Conservative parties, and even Progressivist parties, always include people that are uncomfortable with the issue of abortion. In most developed countries – other than Canada – there are limits to abortion depending on the stage of the pregnancy. In Canada there are no laws, and no legal limits, and, we’re not even supposed to talk about the issue. We should, because with DNA we now know that a new, completely individual human life begins at conception, and Canada should join other modern nations in recognizing that fact.
A few weeks ago I received an article suggesting that social conservatives should approach the abortion issue pragmatically, rather than idealistically. The author asked me if I would be interested in publishing it on my blog, anonymously. The author’s data is correct, and since I’m in philosophical agreement on the issue, I’ve agreed.
Please read it carefully, and then let us know what you think.
I’m Dave Reesor
A smart Conservative approach to abortion in Canada
I estimate that only 10% of Canadians support the status quo: abortion is legal during all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason, every reason, or no reason. Sex-selection abortions (parent or parents unhappy with the gender of their/his/her unborn child) are perfectly legal in Canada, and this victimizes unborn girls far more frequently than unborn boys.
Most Canadians, upon hearing that abortion in Canada is legal during all nine months of pregnancy, respond by getting upset and denouncing this fact as a lie. But facts are facts. There is no Criminal Code prohibition on ending a human life until the baby is fully outside of his or her mother. Prior to that, the unborn person has no legal personhood. Nor are there other laws or policies, federal or provincial, that place any restrictions on abortion, or impose requirements of any kind. The number of late-term abortions is not large, but this does not mean that late-term abortions are illegal.
The remaining 90% of Canadians fall into various shades of belief on the spectrum, from hard-core pro-life (make all abortions illegal) to mostly pro-life (allow abortions in cases of rape, incest or serious fetal deformities/handicaps) to middle-of-the-road (undecided or no strong view) to mostly pro-choice (late-term abortions and gender selection abortions are not OK).
Why, in a democracy, do we have five political parties (Libs, NDP, Conservatives, Greens, Bloc Quebecois) chasing after 10% of the vote, and expressly rejecting and repudiating the 90% of voters who want at least some restrictions on abortion? My best guess is that a small, extremist pro-choice minority has successfully mobilized vocal support for the status quo, but without speaking honestly about what the status quo actually is: abortion legal during all nine months of pregnancy. It’s much easier to attack the hard-core pro-life position (that probably 90% of Canadians disagree with) than it is to justify late-term abortions and gender-selection abortions.
Another reason why the five parties now represented in the House of Commons are chasing after the 10% minority is that the pro-life movement, in the past 50 years, has been dominated by “absolutists” who refuse to discuss any public policy option other than a total and immediate ban on all abortions. Serious pro-lifers who would like to reach their ultimate goal step-by-step have been frozen out by groups which have not achieved any legislative or policy victory in the past 50 years. Pro-life advocacy for popular measures like banning late-term abortions and gender-selection abortions has begun to emerge in Canada only recently.
The Conservative Party of Canada has as many options on dealing with abortion as there are positions on abortion. Looking at this purely from the angle of winning votes (and putting aside moral questions about ending the lives of people before they are born), I suggest that one approach is particularly foolish, and another approach particularly smart.
The foolish approach is to join the Libs, New Democrats, Greens and Bloc Quebecois in chasing after the 10% of Canadian voters who actually support the status quo. Why wade into this crowded field? Why ignore the 90% of voters who are unhappy with the status quo?
Apart from ignoring the 90% of voters who want at least some restrictions on abortion, the Conservative Party is seen (correctly) as profoundly insincere when it pretends to be chasing after the 10% of extremist pro-choice voters. Everybody knows that many CPC candidates are pro-life, including its most recent leader, Andrew Scheer. Everybody knows that the CPC, unlike the other four parties represented in the House of Commons, is not really and truly enthusiastic about the status quo. Lack of sincerity breeds mistrust.
The 10% of voters who support gender-selection abortions and late-term abortions are never going to vote for the Conservatives. And, without advocating directly for late-term abortions and gender-selection abortions, the 10% extreme pro-choice group will successfully capitalize on the CPC’s lack of sincerity in order to generate doubt and mistrust that hurts the CPC amongst many (perhaps most) Canadian voters.
The smart approach would be for the Conservative Party to appeal to 90% of Canadians by advocating for a ban on late-trimester abortions and gender-selective abortions.
This position would generate howls of outrage from at least three sources.
First, the Liberals, NDs, Bloc and Greens would denounce this CPC position as utterly wicked, bad and wrong; a regressive assault on the fundamental rights of women; a backwards and misogynist approach; a threat to reproductive choice, etc.. And, for a few weeks or possibly a few months, these denunciations would work political wonders temporarily.
But the political positions of candidates and parties need to be repeated frequently before they sink it. It will take a lot more than one news conference for the CPC to communicate to voters its proposed ban on late-term abortions and gender-selection abortions. However, after repeating this position for 6, 12, 18 or more months, 90% of voters would realize that they agree with CPC policy on abortion. It would only be a matter of time before the other four federal parties were on the defensive, having to explain to 90% of Canadians why they support late-term abortion and gender-selection abortion.
The second source of outrage would come from the biased, left-wing media. In harmony with the four parties whose ideology they share, the so-called “mainstream” media would declare that the Conservative Party had committed political suicide simply by failing to pander to the abortion orthodoxy accepted by only 10% of Canadians. Like the other left-wing parties, the media party would try very hard not to inform Canadians of the fact that abortion is legal during all nine months of pregnancy, or of the fact that gender-selection abortion is legal in Canada.
The third source of outrage would come from a small number of established but ineffective pro-life activists who would denounce the Conservative Party as a pro-choice enemy. Of note: a small number of pro-lifers were already doing this when Andrew Scheer was leading the CPC. After the October 2019 election, some pro-lifers very publicly called on Andrew Scheer to resign as CPC leader for not being pro-life. But most pro-lifers in Canada realize that the goal of full protection for all unborn children will never – never – be fully realized in one move. Rather, when it comes to any political issue (taxes; immigration; deficits-and-debt; health care; education; aboriginal rights; LGBTQ issues; etc.) change is almost always incremental. In short, the pro-life “absolutists” have little influence over other pro-lifers, or over the Canadian public at large.
In summary, if the CPC adopts a policy of banning late-term abortions and gender-selection abortions, it will align itself with 90% of Canadians, and will not lose votes from amongst the 10% pro-choice extremists who would never vote for the CPC in any case.
The CPC position against late-term abortions and against gender-selection abortions will engender loud but useless outrage from other federal parties, from the media party, and from a very small number of pro-life activists who lack political influence and clout.
If the CPC is committed to withstanding the initial waves of vocal-but-shallow opposition to its new policies, it will put the other four parties on the defensive; they will be obligated to defend an extreme position that only 10% of Canadian voters agree with.
A smart approach or a foolish approach … it’s up to the Conservative Party to decide.