40 years too many
As we explain in our cover story this month, when the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Medical Association agitated for a new abortion law in the 1960s, they did so saying it was necessary to codify what they claimed was already occurring widely: abortions being committed illegally in hospitals when the health or life of the mother was in jeopardy. It was a phony pretense used to open the door to legal abortion, but much of the public and political debate at that time centred on these rare cases, as well as on pregnancies resulting from a criminal assault.
In 1969, abortion was included in the Omnibus Bill – thrown in with divorce and contraception, but also lottery regulation, passport rules and much more – so that it would not be the focus of the political debate: opposing abortion would prevent dozens of other issues from being dealt with. Amendments to the Criminal Code would maintain the illegality of abortion, except when approved by a three-person therapeutic abortion committee at a hospital. It quickly became apparent that these TACs were nothing more than rubber stamps, okaying almost every request that was presented to them. This is clear when one considers the numbers of abortions in the years immediately afterward. In 1970, there were 11,152 abortions. In 1971, there were 37,232. The next year, 45,426. These numbers rose steadily until the 1990s, when they exceeded 100,000 per year.
In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out the modest 1969 restrictions on abortion on narrow legal grounds, but it did not rule that there was a right to abortion. Only one Justice (Bertha Wilson) of the seven declared a right to abortion, and even then only in the first trimester. But the majority said that Parliament could restrict abortion and went so far as to urge the government to enact new legislation. The Mulroney government twice introduced (insufficient) abortion legislation, but its 1991 bill died in a tie vote in the Senate. Today, Canada still has no abortion law – the only Western democracy not to have a law restricting abortion in any way.
It is time for that to change. It is time for the government, or an MP, to introduce a law that bans all abortions, except to (legitimately) save the life of the mother. It might not pass, but 40 years after the Omnibus Bill was rammed through Parliament with little discussion and under false pretenses, resulting in more than three million abortions, it is time for an honest debate about abortion, about which lives are worth protecting.
Canadians, including politicians, go about their business while the genocide of the past four decades continues unabated. It is time for politicians to make the protection of human life from the moment of conception part of their parliamentary business. The theme of this year’s National March for Life in Ottawa on May 14 is Exodus 2009: A Future without Abortion. Our elected officials can and must make that a reality.