Faith Column: Re-opening the abortion debate in Canada
Right-wing Christianity, politics and women
Until September, I’d somehow managed to process the devolution of American politics into religious propaganda with a sense of detached bemusement.
Sure, horrifically problematic phrases such as “legitimate rape” (Todd Akin), “dangers of contraception” (Rick Santorum) and the “47 per cent” (Mitt Romney) have been tossed around by astoundingly privileged Republicans during the lengthy presidential election cycle, but as a Canadian it merely seems like a bad reality TV show.
Such religion-fueled madness would never happen here.
Well, that’s what I presumed until Motion 312 rolled around for a vote in the House of Commons. The private member’s bill, submitted by Ontario MP Stephen Woodworth, would have ultimately served as a backdoor approach to re-opening the abortion debate in Canada.
What startled me wasn’t even that the motion was proposed, but the fact that almost one-third of present MPs voted for it (including, shockingly, the Minister for the Status of Women) in direct defiance of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s position.
It really all boils back down to religion, and specifically right-wing Christianity.
The highest profile politician to vote for the motion, aside from Rona Ambrose (the aforementioned “status of women” minister), was Jason Kenney, one of the closest cabinet ministers to Harper. Kenney, like Woodworth, is a devout Catholic.
Like evangelicals, many Catholics take a hard line approach on abortion, seemingly proclaiming the fetus as more valuable than any other entity alive.
This position inevitably takes rights away from women, but right-wing Christianity has never cared about those rights.
Abortion isn’t mentioned at all in the Christian scriptures. In spite of that, and due to obscure and misinterpreted verses such as, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5), many adherents to Christian principles deem all induced abortion as sin.
This has resulted in a phenomenal protest against the private act over the years, pronounced with the murders of abortion doctors and the shaming of women exiting clinics.
But apparently no one — not Ambrose, Kenney, or the run-of-the-mill Christian — has wrestled with the importance of access to safe and legal abortions beyond the condemning pseudo-Christian doctrine.
The reality is that limiting or prohibiting abortions doesn’t solve the problem. Rather, it greatly endangers the women who either want or need abortions: just look to the heavily Catholic country of Peru where an estimated 350,000 illegal abortions occur per year.
It’s preposterous and illogical for religious fanatics to relegate women to only serve as carriers of fetuses (think Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale), sacrificing opportunities to work, education and personal fulfillment in the process. It’s a sexist, classist and racist argument.
Unfortunately, the intoxicating cloud of right-wing Christian thought has apparently descended on the House of Commons, causing the highly religious members of the Conservative Party of Canada to vote against the constitutionally protected rights and freedoms of women.
Last time I read the Bible, which was admittedly a few months ago, Christ seemed rather involved in advocating for the oppressed.
If Canadian politicians wish to follow suit, and avoid descending into American-esque insanity, they should probably work on defending the rights of women. But really, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.