10. Texas Heartbeat law protects thousands of preborn
On May 19, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the Texas Heartbeat Act that bans abortion after the detection of a preborn baby’s heartbeat, typically around the sixth week of pregnancy. The law took effect on Sept. 1. The law allows citizens to sue anyone who commits or facilitates an abortion after a heartbeat is detectable for a minimum of $10,000 in damages. The law was set up this way to make it more difficult for pro-abortion groups to seek a court injunction to prevent the law from being in force. President Joe Biden’s United States Justice Department filed suit with the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin, Texas, to challenge the Act, which it claimed interfered with the constitutionally protected provision of abortion. On Oct. 6, Judge Robert Pitman enjoined the state from enforcing the law, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed on Pitman’s order. The Department of Justice petitioned the Supreme Court, which declined to grant its request to lift the stay but did hear oral arguments on Nov. 1 to be heard alongside the challenge to an Alabama pro-life law. No decision has been made. In the meantime, the law is saving lives. Texas Policy Evaluation Project researchers found that the number of abortions dropped by half after the implementation of the Heartbeat Bill. Kari White, chief researcher for the Project, told the New York Times, “I would expect we’ll see the number decrease in subsequent months.”
9. Nova Scotian wages one-woman court battle against abortion
In October, Federal Court Justice J.D. Denis Pelletier dismissed the challenge by Nova Scotia pro-lifer Bonnie Brauer. She sought an injunction to stop all abortions in Canada, end the funding of abortions, the cessation of discrimination such as bubble zones against pro-life activities, and $500 million in punitive damages. Brauer argued that the killing of preborn babies through abortion is unconstitutional as it violates the right to life, liberty, and security of the person guaranteed in the Charter of Rights. She argued that “any dissent” against abortion faces official discrimination, including the denial of summer student wage subsidies for organizations that oppose abortion. A preliminary hearing by the Federal Court claimed Bauer’s case did not set out facts necessary for a court action nor had she suffered any damages due to abortion. She appealed that decision and in August 2020 her appeal was dismissed. Bauer took her case to the Federal Court of Appeal, saying her action was designed to save lives. Pelletier wrote: “Ms. Brauer seeks to advance a moral objective and insists that the legal system is bound to permit her to do so.” He disagreed. REAL Women’s Gwen Landolt said the case provided important lessons for the pro-life movement that abortion is primarily a political issue, not a legal one. Campaign Life Coalition’s president emeritus Jim Hughes said the case was evidence of what an individual pro-lifer can do.
8. American religious leadership (or lack thereof) on abortion
In June, the Southern Baptist Convention, which represents 14 million Baptists, making it the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., called for the “abolition of abortion without exception.” A majority of 17,000 delegates at their annual meeting affirmed “that the murder of preborn children is a crime against humanity that must be punished equally under the law” and “that we humbly confess and lament any complicity in recognizing exceptions that
legitimize or regulate abortion, and of any apathy, in not laboring with the power and influence we have to abolish abortion.”
Following their meeting in June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops looked poised to also release a powerful statement later in the year on pro-abortion politicians receiving communion, which many pundits viewed as a direct response to the blatant pro-abortion policies of the second elected Catholic President, Joe Biden. Critics of such a reprisal charged conservative bishops with “politicizing the Eucharist” and Pope Francis sent messages that he disfavored such a move. However, when the document on “eucharist coherence” was released in November, the document stated, “it is the special responsibility of the diocesan bishop to remedy situations that involve public actions at variance with the visible communion of the Church and the moral law.” It noted a 2006 USCCB statement that only an individual’s bishop and not a body of bishops can place restrictions on communion. Bishop Steven Biegler of Cheyene, Wyoming, said he was uncomfortable singling out abortion as a “preeminent” issue while Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco insisted that highlighting abortion was necessary to “teach and witness convincingly to the dignity of life in the womb.” Pro-life lay and religious leaders lamented the opportunity to provide clear direction for wayward Catholic politicians.
7. Trudeau re-elected; O’Toole faces party revolt
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an early election for Sept. 20, less than two years after losing his majority in 2019. Parliament was returned with largely the same makeup as the previous one. Erin O’Toole, who won the Conservative leadership the year before as a “True Blue Conservative” with the down-ballot support of Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan voters. O’Toole flip-flopped on conscience rights and repeatedly trumpeted pro-abortion and pro-LGBQT rights. The Conservatives lost pro-life MPs in the Toronto and Vancouver suburbs and Campaign Life Coalition called on O’Toole to resign. The party expelled pro-life national councillor Bert Chen and O’Toole expelled anti-euthanasia senator Denise Batters from caucus for their calls for a leadership review.
