I’ll go out on a limb and say you’ve all seen Knocked Up, the hilarious film starring Katherine Heigl (as Alison Scott) and Seth Rogan (as Ben Stone) tackling the ever-pressing issues of one night stands, unprotected sex, and…pregnancy. But for those of you living under rocks: Scott ends up knocked up and faced with the question: What do I do? One of Stone’s friends suggests an abortion, or shmashmortion.
In a film that really doesn’t hide a lot, it’s interesting that the writers chose to have their character say what he did, instead of actually saying ‘abortion’. This choice is likely a commentary on how our society tries to avoid the topic of abortion; it’s become ingrained as a social taboo. Political associations, personal choices, and religious affiliations can make many uncomfortable with approaching this issue.
Recently, however, there has been in increase in abortion talk, largely stemming from the motion put to the House of Commons on the evening of September 26th, 2012. Conservative backbench MP, Stephen Woodworth put forward a private member motion to study the Criminal Code of Canada’s current definition of when life begins. Currently, the Code says that a child becomes a human being once it has fully left its mother. This motion came as a slight surprise (to me anyway) as Harper promised during his campaign that his Government would not re-open the abortion debate. Yet this motion would seem to do just that.
In Canada, it is currently legal for a woman to get an abortion at 40 weeks gestation. Many anti-choice individuals use this fact as an argument against abortion and demand a reassessment of the question of when life begins. However, woman cannot actually have an elective abortion after 24 weeks gestation and only a handful of doctors will perform an abortion after 20 weeks gestation. In fact, The Canadian Institute for Health Information has reported that approximately 1.8% of abortions occur after 20 gestational weeks, with 40% occurring between 9 and 12 (http://www.cihi.ca/CIHI-ext-portal/pdf/internet/TA_08_ALLDATATABLES20101124_EN).
Members of Parliament voted 203 to 91 against the motion sponsored by this private member. Personally, I was happy to hear that Mr. Harper stuck to his word and voted against the motion. Don’t get too excited yet. The vote from one of his Cabinet Ministers was what really surprised me.
Rona Ambrose, our Minister for the Status of Women actually voted in favour of this motion. Her bio, which can be found here (http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/abu-ans/min/index-eng.html) claims she is “a champion of women’s rights”, except, I guess, a women’s right to choose what happens to her own body. This federal government organization is meant to promote women’s equality in Canada, so that definitely explains why 86% of the ‘yeas‘ came from men, right? Status of Women Canada allegedly works to provide equality for women in three ways, one of which being: “encouraging women’s leadership.” Well, letting a group of men vote on your body doesn’t really promote much leadership, does it?
Facebook exploded with pictures of Rona Ambrose saying “Only in Stephen Harper’s Canada does the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women vote to re-open the abortion debate.” While the motion wouldn’t immediately criminalize abortions, if the committee decided life starts at conception, abortions would become a criminal offence. And would this stop people? Sure, some women would be unhappily dissuaded but others would travel to places in the world where abortion is legal, and have them performed in environments where their health is definitely not top issue. Or worse still, some could take the matter into their own hands (I’ll let you think about those options). Because of the contentiousness of sex, many women already face enough problems when it comes to their reproductive health. Ms. Ambrose, let’s not take an already unhappy situation and make it completely unbearable.
To the 91 ‘yeas’ we have currently elected to represent us, I leave you with a quote from philosopher Ayn Rand: “An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living.”
One last note, for those of you who would like to contact Ms Ambrose and let her know how you feel, please do!
Rona Ambrose, MP, Edmonton-Spruce Grove
Phone: (780) 495-7705