When the bard’s most famous character asks the mother of all questions, Hamlet is enquiring after the value of his own life. You either choose to endure the ‘slings and arrows’ or you do not. In Hamlet’s case, the question being asked, the intervening deliberations, and the answer, are all being accomplished by Hamlet himself. Hamlet would have no idea how lucky he was – despite the gravity of the question and the life-challenges he was facing, he could have been presented with a situation exponentially more difficult to resolve: he could have been forced to decide the fate of someone else, someone completely innocent, vulnerable, and for a short time at least, living exclusively on the whim of Hamlet’s ability and inclination to provide shelter, nutrition, and support. Lucky for Hamlet, he never had to make such a choice. Hamlet never had to consciously decide someone else’s fate in the process of deciding his own, as is the situation abortion presents to Canadians.
Here is the abortion issue in a nutshell: God has bestowed upon human individuals two inalienable rights: the right to freewill, and the right to life. No government, social institution, friend, relative, or any other human individual, has the right to take from someone that which God has given them. With respect to abortion, these two rights are set in direct opposition: the woman’s right to choose v. the child’s right to live.
The just society is obliged to uphold the inalienable rights of the individual, or it cannot be considered just; however with abortion, we cannot uphold the mother’s right to choose without denying the child’s right to live, and vice-versa. Two rights, being self-evident truths, and held in common among all human individuals, are, in the abortion context, mutually exclusive.
The solution, as we have traditionally imagined it, invites us to forfeit values which happen to be so fundamental, as to serve to qualify and define us as human. We must be true to ourselves; therefore, taking away the woman’s right to choose cannot ever become an option – the just society is obliged to protect the woman’s inalienable right to choose at any cost.
The failure to uphold the individual’s right to live is as egregious as taking woman’s choice away. This Canadians previously acknowledged by withdrawing support for the death penalty through parliamentary referendum. In fact it is worse, since the womb-resident child has not developed the capacity for speech and cannot yet advocate for itself. Silence permits the continuance of all kinds of oppression and abuse. We all know silence predisposes us to overlook extremely serious cases that we would not have otherwise, had the victims made some noise.
Despite the serious repercussions for mother and unborn, we will never move past the destruction of the unborn, the oppression of women, or the acrimony which the abortion issue is causing, until we accurately define the challenge. Awareness must form the first step in the discovery of a viable and permanent solution for any problem.
With abortion, the challenge is not to find a socially popular way to compel women to grant the unborn the time they need to prepare for life on their own. Neither is the challenge to convince mothers, by leveraging arbitrary legal definitions, that they are not really ending the life of a young and innocent child. The challenge lay in recognizing that our initial, albeit natural desire to find a middle ground is sorely misplaced in the context of abortion. We simply cannot persist in seeing this as one issue with two sides – but rather as two separate issues involving two separate people.
No one may tell the woman what to do with the body God has given her. Therefore politicians who see abortion as a personal, rather than political, issue are spot on. My body, my decision. Done.
No one may tell an individual that they should return the gift of life God has given them; not for any reason. My life, my decision. Done.
Anyone with a brain cell to think with can see there is no middle ground on the abortion debate, only a wide, gaping chasm between two opposing points of view through which every aborted child and emotionally traumatized mother has fallen, and any attempt to find middle ground is as misguided as the attempts to finesse, legislatively or in some other manner, the capitulation of either side. Declaring the debate a non-issue is not the solution – burying your head in the sand does not make the problem go away. Neither is whipping the parliamentary vote acceptable on such matters. Since human rights trumps party politics every time, the MP is obliged to vote according to their conscience, as they did in the 1987 parliamentary referendum on capital punishment.
Nevertheless, our political leaders continue to dictate to their respective caucuses the stance they must take. Politicians should instead commit to developing a means of sustaining the unborn, after being aborted, through the remainder of his/her gestation period. It is a tragic irony if a country that obliges itself to protect the lives of all individuals, even perpetrators of violence and murder upon children, does not resolve to do everything within its power to extend those protections to the unborn – individuals who through no fault of their own are unable to advocate for themselves.
