Wednesday, 31 October 2007

It's time

It's time that the Canadian pro-choice movement admitted it--at least to themselves. They are more in tune with the views of men than of women. In fact, they are ignoring the views of the vast majority of women when it comes to life issues.

You, my faithful reader, are probably tired of me saying this by now--but amazement and incredulity demand it. The pro-choice movement is anti-woman and anti-choice.

The latest Environics poll on life v. abortion data confirms once again that a substantial majority of women, but barely a majority of men, are unhappy with the status quo that the pro-choice movement defends--unrestricted abortion at any stage of the pregnancy, for any reason, all paid for by Medicare. Yet you won't find a peep about it on the pro-choice sites (suppressing embarrassing information being a pro-choice specialty; e.g. the abortion-breast cancer link).

Here are the 2007 statistics--and they haven't changed in years.

1. Two-thirds of women support legal protection for unborn children (currently there is no protection and has not been for 20 years).

2. Only 57% of men feel the same way. Of course, abortion is a great way for men to avoid any and all responsibility for fathering a child.

Curiously, one of the small majority of men who supports restrictions on abortions is Dr. Henry Morgentaler, the Canadian perhaps most responsible for our present state of affairs. He was quoted in 2004 as saying (Sun. Sep. 12 2004, Canadian Press as reported on CTV):

"We don't abort babies, we want to abort fetuses before they become babies," Morgentaler said from his Toronto clinic. "Around 24 weeks I have ethical problems doing that."

Morgentaler said the late-term abortions are mainly performed on women who have learned of severe birth defects during tests performed late in pregnancy and on teenage girls who have tried to hide their pregnancy.

"What we do at our clinics is if we have a problem like that we usually counsel the woman to continue the pregnancy and put it up for adoption if she is unable to care for it," he said.

[The Canadian Medical Association's policy on induced abortion (see their website, includes this statement: extrauterine viability may be possible if the fetus weighs over 500 g or 20 weeks have passed since conception, or both.]

3. 34% of women favour legal protection for the unborn from conception (so much for the fanatical fringe). Another 21% want protection after the first trimester, and a further 12% after the second. Ignoring this large majority of women they purport to support, the pro-choice and pro-abortion people cater to the 30% or so of women, and 43% of men, who want unlimited access to abortion.

4. There's more. 75% of women and 72% of men support some kind of law that would protect unborn children from criminal violence to the mother. Presumably women whose unborn babies are victims of violence and crime have made their choice--they want these babies. Yet the pro-choice people argue that there should not be legal protection even in this case

See, for instance, the convoluted argumentation of a Ms Joyce Arthur, whose release on behalf of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada includes this incredible statement:

Pregnant women being assaulted or killed is largely a domestic violence issue, and the rights of fetuses should not take precedence over the rights of the woman. When media coverage focuses on the victim’s fetus, and whether it should have rights or not, the pregnant woman is overlooked, and so is the problem that killed her – domestic violence.

If you can figure out that logic, I wish you would tell me how.

5. As for the Medicare issue, most of the over 100,000 abortions performed each year in Canada are paid for by taxpayers through the publicly funded system. Almost two-thirds polled said that abortions should be privately funded except in cases of medical emergencies or for rape and incest.

Doubtless the pro-choice people, and particularly the abortion providers, would like things to stay as they are. But in taking that stance, they are in a minority situation with Canadian women, although they would have lots of male supporters.

I wish that the next time one of their spokespeople in Parliament or the media started calling a parliamentarian anti-choice for holding the same position as the vast majority of her/his female constituents, that they would clarify what choice they are referring to. Male choice perhaps?

P.s. Recent polls regarding life v. abortion views done by CBS News, the Los Angeles Times, and Bloomberg News in the U.S. have found an almost identical profile to that of Canada.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Normally I agree with Mother Teresa but.....

Back in the late 1970s I did an open-line radio programme in Sudbury, Ontario. It was aimed at high school- and university/college-aged people, although their parents all listened as well. One evening I asked callers to phone in to tell me the names of their heroes. By the end of the evening, much to my surprise, God had come first--beating out Starsky & Hutch by one vote (these were the original television characters, of course).

One of my own big heroes is Mother Teresa. Despite her vocation, the habit she wore and so on, I seldom thought of her as a Catholic nun. She was just this incredibly strong, compassionate, able woman who did more good in her life than a thousand people. I found her work and her words a continual inspiration and motivation.

But on a recent occasion, I disagreed with her--and lightening did not strike like I feared it might! Here's how it happened.

I am attending a pro-life conference in New Brunswick as I write this. As is common at events run by religious people, a gentleman was asked to begin the day with prayer. He invoked God's blessing on the proceedings, as would be expected, and further asked that God would put an end to abortions, adding that these evil surgeries were done strictly for the convenience of the women in question.

I sat up straight when he used the term 'convenience'. It's a commonly held belief in some pro-life circles that inconvenience represents the most common reason for abortions. I believe that even Mother Teresa held this view, on the basis of her quote:

It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you live as you may wish.

I don't disagree with the quote in the narrow sense that inconvenience represents one of the more revolting reasons to assert one's rights or wishes over another, particularly by putting the other to death. But in a broader sense, I don't think that it applies to a large number of women who either submit to an abortion with the greatest possible misgivings or have the procedure thrust upon them through heavy coercion. I simply know too many women who have had abortions to believe otherwise.

Why do women abort? Most often it is to please or placate, or to ward off the threats of, someone else. Have this baby and...

1. I'll leave you. Recently a 17-year old man in Winnipeg killed his pregnant girlfriend when she refused to have an abortion.
2. You won't be able to finish school.
3. You will humiliate the family.
4. You will have no future.

Couple this with widespread ignorance (it's just a bunch of cells; there's no one to help you), a pro-choice movement that suppresses relevant information (e.g., the abortion/breast cancer link), and a lack of support for women who do keep their babies, and the reasons multiply further.

