May 14 marked the 30th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in Canada. Did Ontario Premier Mike Harris say anything to deplore this national calamity?

No. In fact, he has displayed scant concern about how legalized abortion hurts women and has resulted in the deliberate killing so far of more than two million pre-born Canadian children.

Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty and New Democrat leader Howard Hampton are no less heedless of this tragedy. Their silence on the evils of abortion speaks volumes about the hypocrisy of their pretensions of compassion and concern for all of the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human family.

The people of Michigan are more fortunate in their political leadership. On the 25th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in the United States, Michigan Governor John Engler issued a state proclamation declaring, “January 1998 as a month of prayer to end abortion in Michigan.”

Engler has been consistent in his support for the sanctity of human life. In 1993, he signed into law a bill that requires every woman considering an abortion to receive information about the procedure, including diagrams of unborn children.

Prior to the 1995 election in Ontario, Harris expressed interest in this issue. But during four years in office, his government has done nothing to assure better counselling for women considering abortion.

In 1992, Engler signed a bill requiring physicians to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian before performing an abortion on a minor, unless there is reason to believe the child is vulnerable to parental abuse. In contrast, under terms of the Health Care Consent Act introduced by the previous NDP government of Ontario, parents have no right to know about, let alone make decisions upon, any medical treatment for their children.

Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees tried to amend this law, by requiring that parents should at least be notified of any medical treatment planned for their children, but on November 28, 1996, the Legislature rejected even this modest reaffirmation of parental rights. Every Liberal and New Democrat who took part in the vote came out against Klees’ bill, as did 13 Progressive Conservatives, including Community and Social Services Minister Janet Ecker. Harris was absent for the vote.

In 1996, Engler signed a bill into law that forbids the use of Medicaid funds for abortions. The Harris government has made funding for abortions a top priority. In Ontario, even a woman who has already had two or three abortions is entitled to have a third or a fourth entirely at the expense of provincial taxpayers. Harris thinks that’s fair and reasonable.

Engler has been zealous in combating so-called mercy killing or euthanasia — the use of lethal injections and other means of deliberately killing off the sick, the handicapped, the frail, the elderly. Last month, Jack Kevorkian, Michigan’s notorious Dr. Death, was finally convicted of murder.

On July 28, 1998, Engler set the political stage for Kevorkian’s murder conviction, by signing into law a permanent ban on assisted suicide. In response, pro-euthanasia forces initiated a referendum to have the legislation overturned. However, thanks to inspired leadership from Engler and a vigorous education campaign by Right to Life of Michigan, the measure was rejected in a state-wide vote on November 3 by the crushing margin of 71-to-29 per cent.

To head off demands for euthanasia in Ontario, Progressive Conservative MPP Bob Wood introduced a resolution into the Legislature on October 15, calling for the creation of a representative task force to promote hospice palliative care throughout the province to relieve suffering and promote the quality of life of people afflicted with an advanced illness. He got solid backing from an unlikely ally — New Democrat MPP Marion Boyd. “As people at home in London know,” she said, “it’s very seldom that the member for London South, Mr Wood, and I, as the member for London Centre, agree on anything, so I am really pleased to be able to speak to his motion.”

After a short debate, the Legislature unanimously approved Wood’s initiative. Meanwhile, though, the task force has yet to be established. Fulfilling this commitment should be a top priority for whichever party forms the next government of Ontario.

Rory Leishman

This column appeared originally in the London Free Press, and is reprinted here with permission