Abortion: The Debate That Won’t Go Away

Abortion The Debate That Won't Go AwayEvery Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s column addresses the thorny issue of abortion. It’s the Canadian perspective, but I know the same issues are found the world over. 

China’s one-child policy is thirty years old now, and it’s hardly even contentious. It’s often portrayed in Canadian literature as an example of smart government intervention: a country which couldn’t feed its vast population took measures to make sure it wouldn’t become overpopulated.

But in June 2012 23-year-old Feng Jianmei put a face to the policy when she was forced to undergo an abortion at seven months since she was pregnant with her second child. The authorities grabbed her against her will and held her down while they aborted the baby. Her husband took a picture of the grieving mother with the bloody body of her baby beside her on the bed. The photograph went viral. China had to promise to punish the people who had done it.

I can’t imagine someone ripping a baby I desperately loved from my body, just because the government deemed that I had had enough. We should have control over our bodies. Or should we?

Let’s take a CBC undercover sting that reveals the diametrically opposite problem. Last year some reporters infiltrated some Canadian medical clinics and discovered that in Canada abortions were being performed based only on the sex of the baby.

The feminist response to this has been muted. Feminists are supposed to fight for women, and I can’t think of anything more anti-woman than to kill a baby simply because she’s a girl. And the effects are stunning. According to India’s 2011 census, they’re missing 37 million girls. By 2020 in China, there will be thirty million more men of marriageable age than women.

Yet how can pro-choicers protest? They firmly believe that pregnancy is all in the eye of the beholder; if the mom wants the baby, it’s a baby. If the mom doesn’t want the baby, it’s only a fetus, and you can discard it if you want. So if a mother decides that she doesn’t want a girl baby, how can a pro-choicer argue?

We Canadians tend to shy away from debates like these because they’re socially unpleasant, and abortion is something that we just can’t agree upon. Stephen Harper has been desperately trying to silence his backbenchers who want to make it a political issue, because he doesn’t want the Conservatives labeled as anti-woman. But I don’t think most Liberals would welcome the fight, either. It would be long, and it would be bloody, and most of us would rather just tune out. Can’t the abortion controversy just go away?

But it can’t. From the time a small child hears that “Mommy has a baby growing in her tummy” and a new sibling is coming, we instinctively understand that a pregnant woman is carrying a new life. The question then becomes: do we owe that life anything?

Pro-choicers told us that the debate would end soon once people realized that it was all a woman’s choice. Yet the population, and especially those under forty, is becoming more pro-life, not more pro-choice, as time goes on. A recent Environics poll found that 72% of Canadians want at least some protection for the unborn.

The debate can never really be settled because it raises such thorny issues. Is the baby a baby? Or is it solely the mother’s choice? And if it is the mother’s choice, then how can you then turn around and tell a man that he has to support a child he doesn’t want?

It isn’t straightforward, and it isn’t going away, as much as the politicians wish it would. Are the unborn alive? And if so, what does that mean? Those questions are fundamental, and we will all have to grapple with them as individuals, even if the government continues to ignore them.

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  1. ButterflyWings says:

    “pro-choice” is a term that should be used. Abortion does nothing but take away choices. Many women are bullied into it – especially the most vulnerable, ie the young, the poor, the disabled. They have little (if any) choice in it. There have even been cases in the US where women were physically forced to have abortion (such as when women have had a change of heart in the operating room yet the “doctor” proceeded anyway). And of course abortion ends any choice the poor child will ever have.

    There is no “pro-choice”, there is simply “anti-life”.

    In a decade of healthcare, I have only ever met one woman (out of tens of thousands) who could genuinely argue that her abortion was to save her life and that was a case of rapidly spreading cancer and needing to have all her reproductive organs removed to save her life and waiting until the baby was deliverable was too long – there was no way either way for the baby to survive. Waiting would have seen the mother die before the baby was viable.