Then throw in two other problems from unexpected sources:

1. Churches that to a large extent don't see it as their problem. I had evangelical ministers in my home town, one male and one female, tell me that the pro-life issue was simply not on the church agenda. It was a special interest, like "Love Abbotsford" or "Pray through Ramadan."
2. Pro-lifers who exude more hatred and judgmentalism than they do love and compassion. "Look at these pictures of aborted babies. See what you've done, you murderer!", or, "All you care about is your convenience!"

I think that we have to get past the "them versus us" mentality that those who identify themselves as pro-life are in a virtuous camp with "God on our side", and that women of any other persuasion are the enemy. I prefer to see them as sheep without a shepherd. The pro-choice movement, addicted to ideology, immersed in groupthink, and unwilling to let women come to a genuinely informed decision by suppressing relevant information--that's the enemy.

But the typical woman is their victim, not their comrade in arms. What women need is love, compassion, support, hope and dignity. We're seen as ladling out rejection. We need to start with their need, not our moral outrage.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Bring on the dry mustard

An elderly relative of mine recently contracted a very bad cough and congested chest. I asked him what I could do to help him. His response: buy me some dry mustard so that I can make a mustard plaster.

I was a little concerned about this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I had heard that mustard plasters, like many old wives' tales, weren't actually effective. Relying on one could forestall the use of something efficacious. Secondly, I understood that it could be dangerous to use them on children and elderly people. I checked this out on the Net, and my concerns were verified.

I raised these issues with the old gentleman, but he dismissed them out of hand. "I don't think that I need to worry about any of that," he said. "We always used them as kids and we were fine." Of course, he was a kid 80 years ago.

In other words, no debate was necessary--the matter was settled and no evidence to the contrary would affect his decision.

While this is not uncommon with older folks, it bothers me when the same stubborn and illogical resistance is displayed by younger people in, literally, life and death situations.

Yes, they're at it again! I have repeatedly expressed my mystification at so-called pro-choice people trying to muzzle one of the choices.

I have not yet seen a professed representative of the pro-choice side accuse anyone of being anti-choice because of the way they describe the process for having an abortion as an aid to women who think that they might want one. You can look at several websites, for instance, where what an abortion entails is listed, although typically with certain details omitted that could suggest that abortions carry substantial psychological or physical risks.

Women are more likely to suffer breast cancer if they have abortions. Some women have died as a result of botched abortions. Incredibly, some children have survived abortion procedures. Many women suffer depression, drug addiction, and suicidal feelings for years after having been through the surgery. In addition, many fathers of aborted children go through emotional hell. But while you won't find any of this mentioned on the abortion websites (hunt through Planned Parenthood's, for instance), never are they condemned for endangering a woman's right to a fully informed choice.

It's an incredibly patronizing and dangerous road to take, isn't it?
1. You have a right to choose the life v. the abortion option.
2. Any information that suggests that abortion may have negative consequences is, by definition, hate speech against women.
3. Women and abortion-providers should be sheltered from any debate as to whether abortions can be a wrong or dangerous choice for a woman.
4. Therefore, we are willing to suppress information in the interests of upholding a hard-earned ideology. Debate is unnecessary as the case (medically, psychologically, legally and morally) is closed.

Am I exaggerating? Please view the exchange below between two prominent Canadian women who are both, by most definitions, in the pro-choice camp.

[I am indebted to blogger Scott Gilbreath, aka StatGuy, for this information.]

Recently asked about her position on abortion, Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May put forward what many would call a moderate position. Although she supports legal abortion, she views life as “sacred” and would never have an abortion herself.

I think there's been a moral dimension to this debate that's quite complex, and I think deserves respect. So I respect people who say, "I'm against abortion because there is a right to life, and the fetus is sacred."

I respect that, because I think all life is sacred. So, where do I come to thinking we should be able to have - and must have - access to therapeutic abortions in Canada?

It's the other side of a moral dilemma: If we make them illegal, women will die. We know this. It happened for hundreds and hundreds of years, that women would seek out whatever butcher they could find to cause an abortion to happen, and they would die horrible deaths, and the baby would die too.
. . .
[W]hat I'd like to do in politics is to be able to create the space to say, "Abortions are legal because they must be to avoid women dying. But nobody in their right mind is for abortions."

I've talked women out of having abortions. I would never have an abortion myself, not in a million years. I cannot imagine the circumstances that would have ever induced me to.

Radical leftist and über-feminist Judy Rebick went apoplectic when she heard about that. In a scathing open letter, she practically accuses Ms May of shilling for the pro-life movement.

[Y]ou have questioned the most important victory of the women's movement of my generation.

If you had said that you personally oppose abortion but you support a woman's right to choose, I would have been fine with that. Instead you said that a woman's right to choose, something tens of thousands of Canadian women fought for for decades, was trivializing an important issue. It felt like a slap in the face.

Since you have so little respect for me or for the women's movement which mobilized for so long to win this hard-earned right, I hope you will understand that I ripped up the cheque I had written to the Green Party and you can no longer rely on me for support.

We had a debate on abortion in this country for decades. Raising the need for further debate as you have done is a serious error in judgment and in the unlikely possibility that Stephen Harper wins a majority in the next election, you could have done irreparable harm.

I wonder if Judy Rebick also recommends mustard plasters.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Of hamsters and Nellie McClung

For most of my life I didn't particularly like dogs, cats or most pets. That began to change when my son and daughter-in-law purchased, first, a Himalayan cat (Reilly), and then a chocolate lab (Cody). My wife's and my initial reaction was that they were welcome to their pets as long as they didn't bring them along to our house for visits. Gradually that broke down--first visits, then some infrequent baby-sitting (not much actual sitting in the case of the dog), and for a time, the animals actually living in our home as our kids sorted out domiciles and careers.

