A primer on abortion in Canada

In the United States recently there has been great controversy over the selling of fetal tissue to researchers by Planned Parenthood.  Once again this proves that while many still say that there exists a law legalizing abortion in the U.S. Americans are not satisfied with it nor are they willing to let the issue itself go away.  Those in power have largely ignored what people think amid the ongoing civil unrest with the nationally sanctioned murder of innocent, defenseless babies in the womb.

A few years ago I saw a YouTube video by Fr. Paul Nicholson filmed with the Canadian Parliament buildings in the background on the occasion of the annual National March For Life in Ottawa. He spoke of the background history of abortion in Canada in a two-part video and I was most impressed by what he covered, much of it unknown to me at the time.  Since I couldn’t find the script of what he said on the video I have typed the entire video contents here for our reflection.  (Fr. Charles)

 The March For Life here in Canada is roughly based upon what goes on in the United States in January, but fortunately for us Canadians we cleverly devised that we would hold our March For Life here in the month of May when the sun is shining and there is no snow and ice.  It also corresponds with May 14, 1969 when the omnibus bill was passed in Parliament in which the restrictions on abortion were removed and Canada went headlong into the great dark place that we call legalized abortion.  Friends, you may not realize this but Canada has the unbelievable distinction shared with China and North Korea in which abortion is legal and available for the full nine months of pregnancy.  Yep, you heard it right.  You can come to Canada and terminate your pregnancy throughout the entire nine months.  Now, the majority of Canadians do not know this and when they are told this they are generally uncomfortable with it but, sad to say, that discomfort has not translated into any political will.  Parliament has simply refused to act and bring any kind of legislation to bear upon this unbelievable circumstance.

 The question is, how did Canada get to this point?  Well, unlike the United States there were various circumstances that contributed to the revision of the abortion law.  First, in Great Britain in the late 1950’s, Great Britain began the movement towards legalization of abortion.  We are heavily influenced by how Great Britain proceeds in its legal jurisprudence.  And so, as Great Britain moved towards legalized abortion, so did Canada.  Secondly, Canada lives right next to the United States and what happens in the United States eventually comes to happen here.  And the domination of the mass media in the United States emanating over into Canada had a profound influence upon the general population coming to accept legalized abortion.  One need only point to the famous sitcom in which Bea Arthur became famous for her portrayal of Maude in which a segment of that particular show showed the general sympathy and openness towards legalized abortion.  And thirdly one can’t pass over without mentioning, of course, the Thalidomide crisis, in which mothers were given by their doctors’ remedies for their morning sickness.  And this Thalidomide therefore defectively deformed children.

The great moral agitator of the legalized abortion controversy here in Canada was known as the Globe and Mail, a daily paper published in Toronto.  From 1963 to 1966 the Globe and Mail agitated for what it called a revision or a reform of the abortion laws.  It made a very specific, targeted effort at splitting off what they believed to be the differences between morality and law.  They posited this simple theory: that law is influenced by morality and morality is influenced by religion.  And since generally speaking men and women cannot seem to agree on religion, therefore they can’t agree on morality, therefore the argument goes, law should not be informed by morality.  Now, they didn’t come up with any philosophical conclusion but you can well imagine how this would play out.  Since morality would not inform law, law would simply become the will of the majority.  And the principled argument was that the majority of Canadians were ready and willing to accept legalized abortion.  Not leaving aside all of those arguments the Globe and Mail then proceeded to make some very specific, strategic efforts to identify opponents of legalized abortion as Roman Catholics.  They made every effort to identify individuals who were outspoken and determined to oppose legalized abortion as being Roman Catholics.  The question is, what difference would that make?  After all, abortion is talking about a scientific reality of the existence of a human being and has nothing to do with revelation or religion.  However, it was a strategic effort on the part of the Globe and Mail to identify opposition to legalized abortion with a religious belief.  And by doing so they very carefully qualified how they would proceed next.

Being that the Roman Catholic Church and its believers were judged to be a minority opinion, the logic of the Globe and Mail was that a minority should not be dictating morality to the majority.  What they failed to demonstrate, of course, was this dirty little secret that existed within the heart of Canada – English speaking Canada.  That there is a deep and profound anti-Catholicism that has always abided within English speaking Canada.  For those of you who do not know this it is important for you to realize that Canada has two founding nations: England (Protestant) and France (Catholic), pre-revolutionary France.  French Canada could be identified simply as “fortress Catholicism” and because of its Catholicism it was a profound threat to English speaking Canada, at least judged by the perspective of the Globe and Mail and those others.  The media elites therefore constructed this argument carefully and logically as they saw it that Roman Catholicism must be held at bay and whatever it took that was what had to be done.  Certainly the French Canadian family was robust and healthy. Anecdotally you can see that from pictures of French Canadian families who would have fourteen to eighteen children. That alone should have struck fear into the heart of the waning population of English speaking Canada, but you combine that with what they believe to be the eccentric beliefs, the peculiar beliefs of Catholicism, and the adherence to the pope in Rome and English speaking Canada was ripe with a bitter anti-Catholic streak.  Granted, it wasn’t public.  It didn’t form itself in demonstration, but it was subtly planted in the arguments for legalized abortion.  This virulent form of anti-Catholicism can be found most perfectly in the work of A. J. Koffman who is called the father of the birth control movement in Canada.  Koffman made his millions by creating rubber boots and in that industry he was able to distribute his money accordingly to his own particular styles and tastes.  He reached out to Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) in the 1930’s and they developed a strategy whereby they would offer free contraceptives, mostly prophylactics, as well as incentives to sterilization, and interestingly his work was directed and aimed squarely at French Catholic Canadian families.  Yep, that’s what it was.  It was based upon a eugenics vision of Canada based upon a rigorous anti-Catholicism.  So when the Globe and Mail made the attempt to identify the opponents of legalized abortion many years ago they squarely positioned themselves in the heart of English speaking Canada for in the heart of English speaking Canada existed a bigotry towards Roman Catholics.

Deep within the pro-life movement there is a sense that this is not a war of religion after all scientifically medical facts can prove the humanity of the unborn child so why should religion be brought even into the equation?  Well, because our enemies have made it an issue and Roman Catholicism has demonstrated throughout human history to be the sanctuary for life.  It protects human life, it believes in the sanctity of human life.  We have nothing to be ashamed for and everything to be proud of.  So the next time someone tells you to “take your rosary off their ovary” you flex your Catholic muscle and invite them into the heart of Catholic faith, the sanctuary of life.

(Fr. Paul Nicholson)

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