May 15, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - To a great many observers, the apparent rejection and imminent defeat of Motion 312 in the House of Commons would seem to herald the end of the abortion debate in Canada.
The motion, a modest proposal at best, is Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth’s earnest initiative to assess if indeed the fetus is a human being or simply protoplasm and a mere appendage to a woman’s body. Yes, obviously this question is all about whether abortion entails the taking of a human life and whether it should enjoy the unrestricted access that it currently does in Canada.
At first reading, the motion was soundly condemned by all four parties in the House, including the governing Conservative who made Whip Gordon O’Connor the pitchman for the pro-abortion position that would seem to dominate the caucus. This all-party support has engendered a minor celebration for so-called progressives across Canada, as columnists, pundits and communication hacks have all been quick to herald it as the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
Though just how the liquidation of the unborn can even remotely be construed as progressive, in any sense of that overused and misappropriated political modifier, is beyond this writer. At any rate, the abortion debate has been declared dead more times than disco. Moreover, it has been termed settled, irrelevant, insignificant and toxic by social liberals for years.
There is often a stark similarity between today’s pro-life struggle and the mid-nineteenth century anti-slavery crusade of the Abolition movement in the United States. The abolitionist fight must have seemed without a future and without a focus when the Fugitive Slave Act was declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857.
The law was part of the Compromise of 1850, which for most Americans, “settled” the issue of slavery for all time, just as proponents of abortion tell us today that abortion is settled today. The act not only empowered citizens to forcefully repatriate slaves who had escaped from their masters, but obliged Americans to fully support and sometimes actively participate in sending these serfs back to the plantations.
In his ruling Chief Justice Roger Taney famously said that blacks were “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” That was the end of the story for slavery’s proponents and they expected abolitionists to accept the inevitable and keep their mouths shut.
Yet in three years, the Republican Party, a political institution founded on its opposition to the extension of slavery, nominated Abraham Lincoln for president. Lincoln was elected, but did not win a single state in the slave-holding South, even though he did not advocate the abolition, but the restriction, of slavery throughout the campaign; he offered what could clearly be called an incremental approach to abolishing slavery.
Two years later, in the midst of a great civil war, Lincoln would author the seminal Emancipation Proclamation. Though the document was purely theoretical, in that it only recognized freedom for slaves residing in the rebellious states of the Confederacy, the announcement would have been unthinkable policy for even Lincoln a year earlier. The logic of slavery continued to unravel and by the end of the war in 1865, the necessity of ending slavery throughout the United States was obvious to all and the U.S. Constitution was amended to do so.
Hence what had seemed settled rapidly became unsettled. Abolition of slavery, which less than a decade before had seemed the purvey of “single-issue” political radicals, was now deemed the only logical course of action.
So when there is rejoicing that Canadians have reached a progressive consensus on “pro-choice” politics, fear not. When it seems obvious that any further debate on abortion would just constitute revisiting an already settled issue, do not worry. When there is all-party support to deep-six the abortion debate and Canada’s religious community is virtually silent about that unholy unity, don’t lose faith. Look up, for your redemption draweth nigh. And history isn’t quite over yet either.
David Krayden is the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies, an independent, not-for-profit institution dedicated to the advancement of freedom and prosperity through the development and promotion of good public policy.