It astonishes me to say that I actually like the animals now, and while I would still never have a pet, I have greater appreciation for how a dog or cat could worm their way into a person's heart (not that I am advocating worms as pets).

Therefore, I was not unsympathetic to Ellen DeGeneres' breakdown on television this week when she pleaded with a dog rescue agency to change their minds about seizing a pet to which Ellen had become very attached, although I would recommend that Ellen learn not to sniff so noisily into a microphone--most off-putting!

But let's take this whole animal love thing to an even higher level. I did a quick Internet check of which animals are protected by law from being killed. No one would be surprised to learn that this list includes the great apes, seals, dolphins and whales, or even wolves and eagles. But do you know that in the state of Maryland one cannot kill a snake without a proper licence? In Germany, a homeless animal cannot be done away with unless a team of veterinarians agrees in writing that the animal was beyond medical recovery.

And then there are hamsters. The National Post reported this week (October 15, 2007, p. A6) that a 24-year old Kamloops, BC man pleaded guilty to killing two of his girlfriend's hamsters. He will be sentenced next month. In the words of the manager of the Kamloops SPCA, "All animals deserve our respect, especially if we have made them pets. Hamsters are beings who experience pain, too."

In fact, the Canadian Criminal Code contains a number of provisions to protect animals. It is a criminal offense to:

* Wilfully or recklessly cause unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal by any means;
* Neglect to provide an animal adequate food, water, shelter or care;
* Wilfully and without lawful excuse kill, cattle or other animals that are kept for a lawful purpose;
* Engage in various specific acts, such as baiting an animal, participating in animal fighting, or causing pain to an animal by transporting it in an unsafe manner.

I am trying to think of a clever segue from what I have said above to what I plan to say next. You see, these revelations (at least to me) about animals came on the same day as a. my brother's birthday (Don, the card is in the mail), and b. the 80th anniversary of the Persons Case. In my (I like to say) creative mind, animals and personhood became one. Here's why.

In 1929 five heroic Alberta women appealed to England's Privy Council a decision taken by the Canadian Supreme Court in 1928 not to recognize women as "qualified persons" for appointment to the Senate. On October 18, 1929 the Privy Council reversed that decision and humankind took a great step forward. Lord Sankey's declaration should be memorized by all my fellow citizens:

The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours.

Initial momentum slowed pretty abruptly for women after that time. For instance, it was only in 1940 that the last province (Quebec) gave women the right to vote. The introduction of Prime Minister Diefenbaker's Canadian Bill of Rights (1960) and, later, Prime Minister Trudeau's Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) allowed more headway. Women are still fighting for full equality, but the right on which all else rests, personhood, is theirs--and thank God for it.

But humankind has another step to take. Animals in Canada and many other countries are at this point treated better than are unborn babies.

Keep in mind that animals are not legal persons. Yet the Kamloops man will be sentenced for killing two hamsters. Compare this with a case out of Winnipeg where a 24-year old woman was beaten to death by her 17-year old boyfriend for refusing to have an abortion. Because the young man falls under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, he will be sentenced to a maximum of ten years for murdering the woman he got pregnant in the first place, but no additional time for the dead baby. That baby does not have the legal right to personhood for which Nellie McClung and her Alberta colleagues fought so hard.

The fetus would have been better off if it had been a hamster--protection would then have been provided under the Criminal Code.

A growing number of Canadians believe that our present government, as timorous as it is about abortion-related issues, could safely bring unborn babies at least up to the animal level. They are urging parliamentarians to consider legislation similar to that enacted in the U.S. that addresses deaths of fetuses that are unrelated to a woman's right to choose.

Signed into law in 2004, it is called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. It's also known as Laci and Conner's Law, for the pregnant Laci Peterson who was murdered by her husband.

That law makes it a crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. It gives a "child in utero" status as a legal victim, if he or she is injured or killed – intentionally or not – during a crime of violence. But the law explicitly excludes the prosecution of any provider of consensual abortion, those attempting to treat a pregnant woman, and the woman herself.

In my lifetime I have had two hamsters and two babies. The hamsters were very nice, but.....

Monday, 15 October 2007

My new hero wrote sado-masochistic erotica--when she wasn't writing about vampires

I read every night before going to sleep. Right now I have half a dozen novels piled up beside my bed, every one of them mysteries. Favourite authors include Peter Robinson, Charles Todd, Ruth Rendell, Martha Grimes, Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George, Dorothy Sayers, Ellis Peters and, of course, the grande dame of them all, Agatha Christie.

My wife is afraid that my mind, or what's left of it, will wither away completely if I don't find something more intellectual to read once in a while. I suggested John Grisham and she just rolled her eyes.

I wonder how she would feel if I told her that my new favourite author is known for her books on vampires, and that under a pseudonym she wrote adult-oriented fiction and erotica. I am speaking, of course, of Anne Rice.

Rice, who was born in 1941, abandoned the Roman Catholic faith in which she was raised at age 18, and described herself as an atheist until 2005 when she renewed her relationship with God and announced that from that point on she would "write only for the Lord."

I read her first novel for the Lord, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, this year and was greatly edified in so doing. While fictional, it is a marvelous story of what it could have been like for Jesus as a little boy as he returned with his extended family from their sojourn in Egypt. Apparently she plans to write two more books on the life of our Saviour. Buy them!

Rice is a deeply convicted Christian and a member once again of the Roman Catholic church. As such, she is profoundly pro-life. She notes in her official website (

I want to add here that I am Pro-Life. I believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn...I feel we can stop the horror of abortion...The solution to the horror of abortion can and must be found... Do I myself have a solution to the abortion problem? The answer is no. What I have are hopes and dreams and prayers --- that better education will help men and women make responsible reproductive choices, and that abortion will become a morally abhorrent option from which informed Americans will turn away.

