Ignatieff's sad argument

  • February 12, 2010
{mosimage}In previous editions, The Catholic Register has called abortion-on-demand Canada’s greatest collective sin and our government’s inaction on the issue our greatest national shame. Now opposition leader Michael Ignatieff is calling on the government to export our abortion culture overseas as part of an otherwise worthy government initiative to provide basic health care for sick and dying women and children.

Bishop Fred Henry and Archbishop Thomas Collins got it right when, respectively, they called Ignatieff’s comments “pathetic” and “astonishing.”

Abortion ranks with national unity among the most divisive issues in Canada. Yet Ignatieff deliberately chose to swat this hornet’s nest following Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s announcement that, as president of the G8, Canada would spearhead an international drive to dramatically improve the health of women and children in the world’s poorest countries. As examples of basic initiatives, Harper cited provision of inoculations, clean water and nutrition, as well as training for health workers to reduce rampant illness and premature death among mothers and newborns.

Ignatieff’s response to these praiseworthy endeavours was to declare that his party would support Harper’s plan only if aid to women included funding for abortions and birth control. “If you’re going to invest in women, then you’re going to invest in the full gamut of reproductive health,” he said, and that includes “termination of pregnancy and contraception.”

It is sad to hear Ignatieff argue a case for abortion that will, inevitably, sidetrack the vital debate about the urgent need to improve health care for society’s most vulnerable citizens. According to the United Nations, nearly half of all new mothers and babies in developing countries have no access to care during and after childbirth. Two-thirds of newborn deaths might be prevented if basic health services were available. Implementing a strategy to reduce those deaths should be paramount and above any type of crass, political gamesmanship.

Instead, the Liberal leader has taken a position described in the National Post as “the most audacious stance in favour of the practice of abortion ever to come from a Liberal leader.” Pierre Trudeau, the father of Canada’s abortion laws, and his protégé Jean Chretien exploited the issue domestically but it’s difficult to imagine either man advocating that Canadian abortion policy be imposed abroad as a pre-condition for providing essential health care for women and children. 

It is  equally difficult to believe that even those Canadians who support abortion would endorse a policy to export it to the world’s poor. Putting aside the arrogance of imposing this blight of Western culture on nations that, legally, culturally, historically, may oppose abortion, how could such an allocation of Canadian tax dollars be justified when the need among the poor is so great for such life-sustaining basics as food, water, medicine and shelter? Where are the priorities?

The government is as right to shine a spotlight on maternal and child health as the Liberal leader is wrong to use this important issue for political grandstanding.

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