    And to me, that isn’t even “abortion”. That is the tragic circumstances of triage – where a doctor must choose between two lives, knowing that choosing not to save one life, will lead to the loss of the other life anyway. That is the only circumstance EVER where a mother and her doctor should choose termination – because the poor precious baby cannot be saved either way, and the mother’s life may just be saveable.

    But anything else is just murder, pure and simple.

    • Yes, I’d agree, ButterflyWings. I often use the term pro-abortion rather than pro-choice, because that seems like the only choice that is championed. However, I didn’t use it here because it’s a column in a secular paper, and I don’t want to be overly inflammatory and turn people off so they won’t listen to the argument!

      • The pro-abortion crowd likes the term “pro-choice” because it sounds so nice. Pro-abortion makes it clear exactly what they are in favor of. They like to argue that they aren’t really pro-abortion, they just want women to be able to make choices. But everyone agrees that a woman should have a choice to have the baby. So what is this “choice” the pro-choice people want women to be able to make? It’s the choice to have an abortion.

        If I said that I thought a man had a right to choose whether or not to rape a woman – that it’s a legitimate choice he should have a right to make – I would rightfully be accused of being pro-rape. So when someone argues that making the choice to abort is a choice a woman should have a right to make, they are pro-abortion. It’s as simple as that.
        Lindsay Harold recently posted…Birth AnnouncementMy Profile

        • ButterflyWings says:

          Sheila totally agree… you have to write to the intended audience and don’t want to alienate people who can be reached.

  2. I applaud you, Sheila, for taking up such a controversial, but much needed, topic in a secular paper. Someone needs to speak up for the innocent and vulnerable and I thank you.
    Lori Alexander recently posted…Pursuing Holiness TenaciouslyMy Profile

  3. Well stated, and thank you for standing for the truth!

  4. I have to admit that there was a time where I was pro-choice/pro-abortion, too. But as I look back I have to question my own logic at that time, and I question the logic of everybody in that crowd now. I have a friend who had a doctor lead her to believe that an abortion was medically necessary for her own health and she regrets having done it. Hopefully your column gets people thinking and talking about it and hopefully more women will understand they are, in fact, carrying a new life.
    Tracy recently posted…A Taboo TopicMy Profile

    • ButterflyWings says:

      I too had a christian friend whose doctor lead her to believe an abortion would help her health but sadly doesn’t regret it. It wasn’t that her life was at risk but the doctor told her that pregnancy may trigger an episode of a physical condition she has. What the doctor didn’t tell her was an abortion at around 20weeks gestation would actually more likely trigger an episode than continue the pregnancy. It’s not the first time I’ve come across a doctor who has deliberately hid from a woman that an abortion would be worse for her health than continuing a pregnancy. And in the case of my friend, the truth is, she didn’t want a second opinion. She’d fallen pregnant to a one night stand and didn’t want her parents finding out so she told everyone who knew that she “had” to do it for her health. I think my concern was this lady was my daughter’s sunday school teacher, at an age where girls are starting to be interested in boys, and here she was, out having one night stands and having abortions to cover it up and not being the least bit remorseful about any of it.

      I know some people are worried about the church being condemning of single mothers but have found that most of the condemnation that single mothers feel is only in their minds – they fear condemnation so they assume christians will condemn them even when those in local churches wouldn’t. It is less about christians judging, and more about society judging and making assumptions about how christians will act.

  5. Babies need families to take care of them. When a mother is taken care of and supported her pregnancy is possible. There are no happy rainbow answers to abortion. It’s easy to point the finger at abortion as the problem but I believe it is indicative of a larger, cultural problem. Abortion is not the reason the family is breaking down. It is not the reason certain cultures prefer a certain gender. The list goes on. I wish I could articulate my opinion better . . . but I hope the point is made.

    • I completely agree that there are other cultural issues at work, and that family is disintegrating because of a whole variety of issues, which is one of the reasons I have this blog–to try to help marriages stay together!