Why then did she recently announce her support for Hilary Clinton as the next U.S. president despite Ms. Clinton's pro-choice position? Further, what was behind her assertion that:

I believe the Democratic Party is the party that is most likely to help Americans make a transition away from the abortion crisis that we face today.

I am not a U.S. citizen, but my impression is that a large number of conservative American Christians and their spiritual leaders (e.g., James Dobson) feel that a critical way to bring an end to abortion is via a Republican president who is him- or herself pro-life.

Thus, much controversy swirls around the candidacy for Republican leader of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who despite his adherence to the Roman Catholic church is pro-choice. Conservative Christians are being urged to vote for a third-party candidate (certainly not the Democrats) should Giuliani win the Republican nomination.

Rice's explanation is as follows:

Though I deeply respect those who disagree with me, I believe, for a variety of reasons, that the Democratic Party best reflects the values I hold based on the Gospels. Those values are most intensely expressed for me in the Gospel of Matthew, but they are expressed in all the gospels. Those values involve feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving one’s neighbors and loving one’s enemies...Again, I believe the Democratic Party is the party that is most likely to help Americans make a transition away from the abortion crisis that we face today. Its values and its programs --- on a whole variety of issues --- most clearly reflect my values. Hillary Clinton is the candidate whom I most admire.

I have said in other posts that I see politics as a blunt instrument for attempting to effect a moral revival of any sort. That does not appear to be the opinion of many American Christians. I am interested in your views of Rice's position, and would be happy to publish some of them if you would like to send them along. I've also posted a little survey to which you may like to respond.

Right on man give peace a chance turn on tune in drop out

I was walking through a church lobby yesterday when I noticed a mother taking a picture of a young dad with his little six-year old girl parked on his shoulders. She was flashing the classic peace sign (two fingers in a V) for the picture.

I immediately thought of the day I graduated from Queen's University, shiny new MBA in hand. As a newly minted Ph.D. student walked down the steps from the platform with his diploma he flashed the same sign. Of course, this was in 1970 when that gesture had become the visual equivalent of shalom. I wondered if that dear little girl in 2007 knew what it meant--or even whether her young parents did.

I don't hear a lot of the old rhetoric or see the old signs much anymore--trips to BC's Gulf Islands being the rare exception. Time has passed us baby boomers by. Two fingers have (regrettably) been replaced by one. Expressions have become coarser. Tempus fugit.

Another kind of change has occurred as well. Since those heady days when Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, attitudes toward abortion have taken quite a ride. There was a time when calling oneself pro-life put you into what was perceived as a small band of religious bigots and fanatics who crowded the streets with signs while violently harassing women who were exercising their right to choose.

The pro-choice movement reached Nirvana (sorry, another old expression) when restrictions on abortion at any stage were removed, leaving Canada with open season on the unborn child. Women were no longer fetus incubators and could choose whatever form of reproductive freedom that suited their needs, all paid for by Medicare.

When I listen to the people of my era (politicians, leaders of some women's groups, many media people, and so on) still using the old talk about those who profess to be pro-life, I think that they are caught in the same time warp as the aging hippies on Gabriola Island. They are ignoring what is really happening in society, both here and in the U.S.

For several years now, LifeCanada has commissioned polls by Environics Research Group regarding the pro-life v. pro-abortion debate. Here are some of the findings from 2006:

1. Almost two-thirds of respondents (2021 people were surveyed) support laws to protect the unborn child.
2. Only three in ten are happy with the current law that allows for no protection at any stage of fetal development.
3. 70% support a requirement that women be informed about fetal development and all health risks and complications before they can choose whether to abort.
4. 55% supported a law requiring parental consent for minors under age 18 to have an abortion. Presently, no parental consent is required even if the girl is only 13.
5. 48% believed that abortions should be funded only in medical emergencies (e.g., threat to the mother's life, rape, and incest).

In a similar poll conducted in late 2005, also by Environics, 34% of female respondents supported legal protection from conception, and another 19% from the first trimester. The numbers for men, curiously, were 24% and 20% respectively. These numbers were more or less the same for 2006.

What that gives us is approximately one-third of Canadian women who would probably be pro-life in the classic sense (legal protection from conception), and about a third who prefer the Canadian status quo of no protection prior to birth. The final third favour legal protection at some stage of fetal development, the majority in the first trimester (source:

In the U.S. the trends are similar. Consider the findings below taken from Study Sees 'Turnaround' in Young Adults' Positions on Abortion by Kevin Mooney, staff writer, July 10, 2007 (

Younger voters, especially women, are embracing a pro-life position in surprising numbers and in sharp contrast to attitudes that held sway 15 years ago, according to a new study.The study by Overbrook Research, a public consulting firm in Illinois, examines public opinion data from Missouri. With proportions of blacks, Catholics and union members in line with national averages, the state is viewed as "highly representative of the American electorate," the study says. Over 30,000 survey interviews were conducted in the state between 1992 and 2006.

Participants were asked: "On the debate over abortion policy, do you consider yourself to be pro-life, pro-choice or somewhere in between?" Those who gave a definitive answer were then asked how strongly they held their view.

Results in 1992 were largely in step with what study authors Christopher Blunt and Fred Steeper call the "self-interest hypothesis." Women and men under 30 were the most ardently "pro-choice" (39 percent) and the least likely to be strongly "pro-life"( 23 percent).

Today, by contrast, among the current generation of 18- to 29-year-olds, 36 percent say they are strongly "pro-life," while just 18 percent say they are strongly "pro-choice," the study authors said. The trend was particularly evident among women in that age bracket. Forty percent identify themselves as strongly "pro-life" and only 20 percent as strongly "pro-choice."The data reverses a two-to-one ratio that was evident in 1992, the study noted.

