Human rights, real and fundamental human rights, are facing an unprecedented assault in this country by an organization which, at least in name, is intended to protect them. I am referring, of course, to the notorious Human Rights Commissions at both the provincial and federal levels. These ineffably infallible institutions are now recommending that doctors be forced to provide abortions, regardless of their religious beliefs, and in violation of charter rights to a freedom of conscience.
On Sept.1, the Ontario Human Rights Commission issued ‘guidance’ to the Ontario College of Surgeons and Physicians on it’s compliance with the Human Rights Code of Canada. Specifically, they noted that “doctors, as providers of services that are not religious in nature, must essentially ‘check their personal views at the door’ in providing medical care”. Reading further we find that, should the policy be applied, doctors who refused to perform abortions, or prescribe so-called ‘morning after pills’, would be stripped of their ability to practice medicine in the province. They would no longer be able to object on moral grounds as “‘moral beliefs,’ per se, are not protected by the Code”. Unfortunately, the OCSP appears prepared to comply.
To be perfectly blunt, this is an appalling turn of events. Regardless of one’s personal views on the preternaturally controversial issue of abortion, it is undeniable that a significant population finds the practice to be morally abhorrent. One must ask if it is not reasonable to allow Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Evangelical Christians, and devout Muslims, the right to conscientiously object to the performance of an act which they equate to murder. A reasonable person would say it is. However, the fourteen members of the OHRC are clearly not reasonable people.
This is not surprising as those in left-wing circles often do not grasp the stakes involved in the abortion issue for pro-life individuals. Much of the abortion debate currently centers on the point, in terms of biological development, at which a fetus becomes a person and qualifies for legal protection of his or her right to live. Critics argue over whether brainwave activity or a child’s capacity to survive unassisted outside the womb is the critical factor. But to a pro-lifer the conversation over this or that trimester is just so much horse trading by self interested politicians and agnostic scientists. They argue that since human rights are morally, rather than biologically derived, it does not make sense to use a biological definition of a person to ascribe them. Even if you’ve never taken a scalpel to a corpse in search of its freedom of speech you have to admit they have a good point.
According to this perspective every fetus, during every stage of pregnancy from conception to birth, is a human being with a genuine right to life. For pro-lifers, forcing an Ontario doctor to perform abortions against his religious convictions is the moral equivalent of forcing a Bavarian doctor to euthanize Jews. Now, comparisons to Nazi Germany are often over-wrought, but in this case I believe it bears mention as pro-lifers generally do view legalized abortion as akin to the Holocaust.
Now, you may not agree with the prohibition of abortion. In fact, if you’re attending Concordia it’s highly likely you describe yourself as pro-choice. But, what we are currently facing is not a legal challenge to abortion rights. On the contrary, the status of abortion in Canada is enshrined for the foreseeable political future. Rather, the OHRC has thrown down the gauntlet over a doctor’s right to conscientious objection. Freedom of conscience is as essential in a democracy as freedom of speech or political assembly. We cannot allow our rights to be stolen from us by hook or by crook; or even whittled away from those with whom we might disagree.
I am reminded of this famous poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Trade Unionists.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Catholic.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one left to speak up.
If we don’t speak up now for pro-life doctors and surgeons, if we fail to halt the over reach of this unaccountable bureaucracy, we may one day live to regret our moment of inaction.