A Canadian Made Solution for Abortion

Baby Holding Reproductive rights sticker
“Not Yet Rain Canadian screenings” by Jenn Farr is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

A better choice in the pro-life/pro-abortion mudslinging: both parties working together. A point of view from a now moderated pro-lifer.

Any pro-life victory has to go hand-in-hand with better protection of women and motherhood. One cannot promote the unborn at the expense of the mother. Nor the mother at the cost of the unborn.

There is a common ground between the polarized parties that address the unborn and the mother. But to arrive at that, challenging discussions and structural social changes are necessary to make this happen.

The questions of the unborn and the existential threats of motherhood cannot resolve through a catchy slogan, simple solutions such as a pill, a one-time procedure, or a stringent law.

This dilemma is not a black/white, either/or question.

The late pro-life advocate, Joe Borowski, expressed in a speech accepting a pro-life award at Calvary Temple in Winnipeg that the divide between him and the legendary abortion champion, Joe Morgenthaler, was different behind closed doors. In one of their debating sessions, Morgenthaler privately broke down and wept. Borowski did not elaborate. My take on this statement is that Morgenthaler did not recant or change his ideology but felt responsible for the extremists from both sides who were igniting hatred, violence, and contempt. It went beyond the issue of abortion and into something that was alarming.

These extremists are what is holding back the necessary discussion Canadians need to make.

No one person can solve such a complex narrative, and the solution is in the various parties sitting together, putting aside the taglines and vitriol. Morgenthaler would agree with this too.

Economic, paternalistic, and mental health come to mind whenever I ponder the topic. Others are better at expressing the legal, medical, and gender perspectives, so these points are left out. These people are welcome to add such critical thoughts.

The economic pressures alone, such as the high cost of housing and escalating food costs, should strike fear in any pregnant woman. Our society’s lack of economic or social support for anyone with children is wrong, leading to abortion urgency. Capitalism out of control is killing our birth rate, which society and our Governments refuse to address.

If it weren’t for birth control pills and the like, abortion would be more rampant for financial reasons.

The financial problem is especially acute in the United States, where private medical insurance prevails. Out of pocket expenses, deductibles, and birth complications can make giving birth a costly enterprise. Financial pressure is more apparent for those who have no coverage at all. An average hospital cost for a non-complicated childbirth average about $32,000.00 US. No wonder abortion is such a big issue.

In the United States, the pro-life movement should be forcefully pushing for universal health care to remedy a big part of this crisis. The pro-life movement has to encourage economic and social reforms in Canada to meet its demands.

Abortion is another sign of desperate reform to our Canadian mental health system. One night, while distributing soup to street people during my time as a Salvation Army employee, a woman randomly stated that she was a prostitute and had just returned from her sixth abortion. She was in a poor physical state, eerily thin and in worn-down clothes—often signs of drug addiction. She said her social worker forced her to have this procedure. It is a sad commentary on Canadian society that we have to leave a woman in such a desperate condition before getting any attention. When it finally happens, it is a gruesome band-aid that takes less than a day to perform, and then she is forgotten again.

If this woman had six abortions, how many other similar Canadian women are in the same circumstance?

Or, more recently, the story of a pretty young woman with an intellectual disability who became pregnant because of the lack of social protection. The current Winnipeg mental health system offers a pithy sum for housing people with a disability. This situation means they often have to share accommodations in poorer sections of a town or in improper circumstances. This occurrence leaves a woman vulnerable to exploitation, which happened in her case. If she was given affordable safe housing, the exploitation would not have occurred, and the avoidance of an abortion.

Abortion may be paternalism toward the poor.

There is a growing consensus that having a child should only occur when one is economically and emotionally ready for this stage—which usually means one has a reliable income of over $80,000.00 per year (more or less depending on where in Canada). Anything less, the thinking goes, the mother and child will become a drag on society, creating further social and mental health problems on an already stretched system. Abortion, where other birth control methods fail, is an alternative.

Is this the type of Canada we want to live in if this is true? Children then are a choice for the upwardly mobile, and abortion is the default choice for the poor. Are we trying to wipe out the poor through birth control?

Here in Winnipeg, a high indigenous population lives in poverty. Is there a history of abortions on indigenous women for population control and to avoid deeper social issues? Is this part of our colonial heritage? I may be wrong on these questions. Perhaps, not factual, but these are essential questions to ask.

Neither should this be a decision imposed by the courts. It is an abdication of leadership to go through this channel. The courts should not decide on a topic because the Government is too scared to address it. Third parties funded by corporations or wealthy individuals can unfairly force their agenda through legal opinion, and these entities get to chart Canada’s destiny.

It is also wrong that the direction on these critical issues is done secretly in the vestibules of the Prime Minister’s office, or the cabinet, without any debate or legislation in Parliament. The proper place to propose any directive is by the Members of Parliament, unconstrained by party rules.

Situational ethics is not a good candidate in this tapestry. Clear but humane rules are required that satisfy all interested parties, and it is possible.

Charles A. Sullivan, a researcher, writer, and blogger, was one of the gang of 42 arrested protesting abortions at the Morgenthaler Winnipeg clinic back in 1989. For a short time, the Assistant Executive Director of the bygone Alliance for Life—at one time the national umbrella for all pro-life organizations in Canada.

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