On May 14,1969, to the acclaim of the Liberal establishment, Section 237 of the Criminal Code of Canada was fatefully amended. It was a triumph of compromise, accommodating the law of the land to the increasingly pluralistic tendencies of 20th century man without, at least in word, denying the moral heritage which had given him birth and nurtured him. It was an accomplishment of which both you, architects and proponents of this accommodation, could be proud.
Fifteen years have passed since that day. During this short time, the following changes have taken place in Canada.
1. Over one million legal abortions have taken place.
2. The official position of the Canadian Medical Association has shifted to the point of insisting on abortion-on-demand.
3. By 1977, according to the Badgley Report, therapeutic abortion committees were virtually acting as rubber stamps for abortion-on-demand.
4. Publicly-funded hospitals have come under increased pressure to set up therapeutic-abortion committees.
5. Hospital employees have increasingly been denied the right to decline abortion work. (i)
6. Proponents of abortion have grown confident that, with each passing year, the fact of abortion has become more entrenched and acceptable, and thus more difficult to unsettle or dislodge.
7. Opponents of abortion have increased in number, and have become more vocal in their opposition to this fact and to the philosophy which created it.
8. Abortions now outnumber live births in most Canadian cities.
9. It is possible now for doctors to speak publicly about the merits of allowing deformed and retarded babies to starve to death. (2)
Gentlemen, was this the situation you anticipated fifteen years ago when the present law was framed? Superficially, it seems not. It was stated then that the government did not intend abortion-on-demand, and that it would be specifically excluded for socio-economic reasons, for rape, or for the risk of deformity of the foetus.(3) Section 237 imposed “no duty on the board of a hospital to set up a therapeutic abortion committee.”(4) The changes were meant, we were assured, to be restrictive, not permissive.
Perhaps, again superficially, we could conclude that these assurances were naïve and, while overly optimistic, were made in good faith. But many of us have a more realistic view of politics. The veteran politician is nothing if not a survivalist. He or she does of course watch for moral bellwethers, but always with a view ahead to the next election. This tendency to accommodate himself to the temper of his times carries within it the seeds of a terrible moral apostasy which it is his privilege and his duty to constantly counteract. Not all are strong enough for this struggle. The 1969 amendment and your response to its consequences make it clear that your preliminary assurance were this kind of political survivalism in its least-attractive form
But morality does determine the law. It is just as present in the decision to impose utilitarianism on those committed to the Judeo-Christian tradition as it is for the latter to impose biblical standards on agnostics. You cannot escape it. The question is not, as you have said, how to separate law and sin. It is the more basic one of which moral stance has been taken and those laws have been made, it is wrong to change them simply because the wind begins to blow in another direction.
We will not attempt to argue the pro-life position from the facts of the human lives destroyed, the disintegrating sense of essential worth and equality of every person, or the even more pervading erosion of moral principles as a worthwhile basis for the law at all. These are ethical questions, not political ones, and perhaps you do not wish to concern yourselves with them.
Let us, then, talk in a language you can understand. There are many of us. Our beliefs are deep, far deeper then you realize. Unlike the pro-abortionists, who are often fighting for their own ‘rights’ (or, in the case of certain unscrupulous physicians, for their own financial emolument), we are fighting for the rights of our children. We will sacrifice whatever is necessary to save them. We will continue to educate our children, to speak to our friends in our churches, schools, and places of work, and to express vocally in the public forum our total commitment to the cause of life. We will never let the battle of these long, long years cause us to relax our grip, and even if we grow weary, there will always be someone newer, younger, more energetic, to help us shoulder the burden.
Election is coming
There is more. A federal election is on the horizon. In past campaigns, you have been successful in making abortion a non-issue; but that day is past. The millions of us who stand on the side of life will not only make this an issue, but THE issue. Every candidate in every riding will be asked for his or her stand, and the answers will be published, analyzed, and discussed. Election day will be literally a day of reckoning.
Gentlemen, there is a right and a wrong side of this issue. We know we stand on the right side, and the winning one.
Michael A. Schaub,
(1) Family Planning and Population, Spring, 1973.
(2) C.P., “Psychiatrists Condemn Practice of Letting Retarded Babies Die,” Globe and Mail (Feb.16,1979), p.13
(3) (Turner) Hansard, Jan. 23, 1969
(4) (Turner) Hansard, April 28, 1969