Not everyone is distressed over the radical new abortion laws in Alabama and other U.S. states – the ones that restrict abortions under almost any circumstances. Hardline abortion opponents are, of course, rejoicing. But so is the Liberal Party of Canada, which sees these distressing developments as a golden opportunity to wring dollars from people’s pockets and portray their Conservative opponents as anti-woman.
Justin Trudeau, for instance, declared the other day that he is “deeply disappointed” by the “backsliding on women’s rights” in the U.S.This backsliding stands in sharp contrast to his position on the rights of women, which all true Canadians defend. “As a government, as Canadians, we will always be unequivocal about defending a woman’s right to choose, defending women’s rights in general,” he said. By contrast, he warned, the Conservatives want to take away “rights that have been hard-fought over many, many years by generations of women and male allies.”
Mr. Trudeau’s female allies in the Liberal Party are currently tweeting up a storm to warn us that a woman’s right to choose is under threat. As proof, they offer the fact that 12 Conservative MPs (that’s 12 out of 97) recently attended a pro-life rally in Ottawa. “This is the true face of the Conservative Party,” tweeted Mélanie Joly, who, when last I looked, was Mr. Trudeau’s Minister of Tourism. Maryam Monsef, our Minister for Women and Gender Equality, has been busy too. She issued a letter daring Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to let us know “whether or not the Conservative Party of Canada would take us backwards by restricting or undermining a woman’s right to choose.”
So keep your red cloaks handy, ladies. If Andrew Scheer has his way, Canada could become a real-life Handmaid’s Tale before you know it.
Not to be outdone, Katie Telford, Mr. Trudeau’s chief of staff, is using her Twitter account to pass along particularly scary bits from severely rattled female columnists, of whom there is no shortage. Ms. Telford quoted from a column in the Toronto Star, which argued: “Given what is happening south of the border ... it would be wise to pay close attention to the growing political influence of pro-lifers in Canada.”
In reality, there’s no evidence that pro-lifers have any more influence than they’ve always had. Hardline pro-lifers are a small (if noisy) minority of the population. A 2017 Ipsos poll found that only 12 per cent of Canadians think abortions shouldn’t be permitted. People who are pro-choice, make up 77 per cent of the population. Conservative leaders don’t wish to self-implode. They can read the poll results, and they know that support for choice in Canada is overwhelming.
Despite many dire predictions, during a decade in office the Harper government wouldn’t go near near the issue, and today’s Conservatives won’t either. The party’s official policy says that a Conservative government “will not support any legislation to regulate abortion.” Even in Alberta, where the pro-life movement is unusually vigorous, the new Premier, Jason Kenney, says he would not “bring forward legislative measures on abortion”.
Of course all these people could be lying. They could have a hidden agenda. That’s what Liberals want you to believe.
In fact, if anything abortion rights in Canada are growing stronger. Last week Ontario’s high court ruled that even doctors who oppose abortion on religious grounds are required to offer “effective referrals” for any patient who wants one.But the biggest guarantor of women’s rights in this country is the fact that for the past 30 years – ever since the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s abortion law – we’ve had no law at all. This peculiar situation seems to suit almost everyone just fine.
Personally, I’m sick of the abortion war. That’s because it has long since ceased to be a debate, and has devolved into two opposing tribes screaming at each other across the void. Both sides have no room for moral complexity. They have turned the abortion question into a purity test. The pro-life (or anti-choice) side cannot admit that in certain circumstances, abortion is sometimes the moral choice. The pro-choice (or anti-life) side cannot admit that under some circumstances abortion can be morally problematic. (Is there a difference between terminating a fetus at seven weeks and at seven months? Most people would probably say yes.)
Despite these lingering moral dilemmas (which will never go away), the abortion wars in Canada are basically over. Canada won’t turn into Alabama under any scenario that I can see. But the Liberals have no interest in admitting that. After all, there’s an election on.