It’s Baaaaaack…

[A shortened version of this article was originally published in The Gauntlet on October 13th, 2011]

Guess what’s back in the news?

Conservative MP Brad Trost warns that the debate on abortion access has been reopened in Canada, and that aggressive new tactics will be the name of the game.

Conservative backbencher for Saskatoon-Humboldt Brad Trost has indicated that the abortion debate in Canada has been reopened after Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared in May that the issue would remain closed.

Ok, fine. Let’s talk abortion. We’ll assume that abortion is murder, and that our goal is to eliminate it. I know some of you disagree with the assumption, but I bet all of you agree with the goal.

The obvious approach would be to ban abortion. That may not be necessary, however: statistics show that, worldwide, the number of abortions dropped between 1993 and 2003, from 35 per thousand pregnancies to 29. The most impressive decrease was in Eastern Europe, which went from 90 to 44.

Oddly, abortion is legal there. It has been for a some time, too.

Things get weirder when we compare countries. Africa has banned abortion, on the whole, and yet has the same abortion rate as Europe, where there are fewer restrictions on it. Within continental Europe, the countries that have the lowest rate are the ones that put the least restrictions on it. Paradoxically, it seems the best way to reduce abortions is to legalize them!

In hindsight, this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Can you picture a doctor, just before performing an illegal abortion, asking if the patient would rather adopt? Or afterwards, teaching her how to use contraceptives properly? By regulating abortion, we can force women to undergo counseling or introduce them to social programs that would encourage them to save that unborn life. By showing them how to use contraceptives, we prevent future unwanted pregnancies from happening and also cut the abortion rate. What seemed like a paradox actually makes a lot of sense.

There’s a flaw, however: we’ve assumed a doctor is necessary for an abortion. If we could magically prevent any doctor from ever doing an abortion, legally or otherwise, could we end this mini-genocide? Sadly, no; there are still thousands of ways to kill without a skilled surgeon nearby, ranging from a mix of bleach and water to a few well-placed punches. The statistics bear this out, as I mentioned above; when the laws prevent women from killing their unborn child, they’ll ignore the laws and do it anyway.

You could also argue that a blanket ban on abortions would really lead to more deaths.

Edyta [a pseudonym] was two months pregnant when she was diagnosed with the painful colon disease which was aggravated by her pregnancy. When she sought medical care in her Polish hometown and other cities, however, doctor after doctor refused to treat her illness because she was pregnant. They repeatedly expressed concern about the fetus, but none of them formally raised a moral or religious objection so they did not have to refer Edyta to a doctor that would treat her. Edyta’s symptoms grew worse until she miscarried and eventually, died.

Sometimes, a pregnancy threatens the life of both the mother and child. Only the most heartless person would argue that killing two people is better than killing one.

We’re forced to conclude our dream of stopping abortion is completely unworkable; it would require strapping women down in solitary confinement the instant they became pregnant, trusting doctors and other attendants to these women to “do the right thing,” and even we’d have to make an exception for medically necessary abortions. That’s a nightmare, not a dream.

Perhaps we should settle for a more realistic goal. The spectacular success of Eastern Europe was not due to making abortion more accessible, but instead by encouraging contraceptive use. We see the same in Canada, which has seen a 37% decrease in teen pregnancy rates between 1996 and 2006, making it a leader among Western nations:

“By and large, the Canadian teenager today is not more or less likely to be sexually active than the Canadian teenager from a decade ago,” Dr. [Alex] McKay says. But what is different is that the sexually active teenager today is more likely to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.”

That makes sense. You can’t murder something that doesn’t exist, so by running sex-ed courses and encouraging contraceptive use you’ll be saving lives. While we can’t stop abortion, we can settle for minimizing it as much as possible.

So, to summarize: the best way to reduce the number of murders due to abortion is to offer safe abortions, but pair that up with a LOT of sex education and counseling. It would be wonderful if someone was already doing this.

We are a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world. Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide.
For more than 90 years, Planned Parenthood has promoted a commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being, based on respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning.

Good good, but do they focus mostly on counselling and sex-ed, instead of abortions?

These health centers provide a wide range of safe, reliable health care — and more than 90 percent is preventive, primary care, which helps prevent unintended pregnancies through contraception, reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections through testing and treatment, and screen for cervical and other cancers.

Perfect! So I’m sure MP Trost is encouraging the government to save lives by increasing Planned Parenthood’s funding.

In a statement posted on his website Wednesday afternoon, Trost says Canada’s anti-abortion movement must be more aggressive.
“Many, many Conservative MPs pressed the [prime minister’s office] to stop the funds from flowing,” Trost wrote on his website. “Federal funding did stop for a time. Funds allocated to IPPF [International Planned Parenthood Federation] were considerably reduced. Furthermore, federal grants for IPPF also had more strings attached.
“This only happened because of the pressure applied. This was a real victory.
“Pro-life politicians have been taught a lesson. The government only responds to pro-life issues and concerns when we take an aggressive stance. We will apply this lesson.”

… Whaaa?! He’s not only opposed to funding Planned Parenthood, he’s actively trying to get them defunded? But if organizations like Planned Parenthood are the best way to save unborn lives, that would mean Trost is endorsing less effective methods. His actions are causing more children to die!

Now, it’s possible Trost hasn’t thought through his public policy as well as we have. Unfortunately, his job as an MP requires him to be on the ball about these things. That would make Trost incompetent, and thus unfit for office.


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