      But just because other things ALSO contribute to family breakdown does not mean that abortion, in and of itself, is not wrong. Yes, other things are also problematic. But so is abortion. And because it involves killing someone, I think it’s a very serious thing indeed.

  6. Please check out these websites!
    ARPA Canada is the Association for Reformed Political Action, and they are strongly pursuing abortion laws.
    arpacanada.ca They also have a facebook page, check it out! Also,
    The unborn need our support!

  7. So agree! I’ve been contemplating going there on my site too. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that lives aren’t being lost. We don’t like being uncomfortable but this is one area we should all be uncomfortable with until it goes away – which it likely won’t. The other thing the media likes to do is tell the public that if you are prolife, you hate the women who have had abortions. NOT true. I love women who have had abortions (in my own family though I won’t name who) and I don’t think less of them. I certainly don’t hate them. I love them. I hate that they felt it was the only decision they had. I hate that they bought into a lie. I hate that life was lost. There are just so many aspects to abortion, none of which are good. Thanks for talking about a tough subject.
    Mel @ Trailing After God recently posted…Women Living Well Book Giveaway!My Profile

  8. Denise Porter says:

    I don’t think your article goes far enough, Sheila. Abortion is a HUGE topic — the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. This is a good start. I would say sex-selection (which is a reason a woman might choose to have an abortion) is a whole different issue than abortion itself. Kind of like you went down a rabbit trail having your focus on that. I know that you are obviously Pro-Life, but you didn’t come out and say that, as such. Should a man have to support a child he didn’t want? Well, maybe he should have thought that pregnancy was possible before he decided to sleep with the woman who is now carrying his offspring. Some people change sexual partners more often than then change their socks. More thought needs to go into relationships BEFORE they jump between the sheets. We have a right to life walk in a city near us and sadly hardly any protestant Christians come out to walk with signs against abortion. One year, my son went to Christian School and they handed out pledge sheets and he was the only one (of about 40 kids) that actually came to walk! The church, as a whole, needs to get behind this issue — and stand up for life and the unborn — and then maybe there will be changes in society, politics etc. Wake up oh sleeper!

    • Denise, I totally admire your passion, and I’ve participated in many of those walks, too! But you have to understand the context here. My goal is to get people to THINK, as a first step, and I think this is an effective way to do this. Remember that this is in a secular paper. Could I have said more? Sure. But I’m not sure that would have made as many people think. We need to also be strategic and speak in a way that will impact those listening, and even if we’re angry and passionate, anger and passion doesn’t always win the day. Getting people to start challenging their pre-conceived notions tends to be more effective, and that’s what I tried to do!

  9. Good article. And good for you for tackling this issue. One of the arguments you briefly mentioned, but never really hear anyone talk about is the fathers. I wonder how many men are out there, who are hurting because they were never given a choice, since it is only the woman’s? I have known 2 such men. One is my dear husband, who many years ago before we met, when you was young man got a girlfriend pregnant. She told him, and followed it immediately with the information that she would be aborting it. I remember when he told me about this, it was one of the few times I have ever seen him cry. He felt that he was not allowed the joy of being a father, and so hurt because his child was not good enough for her (she already had other kids). He was young and faced a horrible situation. All these years later it still hurts him. He grieves for his lost child, though he loves ours dearly. It is an issue that affected his entire life, and its ripples can even be felt in our own relationship. So, all of those thinking of only the “choice”, you do not realize the trauma it causes to everyone involved. Lots of healing is needed in our broken world from this evil alone.

  10. There is so much more to be said about the evils of abortion, but I understand that in writing for a secular newspaper there are limits as to length and you must address a much broader audience. Thank you for being bold enough to address the topic of abortion anyway.

    I agree that pro-abortion is a much more fitting label than pro-choice. It saddens me that so many “pro-choice” activists (especially men and women who have never been pregnant) feel that they are fighting to make life better for women. I feel so bad for the women who have bought into this lie that abortion is okay and then must live with guilt and regret the rest of their lives.

