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Anti-abortion or anti-contraception: pick one

One of my favourite bits of trivia about Christianity specifically is that the teachings attributed to Jesus say far more against hypocrisy than they do about sex. This, of course, does not seem to faze his ‘followers’ whose anti-sex crusade seems to be taking notes directly from Orwell (who are we kidding? They’ve never read Orwell). While the weird pre-occupation of the religious with sex is well-understood, this does not seem to dissuade the throngs of pious outrage from trying to interfere every time someone drops trou.

While we here in the north agonize with our southern cousins over the disgraceful erosion of that most sacred American ideal – the separation of church from state – a little known fact is that Canada has its own religious right that is intentionally mimicking the tactics of the “Moral Majority”. A bit of background before I launch into this news tidbit. More than a decade following the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that found anti-abortion laws unconstitutional in the USA, Canada’s Supreme Court made its own finding that no laws could be passed against abortion in Canada the current abortion laws were similarly illegal (thanks to ibis3 for the correction). While Roe v. Wade was couched in the right of privacy enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment, Canada’s court was a bit more explicit. It was ruled that anti-abortion laws violated the security of the person, as laid out in our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Most of this legalese is unimportant, particularly to those that don’t live in the USA or Canada, but bear with me.

Abortion has been, since then, a relative non-issue in Canada. Nobody has really brought a substantive case against abortion rights, and we don’t have nutjobs running doctors out of town (at least not any that make the news – if I’m wrong someone please tell me). However, the religious right – emboldened by a recently-elected majority government – have decided that if it’s fixed, break it:

The Conservative government has been apathetic about abortion and should be more moderate, Conservative MP Brad Trost says. On Wednesday, he said the government’s decision to provide funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation for sex education and contraception programs has reopened the abortion debate. The Saskatchewan MP is opposed to abortion and opposes funding for Planned Parenthood because the group provides abortions where the service is legal. Speaking to CBC’s Evan Solomon, host ofPower & Politics, Trost said the government should “take a position that’s at least moderate, rather than the extreme left position that we’re taking.”

I’d like to enter a ‘moderate’ proposal to the Hon. Mr. Trost: how about men aren’t allowed to talk about abortion anymore? Whether you’re against it, or you’re for it, why don’t the penis-owners on both sides of the argument just sit it out and let the ladies chat? Of course this proposal will never fly with the anti-choice crowd (I intentionally avoid the also-Orwellian term “pro-life” for reasons I will make clear shortly), because they know that without the patriarchy flapping their gums, they will be represented by a woefully small number of women who will jump the fence as soon as they have to make their own choice.

So Mr. Trost has planted his flag firmly in the territory of “anti-abortion”. Fair game to him. There are many of those who view each abortion as a tragedy. I am not among those many – I am perfectly at easy with being “pro-abortion”, having been sufficiently convinced that a child is better off in a family that wants it rather than one presented with a “whoops, shit” situation.* There is a slight problem with his position, though, aside from the gall it takes to tell women what they are and are not allowed to do with their reproductive organs. You see, Mr. Trost, there is an organization out there that is seriously committed – far more so than you – to reducing the number of abortions worldwide. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called Planned Parenthood:

Canadian funding for contraception programs will help cut the number of abortions in developing countries, a spokesman for International Planned Parenthood said Thursday. The International Planned Parenthood Federation is hitting back at a Conservative MP who’s urging the government to cut the group’s funding, pointing to new research that shows cutting contraception programs leads to more abortions.

(snip)

A spokesman for International Planned Parenthood said research shows how much those programs are needed. “If Brad Trost’s position were taken up and that funding was removed entirely, and those family planning programs had to be scrapped, then that leaves women very vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy,” Paul Bell said. “All the research shows that, regardless of the situation in a country, a woman, if she finds herself in a position where she needs an abortion, she will have an abortion, whether it’s safe or unsafe.”

Folks like the Hon. Mr. Trost seem to forget that “just keep your damn legs closed” is often not an option in the places that need Planned Parenthood’s services the most. Even if it were an option, it’s not a very reliable one. What has been demonstrated to work is empowering women (and their partners) to make informed choices about sex and making available the resources the allow sex to be safe. You may not like it. The thought of people just… fucking… whoever they want… with the lights on, no less… repulsive, I know. It’s a bitter pill to swallow (cue faint chuckling), but it is what works to reduce abortion rates.

So, Mr. Trost and the rest of his god-bothering constituents must decide: are they more grossed out by people enjoying sex than they are morally opposed to what they themselves characterize as child murder? Funding Planned Parenthood programs has measured success in reducing abortion rates in the countries they serve – defunding them would increase the number of abortions seen in those countries. Not only would the numbers increase, but so would the number of infections, other morbidity, and mortality associated with illicit abortions (which flies directly in the face of the label “pro-life” – told you I’d get there). Can the anti-choice crowd recognize the hypocrisy inherent in their own position, or will they continue to stand athwart their widening chasm of self-contradiction until they are swallowed whole by it?

Anyone feel like taking bets?

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*I am aware of the fact that many abortions are conducted for reasons other than simply not wanting the child – in many cases there are serious risks to maternal and fetal health. However, even if all abortions were done solely for the sake of convenience (which is the anti-choice doggerel), I am resolute in my position.