Survey of Canadian pro-life groups on gestational limits and incrementalism
This survey was published in the July/August edition of the Interim newspaper and is re-published with permission.
Interim Editor’s Note: We asked more than 15 pro-life groups, organizations, and leaders to answer two questions:
Do you support gestational limits* on abortion. Would you like to state why? (* for the purpose of this survey, gestational limits means restricting abortion after a certain point, whether by trimester or some other time period.)
What kinds of incremental measures do you support. If yes, can you give an example? If no, why?
We originally also asked whether they supported We Need a Law but later dropped the question because it unfairly singled out one organization. We regret doing so. The responses are listed below; a number of groups did not respond.
Georges Buscemi, Campaigne Quebec Vie
It’s a foundational policy of Campaign Life Coalition, of which Campagne Quebec Vie is the Quebec representative, that the gestational approach is a compromise form of legislation, and therefore unacceptable.
Campagne Québec-Vie, will, all things being equal, promote any legislation that is not deemed compromise legislation. As long as the wording of legislation does not express the view that some humans are less human than others, any type of incremental legislation could be acceptable.
Rosemary Connell, Show the Truth
I appreciate being asked to answer the survey but don’t feel I have the expertise to respond.
Mary Ellen Douglas, Campaign Life Coalition
Campaign Life Coalition does not support gestation limits on abortion. Life begins at the time of conception and all human life must be protected from this time until natural death.
In 1969, Canada’s law was changed to allow abortion if three members of a ‘therapeutic abortion committee’ in a hospital approve the killing. The pro-life movement fought against that unjust law for 19 years. In 1988, the Supreme Court struck down the entire abortion law and since then Canada has had no abortion law.
To implement a law which would purport to save babies after 12 weeks, 16 weeks, 20 weeks, etc., would establish an abortion law which would approve the killing of babies up to the chosen time. Pro-lifers who advocate such legislation would be complicit in the creation of a pro-abortion law. CLC will never accept that.
European pro-life leaders which have gestational limits have told us repeatedly that gestational laws do nothing to prevent abortion but only assuage the public conscience.
Campaign Life Coalition will only support a law to protect all human life from the time of conception onward. However, we do support incremental legislation while we actively work for complete protection.
Since 1969, 42 pieces of pro-life federal legislation has been proposed in Parliament. Many called for amendments to the criminal code for full protection of the unborn child or the definition of human being; others were incremental measures such as defunding, women’s right to know, medically necessary abortions, conscience legislation and the unborn victims of violence.
Campaign Life Coalition has been involved in drafting legislation for the MPs, promoting and supporting these incremental pieces of legislation.
Alissa Golob, Campaign Life Coalition Youth
We don’t support gestational limits on abortion. It is not strategic to attempt to institute just any law, just for the sake of saying we have one. Anything is not always better than nothing, especially if it achieves nothing. In the United Kingdom, for example, even after a gestational law was put in place restricting abortions after 24 weeks, abortion rates still continued to increase. As Dr. Janet Smith says, “gestational law turns its back on the inalienable and inviolable right to life of every human being. It substitutes pragmatism for principle.”
I support incremental approaches such as parental notification, complete informed consent, defunding and ultrasound laws; basically any law that would make it extremely difficult for women to obtain abortions. These measures have been proven to actually decrease the number and frequency of abortions, without resorting to gestational limits. The claim that those who oppose a gestational approach are “all or nothing” is therefore false.
Stephanie Gray, Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform
We support any incremental measures that are effective in saving lives and which act to limit, not introduce, the evil of abortion. Evangelium Vitae provides a helpful guideline by stating, “when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.”
Because Canada has an absence of any law on abortion, and because in such a situation that means any abortion is permitted, and because our criminal code does not consider the pre-born human beings until they have “completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of [their] mother[s],” we support gestational limits on abortion. Our ultimate goal is that all abortions be banned, but we recognize that achieving that larger goal means meeting smaller goals in the meantime. Every year in Canada, 100,000 children are killed. We believe all 100,000 need to be saved, but if we cannot save 100,000 right away, we believe that saving 10,000 (or whatever number we can in the meantime) is better than 0. Because no abortions are currently banned, introducing a gestational ban on abortion acts to limit, rather than introduce, the evil.
Jim Hnatiuk, Christian Heritage Party
Incremental: Did not answer
We support the protection of innocent human life from conception. A gestational approach is one born of desperation and exhibits compromise on the most important issue of life. We already have a law based on the stage of development. It’s called full-term pregnancy. So a gestational law just moves the time-frame back towards conception. No, we do not support gestational limit legislation.
