The January 28,1988 decision of the Supreme Court has thrown the issue of abortion back into the lap of Parliament. What did the Supreme Court say? What are Mps to do? How should they face legislation?
Q. Why did the Supreme Court rule that the abortion law ( section 251 of the Criminal Code) contravened the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
A majority of five Justices ( out of seven) ruled that the subclauses of Section 251 breached the “ security of person” clause of section 7 of the Charter of Rights. Theyruled that hospital committees were so cumbersome and the term “ health so ill-defined as to increase the threat to the health of a women who had chosen to have an abortion under these provisions.
Q. Did opponents of abortion approve Section 251?
No, they did not. Opponents of abortion deny that a women has the right to have her baby killed. They also deny that parliament has the power to create such a “right” or to “legalize” abortion. Instead, Parliament must halt violence against the unborn.
Q. Did the Supreme Court rule that a women has a right to abortion?
No, it did not. Only one of the seven Justices speaks of a women’s right to abortion (“decision to terminate her pregnancy”). Madame Justice Bertha Wilson claims this right under the “liberty” clause of Section 7 of the Charter of Rights, which guarantees the right to “life, liberty and security of person.” Justice Wilson is a long-time feminist who in 1966 helped draft the United Church brief approving abortion in the most liberal sense.
Chief Justice Dickson refused to declare that Section 7 includes “a right to privacy and a right to make unfettered decisions about one’s own life.” This , he stated, “is neither necessary nor wise in this appeal…”
Q. Did the Supreme Court say that women should not be forced to carry their babies to term?
No. Most of the judges rejected that opinion which was given by Justice Dickson. He said: “Forcing a women, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a women’s body and thus an infringement of security of person.”
The opinion that somehow society is forcing a women to get pregnant of that society has no right to prevent a pregnant women from abusing her unborn child, is astonishing and unacceptable.
Four of the seven justices disagree with that reasoning. Justices McIntyre and LaForest directly refer to and reject, this opinion of Justice Dickson. They State:
“ The proposition that women enjoy a constitutional right to have an abortion is devoid of support in either the language, structure or history of the constitutional text, in constitutional tradition, or in the history, traditions of underlying philosophies of our society.”
Justices Beetz and Estey agreed with Justice Dickson that Section 251 infringes the security of person clause, but not because women should not be inconvenienced as to their “ priorities and aspirations.” Rather , they believed the procedures of Section 251 represented “ inadequate treatment” which physically endangered women’s health.
Q. Can Parliament pass a law protecting the unborn child?
Parliament can pass a law providing protection for all unborn children from the moment of conception. Such a law could be upheld if it accorded with the principles of fundamental justice under Section 7 of the Charter of or was demonstrated to be a reasonable limit under Section I.
Q. What are the chances of protecting unborn lives from conception onwards?
The chances are excellent provided the pro-life and religious communities rally to oppose the radical feminists and other secularists, with prayer and with action, and that they do so by proclaiming the truth and nothing but the truth.
Everyone in the country now knows the Dr. Morgentaler is a liar when he says “ up to five months or so we don’t speak of babies.” ( Macleans, October 1976). Everyone also knows that abortion is brutalizing people, dividing the country, and a disaster of such magnitude that it is now endangering the survival of our nation. All Western societies- including Canada since 1972- are dying nations with birth rates well under the replacement level of 21.0 per 1,000 needed to maintain a stationary population. In 1986, Canada’s rate was 14.7 ( Quebec 13.0). Today we have a chance once again to turn to a true future.
Q. In a pluralistic society is the law the place to enforce a particular morality?
In a pluralistic society the law should not impose the morality of some philosophical or pseudo- religious sect or other such as feminism. Law should reflect the ideals of the highest standards of civilization.
Q. Is opposition to abortion a question of religion?
The rejection of the right to kill the unborn is not the view of some religious sect but a defense of the dignity of the human person. This battle has been fought for over 4,000 years, though never as intensely as today.
Christians should be aware that their tradition has strenuously opposed abortion from the earliest times, as witnessed, for example, in the Didache, dating from 90-100 AD: “Thou shalt not kill the foetus by an abortion.”
Q. Should religious people “impose” their views on the nation?
If by “impose” is meant the right to insist on the obligation of legislators to defend human rights, the answer is yes. As the Second Vatican Council, following an age-old tradition, explained to Catholics, Church leaders have the duty to speak out even on political matters when human rights are involved n the good of souls requires it. Abortion fulfills both requirements.
That is why, in 1977, Pope John Paul VI denied that a Christian may excuse himself from the teaching of the Church regarding the dignity of every human life “ on the grounds that he must respect the opinions of those who do not share his convictions…”
(Osservatore Romano, April 23,1977)
In 1981, his successor, Pope John II, said that Roman Catholics have a duty to fight abortion legislation will all legitimate means: “ No one can have an attitude of pliant consent or passivity in the face of abortion.”
The notion that people who regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque, or temple may not have an opinion is preposterous. Yet, this notion has led many people to believe that a pluralistic society must be secular.
