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.