The basis for this post was an article I wrote for an “Opinion Shaper” column in Durham Region’s “This Week” newspapers in 2001, but in light of the Private Member’s Bill seeking to discover when human life begins I revised it here.
People in our society do not like rules and restrictions placed upon them, especially in matters that involve “personal choice.” On talk radio I have heard numerous callers state their ethic something like this: “People can do whatever they want as long as they are not hurting anyone.” Now, what is wrong with this moral code? It sounds civilized and enlightened.
My main objection is that to justify doing “whatever you want,” humans are very good at simply redefining “anyone” and “hurt.” In the past, entire categories of humans were denied the status of “somebody” and became victims of great harm. But today every “anyone” has rights, and there are human rights watchdogs and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms to guarantee them, aren’t there? Not quite. The very youngest members of the human race are not regarded as somebodies if it is more convenient for them not to be, despite the testimony of the ultrasound.
How do we redefine “hurt”? When we are striving to please ourselves, it is easy to minimize any negative effect our actions could or do have on others. When the “others” in question are not “somebodies,” we take no notice when embryologists announce that pain can be felt at 12 weeks gestation. Most newscasts do not carry the discovery that for a period of time beginning at 12 weeks, the fetus’ natural pain-reduction system of endorphins and other hormones is not yet in place. A pre-born baby at this stage feels more pain than any of us can imagine when it is violently dismembered or poisoned to death.
The leading cause of death in Canada today (2005 statistics from www.phac-aspc.gc.ca) is not due to disease or accident. The vast majority of victims are perfectly healthy. Abortion killed 96,815 in 2005, with circulatory diseases coming in second at 71,749 deaths in the same period. We are not used to cause-of-death statistics being reported in this way. Why?
If statistics Canada called abortion a death rather than something therapeutic, Canadians would have to admit somebody was hurt as they did whatever they wanted. And then we would discern that because our enlightened moral code does not protect everybody, it doesn’t work for anybody.