National Post editorial board: That’s not what the Charter says
Justin Trudeau appears to be having trouble with his attempt to dictate matters of conscience to members of the Liberal party.
Since he declared that future Liberals will be required to support open-ended abortion rights, Mr. Trudeau has faced a barrage of criticism, and has effectively re-opened a debate he insisted was “settled.” Liberal aides and spin doctors have tried fervently to “explain” his edict. And in an interview on Thursday with the Ottawa Citizen, Mr. Trudeau insisted he’s doing no more than follow in his father’s footsteps: “I had an extraordinary example in a father who had deeply, deeply held personal views that were informed by the fact that he went to church every Sunday, read the Bible regularly to us, and raised us very, very religious, very Catholic.”
“But at the same time, he had no problem legalizing divorce, decriminalizing homosexuality and moving in ways that recognized the basic rights of the people.”
Justin Trudeau then added the one argument that some Liberals apparently feel is unassailable: “And since 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that a woman’s right to a choice in this matter is a Charter right. [It’s] upheld by the Constitution.”
But as Margaret Somerville, founder of McGill University’s Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, pointed out this week, the idea that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees women an unfettered right to abortion is dead wrong.
In the 1988 Morgentaler case itself, the Supreme Court of Canada did indeed strike down Canada’s abortion law — but not because this is not an area or bioethics fit for legislation. Rather, the Justices found that the system of hospital committees that then regulated abortion access was restrictive, unpredictable and time-consuming — and that the health of women often was being compromised as they waited for doctors to pass judgment on their cases.
No one should want to go back to such a pre-1988 system, and the Supreme Court was correct to conclude that it violated a woman’s “right to life, liberty and security of the person” in a way that could not be reconciled with “the principles of fundamental justice.”
But in the same breath, the Chief Justice declared that “protection of foetal interests by Parliament is also a valid governmental objective.” Justice Jean Beetz added that “the protection of the foetus … relate[s] to concerns which are pressing and substantial in a free and democratic society and which, pursuant to s. 1 of the Charter, justify reasonable limits to be put on a woman’s right.” Justice Bertha Wilson (Canada’s first female Supreme Court Justice) wrote: “The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state’s interest in its protection becomes ‘compelling’ I leave to the informed judgment of the legislature … It seems to me, however, that it might fall somewhere in the second trimester.” All four Morgentaler opinions — including the three written for the 5-2 majority — plainly indicated that the government has a role in limiting the practice of abortion.
Throughout the governments of Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Jean Chrétien, the Liberal Party of Canada maintained a healthy respect for matters of conscience. As former Liberal MP Tom Wappel wrote in the National Post this week, he was elected six times, and ran for the party leadership, while making no secret of his strong pro-life views. Yet now, the Liberals have a leader who is so doctrinaire in his no-holds-barred abortion absolutism that none of the 1988-era Supreme Court Justices who decided the Morgentaler case would themselves be eligible to run for Justin Trudeau’s party. All seven would be deemed insufficiently fundamentalist in their pro-choice dogmatism.
Mr. Trudeau’s position feed suspicions he does not fully appreciate the complexities of the abortion issue, the strong feelings many Canadians continue to hold, and the reality that the debate is far from “settled”, as he would like to believe. He shows a shaky understanding of his father’s legacy, and a faulty grasp of the Charter of Rights.
Sixty percent of Canadians say they support some limit on the right to abortion. This includes many liberals, who are appalled by the practice of sex-selective abortion, which systematically wipes out female fetuses. If Mr. Trudeau wants to put down stakes with the other 40%, and force his caucus to do likewise, he’s permitted to do so — but he’s not fooling anyone when he claims that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms leaves him no choice.
National Post editorial board: That’s not what the Charter says | National Post
fuk you you stupid pony