Jan. 28, 1988: A notorious date

  • January 25, 2008

It’s not a date we see marked on our calendars. There are no pink, blue, red or white ribbon campaigns lavishly publicized by daily newspapers and TV newscasts. No memorials on Parliament Hill in Ottawa either. Yet Jan. 28, 1988, should live on in Canadian history as a day of tragic infamy.

This was the day the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Criminal Code provisions restricting abortion were unconstitutional. Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a Montreal physician, was victorious in the courts at ensuring that Canada would have absolutely no legal restrictions on abortion, giving Canada the most radical pro-abortion regime in the Western world.

Since then, there has been the occasional attempt to redress this sad situation, notably the effort by Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government to create some modest restrictions. These were impaled by the Senate. After that fiasco, no mainstream political party would touch the issue. Aside from a small band of stalwart politicians, Canada’s political class — abetted by the chattering classes of journalists, academics and public intellectuals — has largely decided that the issue is settled. It is now conventional wisdom that it is impossible to touch Canada’s abortion laws because there are no votes to be gained there.

Worse, the Morgentaler decision opened the door to ever more aggressive attacks on the principle that all human life is sacred. Public acceptance of euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide is like a virulent virus. And  destroying human embryos for scientific experimentation, or even cloning human beings, hardly registers on the public opinion shock-o-meter.

Despite the uphill battle, however, those advocating the cause of the unborn continue the struggle. In fact, recent medical discoveries are helping the cause in that they often reveal in undebatable terms that life in the human womb is nothing if it isn’t a person, or that there are ethical ways to work with stem cells without destroying embryos. While progress on the public opinion front is hard to chart, there are occasional signs of cracks in the once impregnable pro-abortion fortress.

In recent years, annual polls reveal that the so-called consensus on abortion is not nearly as ironclad as it is portrayed. Consistently, a significant minority resides on the edges of both sides of the spectrum, while a large plurality of Canadians in the middle are uneasy with the 100,000 or so abortions performed each year and would willingly accept some legal restrictions on when and how abortions can be performed.

Ultimately, Christians know that God doesn’t promise success to us just because our cause is right or because we pray and work hard. Yet we carry on in our belief that all human life was created by God in His own image and deserves the best protection society can provide. We carry on in Christian hope that, in the end, justice will be done.

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