In April this year two “equality clauses” will come into effect in our Charter of Rights. In essence, these clauses state that nay laws which discriminate between the sexes are invalid under the Charter.
Admirable as this may be at first glance — there surely are very few Canadians (male or female, pro or anti feminist) who would seriously defend the notion that women are some kind of second class creature — the Canadian Equal Rights Amendment has implications that should disturb us all.
Everything will depend on how the courts interpret these “equality provisions,” and feminist organizations are now mobilizing moral and financial support to bring forward test cases that will set precedents in accordance with feminist ideology. (I speak of pro-abortion feminism throughout this article when I refer to feminism.) Feminist lawyers have already established a Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF): their goal is to raise $10 million to cover the costs of challenging gender based legislation in the courts.
Covering all avenues
While LEAF is soliciting support through private-sector donations, the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women has recommended that that the Federal Government finance a legal advocacy fund from women. The feminists appear to be covering all avenues: if community support is lacking, they know the politicians will come through.
It seems likely that the first test cases brought by LEAF will focus on such issues as loss of native status for Indian women who marry a non Indian, and on sex-based insurance tables and discriminatory pension plans, for these cases are viewed as “winnable.” It won’t be long, though, before a case is brought to establish a constitutionally-based right to fully-government-funded abortion. If the feminists have previously established precedents that women and men are equal and the same, it will be “game over” for the unborn.
A “right-to-abortion” and the equal-rights legislation go hand in hand. This is recognized in the U.S., where the abortion connection has forced many to oppose their proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). As John T. Noonan Jr. has pointed out, “with the ERA in place…any statute regulating abortion…would be unconstitutional. When a woman is denied medical treatment of her reproductive system because it is a reproductive system, the discrimination is because she is a woman with a unique physical feature, but for which she would be treated.” (The Human Life Review, Spring, 1984.)
With such an understanding of “equal rights,” chances for denying government funding would be nil. Provincial Medicare systems would be required to fund (in full) all abortions — presumably this would include Morgentaler-style operations.
Abortion is, naturally, the major issue. However, there are many other areas in which the Canadian ERA is no boon to women. Equal-rights legislation makes both partners in a marriage equally financially responsible. In the eyes of the law, the husband is no longer legally responsible for the financial well-being of his family — if he doesn’t want to support them, that’s too bad. After a divorce, the mother who is at home with her children may no longer have any rights to child support, nor even the traditional inclination of the courts towards awarding her child custody. Maternity leave for the working mother may prove discriminatory: she may not even be allowed those first few months at home with her baby without peril of losing her job.
The Canadian ERA erodes further the traditional understanding that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman, backed up by legislation designed to protect them and their children. If men and women are seen as legally equal, there will be test cases to allow homosexual and lesbian marriage. Both kinds of couples want approval: to have society sanction their liaisons gives them status — to say nothing of tax benefits. Homosexuals and lesbians seek to imitate their heterosexual counterparts in that they want the “emotional” satisfaction of raising children. They will soon be arguing here for the right to socially-approved artificial insemination and adoption. Those of us who are “reactionary” and believe that children need both a father (male) and a mother (female) in a family for balance will again, no doubt, be labeled as fanatics — and probably as right wing and religious ones at that.
As far as I’m concerned, the Canadian ERA sets off the loudest alarms since those of the 1969 Abortion Act. Even if it is the “logical extension” of that legislation, a feminist, pro-abortion interpretation must not be allowed to prevail. We need pro-life test cases to set precedents to ensure that men and women are treated as equal-but-different. We need the Charter interpreted so as to give the male dignity and protection in his familial and social role and the female dignity and protection in her familial and social role. We do not need men and women equally confused as to their responsibilities. Things — and we — are quite confused enough as it is.
Pro life challenge
The problem is that the feminists have been looking forward to April 1985 ever since the Charter was signed. Although there are a few notable Canadian women who recognized the Canadian ERA for what it is at the time the Charter was being debated, the majority of pro-life men and women did not involve themselves in its implications at that time. It’s easy to see how it happened — many were totally involved in trying to save the babies then, and it was, perhaps, easier to hope that the ERA would not mean more abortion.
The feminists don’t confine themselves to simply stating or publicizing their positions, why should we? It’s probably, as always, a question of money. Pro-life women’s organizations are generally without the kind of financial support to begin expensive court cases. The question is, can we afford not to support them if they go to court?
I think not. Can we really expect the hundreds of thousands of children that will be slaughtered each year to accept our excuse that we were too poor to do anything much in their defense…or too preoccupied?