These are well-founded statistical realities that those political, media and special interest group baby boomers can't ignore. Give up the old rhetoric, my friends. Get real.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Classic gratuitous criticism by the media

Here is why I sometimes seethe with anger over media irresponsibility. Even in my limited experience with the pro life movement, I am aware of any number of services provided to women in crisis pregnancies and to vulnerable women who need support to keep their babies.

Yet we find the following absolutely baseless remarks from a Toronto Star columnist discussing the U.S. legislation regarding unborn babies as victims of crime:

Last week, an unscientific poll on the Star's website asked if a 7-month-old fetus should have legal rights. The reaction was almost evenly divided. Fifty per cent said yes, 49 per cent said no.

In the U.S., this debate was more or less settled in April 2004, when President George W. Bush signed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. It's also known as Laci and Conner's Law, for the pregnant Laci Peterson who was murdered by her husband in a case that dragged across cable news networks for months.

That law makes it a crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. It gives a "child in utero" status as a legal victim, if he or she is injured or killed – intentionally or not – during a crime of violence. But the law explicitly excludes the prosecution of any provider of consensual abortion, those attempting to treat a pregnant woman, and the woman herself.

Needless to say, the debate leading up to the passage of the law was an ugly one.

On one side, those who profess to be pro-life – always there to protest a woman's choice but never around when hundreds of babies are born every year to poor or homeless women. On the other, those who defend a woman's right to control her own body but who have mixed feelings because, as the data show, an unusual number of women are violently killed while pregnant
(see Antonia Zerbisias, 'Killings reopen debate on rights of fetuses,' The Star, October 10, 2007).

Ms Zerbisias has clearly not done the research necessary or she would never have written such silly accusations (highlighted in bold print). How can a person just say these things with no concern for accuracy? Are there no minimal reporting standards at the Toronto Star?

Do you see why I accuse the pro-choice movement of sacrificing information for ideology? As a long-time professor who marked hundreds of student papers, I give Ms Zerbisias an F for her unresearched and wholly arbitrary premise concerning the pro-life movement. As a 35-year practitioner and consultant in market research, I turn her article back as incomplete and lacking scientific methodology.

And as someone who who really does believe that women can make good choices if they have all of the information necessary, I see her as anti-woman and anti-choice. Clearly she doesn't trust women with all of the truth.

It's enough to drive an angel to drink

My late mother had a number of colourful expressions, the title of this post being one of them. Another favourite of hers was, "It's enough to make a preacher swear!" Given that I never once heard my sainted mother swear, nor ever saw her take a drink, I knew that she was genuinely frustrated when she uttered these sayings.

Mom's expressions passed through my mind recently when I read, on the same day, studies showing a conclusive link between abortion and breast cancer, and an article on a science website claiming that such a link is a myth.

Here are excerpts from the two articles:

1. Link between abortion and breast cancer demonstrated

WASHINGTON, DC, October 3, 2007 - The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons published a study yesterday entitled "The Breast Cancer Epidemic." It showed that, among seven risk factors, abortion is the "best predictor of breast cancer," and fertility is also a useful predictor.

The study by Patrick Carroll of the Pension and Population Research Institute in London showed that countries with higher abortion rates, such as England & Wales, could expect a substantial increase in breast cancer incidence. Where abortion rates are low (i.e., Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic) a smaller increase is expected. Where a decline in abortion has taken place, (i.e., Denmark and Finland) a decline in breast cancer is anticipated.

Carroll used the same mathematical model for a previous forecast of numbers of breast cancers in future years for England & Wales based on cancer data up to 1997 that has proved quite accurate for predicting cancers observed in years 1998 to 2004.

In four countries - England & Wales, Scotland, Finland and Denmark - a social gradient has been discovered (unlike that for other cancers) whereby upper class and upwardly mobile women have more breast cancer than lower class women. This was studied in Finland and Denmark and the influence of known risk factors other than abortion was examined, but the gradient was not explained.

Carroll suggests that the known preference for abortion in this class might explain the phenomenon. Women pursuing higher educations and professional careers often delay marriage and childbearing. Abortions before the birth of a first child are highly carcinogenic.

Carroll used national data from nations believed to have "nearly complete abortion counts." Therefore, his study is not affected by recall bias. (Source:

2. Link between abortion and breast cancer denied

In his article "Five Myths About Breast Cancer,"'s columnist Christopher Wanjek says the link between abortion and breast cancer is one of five myths that women should know this October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

He calls the link a "persistent myth" that "was thoroughly resolved by the 1990s."

"Nevertheless, the Bush Administration revisited the issue in 2002, gave equal weight to the earlier, smaller studies showing a correlation, and told the National Cancer Institute to state the possible abortion-cancer connection in its fact sheets and Web site," Wanjek wrote. "It took Congressional action and a three-day conference on the topic to remove this erroneous information by 2003."

Wanjek's position was challenged by Dr. Joel Brind, a professor at Baruch College in New York, who says there is 50 years of research showing a link between abortion and breast cancer.

Brind pointed out that breast cancer cases have risen 40 percent since abortion was made virtually unlimited in the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.

Brind said the first study showing the abortion-breast cancer link was published in Japan in 1957 and it showed that women who have abortions have two-three times greater a chance of contracting breast cancer than those who decide to keep their baby.

Dr. Janet Daling, who considers herself pro-abortion, brought the abortion-breast cancer link into the mainstream when her 1994 research found that among women who had been pregnant at least once experienced a 50 percent increase in breast cancer risk when having an induced abortion.

In 1996, Brind and other researchers conducted analysis of all the major studies done in the field to that time.

They concluded that women who had an abortion before their first term child had a 50% increased risk of developing breast cancer while women who had an abortion after their first child sustained a 30% increased risk.

