Abortion, whatever your personal opinion, is always a dilemma. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be reminded of that reality again if he notices the thousands of pro-life protesters marching on Parliament Hill Thursday afternoon.
Ottawa's mayor has proclaimed May 12 as Respect for Life Day. Five other cities coast-to-coast are holding simultaneous marches. Women who have had an abortion, women who haven't, men who have driven their lovers to a clinic for one, and men who haven't, will be in the throng, the angst over the issue being deeply personal.
The official organizers of Thursday's protest, Campaign Life Coalition, describe the Prime Minister as "obstinate" on this issue, even rating him as a pro-abortionist. Mr. Harper's record is clear: No one in the Commons is to raise this issue for parliamentary discussion. As he indicated during the election campaign, "The government will not bring forward any such legislation and any such legislation that is brought forward will be defeated as long as I am Prime Minister." Instead, he has said the topic requires changing hearts and minds.
So why is there such pressure to reopen the issue in Parliament? One reason is because social media picked up the debate when mainstream media dropped it, and Internet forums are educating people who now want a democratic response.
There's an explosion of pro-life Internet activity debating the legal reality in Canada. For example, blogger site Activate CFPL, commenting on law and public policy from a biblical perspective, and hosted by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, explains the 1988 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that struck down the existing legislation at the time as unconstitutional. The old law, handed back to Parliament for a decision, still waits for repair.
"It simply requires understanding that if a life is human after birth, it must be human before as well," posts Activate CFPL.
Youth engagement over that kind of rationale has pushed this into a rights-based message that's now focused on the unborn, and on issues of poverty and status for women who wish they could choose pregnancy.
University clubs have crossed with courts, administration and police over their insistence that this debate needs more airtime, usually doing so with accompanying posters of graphic detail. One of the seven universities that attracted media attention in the past year over abortion was the University of Toronto where the debate went beyond religious ideology and into what it means to be human.
"We think of people as one of a kind, as irreplaceable. When an egg is fertilized there is a biological creature that's one of a kind; there won't be another one of those. And so the loss of that person, either spontaneously or … in an abortion, makes the world somewhat less" said the pro-choice advocate, philosopher Donald Ainslie. A respectful, nuanced tone like that, on both sides of the debate is one reason why the dilemma over the abortion debate is picking up volume.
So what's the way forward? Compromise and kindness.
Canada has been without an abortion law for more than 20 years - one of the few countries in the world without legal restrictions. Surely we can reach consensus that legal access for abortions can have restrictions. The Supreme Court has made it clear there is no constitutional limit against Parliament picking up this issue again, and they should get on with it.
In 1988, it was the pro-life caucus that fought against itself on compromise, with some refusing allowance for first trimester abortion. Mr. Harper could now let a private members bill see if a compromise debate can be engaged and allow for a chance to air the rights debate.
It will take a kind attitude at every level to bridge this ideological divide. That's made easier when we acknowledge that crisis pregnancy is a difficult situation and deserves more support.
Lorna Dueck is executive producer of Listen Up TV .
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