Granting personhood to the unborn

Challenging the pro-choice orthodoxy

Chris Dainton, ArtSci ’03
Chris Dainton, ArtSci ’03

Three years ago, Linda Chu rounded off her sophomore year at the University of Southern California by secretly delivering a happy, healthy baby in her apartment. She promptly strangled the child and then, realizing that there are bylaws against littering, stuffed her down a nearby trash chute.

Last Christmas season, judgment was handed down to a 14-year-old British teen who stabbed her baby to death just seconds after it found its way out of her womb. She was set free after the Honorable Christopher Pitchers told the girl, “Those who might think you need to be punished, well, you punish yourself every day as you think back to what happened that terrible morning.”

If only all judges could be so compassionate. We could do away with the clumsy idea called ‘justice’ altogether.

When pro-lifers suggested that the widespread legalization of abortion in the Western world would lead to a massive devaluation of human life, their pro-choice counterparts dismissed it as an empty scare tactic. Now, as liberal Canada moves into the 21st century, both the truth and the importance of this prophecy are all too clear. And as one of the only nations in the world without a law against abortion, we are left to wonder whether our permissiveness constitutes healthy progressiveness, or community-sponsored barbarism.

Statistics are unavailable for this country, but if our neighbours to the south are any indication, the freedom to choose doesn’t bode well for our youngest citizens.

Since the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, in which American women won the right to end their pregnancies, the U.S. Bureau of Justice reports that the number of infanticides has increased by almost fifty percent — in an almost relentless climb. This should come as no surprise, considering the frequency with which we now hear of unwanted newborns being disposed of in the cruelest of fashions.

“The argument goes,” Stockwell Day said in one of his more candid moments, “that if you can kill a child while it’s in the womb, what’s wrong with knocking it around a bit once it’s outside?”

And only ten months after our friend Linda carried out her dramatic ‘post-natal abortion,’ a distinguished professor by the name of Steven Pinker brought the infinite wisdom of academia to her defense.

In an article in the New York Times, Pinker suggested more lenient sentences for women who kill their newborn infants, since small babies cannot be considered to be full humans. “To a biologist,” he cheerfully writes, “birth is as arbitrary a milestone as any other.” That single statement alone should be enough to make even the most militant pro-choice supporter’s eyes water.

Welcome to the back alleys of moral philosophy, where people who drag the letters ‘PhD’ behind their names can make even the most ludicrous and dangerous ideas sound vaguely plausible.

Enter Peter Singer, champion of pragmatism, who goes even further than Pinker, preaching that infants are not people at all since they lack self-awareness. Indeed, how foolish it is for society to hand out fundamental, equal human rights as if they were Halloween candy. Look inside your Moral Issues textbooks, all you froshlings, because Mary Ann Warren concurs, “Some human beings are not people, and there may well be people who are not human beings.”

Sound familiar? If so, you might have picked up on this clever line of thinking in the original US Constitution. Therein each black would be counted as three-fifths of a person at census time. Likewise, the pro-choice movement has allowed us to regress to an era where one’s degree of humanity can be determined on a sliding scale. And for all its laurels, I would suggest that all social “progressiveness” doesn’t necessarily result in positive progress. If it did, our public works engineers would be busy building us bigger and better Roman coliseums.

To its credit, the pro-choice propaganda campaign has succeeded in planting its message so deep in the Canadian consciousness that there no longer needs to be any sound logic behind its views. The opposing pro-life movement, dismissed as misogynistic, sexist, and fanatical, has been silenced and relegated to the fringes of politics — except, of course, when idle liberals need a piñata to whack at.

Last November, the University of Victoria Student Society revoked the endorsement of its pro-life students group, based on a poster campaign. The offending posters read, “With no laws protecting the unborn in Canada, abortions are available at any time during a woman’s pregnancy.” And in the meantime, abortions in our country continue to increase annually.

It’s time for Canada to put unborn rights back into the Constitution, and send a clear message that personhood begins long before birth. It is a message that should cross all political, cultural, and religious boundaries. It is also one that Susan B. Anthony, one of the most prominent women’s suffragists of our time, ardently supported.

Maybe feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton phrased it best when she said “When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”

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Chris Dainton, ArtSci ’03, is concerned about the lack of debate about abortion in popular media.

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