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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Andrew Coyne fails democracy. 

Andrew Coyne has come out with one of the thinnest arguments ever produced for initiating a national political debate on abortion: It's undemocratic to have a country without an abortion law.

Luckily, Dr. Dawg does a complete dissection of Coyne's strange theory and shines some light in corners young Andrew didn't quite cover.

There is something which attracted my attention, however and it is how Coyne views the current situation. That of Dr. Morgentaler being appointed to the Order of Canada.

The furor over Henry Morgentaler's appointment to the Order of Canada, on the other hand, now that is about abortion. There may be some who object out of a disinterested concern for fairness, on the principle that an honour bestowed on behalf of all of the people of Canada should not be given to a man whose life's work is, still, so profoundly upsetting to so many Canadians. But for most people, it's about abortion. In honouring him, we are honouring it, normalizing it, stamping it with the seal of approval.

Or rather not abortion, as such, but the legal void that surrounds it, which Morgentaler did so much to bring about: the extraordinary fact that, 20 years after the Supreme Court ruling that bears his name, this country still has no abortion law of any kind. It isn't that abortion — at any stage of a pregnancy, for any reason, and at public expense — is lawful in Canada. It is merely not unlawful. When it comes to abortion, we are literally a lawless society: the only country in the developed world that does not regulate the practice in any way.

Perhaps the members of the Order's advisory council thought the continuance of this legal void, after so many years, signalled a consensus had formed in its favour. Perhaps they thought, by naming Morgentaler, they could impress one upon the country. Either way, the decision was revealing — as was the reaction. The letters pages of the country's newspapers were filled for days with passionate denunciations. Members of Parliament spoke out against it by the dozen. Several members of the Order returned their pins.

Stop right there, Andrew, old boy.

Firstly, the furor you speak of is a very small group of very loud people. And you're quite right: among them are virulent racists, woman-haters and unrepentant bigots. The problem is that the only people we're hearing from are those people and those who are promoting their favourite religious agenda. The truth is, despite the hyperbole of newspapers filled with letters of protest and "dozens" of members of parliament making their usual flatulent noise, the majority of Canadians are not opposed to Dr. Morgentaler's appointment. Letters to the editor are not representative of public opinion when it's an organized campaign by one side.

Who has returned their decoration to Rideau Hall? A couple of people have said they are going to do it but to date, the Honours and Awards secretariat has reported that none have actually been returned. The initial "return the gong" movement started with a Catholic group announcing they were returning the Order of Canada insignia of the late Catherine de Hueck Doherty.

Guess what, Andrew. When you die, so does your Order of Canada. It doesn't get handed down. The medal itself is a legacy item - not a perpetual honour. Which puts at least one other award supposedly "returned" into the same category. And if you're at all feeling brave you can read LifeSite news (look it up yourself) where they announce that three other previous recipients of the Order of Canada are "returning" their awards but wish to remain anonymous. I'll bet they do too, because they're hoping to play into the emotions of their religious constituency, have this whole thing quickly blow over and then attend the next major cocktail party with that familiar piece of hardware hanging from their neck.

The remainder of your argument, Andrew, is specious at best. Democracy has worked this through, as Dr. Dawg has pointed out, and the result is that we need no law. We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which would supersede any law which imposed the will of a minority on over one-half the population as a form of subjugation.

And that is, whether you choose to recognize it or not, what this is all about. You say the anti-abortion noise machine has been effectively silenced. What utter hogwash. They're noisier today than they ever were in the past and they continue to represent a minority of the population.

What is really interesting though, Andrew, is your take on how all this works. That somehow democracy demands that the government get to work introducing some form of legislation and then we, the unwashed masses, get to hear all sides of an argument, including the loud minority side for whom the legislation was placed in front of us in the first place.

Quaint, but wrong. That is democracy turned on its head. The politicians work for us; not the other way around.

How is it "democracy" when we only get to choose from a menu produced by a political class? Yes, I realize that is the conservative view of democracy, but most of us don't adhere to the dogma of conservative politics. That being, "I will direct you. You will comply. In return I will guarantee to protect you from (fill in the blank)." Honestly, Andrew, the cost of such a deal is just to high. And it still boils down to putting over one-half of the population of this country on trial for the freedoms they are guaranteed.

Politicians are like dogs. They constantly think of their own survival, no matter how comfortable they are. In that we elect them, they are all too aware that inflaming the people with a debate in which they do not want to engage, to satisfy a minority group whose position is borne out of some religious doctrine, would be guaranteed political suicide.

It isn't a brave politician that will start such a debate; it is a stupid one.

Democracy says the people will decide; not the politicians, the pundits or the columnists. The people have decided that there is no need for a law, either way. I know that's a hard pill for a conservative to swallow.

Try not to choke on it.

Cross posted from The Galloping Beaver


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