There's hope for the pro-life cause

By  Ian Hunter, Catholic Register Special
  • February 18, 2008

{mosimage}Charles Moore wrote a column not long ago in England’s Daily Telegraph so politically incorrect as to take my breath away.

Moore was reflecting on the opening of a museum exhibition that documented the history of slavery; in his column he wondered if the day might come when a similar exhibition would open dealing with abortion. He imagined it depicting how “in one ward, staff were trying to save the lives of premature babies while, in the next ward, they were killing them.”

The exhibition, he thought, might “display the various instruments that were used to remove and kill the fetus, rather as the manacles and collars of slaves can be seen today.” He ended his column by saying: “With the passage of time, abortion, especially late-term abortion, is slowly coming to be seen as a ‘solution’ dating from an era that is passing. It will therefore be discredited.”

It is doubtful that Moore’s column could have been published in Canada. Here a woman named Linda Gibbons has been repeatedly sent to prison because she knelt and prayed within 40 metres of an abortion clinic, whilst the abortionist who practised there his grisly craft, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Western Ontario for his services to humanity. And what Canadian newspaper would want to join Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine in the dock before a human rights kangaroo court for publishing something that might ruffle the delicate sensibilities of an Osgoode Hall student? No, no, not in Canada.

But what about Moore’s crystal ball and his museum exhibition on abortion; could that happen? Until recently, I would have said no.

Through most of my decades as an active member of the Canadian pro-life movement, I was pessimistic about the prospect of making any real difference. And my pessimism was entirely justified. From Pierre Trudeau’s initial abortion “reforms” in 1968, through the petition against abortion which garnered more than one million signatures, to the 1988 Supreme Court Morgentaler decision, to the Ontario Court’s later lowering of the age of sexual consent, and extending right up to last year and Western’s decision — despite widespread alumni protests — to honour an abortionist, the Canadian pro-life story is one of unbroken parliamentary and judicial defeats.

Recently, however, and rather to my surprise, I have become more hopeful. Although not yet ready to join Moore in predicting that abortion will some day acquire the odium of slavery, there are three reasons, looking ahead, for at least modest optimism.

First, thanks to ultrasound, sonography and similar medical advances in fetal imaging and treatment, no rational person any longer denies the humanity of the unborn. In the early days, abortion advocates used to say that a fetus was just a blob of tissue, so abortion had no greater moral significance than, say, an appendectomy. Medical advances mean that those days, and those arguments, are gone forever.

Second, recent studies suggest that the younger generation (those under 30) are more opposed to abortion than their parents were. At least in the United States, where anti-consensus thinking is not yet either a crime or a human rights violation, young women in particular seem to be more strongly pro-life than one could have hoped. Just why this is so is the subject for another column, but it is the reality, not the reasons, that is most intriguing.

In fact, after rising for decades, the number of abortions performed annually in the United States has actually begun to decline. In 2003 the U.S. Congress passed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. And on April 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its validity in Gonzales v Carhart, a decision that might be the first step in a gradual retreat from the infamous Roe v Wade decision of 1973. All of these developments give cause for hope.

Third, history suggests that systems constructed entirely upon lies cannot stand; one observes how the pro-abortion state must contort itself into ever more bizarre and despotic ways in order to sustain the abortion-related lies. I retain a perhaps naive belief that at some moment, and without much forewarning, the whole edifice of abortion, like the Berlin wall, will suddenly crumble and collapse.

A museum exhibit — certainly not in my lifetime. But greater respect, and perhaps at least some minimal legal protection for the weakest, most vulnerable members of our society, the unborn — yes, a distinct possibility.

(Hunter is professor emeritus in the faculty of law at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont.)

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