The Abortion Debate: Why the facts matter
What does the recent leak of the proposed first draft of the US Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Roe v Wade mean for women and the unborn? It is a far-reaching debate with global ramifications, even causing our prime minister to consider ways to “tighten abortion rights” in this country. But in a debate that can become very emotional, can we take a step back and look at the facts?
First, Canada doesn’t have a law that governs abortion in this country – decriminalized in 1988 with the Morgentaler decision – a woman can get an abortion at any point during her pregnancy, even up to her due date. It’s considered a medical procedure covered by provincial health care systems.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information estimates that more than 74,000 abortions were performed in clinics and hospitals in 2020. A steady decline from 2011, when the number was almost 109,000.
But what some might not realize is that there are no restrictions on why someone might get an abortion, which can include sex-selective abortion.
Every year, an estimated 4.7 million girls, the size of a small country, are aborted globally simply due to their gender. Canada is not immune from this global problem.
Yorkton-Melville MP Cathay Wagantall introduced C-233, the Sex-Selective Abortion Act, in 2020. If enacted, the bill would have prohibited a medical practitioner from knowingly performing an abortion if the reason is the sex of the unborn child.
When I asked MP Wagantall if she considered sex-selective abortion a ‘war on women,’ she said, “yes, in honesty. This is a circumstance where we value equality, we value human rights, but this is allowed to take place. And we should be valuing men and women equally from the earliest stages of life.”
Joyce Arthur, the Executive Director of The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, said in an interview with CTV News Regina, “while no one likes the idea of sex-selective abortion, it should not be criminalized. “This could create some distrust and silencing in the doctor’s office, which could impact the doctor-patient relationship,” explained Arthur. “It could [also] result in some doctors racially profiling their patients.”
So we allow millions of girls to die each year because they are not boys for the sake of what, the rights of those who can make a choice? That seems a little unfair, doesn’t it?
The face of abortion patients is also changing- and looks very different than those protesting on the streets. According to the CDC, most women who have an abortion have children, are poor, are unmarried, in their late 20s, have some college education. They are usually very early in their pregnancy and are disproportionately black.
The face of pro-life protesters is changing too – no longer a war between pro-choice and the Church as much as some might want to make it out to be. There is a growing group of atheist pro-life advocates like Rosemary Geraghty. She is bisexual, liberal, atheist, vegan — and antiabortion, as she told the Washington post as she attended the March for life in 2017.
So what does this say about the debate we find ourselves in once again?
While the centre of the discussion has and should always be around the rights of a woman’s body, there are responsibilities that come with having a uterus, an aspect of the debate no one is willing to wade into. And while we want to and should be treated equally to our male counterparts, we need to remember that this is bigger than us- it is about advocacy for ones yet to have a voice.
While I know this isn’t black and white, I do feel there needs to be provisions in place for those who are victims of crime, rape and those who are underage. But in a world where there is every option of contraception available, I wonder why in 2022, we are still having this debate in some of the most advanced countries in the world.
I would challenge both sides to go back and look at the stats of those who are finding themselves in this precarious situation where they feel forced to choose and ask what we can do as a society to support the woman and her child.
This issue has everything to do with education, support, and community.
So, what if we took the energy behind protests and prohibition and said to that woman who is scared, wondering how she will feed another mouth and make ends meet, that there is a community around her. Instead of using the millions of dollars on either side to promote a position, what if we invested in that child’s life, that family’s life and said we care as a society. Not fighting for the elimination of life or keeping a life but focusing our energy on ensuring that little one has a life that is valued. What if that was the decision that we all could rally around and support? That sounds like a pro-life and pro-choice win to me.