When Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau in Montreal this week, Trudeau presumed to lecture Varadkar on Ireland’s abortion law. There was no evidence of pushback from our Taoiseach despite the fact that in Canada there is no law preventing abortion taking place for any reason right up to birth.
Trudeau said: “On the issue of reproductive rights, I shared our perspective that reproductive rights for women are integral to women’s rights in general, and women’s rights are human rights. And I encouraged him to look at it as a question of fundamental rights for women and we had a good discussion on that.”
Well, we encourage our Taoiseach to look at the Canadian abortion regime carefully. He will realise that it is among the worst examples possible.
In 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada removed abortion from the criminal law because it was deemed an unconstitutional restriction on civil liberty. As a result, it is now possible to have an abortion at any stage up to birth and for any reason. Yes, at any stage and for any reason.
There are professional codes of conduct that in some cases appear to limit abortion-on-demand to 24 weeks and after that permit it only in cases of a risk to the life of the mother or a serious disability, but in practice these codes are easily circumvented.
By way of proof, here is an interview with a woman who had five abortions, one at 26 weeks. Neither she nor her child had any health problem. (She attended a state clinic specialised in handling pregnancies of more than 24 weeks).
There are plenty of other cases of late abortions, when the child could easily survive outside the womb.
In December 2016, a woman sought an abortion at the McGill University Health Centre but the hospital ethical committee denied her request because her pregnancy was at 30 weeks and there was “no threat to the health of the mother or the future child.” No matter, she ended up getting a termination elsewhere in the same province. Her lawyer complained: “Nobody has to assess the merit of her grounds to approve her decision”, asking the college to review their ethical guidelines. In other words, McGill is not liberal enough!
Margaret Somerville, a former professor of Law at McGill University in her book ‘Bird on an Ethics Wire’ recalls two shocking, late-term abortion cases (34 weeks and 32 weeks): “In one, an unmarried graduate student from a Middle Eastern country was thirty-four weeks pregnant with a healthy unborn child and wanted an abortion to save her from ‘disgracing her family.’ In the other, a married couple learned at thirty-two weeks gestation that their unborn child had a cleft palate – correctable with routine surgery – and ‘didn’t want a defective baby’. In both cases, the unborn child was killed in utero and delivered dead, making the intervention that of abortion and not first-degree murder, as it would have been had the killing taken place after birth”. (p. 219)
This is what happens in Canada where abortion is a ‘fundamental right’.
A letter to the Irish Times today claims that in Canada the law states: “No physician in Canada can terminate a pregnancy over 24 weeks without serious indications that the life of the mother is at risk or that the foetus has very serious malformations”. That is not true. It is not the law. It is a quote from a politician who was referring to a professional code of conduct which can, as mentioned, be easily circumvented without consequence.
So, Canada’s abortion law is one of the most barbaric there is. In cases of late-term abortion such as those detailed here, the pregnancy can easily be ended by delivering the baby alive but the law permits these babies to be killed just prior to delivery.
This is the law Justin Trudeau boasts about. It is the law he supports. It is the law he requires all members of his party to support. We do not need to take lectures on ‘human rights’ from this man and Leo Varadkar should have told him so.
Some pro-life groups show pictures of aborted foetuses in public. I will try to address three questions: Is this legal? Is it appropriate? Is it effective?
First of all, we need to clarify that the Director of Public Prosecutions has confirmed in a letter that showing the reality of abortion is not illegal under the Public Order Act. 4. Pictures showing aborted human foetuses lying in pieces are extremely disturbing but it is not a crime to use them to inform the public about the real consequences of introducing abortion.
Those images are shocking, indeed, because abortion is shocking. This is precisely the point that those who exhibit them are trying to make. The truth is upsetting, pictures don’t lie. They are not euphemisms or easy slogans. Abortion cannot be sanitised.
Any attempt to normalise a termination of life is easily invalidated by the spontaneous reaction of any ordinary person at the sight of the outcome of that termination, i.e. a dead body. If we still feel disgust there is still hope, it means that our sense of humanity has not been totally suppressed by ideology.
Those who defend the choice of abortion can’t campaign for something so abhorrent and then demand to keep its graphic representation totally outside of the public debate. You can’t be pro-choice and at the same time seek to hide the reality of choosing abortion. Despite this, however, I think there are good reasons for only showing these pictures in public places very sparingly.
It is undeniable, for example, that pictures of aborted foetuses will cause distress to some women who have had abortions themselves. It will also upset others, particularly children.
I believe the only appropriate display of those images is when they are used as part of an information board and their scale is sufficiently small so that only those who are really interested will see them. They can be used to educate the general public but only when the potential viewers have been made aware of what they should expect.
I have seen those pictures shown in large scale at roundabouts or walking paths. I don’t think it is appropriate. It might provoke some discussion and sometimes those conversations change minds but usually it will upset and shock people.
The use of such pictures is also considered by some pro-life groups to be counterproductive. They are generally perceived as extreme by the general public and they don’t serve the cause. This is true. A referendum on the eighth amendment will be won only if those who have middle-of-the-road views can be persuaded and I am not convinced that large picture along the street of aborted foetuses will achieve much. Reasonable arguments, personal stories, positive experiences are, instead, more effective way to persuade.