I was one of those who represented Campaign Life Coalition before the Senate Committee on the question of Bill C-43. I was very honoured to be chosen. While the senators were courteous and attentive, we did not feel any optimism regarding the outcome of the meeting. Our position was one of “total non-compromise” on a bill which, had it passed, would have meant, in practice, abortion on demand.
Politics has been described as ‘the art of compromise’.
I have to admit that there are many situations in which compromise is not only not wrong but advisable.
For instance, when workers go on strike for better wages, they usually begin by asking for more than they expect to get. The employers respond by offering much less. After negotiations, both sides compromise and they arrive at somewhere in between and everybody is happy – at least for a while.
If the choice had been between closing the factory and therefore being left with nothing or accepting less than the original demand, but at least some improvement, compromise would appear to be both practically and morally legitimate. We might say that the problem was solved on the principle that ‘half a loaf is better than none’.
So, why not apply the same principle to the abortion issue?
If you can’t save all the babies why not compromise and save some of them?
Let’s go back to the bread.
If the half loaf you were offered is not only mouldy but crawling with maggots, would it be better than no bread?
And that is the choice which we were presented! Accept a law which is evil in itself or have no law at all.
The implementation of Bill C-43 would have meant that babies would be aborted if the mother wished it and one doctor was of the opinion that she might suffer physical, mental or psychological harm by bringing the baby to term.
The doctor would not have had to prove anything – merely give it as his opinion. The doctors also had the public assurance of the Minister of Justice Kim Campbell, that they had nothing to fear in doing abortions as abortion would be a “lawful medical procedure.”
If the previous law s, struck down in January 1988, which demanded the agreement of a hospital committee of three doctors, resulted in the murder of at least 80,000 babies per annum, who can guess what this one would have added up to?
And it would have been enshrined in the law books for years to come. It is much easier to demand a law when there is none, than to change a law which has already been passed by the Commons and the Senate.
But this is not the kernel of my argument.
The principle upon which we of Campaign Life Coalition based our stand against Bill C-43 is this: You may not do evil in order that good may come from it. You may, under certain circumstances have to ‘tolerate’ evil, but you may never positively will it or cooperate in an evil outcome. To vote for an evil law is to positively cooperate in the results which follow from the passing of that law. In the case of Bill C-43 it would have meant cooperation in the passing of an evil law and that can never be moral.
The bill was, in itself, totally corrupt.
No amendments could have changed its evil character any more than removing a few maggots from the rotten half loaf could have changed its corrupt composition.
I like analogies although they are never perfect. By definition they can’t be. The very word ‘analogy’ implies similarity not identity. But they can sometimes clarify thought.
Suppose a person of the ilk of Marc Lepine (who shot the female engineering students in Montreal last year) were to enter a grand school brandishing a gun and tell the principal that he intended to murder every child in the school. And suppose that after all arguments had failed, the principal, with the gun pointed to his head, were to agree to allow the man to shoot all the children in grades five and six, if he promised to spare all the other children, would that be a moral decision?
We could, of course, sympathize with the principal and empathize with his very difficult dilemma. But could we agree that he has the moral right to authorize the murder of even one child in order to save the lives of all the others?
Based on the age-old moral principle that one cannot do or authorize an act which is evil in itself in order to avoid a greater evil, the answer is self-evident. To destroy – or authorize the destruction of – even one life in order to save others is in itself immoral.
Once we deny the inviolability of innocent human life, there is no limit to the consequences which could ensue. If we can kill those who are inconvenient at the beginning of life, why not at the end? And why not in middle life if they have become what the Nazis called ‘useless eaters’?
A human being?
Of course there will always be those who say that a baby in the womb is not really a human being.
I don’t like long quotations in a column but here is one which I think adequately answers that question. More than two decades ago, in its official journal, the California Medical Association wrote the following editorial:
“Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced, it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everybody really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but the taking of human life would be ludicrous if it were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices. It is suggested that this schizophrenic sort of subterfuge is necessary because while a new ethic is being accepted the old one has not yet been rejected.” (California Medicine, 113, September 1970, p.67)
The other day I came across another relevant quotation which could have been written this week but actually appeared in the Year Book of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1940 – during World War II:
“At the present time, when rivers of blood and tears of innocent men, women and children are flowing in most parts of the world, it seems silly to be contending over the right to live of an unknowable atom of human flesh in the uterus of a woman. No, it is not silly. On the contrary, it is of transcendent importance that there be, in this chaotic world, one high spot, however small, which is against the deluge of immorality that is sweeping over us. That we, the medical profession, hold to the principle of the sacredness of human life and the right of the individual, even though unborn, is a proof that humanity is not yet lost and that we may ultimately obtain salvation.” (Joseph De Lee, M.D., in the Year Book of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1940)
If the test of salvation is the sacredness of human life – Canada beware!