By Hendrik van der Breggen
In a recent popular video Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while visiting the University of Manitoba, is seen discussing abortion with a young man who doesn’t support abortion.
Pro-choicers praised Trudeau for “schooling” the young man, and pro-lifers were embarrassed with the young man’s lack of intellectual acumen.
That young man, it seems to me, isn’t the sharpest pencil in the pencil case. But I think Trudeau’s response is dull, too.
Let’s look at Trudeau’s justification of abortion choice, and then let’s assess it. It seems to me that Trudeau’s position is weak and is (or should be) embarrassing to thinking Canadians.
Trudeau’s defense of abortion
The full exchange between Trudeau and the young man can be seen in the National Post.
In a nutshell, Trudeau’s case for abortion being legal in Canada (right up to birth) hangs on two unqualified yes answers to two questions.
(1) Do women have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies?
(2) Should a woman who has been raped be allowed to have an abortion?
Trudeau clearly thinks the answers should be yes and yes, full stop.
I think Trudeau’s unqualified yes answers are mistaken. So here are my answers to Trudeau’s two questions, but with needed nuance.
(1) Yes, generally speaking, women have the right to choose what happens to their bodies. But in the context of abortion, if we get clarity on the truth concerning abortion, then the answer to Trudeau’s question is no.
Why? Because, even though women have the right to choose what happens to their bodies, the fact is that in the context of abortion there are two bodies. The unborn baby is not the woman’s body. It’s the child’s body. And abortion destroys the child’s body.
By choosing and consenting to have sex (or IVF), women consent to getting pregnant (or risk getting pregnant), and thereby women choose what happens to their bodies (with the help of a male collaborator). But by choosing abortion, women choose what happens to their child’s body.
In other words, Trudeau fails to consider the reality of the body of the prenatal child. What happens in abortion is that the body of the prenatal child is killed.
Again, yes, women have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies, generally speaking, but abortion kills the body of another human being. Trudeau’s question—and his unqualified yes answer—neglects this.
(2) Should a woman who has been raped be allowed to have an abortion? Trudeau thinks the answer is, again, an unqualified yes.
My answer, however, is this: In the case of rape it’s possible, perhaps even probable, that abortion shouldn’t be allowed, if, again, we get clarity on the truth concerning abortion.
Rape is wrong and terrible, definitely. No disagreement here from me. But perspective is needed, especially if we’re talking about whether all abortions should be legal (which is Trudeau’s view).
It turns out that of the total abortion practice (in North America), abortions for rape account for a small percentage only. According to Fordham University ethicist Charles Camosy, “about 1 percent of all abortions take place in situations where the mother was raped.”
But this means that to justify the general abortion situation because of these few terrible cases is to commit the fallacy of hasty generalization. (The fallacy of hasty generalization occurs when one generalizes from unrepresentative or insufficient cases and/or does not take into account objections or counter-evidence; sometimes known as “jumping to a conclusion.”)
Also, abortion does not undo the trauma of rape. The mother has been victimized—she needs care.
Moreover, abortion can be traumatic, too.
And abortion may be related to subsequent health problems. Abortion risks include breast cancer, premature birth (of subsequent children), and psychological problems.
(About abortion risks, see the documentary Hush: A Liberating Conversation about Abortion and Women’s Health, directed by Punam Kumar Gill. See too Angela Lanfranchi, Ian Gentles, and Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy’s 2018 book Complications: Abortion’s Impact on Women.)
In other words, by seeing abortion as a solution to rape, we might victimize a woman a second time.
Furthermore, to kill by abortion the human being conceived by the crime of rape is like killing an innocent bystander at the scene of a crime, a crime perpetrated by the bystander’s father. The father deserves (severe) punishment, not the child.
Moreover, the child’s voice should be heard. Significantly, there are people who have been conceived by rape and are now speaking out on behalf of those who cannot.
Enter anti-abortion activist and attorney Rebecca Kiessling and company—people conceived via rape. Kiessling asks: “Have you ever considered how really insulting it is to say to someone, ‘I think your mother should have been able to abort you.’? It’s like saying, ‘If I had my way, you’d be dead right now.’” The child’s voice should be considered—so we should listen to those persons who were conceived via rape.
Rape justifies abortion? Perhaps. But perhaps not.
Yes, rape is wrong, definitely, for sure, 100 percent. Yet there are also very good reasons for thinking rape shouldn’t justify abortion. Those reasons should be considered, not ignored.
Of course, Canadians of goodwill might disagree about abortion in the case of rape, even after considering the above reasons. Nevertheless, one thing is certain and, I believe, can be agreed to by all Canadians: It is certain that rape doesn’t justify the general practice of abortion—not by a long shot.
Again, of the total abortion practice in North America, abortions for rape account for a small percentage only. Again, as Camosy points out, rape accounts for about 1 percent of all abortions. To appeal to the tiny percentage of hard cases to justify the remaining 99 percent is a mistake.
So, wrapping up, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not “school” the young man who isn’t on board with Trudeau’s abortion program. From the point of view of careful reasoning and evidence, Trudeau’s justification of abortion-choice is weak—and should be an embarrassment to thinking Canadians.
Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor who lives in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada. Hendrik is author of the book Untangling.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at mercatornet.com/doesnt-justin-trudeau-ever-tire-of-recycling-cliches-about-abortion/83948.