A few years ago, the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists confirmed Brind's study and said it contained no major flaws or errors

Given the track record of recent Canadian governments, nothing will be done in light of this newest study of the abortion-breast cancer link. Our current government will carry on as if the alleged mythical link were true.

But in Britain, members of the governing Labour party feel more inclined to take action in the best interests of women.

Members of the British parliament wants to add an amendment to an abortion bill the legislative body will debate next month as the nation marks 40 years of legalized abortion. Labour Party MPs Claire Curtis-Thomas and Geraldine Smith say they want the abortion bill amended to tell women of the abortion-breast cancer link.

Their bill follows on the heels of new research showing the number of breast cancer cases in England will skyrocket because of the high number of abortions in the European nation.

The bill would focus on more research into the link between abortion and breast cancer.

"This needs to be investigated properly. It is just another example of the possible physical repercussions women face," Smith told the London Daily Mail. "Women sometimes enter into an abortion quite lightly and in some cases it is being used as a form of birth control."

"We know there are psychological repercussions and it is now being shown that there are physical repercussions," Smith added

What is it about our current culture of debate that information vital to the health of women is suppressed or dismissed for the sake of some ideology? Is the pro-choice movement simply gullible? I suspect many of its members are, given the paucity of information that is allowed to get near their eyes, ears and brains.

Are the utterances of certain celebrities so powerful that we mere mortals are too cowed to truly investigate the facts?

NEW YORK, October 4, 2007 ( - Once again the pro-life views of Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the only conservative woman on ABC's "The View," have landed her in trouble after a heated exchange with Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell's replacement, on Wednesday's program edition.

Hasselbeck noted her opinion that presidential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's proposal to give $5,000 for a new birth could help reduce abortions in the United States.

Goldberg then took the opportunity to attack Hasselbeck's pro-life views by asking her if she had ever been in a position to abort a child. Hasselbeck responded "never."

Goldberg then said, "Okay, then back off a little bit. Back off a little bit. Very few people want to have abortions." Goldberg's "very few people", however, have aborted nearly 50 million children since Roe v. Wade legalized it in 1973. According to one Goldberg biographer, Goldberg has had at least 6 abortions and used to joke perversely that she had a do-it-yourself coat hanger abortion at 14 years-old.

Goldberg then lectured Hasselbeck that Americans ought to "revere" women, who have had abortions.

"It is the hardest decision that a woman ever- wait- ever has to make. So, when you talk about it, a little bit of reverence to the women out there who have had to make this horrible decision," Goldberg continued.

Hasselbeck, being the only pro-life and conservative out of the four women on The View, has been repeatedly castigated for her opinion, most notably by fired "View" co-host Rosie O'Donnell. Earlier in September, Barry Manilow had refused to appear on ABC's "The View," because the show's producers refused to remove Hasselbeck from the segment.

Manilow called Hasselbeck "dangerous" and "offensive" for her "views" and said that while he was "a big supporter of the show," he was canceling his appearance because he felt "I cannot compromise my beliefs."

And what of the medical community who take oaths with respect to putting health first? I phoned the communications director of the British Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons to ask what efforts they would make to draw to the attention of their members such studies as the one cited at the beginning of this post.

She said that this kind of action was outside the mandate of the College and passed me on to the Manager of Communications of the BC Medical Association, which provides professional development opportunities for physicians. That woman told me that because there are hundreds of studies that come to the attention of doctors, it would be up to individual doctors to note such findings as an abortion/breast cancer link. Both spokespeople said that there was no body representing the medical fraternity that would take that initiative.

So where does that leave us? The government is mute. The so-called pro-choice celebrities bully those who speak for one of the choices. The medical fraternity provides no leadership.

I sat by my mother's bedside while she was dying of breast cancer at age 59. She had never had an abortion nor did she ever smoke. She was simply unlucky enough to be part of a family where most of the women contracted breast cancer. It was agonizing for her and for me. She died 23 years ago and I still think of her virtually every day. I wish that my kids could remember her. She loved them so much as babies.

Why, oh why, oh why do the government and all major political parties, the pro-choice movement, the medical fraternity and many celebrities and columnists want to put women into the bed in which my mother died for the sake of ideology? If women are to be left alone to choose, can't they be trusted with all of the information necessary to make that choice?


Thursday, 4 October 2007

Have we gone too far?

Abortion does end the life of something. The fight, of course, is over what that something is — an embryo, a baby, God’s creation, a blob of cells — and who has dominion over it and the fully formed human being carrying that something inside her body. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, October 3, 2007.

This quote, taken from a review of a controversial movie about the American "abortion wars" entitled Lake of Fire, captures the essence of the pro-life vs. pro-abortion debate. It has come to the fore in Canada again this week as the fallout of a grisly murder of a pregnant woman by her husband. The dead woman's body was rushed to the hospital and an attempt was made to save the baby via Cesarean section, but the child was stillborn. The woman was seven months pregnant.

The dead woman's parents want the perpetrator to be charged with two murders (see the full story in today's on-line editions of the Toronto Star and National Post or yesterday's on-line news from CBC Toronto). Unlike thirty-five states in the U.S. that would recognize the fetus as a crime victim in the murder mentioned above, however, in Canada no such charge would be contemplated, as the unborn child is not a legal person until it has completely emerged alive from the mother's body. Some would like to see this state of legal affairs changed.

One of these is Margaret Somerville, a medical ethicist at McGill University. She notes that:

Canadian law states that "you're not a human being for the law of homicide until you've been delivered from the body of your mother in a living state."

According to reports, Aysun Sesen's fetus still had a heartbeat on the way into the operating room at St. Michael's Hospital. Doctors working on Sesen performed an emergency caesarean section, but the fetus was stillborn. The fetus apparently succumbed to a lack of blood.

In 1981, Manitoba resident Bernice Daniels was stabbed in the abdomen, resulting in the premature birth of her child who lived for 19 minutes before dying from injuries suffered during the attack. Sandra Prince was eventually convicted of the child's manslaughter.

