Justin Trudeau has a lot of explaining to do. His statement last week that "The Liberal Party is a pro-choice party and going forward, all new members and all new candidates are pro-choice," has voters decrying his dictatorial stand on a highly controversial issue of conscience.
At least six national polls in recent years suggest that Canadians are deeply conflicted about abortion, especially over the life of an unborn child having no protection at any point during pregnancy. Canada is one of a handful of countries with no laws on abortion. It's outrageous for Mr. Trudeau, without consultation, to say to existing Liberal MPs who hold pro-life views that they would be "grandfathered in … to a certain extent."
This is an issue that defies the kind of simplification Mr. Trudeau has bandied about. We will always have the "grandfathered in" view on abortion: voters like me, who, for moral and religious reasons, have principled objections. I was born in the day when a woman had no right over her pregnancy, and I've listened to my birth mother's harrowing despair of how she pursued four illegal attempts to end my life in the womb. I'll never be neutral on this topic, and I've lived through the change of this era.
We're on the cusp of another era, because now technology has taken abortion far beyond where feminists and activists intended it to go. We have well-documented reports of Canadian clinics helping women abort female fetuses because certain cultures devalue the female child.
Babies are not babies only when we choose them to be. For some, it defies logic to say that aborting a baby at 22 or 24 weeks is not taking life, when such lives can survive outside the mother's body.
Ontario teenagers aborted 152 pregnancies for every 100 live births in 2007, according to the Project for Ontario Women's Health Evidence-Based Report (POWER). The policy issue should be directed to more pregnancy prevention tools, not less discussion about abortion.
There has been public outcry from coast to coast on the shrinking space in the Liberal Party's "Big Red Tent" policy. "The political choice is clear. A Liberal choice equals a leader with a distasteful acceptance of discrimination as acceptable political practice," wrote one Facebook poster.
The pro-life, pro-choice quandary our country faces is only expanding. The Winnipeg Free Press wrote of the Trudeau debacle: "Canada is not done with complex debates over public policy riddled with morality. Euthanasia is a pressing legal and political debate that will demand consideration of all its implications. If Mr. Trudeau would have his MPs relinquish autonomy on a question so intimate as abortion, on what issue will he see fit to allow them the freedom to dissent?"
What we need from Mr. Trudeau is real leadership in this area. We also need other leaders, in particular Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Elizabeth May, to front a debate on this, such as we've seen recently in Britain.
An irony was that Mr. Trudeau's anti-democratic stand was delivered on the eve of his appearance at Ottawa's National Prayer Breakfast. It's an annual all-party gathering of leadership and, at last moment, Mr. Trudeau declined the previously arranged Scripture passage, and instead chose to read Proverbs 2:1-11 to the hundreds gathered.
It's a passage that advises, "Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight …" The crowd was polite and hopeful that there could be a new attitude coming.