Living in a country that has already embraced single-payer, universal, socialized health care, the debate around the passage and implementation of, and the court battles in reaction to Obamacare make me wonder just how this debate was handled so many years ago in Canada. Surely, Tommy Douglas never had to discuss Death Panels.
It also makes me wonder if, as the United States moves in the direction of Canadian-style health care, if we will see some of the same battles emerge around various issues. We have already seen the debate about whether the government can force funding of birth control pills. Will we soon see the very same dynamic at play with an even more divisive issue, abortion?
Personally, I certainly hope not. It would be a shame to see the government, as it has done in Canada, force the general population to fund a procedure that so many find so morally abhorrent.In Canada, government after government has bobbed and weaved whenever the abortion question was raised. Decades ago, the Supreme Court struck down the Mulroney government’s abortion laws, and since then, every government has pretended that their hands were tied. That anti-abortion legislation would be dead on arrival at any court challenge.
It is reasonable, if erroneous*, to argue that these governments have acted prudently in respecting the ruling of the court. It is unreasonable to argue that by relinquishing their prerogative to pass anti-abortion legislation (if they so chose), they must then go the next step and force the public financing of abortion.
Let us get one point out of the way right at the start. Medically necessary** abortion should be fully funded by the government. What we are discussing is the idea that elective abortions should be free to all. This is an undue burden for the consciences of those who hold Pro Life views. All choice – all freedom – has been robbed of them regarding a matter that they see as life-and-death, possibly akin to murder. The Supreme Court of Canada may have thought they were making a narrow ruling, but the effect is to make millions complicit in what they see as the killing of the most innocent. That such a thing would be wrapped in the word “liberal” or “progressive” is surely a sad irony not lost on them.
It is true that government funds are regularly used for activities that some in our society will see as wrong, unwise or immoral. It may be that we will fund wars, excessive incarceration, corporate welfare, multiculturalism or social engineering projects through our schools. All of these situations do not, however, reach the same degree of transgression as the public funding of abortion. In all of these situations, we are able to petition our government for change, or if that fails, throw the bums out. In each of these situations, those suffering from government action have multiple avenues to try to escape any perceived oppression. When it comes to abortion, the victims are utterly powerless. Even those whose most elemental duty is to protect them, their parents, have turned their backs in them. Even worse, it is those protectors who are committing the atrocity that the rest of us are supposed to bankroll.
It is easy to claim that even in this moral quagmire, we all still have agency, freedom of belief, freedom of religion and just the basic freedom to think that a particular act is a grave sin. However, we erode these beliefs when we claim that you may hold your opinion, but you may not live it… as if our beliefs and morals are somehow completely detached from our souls. We ridicule those who claim that it is okay to be gay, just don’t act gay or have romantic relationships with people of the same sex. Nonetheless, we hold national hypocrisy in our minds when it comes to abortion funding. It is okay to be Pro Life, just do not try to actually be Pro Life.
The Pro Lifer who does not want to fund another’s elective abortion is not actively causing harm. Not paying for something does not equate to actively harming someone. It is debatable, in fact, if there is even any harm, depending on one’s opinion of an unwanted pregnancy. No doubt, to the person who does not want to be pregnant, continuing such a pregnancy is a burden, and, arguably, a form of harm**. But, again, with our rule that we must fund abortions, we are taking the view of one side of the abortion debate as fact, and building policy from there. The unfavourable view – the Pro Life view – is treated as something between a nuisance and an amusing peccadillo.
This is not what we think of when we think of Canada of the United States. On no other issue do we think that the moral objections of roughly half the population should be deemed completely irrelevant, while the opinions of the other half of the country become Charter-protected and government-funded rights. And certainly, if such a situation were to arise, it would not – could not – be due to the apathy and inertia of our elected officials. After so many years, we would hope that some government somewhere would have the courage to stand up and say enough. It is a mockery of our liberalism that so many must fund an unnecessary medical procedure they see as so morally abhorrent. Pro Lifers, you see, are second class citizens.
They can shout and cry. They can march through the streets. But Canadian governments have decided that their voice does not matter a whit. They not only have to suffer along with the children they see as being killed, but they must also pay for it… lest they become the criminal.
On Opposite Day, we do our best to argue in service of a position that, under normal circumstances, we argue against. Coke people might sing the praises of Pepsi, Cat people might talk about why Dogs make for superior pets, Political Types might put forward the position that is usually held by their opponents. After all, *ANYONE* can beat up a strawman. Here is the kickoff post for the symposium. Here is a list of all the posts so far.
*I’m breaking from the Opposite Day theme right now. Regardless of one’s views on abortion, the accepted wisdom that the courts have permanently legalized abortion is not actually correct. That is, however, not germane to the topic at hand.
**Again, breaking out of opposite mode, we should keep in mind the nature of the legislation that was struck down. An abortion was deemed necessary, and therefore legal, if it posed a threat to the mother’s physical or mental health. It was quite weak tea, as any emotional stress could be seen as posing a risk to a woman’s mental health.