"It's pretty bizarre that as long as you make sure the baby is dead in utero there's absolutely no criminal charge, but if you deliver the baby alive then it's murder," said Somerville.
(source: The Toronto Star, October 4, 2007).

Somerville was asked what she would do if she could change the current law:

"I'd change the law, not so much that I think these cases are frequent, I'd change it because we're being ostriches with our head in the sand, pretending that the baby doesn't exist," she said.

"It's a separate question in terms of what we'll do in protecting it, where we'll draw the lines in terms of protection as opposed to a woman's right to what she wants to do. Not to draw any lines, which is the case at the moment, or to draw the lines pretending we're not dealing with a human life, warps our moral intuitions."
(source: The National Post, October 4, 2007).

By way of contrast, Toronto law professor Martha Shaffer argues the current ideology with respect to women's reproductive rights:

"If we take the position that the fetus is a separate person at viability, then we open up all sorts of issues. All of a sudden, the woman is two separate persons. Her liberty and autonomy can be greatly curtailed in the interests of the fetus within her.

"If she's doing something that somebody decides to be contrary to the fetus's interests -- which could be eating too much sugar, exercising too hard, smoking or drinking -- it's very dangerous to go down that route to say a woman is no longer a separate, independent person at a certain stage of pregnancy.

"I can understand why not being able to charge the husband with two murders as somehow not reflecting the severity of what he did," Prof. Shaffer said.

"On the other hand, viewing this pregnant woman as two separate persons is potentially more dangerous than saying he can be prosecuted with the murder of the woman here, and that will be a sufficient punishment for what he has done."
(source: The National Post, October 4, 2007).

This line of reasoning is problematical along several lines:

1. If we take the position that the fetus is a separate person at viability, then we open up all sorts of issues. All of a sudden, the woman is two separate persons. Her liberty and autonomy can be greatly curtailed in the interests of the fetus within her.

I would have thought that the personhood of a fetus (or, in another day, an African-American, a Jew, a woman, a member of the First Nations) would be argued separately from the rights of others. A right is a right on its own moral, ethical, theological or legal merits, not on whether it might be inconvenient to someone else.

Black slaves were denied personhood by the U.S. Supreme Court, in part because such recognition would end slavery and potentially harm the livelihood of slave-owners. Jews were denied personhood by Hitler in part because he feared their influence and its consequences for his own ambitions. Was a African-American a person only if it could be proved that granting him/her personhood (and the concomitant freedom) would not harm their former owners in some way? Is a fetus to be viewed as a person only if it can be demonstrated that the mother is in no way inconvenienced by her/his independence?

2. If she's doing something that somebody decides to be contrary to the fetus's interests -- which could be eating too much sugar, exercising too hard, smoking or drinking -- it's very dangerous to go down that route to say a woman is no longer a separate, independent person at a certain stage of pregnancy.

This is a classic straw man argument. Pick something that is fairly silly, such as eating too much sugar, and make that an exemplar for all arguments that might be mounted. There are established and accepted laws governing when the state might intervene in a family's life to seize children for their protection. It is not a big leap to assume that something similar could be done for unborn children as well. Dr. Somerville certainly thinks that this is possible.

3. On the other hand, viewing this pregnant woman as two separate persons is potentially more dangerous than saying he can be prosecuted with the murder of the woman here, and that will be a sufficient punishment for what he has done.

Granting a fetus personhood is worse than murder? I don't think I need to comment on the logic here.

Years ago, when I was living north of Chicago, a bunch of Neo-Nazis planned a march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie, where 5000 survivors of the Holocaust lived at the time. When the mayor tried to stop this exercise in free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union defended the march. The Jewish lawyer who spoke for the ACLU pointed to the fact that these deplorable people had the right to exercise their free speech in this manner, regardless of how loathsome people found them, a decision with which the courts agreed.

I recount this event because it illustrates the approach that North Americans have always taken to the issue of rights--that when their exercise is inconvenient, even revolting and potentially traumatic, we allow it while trying to balance this exercise with another set of rights which might be affronted. But courts and governments bend over backwards trying to avoid the subjugation of one set of rights for another.

But to argue that an unborn baby should be denied rights because doing so might be at odds with another set of rights is what Prof. Shaffer sees as appropriate in this case.

Prof. Shaffer would no doubt argue (as did slave-owners, white Canadian politicians, Hitler, and so on) that the unborn do not possess the right to personhood, and all that goes with it. That is true. But should the arguments for and against personhood turn on the issue of convenience or inconvenience to others? It didn't work for the slave-owners. It no longer applies to Jews, or women, or native Canadians.

Make your arguments, Prof. Shaffer. But not on such grounds as you have utilized up to now. They are an edifice built on sinking sand.

P.s. Since writing this post last week, I came across the following information in a column by Toronto Star writer Antonis Zerbisias:

Last week, an unscientific poll on the Star's website asked if a 7-month-old fetus should have legal rights. The reaction was almost evenly divided. Fifty per cent said yes, 49 per cent said no. (source: The Star, October 10, 2007).

Monday, 1 October 2007

British Columbia's new Lieutenant-Governor and the issue of personhood

The office of the Canadian Prime Minister made the following announcement last month:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was pleased to announce today the appointment of Steven Point as British Columbia’s newest Lieutenant-Governor.

“Steven Point’s contributions as a provincial court judge, the Chief Commissioner of the British Columbia Treaty Commission, and an elected Chief of the Skowkale First Nation speak to his commitment to the people of British Columbia. I am certain he will continue to serve his province and his country well,” said the Prime Minister.