6. Renewed (in-person) pro-life activism
In 2020, when the pandemic first broke in North America and society was shutdown, the National March for Life went virtual. In October that year, some communities did not hold their annual Life Chain and others pared back. Some 40 Days for Life vigils were cancelled. In 2021, the National March for Life returned to Parliament Hill and many communities reported larger than usual Life Chains. Pro-life Canadians returned to activism with gusto.
5. Trudeau goes after prolife charities
In the Liberal Party platform, Justin Trudeau threatened to strip pro-life organizations of charitable tax status because, he claimed without evidence, they spread misinformation about abortion. The platform highlighted crisis pregnancy centres that help women carry their child to term, but because many educational and religious pro-life organizations that are not involved in political work have charitable status, any rule change could affect their flow of donations. It is unclear if Trudeau will change the rules through legislation or executive action like the government did when it required organizations receiving summer student funding to attest to their support of abortion. On Nov. 24, a rally to “Save Our Charities” was held on Parliament Hill where several Conservative MPs vowed to fight changing the tax status of these groups.
4. Conversion therapy ban passes without debate
The House of Commons gave unanimous consent to fast-track C-4—the government’s broad “conversion therapy ban” which criminalizes all counselling for unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion—directly to the Senate without committee hearings, amendments, or debate. Conservative justice critic Rob Moore (Fundy Royal), who had voted against an earlier government iteration of a conversion therapy ban (C-6) previously in 2021, moved for unanimous consent to end debate on the bill. No pro-family MPs in the House objected and it was sent to the Senate, where it was also passed without debate or hearings on Dec. 6. Critics say the law could lead to the prosecution of parents who object to their children receiving puberty blockers or pastors who encourage teens to accept their biological sex. C-6 was passed in the spring, but died in the Senate when a federal election was called. The previous bill was limited to providing such counselling to minors or publicly advertising conversion therapy services, but the age restriction was removed in C-4. During debate on C-6, the Conservatives sought to clarify that it would not violate religious freedoms, but no assurances were provided in the new bill.
3. Anti-free speech bubble zones
NDP MLAs introduced bubble zone laws in Manitoba and Saskatchewan that would outlaw any pro-life activity near abortion facilities. In Manitoba, the legislature voted it down; in Saskatchewan, Scott Moe’s government introduced a wider-ranging bill that banned all non-unionized labour protests near hospitals. While the immediate impetus for that law, which was passed quickly in November, was preventing anti-COVID policy protests, it will prevent all demonstrations, including pro-life witnessing. The Justin Trudeau government introduced a similar bill, C-3, which would make it illegal to dissuade anyone from obtaining or providing health services. Again, while ostensibly aimed at anti-COVID demonstrations, critics say it would make Canada “one big bubble zone” in which all pro-life witnessing would be criminalized.
2. Quebec inquiry exposes horrific COVID care for seniors
A Quebec coroner’s inquest into COVID-related deaths in long-term care homes in the province has uncovered facts that have been largely ignored by the mainstream media. An auxiliary nurse reported on nursing home deaths due to abuse and neglect in one home. Another nurse said that the health department told nursing homes to “treat” residents who had COVID with a “respiratory distress protocol” that including morphine, the sedative Ativan, and the anti-nausea drug scopolamine; the Mayo Clinic says that morphine can cause “troubled breathing” and that the combination of these drugs can cause further respiratory problems which are often lethal. A doctor said that at his hospital, many people responded well to infusions of oxygen and hydration, but that residents of long-term care facilities were not sent for these interventions, often with lethal consequences. Former provincial health minister Rejean Hebert told the inquest that “systemic ageism” contributed to the wave of seniors’ deaths, estimating that only 10 per cent of the province’s long-term care deaths were a result of COVID. The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition says that “with varying degrees, the same abuse, neglect, and euthanasia that occurred in Quebec” also happened in other jurisdictions in Canada and abroad.
1. Mississippi law directly challenges Roe v. Wade
In 2018, Mississippi enacted a law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Court injunctions prevented the law from taking effect and on Dec. 1, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments for two hours in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the most direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in more than three decades. More than 1100 legal briefs were submitted in the case prior to oral arguments. Legal experts on both sides of the abortion controversy weighed in and based on the questions asked by the six Republican-appointed justices, it seems likely that the Casey standard of viability will be reconsidered and that there is a chance the Court could overturn Roe. If Roe is overturned, the abortion issue will either be sent back to the states to regulate (24 states are poised to scale back the abortion license if this occurs, with several legislators poised to introduce total bans) or Congress could act. (A bill declaring abortion a right has passed the House of Representatives, but is not scheduled for debate in the Senate). Some pro-life scholars have argued that the Justices could find that abortion is unconstitutional where under the 14th Amendment a preborn child has legal standing as a “person” and therefore abortion violates its rights to due process and legal protection. This line of reasoning was not explored by the justices during oral arguments and such a conclusion is considered a longshot.