Pro-life protesters at Queen's Park in Toronto, 2019. Photo by Mickey Conlon

Peter Stockland: Best, worst of times for abortion debate

  • September 11, 2021

Even for pro-lifer Catholics labouring in the political trenches, it must seem a blessing in disguise that abortion has so far failed to get off the ground as a federal election issue.

The prime minister’s early attempt to raise it against Conservative leader Erin O’Toole were so obviously rooted in recycling 2019’s attacks against Andrew Scheer that it fell flat and was wisely cancelled almost before the rinse and spin of the first news cycle was finished.

O’Toole’s own zealous emphasis on his pro-choice bona fides undermined the Liberal war room’s efforts to “smear with Scheer.” It also made clear there was no way on God’s green Canadian earth that the pro-life cause would get anything close to a legitimate electoral airing from any of the contending parties.

That prospect remains what the sports world calls a future consideration, and what realists recognize as a distant one at that. Pro-life, socially conservative Tories I’ve interviewed since the campaign’s start have acknowledged the wisdom of keeping their powder dry for the good of the party now at least. Some do warn an internal reckoning is coming that could produce a substantive split sooner rather than later.   

Adding to that uncertainty is the outlier from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to refuse on procedural grounds to overturn the Texas law banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. American pro-choice organizations are touting the very limited ruling as the beginning of the scaling of the heights of Roe v. Wade, prerequisite to a final assault on abortion rights.

Will Canadian pro-choice groups follow, if only for fundraising purposes, the allure of spinning the Texas abortion tornado into a full-blown cross-border crisis? Will the Liberals, who’ve already announced they’ll come down like a ton of bricks on Canadian crisis pregnancy centres, be able to resist reviving reproductive “rights” as a desperation campaign theme? I wouldn’t bet against either.

Paradoxically, it is the best and worst of times for that to happen. In the latter category is the reality, as mentioned, that almost no one outside the Liberal party feels an urgent need to talk until election day about abortion, and fewer still want to listen to rehashed, generations-old arguments pro and con. Yet it’s precisely this moment that offers a novel way to address abortion specifically and pro-life issues generally.

After all, the same political class that, in the immortal words of William F. Buckley Jr., stands athwart the gates of history and hollers “Stop!” at any attempt to regulate the ubiquity of abortion is fervent in its demands for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. The time could not be more opportune, then, to make members of that class aware that subjecting citizens to State-imposed inoculation utterly overturns the entire ideal of atomistic bodily autonomy on which their arguments for abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and any other variants of non-culpable homicide rely.

Whether we are forced by political edict or by the jiggery-pokery social pressure of so-called vaccine passports, we are acquiescing to letting the State define the common good and, critically, act upon our bodies willy-nilly.

What comes of that acquiescence when we hit demographic winter and the State decides the common good demands all fecund women carry their babies to term? Having long secured our agreement to the principle of State bodily control during the great pandemic vaccination drive, what weight will reproductive “rights” still bear?

At the other end of demographic winter, when economic constraints send the State in search of ready resources, what force will still the insertion of that piece of metal and different forms of toxins into the ill, the elderly, the “terminally non-productive” as they’ve been considered in earlier eras?

At what point will the political class finally understand the Church’s discernment of vaccination as a matter of individual conscience and the choice of life as the ultimate blessing undisguised?

(Stockland is publisher of and a senior fellow with Cardus.)

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