Jackson Doughart
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Justin Trudeau's distorted view from inside the abortion bubble

The National Post, 27 May 2014

In a 2005 interview with Larry King, the American comedian Bill Maher said, "You don't have to be religious to be against abortion. I do sort of understand what they're saying. If you've ever seen a sonogram, you could see something that's emerging as a human being in there. And we are sort of reaching in and killing it. I'm just not against that."

Maher’s commentary on the issue has not always been so reasonable. On his show "Real Time" last week, for instance, Maher credited the decline in U.S. crime since 1990 to the prevalence of legal abortion. But his conciliatory remark implies something valuable for those who support the practice: not everyone on the other side is a Bible-thumping maniac whose opinion can be dismissed as fundamentalist.

Justin Trudeau would do well to heed this message. Merely declaring that abortion is "settled", as he did when announcing a strict pro-choice party line, does not instantly make it so: many reasonable people dispute the status quo without any element of misogyny. Instead, the "Abortion Sceptic" faction of the Canadian public—differing quite sharply in belief from the resolute pro-lifers—is legitimately concerned about the cause of justice and fairness, which is questionably served by Canada’s anomalous arrangement of no legal limitations whatsoever.

All of this was knowable to Mister Trudeau and his advisers beforehand. Polling data have for years shown the law to be at odds with mainstream public opinion, a fact of presumable importance to a party hoping to succeed the Harper Government, which merits criticism for its own lack of courage on the issue. But there is a clear sense in which Liberal pro-abortionists are particularly incorrigible on this simple point.

To appropriate one of Maher’s comedy routines, these people are "living inside the bubble". Perhaps owing to the long-running success of the pro-choice movement, they have come to believe their own propaganda. In their minds, people who disagree with unmitigated reproductive rights, even for such circumstances as third-trimester termination and sex selection, really are the contemporary equivalent of apologists for slavery and segregation. And in their peculiar legal interpretation, the constitution really does guarantee a "right to choose", supporting their assertion that the debate is over.

These fictions have been assiduously reinforced by the media class, which is of one mind with Canadian feminists about abortion. On the infrequent occasion that a mainstream outlet features an opponent of the status quo, he or she is presented as a kook who misunderstands that the court hath ruled, the law hath spoken.

Given that there is no imminent abortion vote to be held, one suspects that this decision was of uniquely-strategic motivation. With an election upcoming, the Liberals figured that they could shame the Conservatives for harbouring heretics among their ranks, and perhaps peel supporters from the New Democrats, whose pro-abortion clothes they have skillfully thieved.

But then came the problem of the Liberal caucus, which despite being inarguably pro-choice on principle, also includes a handful of its own dissenters. When reporters raised the thorny issue of accommodating incumbent pro-life Liberals, Trudeau looked as if he had never considered it. That he has pledged to "grandfather in" such people, when feminists believe their chief opponents to be crusty old men with grandchildren, is an irony seemingly lost on Trudeau's defenders and critics alike.

From the bubble, it must be astounding that the public has not rejoiced at Trudeau's audacious announcement, and that Stephen Harper has not just handed him the keys of 24 Sussex in sheer awe. But I am unsurprised by the tepid reaction. Thinking adults do not wish to be addressed as stupid or backward, which is clearly implied by Trudeau’s declaration that the issue is "settled". Make no mistake, dear reader: if you have any misgivings about Canada’s laissez-faire approach to even late-term and sex-selection abortions, Trudeau is not merely attacking the partisans of the Right to Life March. He’s attacking you.

Jackson Doughart jdoughart (at) gmail (dot) com