Herein is the essential conundrum: if you are pro-choice then you are supporting the conservative value that people should be in charge of their own destiny (small government, more private oversight). If you are pro-life, then you are supporting the liberal value that the state should have the right to interfer with your choices where such decisions are it is in the public good (larger government, more public oversight).

However, for the most part, pro-choice is often looked at as a liberal value and pro-life a conservative one based on those same differences between protecting a women’s rights to equality and autonomy, while protecting the rights of the unborn. 

As Eric Miller noted, this wasn’t always the case. Especially in the US where the forerunners to the pro-choice debate were based on conservative values prior to the 1970s. Its only been in the last 40 years that the debate has polarized into these political alliances that we see today.

It should be no wonder then that the political views of politicians on all sides should want to divorse the idea that pro-choice and pro-life issues are strictly a conservative or liberal ideology. The facts are more complex, often tied to both i) agendas based on highly personal and religious beliefs, and ii) auxiliary issues that are more tightly bound with the ideologies on the right or left. 

Notwithstanding, according to Statistics Canada, the number of abortions in real terms since 2011 has been going down. This suggests that the current policy, while maybe not perfect, is certainly being mitgated by social trends in a direction that is supportive more towards a pro-life option for Canadians. This may be the result of better access to information to make informed choices. For example if a termination is medically necessary either for the sake of the mother or due to complications with the child. At the same time, it just may simply be the result of better economic circumstances.

I realize that this topic brings up a whole host of other issues which have nothing to do with a woman’s individual right to choose. It also brings in questions of

  • the acceptability of euthanisia,
  • the ability for others to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves,
  • the debate on where life begins,
  • the moral and ethics of chosing one life over another if both are in danger,
  • the accountability of practitioners engaged in abortion procedures

The problem, as with any situation that can be driven by complex circumstances, is that there will always be exceptional circumstances which can be used to drive a wedge between what is reasonable and what is irrational.

For example, if a woman has a miscarrage as a result of drinking or drug use prior to knowing she is pregnant, is that murder? And should the father of the child be held as equally accountable if it is?

See – the issue isn’t as black and white as being either pro-choice or pro-life, conservative or liberal.

The issue of pro-choice/pro-life however does reflect our changing values as a society. Its an important conversation, not in order to ‘settle’ the matter once and for all, but rather because of the other issues of equality, human rights, social justice, social welfare programs, economics, personal security, state interferrance, and foreign policy that are connected to this one issue.

Politicians need to own their place in this discussion. It is not something that should be avoided no matter how difficult the discussion.

Where to I fit

As for myself, I am neither uniquely pro-choice nor pro-life. I feel that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is complex and is something that needs to be determined between the mother, her doctor, the child’s father, and/or the child’s expected guardian. For example, in the case of two ‘moms’, or where the father is unknown, absent, criminally responsible, or deceased.

I feel that an embro is not ‘a person’ until the organs and nervious system are developed sufficiently to function on their own (approximately month 4). 

That during the first trimester, pro-life activists should butt out of a woman’s right to choose.

That the rights of the father, while important, do not superceed those of the mother during this time of embro development. 

That both the mother and father, or guardian, of the child, should have certain child welfare accountabilities after the 4th month of pregancy, baring any medical complications. 

That the rights of those criminal responsible for a child, or their parents or other relatives, never superceed those of the mother.

That the mother should have the sole right to continue or terminate an unwanted pregnancy resulting from criminal behaviour. That the mother should have the sole right to decide the extent of involvement, and any requests for reparation for damages, from the father due to an unwanted pregnancy resulting from criminal behaviour should she continue to carry the baby to term.

That the mother should have the sole right to decide whether her life, or the baby’s, is more important should a medical complication arise in which only one can be saved.

That provincial and federal governments should provide social and healthcare programs to allow mothers the best possible start to the child’s future. Also, affordable access to education and medical assistance to make informed decisions as to their right to terminate a pregnancy safely.

Future Policy

Its not a question of choice, its a question of options.

Social opinion on family and religious matters will shift over time. Its more important to continue to understand the factors driving the discussion and how those attitudes are influencing decisions rather than trying to get to a settled conclusion.

25 years from now, it may be that the majority of people feel that there are too many people on the planet and so the rights of the unborn are simply draining resources needed to effect better population and environmental control measures.

Or it maybe that some scientist has proven there is a soul and that life really does start at conception.

No one knows.

The point is, without the ability to have the conversation in a way that is unencumbered from legal regulations and undue bureaucratic oversight, the options available to change policy in response to those attitudes are made all the more difficult for everyone no matter which side of the debate you are on.

Better to keep your options open than to close them forever.

— Kevin

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