Don Hutchinson, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) has consistently affirmed the inestimable worth of human life from conception, as a special act of God’s creation. Recognizing that in Canada human life in the womb has been legally being terminated without limits after the point of conception until the moment of birth since 1988, the EFC has supported legislative and other legal initiatives that oppose the destruction of human life in the womb. The EFC remains prepared to engage the debate about appropriate initiatives that will protect lives in the womb, even though such initiatives might not protect all lives that we believe are deserving of protection.
Jakki Jeffs, Alliance for Life Ontario and Guelph and Area Right to Life
I do not support gestational limits on abortion. I believe in three simple truths: God is the author of all human life, all children in the womb are human beings/persons and every human being/person has the right to life.
The ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is to change hearts and minds on abortion. If we can restore respect for the value of human life then laws protecting all human beings will naturally follow.
I will never support legislation based on subjective situations such as “viability” or “gestational age.” We would be telling the public and our politicians that we believe, human life is inviolable only if you have attained a certain age or are able to affect a certain function.
What we ask for legislatively must be consistent to our verbal message – we cannot allow the politicians to believe that we no longer require them to legislate protection for every human life.
I support all legislative efforts which do not violate our pro-life principle. As president of Guelph and Area Right to Life I can categorically state that our board has discussed gestational legislation and unanimously rejected it as a supportable measure.
I absolutely believe that it is the job of government to protect each and every human life, inside or outside the womb.
I will only support incremental legislation which does not violate our pro-life principle, that every human life is sacred and inviolable at every stage and in every situation from his/her creation.
We do not have to forego our pro-life principle to gain some political victory (defunding, informed consent, conscience protection for health care workers) but our mission is to change hearts and minds on abortion. While both pro-life groups I volunteer and work with are non-denominational I personally believe that I am my brothers’ keeper, not keeper of some of my brothers and I also believe that we are commanded that “Thou shalt not kill.” Recently we have witnessed our opponents willingness to sacrifice the women of tomorrow to safeguard abortion for the women of today. They will not move from their support of abortion choice at all costs.
We can do no less than they but without the blood of the innocents on our hands. It is imperative that we stand our ground.
Sarah Johnson, 4MY Canada
Laws such as informed consent, mandatory ultrasounds, anti-coercion laws, freedom of conscience laws, legislated “cool down” periods or any law that applies to all trimesters would be our first choice, however, we support any restriction to abortion that saves lives.
Fr. John Lemire, Priests for Life Canada
Priests for Life Canada supports progressively, restrictive, and realistically attainable political goals as laid out by Blessed John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (paragraph 73) to save preborn children in a hostile parliamentary environment. As Blessed John Paul II clearly states: “A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.” Therefore, Priests for Life Canada believes it is necessary to recognize that such activity and goals are morally sound, theologically approved and pragmatically achievable.
Priests for Life Canada supports efforts to restrict funding for abortion and destructive embryonic stem cell research, extension of abortion to clinics, forced abortion procedure and assistance, training for interns and nurses, efforts for informed consent, professionals conscience rights, mandatory cooling off periods before abortions, recognition of the legal personhood of the preborn, restrictive efforts, and many other prolife initiatives. These are all to be lauded and at least tacitly encouraged. Priests for Life Canada believes we should never engage in falsely destructive splitting of our ranks in seeking to achieve our goals to build and support a culture of life.
Mark Penninga, Association for Reformed Political Action
ARPA Canada would support a wide variety of laws that aim to restrict abortion to the greatest extent possible. These laws must explicitly or implicitly affirm that all human life has inherent dignity. Examples include laws requiring informed consent, counseling, a time-delay, and parental notification, laws against coercion, legally recognizing unborn victims of crime, bans on specific abortion procedures, a law against sex-selective abortion, and late-term abortion bans. Of course we would be most excited to see this country desire complete protection for the unborn.
ARPA Canada is convicted that gestational restrictions on abortion can be a prudent and principled means to restrict abortion to the greatest extent possible. Doing politics means working with what is possible. The Bible consistently affirms that while the civil government must protect life, it also has a limited role in society because it is not the ultimate answer. This applies to abortion as it does to all examples of human brokenness and evil. Canada is a secular nation that does not respect God’s standards about the value of human life. But that does not mean that it supports the status quo of having absolutely no legal protection for the unborn. As it stands, Canadian law is out of sync with where Canadians stand on abortion (with a majority in favour of abortion restrictions). Our civil government has the duty to do what it can to restrict abortion. The pro-life movement can support and assist our government officials as they take steps to do this. Doing what is possible, while continually affirming the dignity of all human life, is not compromise. The Lord willing, Canada’s pro-life movement can see some of the legislative successes that the rest of the world has taken to protect preborn human life. And if we are blessed with restrictions, we must press on and keep working for more. ARPA Canada looks forward to working alongside the rest of the pro-life movement as we each do what we can to protect the unborn.