Perspective Needed on Abortion

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Abortion has been in Canadian news lately, thanks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Summer Jobs Program and its “pro-choice”/ “reproductive freedom” values test (i.e., agree with the PM’s values or you don’t get funding).

Many Canadians believe (I think rightly) that this values test is deeply unfair and violates some basic Charter Freedoms, though, of course, many Canadians disagree. It is important, then, to encourage public discourse about abortion that’s respectful, thoughtful, and well informed.

Perhaps the following will help.

1. Reason and contemporary science tell us that the human embryo/fetus is in fact a human being: i.e., it’s a genetically distinct, self-governing dynamic entity that belongs to the human species.

It’s not feline or canine; it’s human. It’s not a cat being or a dog being; it’s a human being. It’s not a kitten or a puppy; it’s a human child.

2. Canada’s 1988 Supreme Court ruling did not give women the right to abortion. It merely struck down law that required therapeutic abortion committees.

Why? Because the committees were not equally accessible across Canada and thus unfair to women. The Supreme Court ruling tasked Parliament with making an abortion law to remedy this unfairness and protect unborn children.

3. Reproduction, i.e., the creation of a child conceived via sex, occurs BEFORE abortion takes place.

Michael Bauman, Professor of Theology & Culture at Hillsdale College, observes: “When pro-choicers have unforced sex, they are choosing. That is freedom of choice. When they decide to kill the child conceived during that sexual encounter, that is freedom from choice. They chose; now they want to be free from the consequences of that choice, even if someone has to die.”

In other words, justifying abortion via “reproductive freedom” is a ruse.

4. Also, let’s put abortion into perspective.

Every year in Canada about 100,000 unborn children are killed by abortion. The significance of this number may be difficult to grasp, so think about the gun control discussion.

Compare the abortion number to the number of homicides that occur yearly in Canada.

Here are the most recent numbers from Statistics Canada for homicides, where “homicide” includes murder, manslaughter, and infanticide, whether a gun is used or not:

Year 2012: homicides 548
Year 2013: homicides 509
Year 2014: homicides 522
Year 2015: homicides 609
Year 2016: homicides 611

That’s about 560 homicides per year versus about 100,000 unborn children destroyed per year. In other words, approximately half a percent of killings in Canada are due to homicide, and approximately 99.5 percent are due to abortion.

Yes, there are tough cases that might justify abortion. For examples, rape, incest, threats to the life or health of the mother.

But these tough cases account for a very small percentage of the total abortions.

Fordham University ethicist Charles Camosy, in his book Beyond the Abortion Wars (2015), says the tough cases amount to 2 percent of the total cases. I’ve heard others report that it might be 5 percent. Whether 2 or 5 percent, it’s a small percentage. That means an awful lot of cases are due to social problems.

But, surely, social problems require social solutions—not the killing of children.

Conclusion: Trudeau should dump the “values test” and also make a law that protects unborn children AND addresses the social problems that pressure women to abort.


Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada. Hendrik’s teaching and research interests include philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, critical thinking/ logic, and ethics. Over the past nine years, Hendrik has written (and continues to write) the newspaper column “Apologia” in which he attempts to make philosophy accessible to the general reader. Past and current installments of “Apologia” are available at Hendrik’s blog. Links to Hendrik’s other articles can be found at his faculty profile page. The views expressed here or in his column/blog do not always reflect the views of Providence.

Image: Justin Trudeau

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1 Comment

  1. Al Hiebert

    Our current federal Liberal government claim to run on science-base decision-making. On abortion it’s obvious they run on ideology-base decision-making.

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