy so far as it protects citizens against unnecessary interference – but to use autonomy as a weapon against the vulnerable is, as far as I’m concerned, to be disqualified as an autonomous decision maker in that instance.

      I also don’t see how energy expended into raising awareness of the murder that abortion is necessarily exclusive to energy expended into support for women struggling with unexpected pregnancies – or even energy expended into preventatives – although I would seriously question your methodology as far as that is concerned.

      We’re coming at this issue from fundamentally different worldviews Anne – and though I always appreciate discussion, at some point we have to acknowledge our points of disagreement aren’t due to misunderstanding.

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  2. Ben,
    You are saying a lot here. I understand your position.
    What I am saying is that it is the law of our land that a woman’s decision on her own health is private.
    With better sex education in our schools, I believe that abortion rates will continue to decrease due to fewer unplanned pregnancies. Isn’t that what we are both after?

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  3. Right, and I am questioning the legitimacy of that law. Questions about the rightness or wrongness of a decision, especially when it concerns the termination of a life, aren’t moot simply because it was a decision “made in private.” Murder is dealt with at a public level (i.e. the courts) because it is a crime against humanity; and how a society responds to the taking of a life says a lot about what a society deems important. Which doesn’t say much for our society honestly.

    I am for fewer unplanned pregnancies. I am also for the illegalization of abortion. I am obviously not against education, but I think it’s naive to assume that education, especially education today, grounded as it is in secular presuppositions, will somehow provide an ethical grid within which individuals can navigate decisions like these. Case in point, the so called “rape chants” popular on many university campuses – shouldn’t we expect such bastions of enlightenment to be accompanied by virtue? Apparently not.

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  4. Statistics show that laws restricting abortion do not result in the procedure occurring less frequently. Abortion rates have significantly declined over the last 25 years in countries where contraception is more readily available.
    Also, accessible, as in within reach for those of low income, or free.
    This, combined with decent sex Ed, will continue to reduce the need for abortion.
    I was 100 % in favour of the Ontario Liberal government’s changes to the Health Curriculum, as that way every child and young adult would have a grounding of knowledge on sex Ed.
    In fact, this grounding of knowledge and access is precisely what organizations such as Planned Parenthood are doing! (Maybe not the demon they’re made out to be…)

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