Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 17, 1999
30 years of abortion
Pro-lifers see long road ahead before Canada protects the unborn
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
With the present state of Canada's abortion law, Jim Hughes has job security. He wishes it wasn't so.
"If abortion was illegal, I'd be out of a job," Hughes said. "That would be great. I could be sitting on my deck with my feet up, relaxing."
Hughes, the national president of Campaign Life Coalition, would have rather spent his free time the past 20 years fishing or slacking in his Lazy-Boy.
He would have rather abortion never been given legal status, so he wouldn't have to spend his days rallying for the respect and right of a life that too often has been reduced to a "blob of tissue."
"With some of the new technologies, where you can have these ultrasounds and see the baby early on," Hughes said. "It's starting to dispel all those ideas that it was only a blob of tissue."
May 14, 1969 was the day that made Hughes' job descriptions possible. Section 251 of the Criminal Code, amended by the Trudeau government, thrust Canada into a government-sanctioned abortion-on-demand society. Thirty years later, much work remains to be done before Hughes can put his feet up.
"You look at the killings recently in Colorado, when you see all of that lack of respect for human life, you have to look back at what's in the womb. If we have no respect for life in the womb, how do we have respect for a life outside of it."
And the work gets increasingly difficult. The large number of pro-life groups sometimes hinders rather than furthers the cause. They compete on the same front for financial and public support.
"Sometimes they're so divided, but they have the same purpose," said Joanne Hatton, president of the Alberta Pro-Life Association. "They're wondering if this is the right approach or is that the right approach. This is an issue that has to be tackled on every front, working collectively."
Abortion has also become a hush-hush topic in some professional and social circles, so much so that some people feel like outsiders if they speak against it, said Hatton.
"We have lots of pro-life supporters who don't say anything because they're afraid. We have doctors who disagree with it but won't come out because they feel they will be ostracized by their colleagues. It's embarrassing for some people to say anything.
"We really take it to heart when we say 'I can't impose my moral views on anyone.' What do you think our laws are? It's someone's moral view. It's someone's morality imposed on society. We just tend to pick and choose what morals are accepted publicly. If someone says 'I'm pro-choice,' is that not a moral view?"
Abortion has also become a low priority in government legislation and Church teaching, said Hughes.
"Seems no one wants to get involved in it anymore," Hughes said. "There's a shift where people no longer believe what their politicians are saying, there's a shift in religious belief. It was a mainly Catholic Parliament that brought in the abortion law.
"People look to their religious leaders for answers and they're getting lukewarm leadership on it."
The lack of leadership has "mangled the people at the grassroots level and this makes it difficult for the people working in the forefront."
Pro-lifers paint a disturbing image. Graphic pictures of aborted fetuses covered in a bloody mucous are printed on pamphlets to reflect the inhumanity. Billboards of rosey-cheek toddlers untouched by abortion reach out for sympathy.
A flyer produced by Alliance NonProfit Prolife Action presents the death toll of four different ways Canadians have died in the past.
Using information from Statistics Canada, the Alliance reflects that from 1950 to 1991, 49,150 Canadians died by accidental drowning. In those same years, motor vehicle accidents accounted for 194,381 deaths in Canada. The cumulative death rate of Canadians in the Boer, Korean, Persian Gulf and both world wars is 114,710.
From the date of its legalization to 1991, abortion took more than 1.2 million lives.
"Abortion is gruesome," Hatton said. "It's that simple.
Hatton recalls as a high school student going to a meeting with her mother where participants debated abortion before it had been legalized.
"People were saying 'This is a slippery slope, it will lead to things like euthanasia.' There were people laughing at the pro-lifers saying it wouldn't be funded by provincial health care, it was a simple procedure.
"Jump ahead 30 years and the things the pro-lifers were worried about are all coming true. The value of human life has been depreciated."
The reasoning for the pro-life force has been the same since Day One - thou shalt not kill. Not only is it the word of the Lord, but a law of society.
Yet despite an obvious truth readily accepted by society, the trouble lies in the definition of who or what is being killed.
"People don't believe it's a baby," said Lois Goodfellow, executive director of Calgary Pro-Life. "They think it's a blob of tissue that they are getting rid of.
"Life begins at conception, no matter what the law tells us."
Calgary Pro-Life prefers to educate rather than get involved in the political aspects of abortion.
"We're not going to make a political statement about it," Goodfellow said. "We're educational. Life begins in the womb. That's a scientific and medical fact. If you show the facts and tell the truth, people will come to the conclusion."
For 18 years, Goodfellow and her crew of volunteers coordinate an annual Hike for Life event to raise funds for pro-life education programs in local schools.
Alberta Pro-Life's Life '99 conference May 14-15 will have Dr. Bernard Nathanson as its keynote speaker. Nathanson was a leading abortionist and abortion advocate who converted to the pro-life movement and eventually joined the Catholic Church.
"There are small signs that we have now moved to a different level of thinking about abortion," Hatton said. "More nurses are opting out of these procedures. Doctors are seeing what a gruesome area this is."
Pro-lifers, know they will not wake up tomorrow to Church bells ringing in the abolition of abortion.
"Before this time, women were not allowed to vote, blacks were considered three-fifths human," Hughes said. "How stupid was that? But when we look back we say what myopic thinking. They will look back at (abortion) and say the same.
"It's not going to happen quickly, but things are looking good. This is the strongest pro-life government we've seen in a long time," Hughes said referring to the likes of MPs Elsie Wayne and Jason Kenney. "We have some gutsy pro-life people in there."
It has been more than a quarter century since abortion has been accepted in the eyes of the law. And it could take as long to reverse that.
"We need to talk more to women, talk more to doctors, talk to politicians," Hatton said. "And we need to pray.
"This isn't going to happen overnight."
Hatton encourages baby steps. As a first step, she wants federal guidelines to restrict late-term abortions.
"These guidelines won't end (abortion) right away," Hatton said. "And some people will say 'That's just compromising and caving in,' but I think we need to start at this level, doing things to limit and restrict (abortions)."
There have been some initiatives by politicians to address the abortion issue.
Nova Scotia passed a law which prevented abortions except at certified hospitals. The law was ruled invalid as an encroachment on federal powers.
Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell tabled a bill to put abortion back into the Criminal Code. The bill survived a close vote in the House of Commons in May 1990 (140 to 131), but was defeated in the Senate by a rare tie vote eight months later.
The present Liberal government has yet to attempt to amend the Criminal Code on abortion. In fact, it's done almost the opposite. In March, at the request of B.C. Health Minister Penny Priddy, the federal government wrote to the French manufacturer of the abortion pill, RU-486, assuring that any application for approval for the drug in Canada would receive a fair hearing.
RU-486, provided by prescription, causes miscarriage by inducing uterine contractions, allowing women to carry out abortions in the privacy of their own homes.
The French-made drug, normally used during the first nine weeks of pregnancy, has been approved for use in France, Britain, Sweden, China and the United States.
"Canada has always been in the forefront; the UN considers Canada one of the best places to live," Hughes said. "(Without abortion) Canada would undoubtedly be the best place to live. It would be protecting the weakest of its citizens."