  11. Dawn Fallon says:

    The problem with abortion is that it brings a death experience into a woman’s life whether she recognises it as such or not. I am a trained counsellor with Care Confidential and counsel women who suffer psychological damage from having an abortion. Many of them think they will be OK and that they are making the right choice, so when the post-abortion stress hits them they can’t understand why they feel so damaged and ill, but it is because ultimately they are a bereaved mother. Even though abortion is legal, once a woman has had an abortion she will rarely tell anyone because of the guilt and shame attached to a a subject which is actually by taboo.

  12. “And if it is the mother’s choice, then how can you then turn around and tell a man that he has to support a child he doesn’t want?”

    Yes! Thank you!
    Megan G. recently posted…Trip Packing for my Husband – the fun stuffMy Profile

  13. As time has gone on, I have learned more and more women I know have had abortions in their pasts. And they all have one thing in common: They were alone, they were scared, and they felt like they had no other options. No support system, nobody to co-parent with, not enough income.

    Knowing that, I consider myself “pro-choice”. As in, giving women other choices. Here in America the abortion debate is loud and bloody and ugly. It is full of hatred and contempt on both sides. Sadly the church is right in the middle of it. Women in crisis pregnancy situations don’t feel safe going to Christians for help because let’s be honest, we haven’t made ourselves a safe haven. Our image has become one of of “Any woman who gets an abortion is evil!” when in reality, those women are frightened and wounded and need love and compassion.

    So how about this? How about instead of screaming in the political abortion debate, churches created safe havens and support systems for women in crisis pregnancy situations? More options. More choices. That’s the kind of pro-choice I am. Because let’s be honest, I don’t see abortion going away. But the women at the heart of it? They’re NOT going away.
    Melissa recently posted…Inside My BrainMy Profile

    • ButterflyWings says:

      Melissa sadly my experience of women who have abortions are the total opposite. They may not have had a partner to support them, but they had plenty of money, plenty of practical support (eg government, NGO and charity support), they had heaps of friends to help out, most had loving families willing and ready to help. But they had an abortion for one of two reasons – they didn’t want a child because they felt it would have a negative impact on their careers, they would only earn a good income instead of a fantastic one, or they’d only become an executive instead of a CEO, or others chose to have an abortion simply because they had sex before marriage and didn’t want their parents to find out – and these weren’t 13 or 14 year old girls – they were women in their late 20s or in their 30s.

      And then there were the others I’ve come across – those who had a sex selective abortion. It was never a cultural thing – it was “happily” married couples who had a few boys and who wanted a girl and were going to keep aborting until they got the girl they wanted – or vice versa. These are couples who had fantastic incomes, had a loving coparent, had wonderful supportive friends and family, they were not alone or scared – just selfish.

      It’s complicated – because here in Australia, it’s nothing like america. The debate is neither loud, bloody or ugly. People know they can turn to churches for help in general – or those who think they can’t, it’s not because of anything the church here has done, rather it’s the person’s own bigotted idea of what a “christian” is. Churches here do create safe havens and support systems (admittedly some are better than others though), but the thing is, even with the government and church and charity support women are offered here, more and more women are still having abortions. They know they have the support, but they still want to sadly just get rid of their child because their career and/or reputation comes first.

      Yes, churches everywhere, even the good ones, need to be more pro-active about offering support for crisis pregnancy situations, but sadly even having perfect supports in place won’t stop some women from aborting, and that is the real tragedy of modern society.

