Interim editor Paul Tuns’s article last month, “Chipping away at abortion,” explained the logic of pro-life incremental strategies in the battle against abortion. The article brings to mind constantly resurfacing, bitter and unsupportable charges by some individuals that the nation’s pro-life organizations have opposed such strategies and persistently followed a self-defeating “all-or-nothing” approach. This, they say, has resulted in the deaths of many unborn babies who otherwise could have been saved.

The fact that such very reasonable incremental changes to law have been repeatedly rejected by Canada’s governments and courts may be what has confused some to think that attempts to introduce and pass such laws or amendments have not been attempted – many times over the years.

Again in June, at a meeting of pro-family leaders, David Mainse, a prominent Canadian religious personality, referred to the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney’s 1989 pro-abortion Bill C-43 as having been “defeated by both the all-or-nothing people on both sides” and “the extremists on both sides.” Mr. Mainse has obviously been misinformed.

Such reckless statements confound and wrongly hurt those who have been at the frontlines of the movement for many years. More important, they also cause harmful confusion and division among today’s younger activists regarding the actual history of how we got to where we now are on abortion. It also leads to the argument that were it not for the pro-lifers who opposed such compromises, the unborn would have at least some protection today.

However, as any of those long involved in the frontlines clearly understand, the enemies of the unborn are those true “extremists” and corrupt persons of influence in our society who have successfully stopped every attempt to restore any degree of meaningful protection for Canada’s unborn children.

The arguments on Mulroney’s Bill C-43 have been made many times, but for the benefit of those who are not familiar with what happened in January 1991, when C-43 was eventually defeated in a tie vote in the Senate, we present a brief, but sadly still necessary, overview.

In 1988, Canada’s abortion law was overturned on a technicality related to – what else but – the Charter of Rights. In this case, it was the equality provision of the Charter. Parliament was encouraged by the court to draft a new law that would address the need for a law to regulate abortions.

The law that was struck down was introduced in 1969 by Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau and his justice minister, John Turner, and within a few years, it led to an explosion of abortions and an abortion-on-demand situation by 1989.

The 1989 Conservative justice minister, Kim Campbell, with the input of the government’s minister of health, Jake Epp, introduced a replacement abortion law, Bill C-43.

Canada’s pro-life leaders quickly saw that the legislation was vastly more liberal than required by the Supreme Court decision. It had so many exceptions and loopholes as to render it useless in preventing any abortions. In fact, it was calculated to prevent no abortions, according to abortionist Henry Morgentaler and a 12-page memo from Campbell to physicians. C-43 made a mockery of respect for human life. The justice minister assured physicians that the legislation was intended to protect doctors who committed abortions.

Also, C-43 widened the criteria for those who could commit abortions to the point where authorized nurses and other non-physicians could be permitted to take part in the killing, not only in hospitals but also in doctors’ offices.

All the pro-life organizations of the day, with the co-operation of pro-life Conservative MPs in the Conservative government and later with the co-operation of pro-life senators, made intense efforts to have mitigating amendments added to the legislation. This was far from being an “all-or-nothing” approach. The government rejected every single amendment proposal. It was the government that followed an “all-or-nothing” approach.

Canadians were given the ultimatum of accepting this duplicitous abortion-on-demand bill or no legislation at all. Either way, pro-life leaders realized, it was abortion on demand that was being offered and they could not accept either option.

These facts, together with prime minister Mulroney’s dictatorial refusal to allow any amendments whatever from even his own MPs, led to the bill’s ultimate defeat in the Senate in a tie vote of 43-43 in January 1991.

The pro-life hope was that this government, or a succeeding one, could be later influenced with new political strategies to introduce or allow measures to gradually restore meaningful protection for the unborn.

However, the Conservatives, and then the succeeding Liberals, rigidly stonewalled all attempts to introduce and pass any legislation that would in any way change the status quo of the absence of a law on abortion.

That history could be the subject of a lengthy book. However, the evidence is that many efforts were made to have incremental-type legislative changes made at both the provincial and federal levels. These were consistently met with intense, if not vicious, opposition by political leaders.

Over time, pro-life leaders became aware that they were up against forces far greater than they had ever understood in the early days, since the Liberals’ 1969 legalization of abortion.

An extremely powerful, international, anti-life, anti-family, de-population juggernaut at the UN and the International Planned Parenthood Federation was discovered to be influencing and manipulating governments worldwide to change their laws to permit and promote access to abortion. That explained many of the unexplainable things that had been happening over the years to thwart what should normally have been successful strategies to restore protection for the unborn. But that is another story.

Steve Jalsevac is managing director of