A pro-lifer I met leading up to the 2015 federal election said to me, “I don’t care if we all live in mud huts so long as abortion is ended.”
Now, nobody wants to live in a mud hut. I do not want to live in a mud hut, and, of course, the economy matters. When people do not have proper shelter, nutrition, hydration, etc., their dignity as human beings is not being recognized. However, poor living standards are not as great a concern as denying children the opportunity to live at all.
What this man was trying to convey, I think, is that if making abortion illegal entailed sinking Canada to the status of a dirt-poor developing country, it was a sacrifice he was willing to make. This was a man who had his priorities straight.
Conversely, that election multiple “pro-life” friends of mine voted and volunteered for the Liberal party — choices of theirs, which, trust me, I agonized over. Their rationales had a common theme: there were “more important” issues like the economy, climate change, or refugees.
Inevitably, with the gifting of a majority to Justin Trudeau, most people thought that. In the nearly two years since his election, this disordered thinking has not wondrously waned.
Most recently, the left was up in arms over Charlottesville and President Donald Trump’s statements on it. The right is not immune to dramatizing what I would consider to be secondary issues either: illegal immigration; the increase in Ontario’s minimum wage; the unpopular Omar Khadr payout, which the Conservative Party milked for all it was worth for weeks on end.
These issues are not trivial — they concern human rights and societal values — but dare I say, they are still distractions. They are distractions because the state-sanctioned killing of children is happening in our own country.
I am not saying there is not a time and place for refuting identity politics or condemning terrorism, but when we are more consumed with these other issues than with the abortion issue, or even just appear to be, we have successfully been diverted from what should be our focus. We are playing by the rules “the establishment” (political parties, the media) want us to play by. They have set the agenda, and predictably we take sides, argue passionately with neighbours or in comments sections online for our chosen position, and ensure that the stories of the summer are about government overspending, political corruption, or celebrity scandal.
See, it is not sufficient to just know that abortion is the most important matter of our day and age. We must treat it as such. The powers that be insist that the abortion debate is closed. Those of us who are advocating for opening it are in the minority. We cannot afford to be lured into substituting a debate over the minimum wage for the abortion debate, as satisfying as it might be to talk about something that everyone agrees is “relevant” and not taboo.
One might contend, “but abortion isn’t news anymore.” Fine, but that’s precisely the problem. It’s an old issue, has been around for decades in Canada, and our shock and horror over it has waned. I get it. All of us have, to at least a degree, grown desensitized to this injustice, for if we truly and fully felt the reality of approximately 300 innocent children being killed daily, sometimes by people we know, and perhaps in our very cities, the weight of it would render us unable to function in society. How could we go out and mundanely buy groceries whilst unborn babies are suctioned to pieces in a hospital a few blocks down? How could we pass a stranger in the street without stopping them and asking them, “Do you know? Do you know that women right now are choosing to have their children killed?” How could we fall asleep without tossing and turning in distress over our society’s incredible backwardness?
Because the same instincts that incline us to follow social norms and aid in self-preservation inhibit our ability to understand abortion emotionally, we cannot fail to understand it rationally. We must consciously remind ourselves of its priority and respond appropriately, lest we start to have more outrage for, say, a $120,000 giant rubber duck than our current holocaust.
Josie Luetke is a fourth-year philosophy student at the University of Waterloo. She has interned the past three summers at Campaign Life Coalition. Her column will appear regularly in these pages.