I am against abortion, but I doubt I will make a lot of friends in the pro-life movement today.
It’s because my opposition doesn’t stop at abortion. I am also against me or anyone else telling a woman what she can do with her body.
And I am also against me or anyone else telling someone with a terminal illness that they have to continue to suffer, even if they have made the decision they have had enough.
End-of-life issues are for another column, but the latest fuss is about the beginning of life.
There is an attempt to reopen the abortion debate in the House of Commons.
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth has proposed that a parliamentary committee study the legal definition of when life begins.
The Criminal Code of Canada states that a child becomes a human being at the moment of birth. Woodworth suggests very few Canadians “believe that birth is a moment of magical transformation that changes a child from a non-human to a human being.”
He told Parliament, “Most Canadians know that our existing definition dishonestly misrepresents the reality of who is a human being.”
Well, that’s what many people have been at odds about for decades.
This is one of those emotional issues most of us would rather not talk about. In this province, the pro-life movement spends part of Good Friday in prayer and silent vigil to make their point. In recent years, we’ve seen pro-choicers show up at these events, as well.
Some of my very good friends have spent decades standing up for the unborn. I admire them, but I haven’t joined their protests. I’ve been torn on this issue for a long time.
I recall 20 years ago hearing someone I greatly respected take a definitive position. The abortion issue was being hotly debated then, likely due to the opening of the Morgantaler clinic in St. John’s, and the host of the talk show declared emphatically, “I am against abortion and try as you may, you won’t convince me otherwise.”
There was someone standing up for his principles. I wish I had that conviction.
I’ve weighed the pros and cons of even wading into the debate. Many of you know I am a Roman Catholic. Abortion is a no-no in my faith, but I wrestle with the ethical, moral and religious questions.
Figures available from the Canadian Institute for Health Information indicate there were 1,068 induced abortions performed in this province in 2010.
The most surprising finding for me was that most of those cases — 900 — involved women over the age of 20. I had mistakenly thought more of them would be teenagers.
Beginning of life
Close friends know I often joke about my age. I have two birthdays; one is the day I was born, but the first is nine months earlier. I count my months as a fetus. It may seem funny when you’re making small-talk over a beer, but it’s pretty serious stuff when you are dabbling in the opinion business.
I believe life begins at conception and, yes, I believe that abortion is taking a life. Our laws permit it and I respect a woman’s right to make the decision. I also support the right of others to make the case for the child.
There was a lot of chatter last week that even bringing the beginning-of-life issue to the House of Commons was an attempt to turn back the clock; that society has moved on.
NDP status of women critic Niki Ashton was quoted in the Montreal Gazette as saying, “We should not return to using coat hangers (or) vacuum cleaners.”
I don’t hear anyone advocating that, but this issue provokes comments with raw emotion.
I see nothing wrong with reopening the debate. When I was growing up, it was always the mother who was pregnant. These days, it is not unusual to hear a couple say, “we are pregnant.”
Times change. Attitudes change. Our knowledge changes. The law may or may not.
But let’s not be afraid to talk about life.
Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster. He can be reached