  14. KellyK(@RNCCRN9706) says:

    Its a messy subject. I know several of my high school classmates had abortions as their preferred method of birth control. Girls who stood beside me as we were confirmed in our Roman Catholic faith. Yikes. Then there’s the practical side. these ‘unwanted’ babies are born to the mothers who end up keeping them…they become dependent on Welfare…their mothers keep them so they don’t have to work. I see this ALL THE TIME in my town and where I work. The children are barely cared for while the mothers smoke dope, meth, heroin, you name it. Childrens Services in our town is about useless. One boy who goes to school with my son lives with his mother who was arrested last year on heroin charges and she still has custody of her son! Should she? I’d say no! His father is in jail(as that’s what he told my son). The mother won’t give up custody because then she loses food stamps and welfare checks….the more children you have, the more money you get from the US government. Therefore you don’t have to work. THIS is the problem I have with the US Welfare system.

    • KellyK(@RNCCRN9706) says:

      And the few times I have seen this woman out in public as of late, she was NOT exhibiting good parenting skills. Lots of cussing and hostility towards EVERYONE! So bad that no one dares to approach her and ask her to tone it down for the kids’ sake. I wish the Coach would ask her to stay away from the game as she sets a bad example for our children AND our community. Our town has a bad rep as it is (lots of Meth lab busts) and her behavior does NOT help.

      • ButterflyWings says:

        I can understand the anger at the US welfare system, but for those single mothers who are responsible, caring parents, it’s the only fair system. Here in Australia, single mothers pretty much get abandoned by the government. Once your child turns 6, you have to be working or studying to keep sole parent payments, and after they turn 8, you’re no longer eligible – you’re treated just like any other unemployed person.

        It doesn’t matter if you’re a traumatised abuse victim (or your kids are) it doesn’t matter if you have a mild or moderate disability (only severely disabled people get disability pension these days and even that is no guarantee of a pension) or if you’re one of the lucky people with a moderate disability to get a pension, you have to work part time (or study) to keep your pension – none of which takes into account you have children – and if you knock back any job, even if it’s late at night or on weekends, whatever welfare payment you receive is cancelled. Even childcare in normal hours is hard to get and expensive – eg when I return to work next year after my maternity leave is up (not by choice either), childcare will take up over 80% of my income after tax. But I have to work to pay our mortgage as a mortgage here is cheaper than rent, and we’re not eligible for government assistance of any type because my husband works full time – not much more than the Australian minimum wage mind you, but that means we don’t get any help.

        Here, even though I’m a qualified specialist nurse now, babysitters charge more than my hourly rate at work – to hire a babysitter at night or weekends is around $30 an hour. no exaggeration. I have seen many single mums knock back jobs because childcare costs more than what they make or simply because there is no available childcare where they live, but then their welfare payments get cancelled because you’re not allowed to knock back a job if your child/ren is older than 8.

        Not paying child support is not a crime here – the government can’t force deadbeat dads to pay, and most of those they can get to pay only pay the minimum (which is currently around $7 a week). And while you get slightly more government assistance per child you have, it only covers maybe around 25-50% of the minimum cost of raising a child depending on where you live (and that figure is being generous). If you have a special needs child, again, unless their disability is severe you aren’t eligible for a carer’s pension to care for them, and if they have a moderate to severe disability, all you get is a lousy $115 a fortnight to cover all their medical costs – and it’s extremely hard to get that payment, and while low income disabled people can get their medical visits subsidised, often seeing a doctor (especially ones like psychologists or specialists) the gap between what the doctor charges and what the government contributes is more than $115 per visit.

        Disabled single parents with special needs children often end up living out of cars or couch surfing. And those lucky enough to get a place (with the now 10+ year public housing wait where I used to live) still can’t afford basic medical care. Because we supposedly have a “free” healthcare system, private health insurances doesn’t cover doctors and medications, but many meds are not on the government funded list (which is not free anyway – still have a copayment) and many doctors charge much much more than the government funding. So even with private health insurance, many single parents have to fork out 50% of their income on medical expenses (I used to) and with the lousy amount the government gives to single parents, most (like me) go without much needed medical care just to make sure their kids get medical care.