He was appointed a provincial court judge in February 1999, most recently sitting in Provincial Court in Abbotsford. In 2005, he was appointed Chief Commissioner of the British Columbia Treaty Commission. Judge Point has also served as an elected Chief of Skowkale First Nation for 15 years, as the tribal chair of the Stó:lō Nation, and honoured as Grand Chief by the Chiefs of Stó:lō Tribal Council.

Given the on-going tension between First Nations groups and various levels of government over such matters as land claims, this announcement is a happy one indeed. But one can't help but think of the views of British Columbia's very first Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Joseph Trutch, as a measure of the distance we've come. The following is taken from that invaluable resource, Wikipedia:

Throughout his political career, Trutch was noted for his hostility to land claims by First Nations people, and demonstrated contempt for their concerns. In a letter to his wife, Charlotte, regarding the Indians of the Oregon Territory he wrote, "I think they are the ugliest and laziest creatures I ever saw and we should as soon think of being afraid of our dogs as of them." (23 June 1850, Joseph Trutch Papaers, UBCL, folder A1.b.) And in a letter to the Secretary of State, "I have not yet met with a single Indian whom I consider to have attained even the most glimmering perception of the Christian creed." (26 September 1871, BC Papers Connected with the Indian Land, p.101).

Regrettably Sir Joseph's views, as repugnant as they sound to us, were widely held throughout the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century. First Nations people were effectively non-persons and had little or no say in decisions that affected their lives. Elections Canada notes:

British Columbia had a long history of [racial] discrimination [with respect to voting rights]: when it entered Confederation, 61.7 percent of the province's population was of First Nations or Chinese origin, while people of British origin accounted for 29.6 percent of residents. Under successive provincial governments, measures excluding First Nations people and people of Asian ancestry from the franchise were extended as immigration increased toward the end of the nineteenth century.

While First Nations people (at least the males) were eventually granted the right to vote, it only applied if they assimilated into the broader Anglo-Saxon and French culture and, for all intents and purposes, stopped being native people:

First Nations people in most parts of Canada had the right to vote from Confederation on – but only if they gave up their status through a process defined in the Indian Act and known as "enfranchisement." Quite understandably, very few were willing to do this. It is worth noting that this requirement to give up status was not imposed on them if they joined the military. In fact, the franchise was extended to members of the First Nations who served in both world wars – although until 1924, any First World War veterans who returned to their reserves lost the right to vote. A great many First Nations people also served with distinction in the Canadian Forces during the Second World War, and this was among the reasons eventually leading Canadians to conclude that all Aboriginal people should have the full rights of citizenship.

Proposals to extend the franchise to First Nations date at least to 1885, when Status Indians in Eastern Canada who met the existing requirements gained the right to vote. This was revoked in 1898, and in general such proposals met a great deal of hostility. Isaac Burpee, MP for Saint John, said that the Indian knew no more of politics "than a child two years old," while another New Brunswick MP, A. H. Gillmor, the member for Charlotte, called the proposal to give Indians the vote "the crowning act of political rascality" on the part of Sir John A. Macdonald.
(source: Elections Canada)

First Nations people are not the only ones who were viewed, from the political point of view at least, as non-persons. Asians and women also had to fight to be treated as legal persons. In the U.S., slaves were defined by the U.S. Supreme Court as two-thirds of a person for purposes of the constitution.

Over time, North Americans have held views of personhood that are so repulsive to us now that we cannot imagine how mainstream society could have been so arbitrary, so racist, so arrogant, so self-serving. My question to pro-choice and pro-abortion people is this--How are you morally different from those bigots of the past in denying personhood to unborn babies? Are these little human beings, like American slaves of old, to be arbitrarily denied sufficient personhood? Are they, as native Canadians were seen for many generations, too ignorant? Are they to be viewed, as the British North America Act viewed women, as unfit and unqualified?

I hate to think of you as being like Sir Joseph Trutch in your position on human beings that you see as lacking in some way. But it seems to me that you must be. Please explain.

P.s. I note with interest that Martin Luther King's niece, Alveda King, was prevented from speaking at a public school because of her linking of personhood and unborn babies. Her "offensive" views were these: "At one time, we were told black people were only three-fifths human, so we couldn't vote. ... Now today, you're saying to some human beings that you can't live because you're not a person," King said. "Taking away the personhood of a person is taking away their civil rights." (source: DesMoines, Sept. 28, 2007).

And the beat goes on.

Encouraging signs

I would like to draw your attention to an article written by Debra Rosenberg appearing in the Oct. 8, 2007 issue of Newsweek concerning an about-to-be-released film on abortion. (

Entitled 'A New Ambivalence', the article mentions several survey findings of interest to pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike.

1. In a national poll to be released this week by the influential Democratic think tank Third Way, nearly three quarters (i.e., of respondents, all registered voters) said they wish elected leaders would look for common ground on abortion.

2. The country (i.e., the U.S.A.) is pretty evenly divided on their standing view of the question: 40 percent of registered voters say they're pro-choice, 39 percent pro-life and 18 percent volunteered the response "neither."

3. In the Third Way poll, 72 percent said the decision to have an abortion should be "left up to a woman, her family and her doctor," while at the same time 69 percent acknowledged that abortion "is the taking of human life."

4. Though NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan says that being pro-choice is still a political asset, she also talks about the "common-sense goal of making abortion less necessary." [NARAL stands for the National Abortion Rights Action League.]

As for the movie, the article has this major criticism: Though it mentions South Dakota's recent attempt to ban nearly all abortions, the movie concentrates on the protests and clinic violence of the 1990s. It doesn't take into account any of the profound changes of the past decade: pro-lifers' move away from the picket lines into state legislatures and courtrooms, the battle over "partial-birth abortion" that forced Americans to focus on the specifics of the procedure, or even how more sophisticated technology is changing minds about just when life begins.

All of the above represents fodder for further posts. For now, I'll leave it to you to read the full article and see what thoughts and feelings it arouses in your minds and hearts.