05/30/2014 06:30 EDT | Updated 07/30/2014 05:59 EDT

Trudeau's Stance on Abortion Was About Freedom


Last week, Justin Trudeau declared he stands squarely with a woman's right to decide what's in her best interests. He has unambiguously made tangible the predominant consensus within the Liberal Party of Canada that a woman has the right to access abortion services if she so chooses.

This position is in the very best tradition of sound evidence-based public policy. And as problematic as this may be for some, particularly those with strong religious dogmas, it affirms a central convention of Canadian democracy: The separation of individual religious conviction with the broader public interest.

When it comes right down to it, the core value that Mr. Trudeau is defending is nothing less than freedom itself. His position that would-be Liberal candidates should support -- always -- a woman's right to make decisions about her body and life, is sensible and consistent.

Freedom is fragile and as we all know it can be taken away easily. Staying diligent in its defense is tough work, especially for political leaders whose private views may sometimes conflict with their responsibilities as representatives of their electors, not just the ones who happen to agree with you. As Philip Petit, a Princeton University philosopher, wrote in his book "Just Freedom: A Moral Compass For a Complex World", "To be truly free is not just the absence of interference, but the absence of domination: that is, the absence of subjection to the will of others."

A woman's freedom should not come by the grace, favour or "conscience" of any man. A woman should never again be indebted to a man -- or to the Parliament of Canada, largely made up of men -- by virtue of his legal, political, or economic power. A woman's status as a free person -- free to decide for herself what is best for her -- should never be a right "given" to her though the composition of the House of Commons, luck, stars aligning, or the prevailing political mood of the day. It's hers. Period. And no one else's.

Mr. Trudeau's statement seemed to create a shockwave within the political and pundit class. It caught off guard those sanctimonious souls (men, of course) that believe their religious beliefs somehow give them some divine dispensation to pronounce on the question of who is in control of a woman's body and destiny: Parliament or her?

The political and pundit class are in an uproar over Mr. Trudeau's position. Within our party, some Catholics (overwhelmingly men, of course) take exception to his decision to disallow candidates who would stand between their personal and religious beliefs and a woman's right to make decisions about her own body.

I happen to be one Catholic, and by definition, a confessed sinner. I strongly support Mr. Trudeau's decision and his resolute determination to defend and protect the freedom of women to make their own decisions. And as a Catholic, I reflect on John 8:7 in the New Testament, when Jesus delivers the adulterous woman."He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

I suggest that others of the "Bozo Eruption" club do the same.

Margaret Sanger, once said: "No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body." As a man, as a practicing Catholic, and as a proud father to an incredible teenage daughter, I couldn't agree more. My daughter was brought up to know that, to believe it, and to act accordingly.

Rather than, as some political careerists suggest, "let sleeping dogs lie", Mr. Trudeau broke yet another taboo -- he actually told people what he thinks, clearly and concisely, with no room for misinterpretation.

This wasn't focus-grouped; it was Justin Trudeau being what he was paid to be -- a leader of a national party that stands for some things that it views important and fundamental. I am proud of him for that.

Those who aspire to the highest office in the land must, as a sacred matter of duty and responsibility, shape and conduct public policy in the broad public interest. Reproductive rights and a woman's freedom to choose is not a matter of conscience for anyone except a woman's. It is she who must make this wrenching, life-altering decision about whether to terminate a pregnancy. The conscience of any member of parliament has no place -- and absolutely no relevance -- in this decision-making process. It is the woman, and the woman alone, where the responsibility and choice rests. No one else.

That is what Justin Trudeau stands for. Most Liberals stand for exactly the same thing. It is therefore entirely reasonable -- and unapologetically mandatory -- that those who declare their intention to stand for Parliament under our party banner also stand firmly with the leader on a matter of the highest public policy importance - freedom. If they cannot or don't want to, there are other places for them to go.


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