        I know the US system sounds atrocious, and there are definitely people that abuse it, but it’s better than here where single parents don’t get the support they need. There are some terrible single parents out there, but most are like what I was – women who brought kids into what they though was a happy stable marriage, only to end up fleeing several years later due to violence, or being abandoned by cheating husbands. They didn’t ask to be single, and the system shouldn’t punish the good single parents because of the bad ones.

        • KellyK(@RNCCRN9706) says:

          In my area of work, I see more people who abuse the system here in the US than those who use it responsibly. I too am an RN. I see able bodied people who COULD work but choose NOT to because with their children, they don’t HAVE to. I see these parents take their cash assistance and spend it on alcohol and cigarrettes. I see these people trade their SNAP benefits for cash in the parking lot at Walmart..yep, they do it…trade a cartful of groceries for a couple hundred bucks! So they can use it for drugs. Nice huh?

          • ButterflyWings says:

            They’ve introduced what they call a “basics card” here which is basically the same as food stamps but can also buy clothes and other essentials and it disgusts me the people that swap it for half the cash value to buy drugs, but it’s quite rare. At least in cities – outback towns have a real problem with it though. But I can’t see what the problem is with women staying at home with their kids? Why do some people think it’s ok for a married woman to stay at home with the kids but it’s terrible if a single woman does?

            To me, with all the extra problems children from single parent families have, it is even more important for kids to have mum at home with them. I was at university from just before I became a single parent, which involved block pracs so I’d work for a block (4, 8 or 13 weeks) twice a year, and started working part time regularly when she was 8. Only two nights a week but if you could see the damage it did to her – being abandoned by her father, and then me going off to work two nights – even though she was staying with her grandparents during that time (and by court order, as here grandparents have as much legal rights to custody as parents, and the court ordered that she spend two nights a week with her grandparents), the damage it did to her being away from home just for that short amount of time each week.

            I don’t mean any offense, but I guess what I’m trying to say is if you could see how traumatised the children from sole parent families (whether that way from death of a parent, domestic violence or even just abandonment of the marriage), I think it may change your opinion of those able bodied women who stay at home to care for their kids. Kids need their mum, especially kids who have lost their dad (no matter how they lost them – and especially those being bounced around with shared care).

            I’m not defending my own situation – personally I’m not able bodied. I was on a disability pension, my daughter has special needs so I could have got a carer’s pension for her instead (they pay the same and you can only claim one or the other so which one I was on was irrelevant to family income). But I went to work part time because with no child support and huge medical costs for me and therapy costs for my daughter, I couldn’t pay my rent. As it was, I went without medical care to make sure my daughter got help and my bills were paid, and still am paying off debts I accrued just trying to make ends meet in that six years of being a single parent.

            As it was, getting a pension here is not easy – it took me four years to prove my case for it and I know of people who are literally dying and still not able to get a disability pension. People who are seriously physically or mentally ill or both often get knocked back, and those with seriously ill kids often face the same problem, especially if their child suffers from a rare disease that the government doesn’t have on their official list of what is considered a disability.

            But simply being a single parent home is enough to traumatise many kids. And honestly, if people are ok with married women staying at home with the kids, why is it so bad for a single mother to do it? Why should women and children be punished just because their exhusband/father is dead or a deadbeat? There are plenty of deadbeat drug addicted parents who blow all their money on drugs and alcohol and gambling but who are married. Why do the good single parents get treated worse than bad married parents simply for being single?

            Not aimed at you Kelly. Just food for thought….

  15. Thank you so much for your blog, Sheila! I have really enjoyed it. I am single and in my 30″s and through reading your blog lots of my questions were getting answered. I wondered if I should stay on your blog, being single and all, but your posts like today have been great reminders:) I have been involved with 4mycanada.ca and bound4life.ca. Both are great Canadian sites that address these issues and others. There is a 24/7 prayer chain for the ending of abortion in Canada. Believe it or not, there are people that are believing God to end abortion in Canada! YEAH!
    God bless!

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