On December 24th 2013, Alliance for Life Ontario mailed its member groups a joint statement which it had created, “Why The Case for Gestational Abortion Laws is Morally and Logically Incoherent”, and which it signed together with Campaign Life Coalition. An electronic version of the statement was subsequently emailed to all affiliate groups on December 31st 2013.
The statement gave voice to the reasons why Alliance for Life Ontario believes that the pro-life movement can never support a gestational legislative approach to end abortion. The statement was not released publicly, but responses from some who support a gestational legislative approach have been distributed through electronic and conventional means. While this is not a preferred arena, we are nevertheless, compelled to respond.
Nowhere in the Joint Statement is there any pronouncement on the morality of any individual or group or an attack on persons. The statement is however a denunciation of a position and a mind-set that we believe is inconsistent with the long-held tenets, foundations and fundamental principles of the pro-life movement in Canada.
Some pro-life people believe that support of gestational legislation is simply a different incremental strategy to achieve the same goal of legal protection for human beings before birth. But strategies are derived from principles, and in order to be morally and logically coherent, the strategies chosen must converge with the principles that are professed.
We, as a movement, have a fundamental principle that “all human life is sacred”. How, then, can we assist in the creation of, provide support for and give credence to a legislative initiative which will only protect those little ones in the womb 20 weeks or older?
AFLO will not blind itself to the effects of this approach on the children younger than the proposed gestational age or with the exceptions – inherent it seems, to ensure political and public support – those children conceived in rape or incest, or with disabilities. To us this approach is logically inconsistent. We have no doubt of the good intentions of these pro-lifers but we believe good intentions are not sufficient, nor are we willing to ignore the foreseeable consequences of that intentional act for all human beings.
Creative language aside, specific words have specific meanings. The word “all” is inclusive, totally encompassing; it means, in the context of this discussion, everyone. Now, if a person holds to the position that “some human life is sacred”, support of gestational legislation would be fine. The word “some” brokers exceptions, but the word “all” never does.
If we maintain that we believe that all human life is sacred, we must be concomitant with the “all or nothing” situation. Therefore, if we were to support a gestational legislative initiative, we would be implying that this right is not inalienable for some individuals who are impacted by the legislation and that these individuals may be lawfully killed, regardless of whether we will it or not.
Support for gestational legislation is the converse of promoting the sanctity of all human life from fertilization to natural death. It is, as the Joint Statement commented, logically incoherent. Some supporters of gestational legislation have compared the present abortion situation in Canada with the scenario of two drowning children. “Aren’t you going to save one?” they ask. This is so misleading.
We have no law on abortion in Canada but we do have a tolerance for it. There is no abortion law whose harm would be limited by a gestational legislative initiative. We are being asked to create and support a law, which according to the above scenario, is only designed to save one child even though we know two are drowning!
Either every human being has the inalienable right to life, or they do not. Either abortion is inherently and morally evil or it is not. Either abortion can never be justified or it needs no justification. This is one issue on which there is no middle ground. So if, as we do, you hold to the immutable nature of the sacredness of every human life, and believe that abortion is fundamentally evil and can never be justified, then, morally, we can never support a law that allows even one induced abortion, regardless of whatever good we deeply will, may come of it.
We need to foster a more contemplative outlook regarding abortion and not be dismayed that politicians are not courageous enough to demand the right to life for every Canadian from fertilization to natural death, or that the Canadian public might support the protection of only some children before birth. These are not our measures; this is not the way to proceed; we will find a pro-life answer to the challenges facing our country which leaves no one behind.
During the Senate debates of May 25th, 1988, the Honourable Stanley Haidasz commented on the idea of gestational legislation.
“……Furthermore, no gestational law is morally acceptable…. I believe that the law has a teaching function. To legalize acts of violence means that those doing the legalizing become participants in the crime.”
Senator Haidasz encapsulated the pro-life position when he stated:
“I think you would all agree with me that respect for human life is fundamental to our society. We insist that all human beings possess an intrinsic dignity and a basic right to existence. Such a right is not negotiable and it is not to be qualified. It is not to be affected by public opinion polls or anything of that sort.”
Alliance for Life Ontario stands in solidarity with every human being from fertilization to natural death and will continue to discover, develop and support pro-life efforts incremental or otherwise which do not offend our fundamental principle of respect for the equality and the dignity of every human life, no matter what state or age. A gestational legislative approach is not one of these.
It is important to clarify that Alliance for Life Ontario is not opposed to incremental initiatives per se. We do oppose a gestational legislative incremental initiative which we consider unprincipled.
AFLO could support the following incremental legislative efforts;
- A total funding ban on abortion
- Conscience Legislation for health care workers
- More Comprehensive Informed Consent on all surgical or medical treatments
- Parental Consent or Notification of all surgical or medical treatments that a minor child is considering
These are a few examples of incremental approaches that could be supported.