On other matters relating to abortion, say, whether the state should pay for it, or whether the mother is obliged to participate in counselling before having the abortion, etc. – these considerations are within the purview of the House.
I have not, as of the writing of this article, learned how we ended up with such a twisted definition of humanity as it is presented in our country’s Criminal Code, which states the child must exist completely separate from the mother or it is not human. I find this utterly specious: from the moment of conception, the little guy is devoting all of his time and resources to develop so that he may, in nine months’ time, live independently of his mother. He takes care of the body building; the mother need only provide the gymnasium and snacks to keep him going. True, when the child emerges from the womb he will be somewhat different from when he first appeared there, but to say there is a stage in his life when he is not human is simply nonsense.
When there is no middle ground, what does one do? The answer is remarkably simple; the implementation, equally complex. Placing us in good stead to overcome these challenges is that the pro-choice movement is as full of quality, well-meaning, and socially conscious individuals as the anti-abortion movement. The two sides will never agree, because one focuses on the rights of the mother (obliging them to ignore the rights of the child inside of her) while the other focuses on the rights of the child (obliging them to ignore the rights of the mother who carries it). Despite the enormous amount of resources, time, and energy which both sides have selflessly dedicated to their respective causes, we have come no nearer to a viable solution. It is not possible for either side to be satisfied with the position of the other. The casualties of our needlessly protracted debate: countless young mothers and unborn children.
The status quo is clearly unacceptable. I believe if we jettison our original approach to abortion and see it as two separate rights issues involving two people, a solution just may present itself. To that end:
The woman’s right to choose. This is given woman by God and is inviolate. No one but God is allowed to take it away from her. When God gave woman the job of supporting the child’s prenatal activities, He/ She knew things could go terribly wrong and that situations will occur where either the child, the mother, or both, might not survive. This is not all what God intended, but which happens nevertheless, because there can be no perfection in Nature; Nature does not always get it right. Still, human societies will find themselves sorely remiss in taking back whatever it was that God has given woman.
The unborn individual’s right to live. This is given by God and is inviolate. Barring outside interference, the unborn individual is going to be out and on its own in a very short time. What some are currently doing to “support” the rights of these individuals is lobbying to take woman’s freewill away or ascribing to arbitrary and vain determinations of what does, and does not, constitute a human.
If the child’s first act following conception was to develop the capability to speak, there would never be an aborted child – the child itself will clear up any misconception on whether it desires to go on living. And there isn’t a single mother, who, upon hearing that voice, would continue with the abortion. What we should be doing is collaborating over the issue, not trying to beat the other side. We should be devoting all the resources we can muster to develop mechanisms for the transfer of the unborn individual from one womb to another. I am no scientist, nor am I aware of the medical and technical challenges involved. The people who know about these things may deem the challenges insurmountable. This solution might also open the door to some significant ethical issues. Whatever the side effects of our action, they will be of much less consequence than our inaction, and we must find a way to safeguard against them. Whatever we do, we cannot cease working for the voiceless unborn.
We have no choice as a society but to protect choice (ironic, isn’t it?) if we really want to permanently and fairly resolve the abortion issue. The issues converging upon abortion are the mother’s choice to carry the baby to term, and the yet- to- be- born individual’s choice to live. Canadian society’s role in protecting the mother’s right is straightforward: we simply cannot be telling her what to do with her own body. Our role in protecting the unborn is more challenging, because we must develop an effective means of transferring the unborn out of the original womb to an environment that replicates the functionality of the placental sac and the support mother is providing.
Let the two sides of the abortion debate pursue a common cause: to preserve the lives of the aborted, and to protect the rights of woman. Let us dedicate ourselves tirelessly to this end. I cannot know when we will get there, but I am certain we will get there, the Canadian Spirit being what it is.
19 May 2014