‘Serious reservations’ about abortion,
stem cell research and absence of consent laws

A poll released in November by LifeCanada, the national educational pro-life group, showed that Canadians have serious reservations about unrestricted abortion, embryonic stem cell research and the absence of consent laws regarding abortion. “The poll is very encouraging for pro-life Canadians,” said LifeCanada president Jakki Jeffs. “It tells us that we must keep working to inform people about these issues and encourage them to act.”

The poll was conducted by Leger Marketing in October and involved over 1,500 Canadians. Six questions were added to Leger’s Omnican survey.

This is the second time LifeCanada has polled Canadians. Last year, the group asked Canadians about legal protection for unborn children and tax-funded abortion. This year, it repeated those questions and added a question on stem cell research, two questions on consent and one asking when people thought their own life began.

On the question of when human life should be protected, 63 per cent of Canadians supported laws to protect babies before birth. The largest group, 31 per cent, thought life should be protected from conception on. Only 28 per cent supported the status quo of no legal protection for life before birth. This year’s result showed a remarkable increase over last year, when 56 per cent supported legal protection before birth.

Stem cell research has been a hotly debated issue in Canada this year, as Parliament considered Bill C-13, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. The vast majority of Canadians, 70 per cent, either opposed any use of embryos for research (33 per cent) or said they preferred ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cells for research (37 per cent).

The poll contradicts the findings of a Pollara poll that was released in early October. That poll was widely reported as showing that 57 per cent of Canadians supported ESCR. The story, which ran in many newspapers across Canada, did not report the wording of the questions or the fact that the pollster, Michael Marzolini, is a partisan Liberal who regularly polls for the party. He used the poll results to tell reporters that the controversial bill should be passed. His question did not include the information that ESCR destroys the embryo.

Jeffs took issue with the Pollara poll. “If people just hear about the marvels that this research might produce, but don’t understand that human lives are destroyed in the process, then it’s not a fair question.”

Liberal MP Paul Szabo has worked diligently to defeat Bill C-13 after his proposed amendments were not included. He was pleased that the Leger poll included the information that ESCR destroys the embryo. That information, he says, elicits a different response from Canadians on the issue. “Most of the Canadian polling on embryonic stem cell research has been intellectually dishonest,” he says. “It has ignored the fact that embryos are destroyed in the research and further, that there are ethical alternatives to using embryos.”

The Leger poll also asked about support for informed consent laws. An overwhelming 69 per cent said they would support such laws, which would require doctors to inform women about stages of fetal development, complications and side effects, and would require a woman to view an ultrasound of the baby before deciding to have an abortion. These findings support Motion 482, introduced by Yorkton-Melville MP Garry Breitkreuz, which calls on the government to enact a right-to-know law to ensure that women are fully informed before choosing an abortion.

Canadians were also polled on parental consent for minors. Over two-thirds, 67 per cent, said parents should be notified or give consent before a minor can have an abortion. At present, girls can have abortions without parents’ knowledge or consent.

Finally, Leger asked about tax-funded abortions. Most abortions in Canada are paid for by taxpayers, with the exception of some abortions in private facilities, notably in New Brunswick (where Henry Morgentaler is suing to force the province to pay him). However, 68 per cent of Canadians say abortions should not be paid for by taxpayers, except in medical emergencies, when the mother’s life is threatened or in cases of rape or incest. Of that group, 15 per cent say it should never be paid for by taxpayers.

“This is the most encouraging news the pro-life movement has had in a long time,” said Alliance MP Breitkreuz. He noted that the results supported all of the motions he has brought to Parliament in the past six years. “My colleagues in the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus will be discussing ways to advance the legislative agenda based on these new poll results,” said Breitkreuz.

LifeCanada’s Jeffs expressed frustration that the poll results, although widely distributed, were not covered by any media outlet in the country. Seven reporters attended the media conference in Ottawa when the stem cell results were released yet no stories appeared.

“The only mention of our poll was in letters to the editor in several papers. The media are determined to ignore our message,” she said. “That means that all of us who support the sanctity of life must get this message out whether we use letters to the editor, phoning in to talk shows or sharing the information in our churches and communities. We must spread the word. Do not be intimidated. These results show that we are not outside the mainstream. Two-thirds of Canadians are in sympathy with our views and do not support the current government’s position on life issues. Take heart and share this message with others.”

To see the results of the poll and the analysis, including provincial breakdowns, see the website www.lifecanada.org.