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Canadian Pro-Lifers Take a Page From Tea Party's Book

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Taking a page out of the U.S. Tea Party's book and a cue from Ontario Conservative premier-wannabe Tim Hudak, a Canadian "pro-life" group is trying to rally public support around defunding abortion services.

The Campaign Life Coalition is planning a rally on Oct. 22 at Queen's Park to "make defunding abortion an issue in the newly elected provincial government," according to Campaign Life Youth Coordinator Alissa Golob, who's organizing the rally.

The prospect of that government being a Hudak government certainly can't hurt, since Hudak "may have" signed a petition calling for abortion defunding.

As for the argument behind her push, Golob is alleging abortions cost Ontario taxpayers $30 million per year, though even "pro-life" websites like The Interim acknowledge that's just an estimate, as no provincial or federal health ministries release abortion-related medical costs. The Interim also cites a 2011 Abacus poll that found slightly more Canadians (45%) supported public funding of abortion than those who did not (42%).

But the fact that the public narrowly supports public funding isn't why I'd argue against Golob. After all, Canadians' basic rights shouldn't be subject to a vote of the electorate, regardless.

What's relevant here is that we have a public health care system in Canada, one that is supposed to cover all necessary medical procedures, including abortion. The system wouldn't work if we started excluding relatively cheap, relatively safe, medically necessary procedures simply because a portion of the population had a moral objection. Health coverage under the Canada Health Act has to be decided by doctors and governments making decisions based on logic and medical evidence, not politics.

Canadian law also has a thing or two to say on the issue. Though the 1988 Morgentaler decision didn't specifically address women's right to funded abortion, it struck down an abortion ban for infringing on women's Charter rights to "bodily security, liberty, and conscience." Public health care abortion funding could not be cut without hurting at least some women's access to the procedure. It's clear the most marginalized women would be the ones to suffer.

In 1991 when the Saskatchewan Conservative government held a referendum that won popular support attempting to defund abortion, the government lost the next election. Lawyers brought in to study the referendum results believed a defunding law would not survive a Charter challenge as it would discriminate on the basis of sex.

One of the most insulting aspects of this Campaign Life push to defund abortion is the idea that Canadians are too stupid to figure out that abortion is far cheaper for our health care system than forcing women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. American figures show about a 1:4 cost difference. The costs to the medical system could be even higher if we say to some women who cannot afford the procedure that they must choose between continuing to carry an unwanted fetus or having to obtain an un-funded, potentially sub-standard abortion.

Just like we can and should carry the medical costs of women who choose to become mothers, so too we can and should cover a full range of women's reproductive health choices, including the choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

I have little doubt that Campaign Life is trying to use this defunding effort like the Tea Partiers did to Planned Parenthood: as an attempt to drive a wedge between moderates and open the door to a full abortion ban. At least groups like Kelowna, B.C. 's Right to Life Society don't focus on a financial pretense when they're promoting the city-sanctioned "Protect Human Life Week" happening later this month.

If they want to pretend this is about money, anti-abortion activists are insulting your intelligence because they know they can't get you if they talk about equality and rights.

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