This week in the National Post, esteemed Ottawa columnist John Ivison wrote about the desire of many Conservative Party members to elect a new leader with strong prolife credentials.
Mr. Ivison wrote: “Pro-lifers may feel they were sold a bill of goods by Harper, who often talked like a social conservative without offering anything different from the Liberals when it came to legislation on the issues social conservatives cared most about.”
His column refers solely to the issue of abortion but could have easily included the debate over euthanasia, which is clearly a prolife issue.
One thing is missing from the piece – or at least in the comments of those he interviewed. The issue appears black and white. You are for or against. But then what? In this political environment hard positions are likely to get us nowhere.
In 2010 Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa proposed that both sides of the debate work together to at least reduce abortion. Back then, Cardinal Ouellet said an abortion law was unlikely.
Under the Liberals today it is less than unlikely — even less than nil. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau banned prolife candidates from running for his party. Talk about democracy in inaction. His party also brought us legalized euthanasia. So dream on about this government doing anything substantive on the issue, let alone talk about it.
I appreciated Cardinal Ouellet’s sentiment but I am not so certain activists on the pro-abortion side will ever agree to compromise. Even the most inane suggestion of looking at abortion brings howls of derision about another back-door conspiracy to make abortion illegal. And I think it is fair to say there are also those on our side who would never compromise.
But what can be done that might allow both sides to stop yelling?
I believe what we need is to strengthen the social safety net for young women who find themselves pregnant. We need to do more to provide them with solid reasons to have their babies — beyond that it is the right thing to do or the Church says it is so.
The fears of many young women, single or married, are often economic. Suddenly they see their bright future of university and a career vanish under the weight of becoming a parent, especially a single parent. The pressure to abort often comes from the ones who love them the most — parents, husbands, boyfriends and close friends.
There are groups who heroically help women who find themselves pregnant and in distress.
Birthright, for example, started as an office in Toronto in 1968 in response to liberalized abortion in Canada. Louise Summerhill, a busy housewife and mother of seven children, felt something should be done to help women facing unplanned pregnancies.
Now Birthright International has hundreds of offices in Canada, the United States and in several African countries.
Aid to Women in Toronto has been heroically helping women choose life in Toronto since 1984.
Rosalie Hall has been helping young, pregnant, single women, their children and their families since 1914, sharing in the work of the Misericordia Sisters who have been caring for mothers for 150 years.
The Sisters of Life love the women who come to them and then they offer real help. They also make sure the women are not alone during their pregnancy and once their children are born. They have gone beyond rhetoric to love in action.
These groups are worth following and supporting as are numerous other groups across Canada.
There should be a role for parishes here too. Churches are amazingly good at raising money for projects. So why not create a fund for young women find themselves pregnant and need economic support?
Governments too could create funds for these women that would provide housing and day care so they can go on to university or train in whatever field they desire.
Some may call this socialism but I would call it Catholic social teaching. Some may say these women, in the case of Catholics, should never have had sex outside of marriage in the first place. Fine. Go ahead and cast the first stone.
Life is messy. People always do things they are not supposed to do. But our focus should be on the child and the mother and their future together.
I once had the great honour to interview Jean Vanier. I asked him what he thought of the pro-life movement. This is what he said:
I say to those who are pro-life, ‘You say you don’t want people to have abortions.’ OK, I’m in agreement. But then we must give help to those mothers. To remain just on a legal principle of right or wrong without commitment … that is something wrong. I’m a little frightened of anyone who is pro-life who doesn’t get committed.
Let us make sure that we stay committed to helping young pregnant women and their babies. Let us also ask the same of our governments, our parishes and our fellow Catholic friends and family members who are not involved already in this vital area of prolife work.
Charles Lewis is a regular contributor to The Catholic Register and a board member of the Catholic Civil Rights League. He has been writing for 36 years. He was also the religion reporter for the National Post until January 2014.
About the CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. The CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization with a large nationwide membership base. The CCRL is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
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