Monday November 24, 2014

A debate for more than the funny papers

From the Top of the Pile

Edda Burber is in a difficult spot.

The stunningly gorgeous blonde just appeared on the cover of a magazine. She has an endorsement deal for a lingerie and swimwear company. Her main gig is as a ballerina in New York. And she’s passionately in love with her high school sweetheart, Amos.

Too passionately, perhaps, because her world is now crashing down around her ears. She’s about to get booted from the ballet company, the endorsement deal is going south, and, oh yeah, she’s pregnant.

Over the past few weeks, the protagonist of the comic strip 9 Chickweed Lane has had to contend with the idea of aborting her baby. It’s not an easy choice, either, because her own mother was a love-child. If her grandmother had chosen abortion, she would never exist.

This comes just a few weeks after Doonesbury all but called a recent Texas law state-sanctioned rape, forcing ultrasounds on those desiring an abortion.

Pretty heady stuff for the funny papers.

While the comics are taking a stab at the abortion debate, many people wish it would just go away. It’s not. If anything, we’re seeing it appear in the national discourse more and more every day.

I mentioned my intentions to write about this topic to a friend, and she immediately got all tense and blurted, “Why would you want to write about that? Of all the things you can write about, why write about that?”

This is precisely the attitude taken by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who wants nothing to do with the abortion issue, even going so far as to ensure a private members’ bill, brought up by one of his own MPs, would be swiftly killed.

Most anti-abortion, pro-life types recognize the time to address this issue is now, when a Conservative majority is in power, in the first half of its term. That’s when most governments introduce their most controversial legislation, allowing time to recover before an election is on the horizon. But that window is now surely closed.

For Harper, there’s no upside. Trying to address abortion in any way means greatly upsetting the left as well as many moderates. Anyone against abortion has likely voted Conservative already, and therefore there is nothing to be gained, politically speaking.

That aforementioned private member’s bill was an unabashed attempt at limiting abortion by asking a key question – when does life begin?

We are in a crazy situation in Canada right now, with zero limitations on abortion. It’s now common for babies only 26 weeks into their term to survive. I can’t count how many friends and relatives have had children born prematurely, in some cases, very prematurely, and have the children pull through.

Saskatchewan just gained its first helicopter airborne ambulance. One of its capabilities is neo-natal care.

We’ll spend tens of thousands to save a preemie, and yet in the room down the hall, we’ll just as easily kill one.

The Globe and Mail talks of the need to bring in 400,000 immigrants a year. We have barren couples scouring the world, going as far as orphanages in China, to adopt, yet we continue killing our own children.

I can’t stand the thought of abortion, period, but if nothing else, there should at least be a moratorium on anything past 25 weeks. We know these children in most cases are viable, given the proper care. How can we not, in law, recognize them as human beings?

In some areas of Canada, there’s an alarming new demographic trend – immigrant communities with a lot more boys than girls. The reason? It’s widely believed these people are killing off their unborn girls, so that they can have more desirable boys. It’s called “gender selection.”

In other contexts, this could be called eugenics.

This leaves a really hard argument for the feminist pro-choicers to make. How do you rail against the slaughter of girls, without acknowledging that it is a slaughter in the first place? That would mean acknowledging they are people in the first place. Is it okay to kill boys and girls, as long as it’s done in equal proportion? Maybe you shouldn’t kill as many girls? You can drive a truck through the holes in that logic.

Via social media I keep tabs with a certain Saskatchewan born and raised philosopher, a New England university professor with a PhD who is vegan, practices yoga and is about as left wing/feminist as you can get. She’s also quite pregnant. The pregnant feminist vegan yoga enthusiast PhD posted on her profile the other day, “Turns out arguing with anti-abortion protesters while visibly pregnant goes about as well as one might expect.”

I can imagine. Perhaps that’s because, like the underlying truth of the whole abortion debate, it’s impossible to ignore there are real lives at stake here. That’s especially true when you can see it kicking, right in front of you.

The abortion debate isn’t gone. There’s a serious discussion to be had here, and not just in the funny papers.

Brian Zinchuk, Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association 2012 Columnist of the Year, is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at



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