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Canadian Tolerance

This recent story about a talk given by pro-life speaker Stephanie Gray, and how she was treated by some students with other opinions illustrates several of the major problems I see in Canadian society today.

First, some context - Canada has what has got to be one of the most uncivilized policies in the world with regards to abortion. What laws does Canada have controlling abortion, you ask? Good question! Today in Canada, there are no laws governing abortion. Legally you are allowed to abort your child at any point from the time of conception until he or she is fully delivered from the womb. Yup, that's right. If, halfway through labour, a woman decides that she'd really rather not go through with this baby thing, then there's nothing stopping her from having a partial-birth abortion.

For me, things seem pretty straight forward. I think (I hope!) everybody would agree that a newborn baby is a human being. As a human being, she has the right to life under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, under the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as natural law, and plain common sense.

Since a newborn is a human being, killing a newborn baby is wrong, and is a criminal offence. Justifiable situations for purposefully killing another person, such as self-defence, clearly don't apply here as the newborn is not threatening anybody else's life by any direct action.

The problem seems to be: is a yet-to-be-born baby a human being? Why wouldn't she be? What are the differences between a just-delivered child, and the same child a few moments earlier? The only differences are her physical location, and the way she is receiving the critical materials for living: nutrition and oxygen. This is the basis of the dependence argument claimed by many pro-choice advocates; a prenatal baby is not human because she is dependent on her mother for life.

But is a newborn any less dependent after birth? She still needs somebody to feed her and keep her warm. We are all dependent on others at different stages in our lives. A 3 year old child is not completely independent. A heart-attack victim needs somebody to keep his blood circulating, his lungs breathing, and his body fed while it is repaired and while it recovers. Being dependent doesn't rob us of our person-hood. The dependence argument doesn't make sense.

Does the child's location determine her person-hood? This is another typical pro-choice argument: since the baby is inside the mother's body, she has the right to decide the baby's fate. Again, this doesn't make any sense - if I am human, I am human no matter where I am.

Therefore, a baby in the moments prior to birth is also a human being.

What about in the days, weeks, or months prior to birth? What is the difference between a baby at 6 months since conception, and a baby at 9 months? Simply a matter of development. The baby at 6 months since conception will continue to grow and develop to become a larger baby at 9 months. After birth the 1 day old baby will continue to grow and develop until she is 1 month old, 6 months old, 1 year old, 3 years old, 10 years old, 20 years old. Even after her body stops developing, her mind continues to learn, adapt and change.

So to say that a prenatal baby is not yet human, or not "fully" human simply because she is still developing is nonsensical. When do we stop growing, stop changing, stop developing? Only when after we're dead.

We are human by virtue of having human parents, and by a miraculous gift of life from God. What else could a human sperm and human egg combine to form? A rabbit? Penguin? Palm tree? No, the only thing that a human sperm and human egg can form is a human child.

Back to the talk delivered at Western by Stephanie Gray. This story gave me a new sense of hope for Canada, but also makes me wonder: why is this subject taboo in Canadian politics and media? One major problem I see today is that no politician seems willing to rock the boat on this issue, or even to discuss it. At least our neighbours to the south debate this issue in a more public and open way.

Perhaps a more fundamental problem is that it seems to me that in Canada if you voice a pro-life opinion then you are labelled as being intolerant and not respecting of a woman's rights. Isn't a pro-choice opinion not respectful of a baby's rights? Why is somebody with un-"liberal" views intolerant? This isn't the case with just the abortion issue, it also seems to be the case with other issues like same-sex "marriage", child care, and health care. Aren't "liberals" intolerant of "conservative" opinions?

When did tolerance become the pinnacle of ethics and justice?

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