Chris Selley writes in the National Post about what he perceives as a phony abortion war in Canadian politics, and as far as I can tell he means in both the context of maternal health and abortion in general. His argument comes down to using a single two-year-old poll to suggest that because only 4% of respondents oppose abortion in all circumstances and that 96% either support abortion with or without exceptions, there is really no debate about the issue anymore because (he declares) the debate is really between the “only two coherent positions on the matter” — “all abortions are OK, or all abortions are evil” — and there is something pretty close to a consensus on the matter. This seems an extremely narrow reading of the issue, never mind that there are other polls that don’t have quite that 19:1 ratio of pro-abortion/pro-choice to pro-life: earlier this month, Ekos found that 27% of Canadians thought of themselves as “generally” pro-life and Environics polls have consistently found that about one-third of Canadians want to protect life from the moment of conception. (Selley says “the last major poll I’m aware of” was that June 2008 Angus Reid poll that conveniently buttresses his argument.)
And yet, this all misses the point. We aren’t talking about whether abortion should be permitted in Canada, but rather whether it should be part of a narrowly defined maternal health program to benefit women and their children in the developing world. I don’t get why no one on the pro-abortion side seems to understand this although Canadians seem to. You see, Mr. Selley, there is a Harris-Decima poll about this specific issue from March 23, 2010. It found that more Canadians do not think abortion should be included in the maternal health initiative (48%) than do (46%). So the debate (not war, but debate) that Chris Selley thinks is contrived is quite real and Stephen Harper is correct to say funding abortion abroad as part of maternal health does divide Canadians. Selley dismisses Harper’s argument as “nonsensical” (not once, but twice) and yet if the standard on judging whether something is open for debate is dependent on polling results, Harper is correct and Selley is dead wrong.
Because he relies on a faulty argument and a two-year-old poll, Selley’s conclusion is that this whole debate is political and pointless, Harper has been exposed as having a hidden agenda, and the impoverished women of the world are “beside the point” because of Harper’s games. That fails to take into consideration that the country is indeed divided, it isn’t Harper who is playing games, and regardless of what polls say, funding abortion is neither maternal health or just.
And I’m not only to going to blame Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals for playing games and fallaciousness. Selley’s argument that Harper “values foreign fetuses ahead of Canadian ones” because abortion is permitted in Canada but not funded abroad by Canadian taxpayers, or that rape is happening in the Congo and incest occurring in Haiti, is completely beside the point. One might even say such arguments, in the context of maternal health, are … what’s the word? Nonsensical.