Q. What should MPs do about abortion legislation?
As a general principle they must fist oppose all attempts to legalize abortion. Abortion is the killing of a human being innocent of any crime. No human being or group of human beings has the right to kill another human being when self-defense or the good order of society are not at stake or threatened.
This general principle finds expression in natural law, the Sacred Scriptures, the Christian and Moslem traditions, as well as in other religious traditions.
Abortion is against the objective moral order. It is not a “ Catholic” or a “ Christian” issue. The Sumerians condemned abortion 4,00 years ago ( 200 BC). So did Hammurabi ( 1700 BC). The Greek Hippocrates ( 500 BC) encased the condemnation into a medical oath ( thou shalt not administer abortion causing drugs or instruments). This oath entered the general stream of Western civilization until it was cast aside in the nineteen sixties and seventies with the coming of the permissive society.
Q. What is to be done if government introduces legislation permitting abortions in principle?
Legislators must vote against such legislation.
In1974 the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith summed it up as follows: “ Whatever he civil law may decree in this matter, it must be taken as absolutely certain that one may never obey an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law approving abortion in principle. One may not take part in any movement to sway public opinion in favor of such a law, nor may one vote for that law.”
Q. Why , then, did many Canadian Christians, including Catholic MPs, approve the legalization of abortion in 1969?
The reasons are various, though one should not first that the 14 Creditistes from Quebec, all Catholics, were the ones who rejected the legislation as a party and opposed it with all their might.
However, the bulk of RC MPs supported the ruling party, the Liberals. A large number of them refused to listen to their fellow Catholics and to their Bishops. Instead, they, like most of their Protestant colleagues, allowed themselves to be confounded by false arguments about the pluralistic society, tolerance, the reality of unborn life, the nature and purpose of the legislation and its presumed effects, as well as the doctrine of the lesser of the two evils. They feared being made a laughing-stock by their peers when the media, academia, and society at large, including mainline Protestant Churches, accused them of bigotry intolerance and imposing ( “outmoded”) morality on a society.
Q. If abortion were to be prohibited, would not women simply go to illegal clinics?
Yes, some of them will do so. But most won’t; instead they will carry their baby to term. The pre-1969 statistics of illegal abortions and the deaths resulting from them were utterly fraudulent and part of the pro-abortion campaign of propaganda and deception.
The law also has a function as teacher. To legalize acts of violence means that those who do the legalizing become participants in the crime. Moreover, truth is perverted and that is why legal front street abortions are worse than illegal backstreet ones.
Q. May MPs vote in favour of a law which approves abortion on demand in the first trimester?
They ma not. No legislator may vote for a law permitting abortion in the first trimester because to approve such a law is to approve abortion in principle. To approve abortion in principle is nothing less than approving the killing of human beings for reasons of convenience.
It would not be a question of tightening an existing law, but of simply re-affirming the wish to legalize abortion all over again.
Following the decision of January 28, Canadians have another chance at defending unborn human life from the moment of conception.
Q. What would be the effect of a law allowing unrestricted abortion in the first trimester?
It would open the floodgates to abortion on demand. In 1985, the last year for which there are Canadian statistics, 88.9 per cent of abortions took place in the first 12 weeks. Without any controls in the first trimester the numbers could escalate.
Q. What is the Church status of Catholic Mps who vote in favour of a law approving abortion?
The Catholic Church reserves its severest discipline, that of excommunication, for those who directly counsel a women to have an abortion or who physically participate in an abortion.
It follows that those who make abortions available in a more indirect way, such as by voting for a law legalizing abortions, are setting themselves publicly against Christ and His teaching in a grave moral matter. The Catholic Church calls such a sin mortal. As the second Vatican Council put it:
“ Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, and willful self-destruction… all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who do them than to those who suffer the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator.”
( Gaudium et spes, 27)
Q. When does human life begin?
Human life begins at the moment of conception. With modern technology, medical scientists have been able to confirm the various features of this human life at ever earlier stages.
By 1983, for example, their instruments had become so sophisticated that they could ascertain the independent production of blood by the foetus at 17 to 20 days; its heart beat at 24 to 25 days; and brainwaves at 35 days. Only a decade or so ago, it was thought that the brains of the pre-born babies did not become active until two-thirds the way through pregnancy (Sir William Liley, Borowski trial, Regina, May 1983).
In other words, scientific evidence confirms that life begins at conception. Once this is clear, all talk about so-called rights of pregnant women to “terminate their pregnancy” (as the euphemism has it) should cease.
Q. What is the task of provincial government?
Abortion is a federal matter which should remain a subject of the Criminal Code. The financing of abortions through medical plans and grants to hospitals, however, comes under provincial jurisdiction. Provincial legislators should cut off all funds for the support of abortion.
As Pope John Paul II put it in January 1986, the state which finances abortion concurs in the execution of a death sentence. (O.R. February 24, 1986)
Q. Does cutting funding of abortions not discriminate against the poor?
No, it doesn’t. Neither the funding of abortions nor, indeed, the legislation of abortion itself, eliminate a social inequality. Real social injustice consists in unjustly depriving some members of society of goods or advantages granted to others, not in offering the less well-to-do the possibility of doing something that is wrong for everyone.