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No.

11 30 se p 2012

t h e s h o c k i n g s t ory OF HOW CA NA DA'S Minister f or Status of Wo m e n

GAV E “ A s la p i n t h e fac e t o t h e wom e n of Ca na da , " SHOW ED “ p r o f o u n d d i s r e s p e c t f o r w o m e n , " & “ thr ew

wom e n u n der the bus " D I D N O S U C H T H I N G W H AT E V E R ! ( I T ' S S H O C K I N G E I T H E R WAY ) or

Z

D

EAR r eader: Motion 312 has come and gone. Defeated 203 nays to 9 1 y eas on the 27th of this month. Time at last to unwind and relax. - Ha! That was proved false before the sun rose the next day. This Motion is by no means dead; there is life in it yet, for now we are seeing it used as a l it m u s t e st o f a p erson 's commitment to w o m e n 's r i g hts . For a brief moment it seemed time to move on - but, no: now the witch hunt. Yes, this motion was so black that those who stood up for it are marked. It is not enough to have defeated the Motion. Not enough that the Motion was successfully painted black ( as a repudiation of progress, as an “abortion Motion " eager to take us back to the past) , and then sunk on that basis. No, now we must soul search; now we must face that there are M P s among us who are - how shall we put this - against progress. ( In Canada we do not employ the label ‘unCanadian': that's the American play-book. In Canada we imply.) That the Motion wa s no t one that “sought

to bestow legal personhood on fetuses in order to recriminalize abortion ," this paper has ably shown, I believe, in a most unbiased way. [ but don ' t listen to me , judge f or yourself : those w ho ar e w illing , sEE Issu eS 9 & 10 ]. It wa s no t , but people believed it wa s . And now we must realize that a horrible Motion has horrible supporters. Take the “shocking " behaviour of the Honourable Ms . R o na am b r o s e , Minister for Status of Women.

“A slap in the face t o t h e w o men of Canada "

O

n the very night of the vote the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada ( A R C C ) issued a press release titled “Rona Ambrose Must Resign " - subtitle, “Minister for Status of Women Voted for Motion 312 , and Against Women ’s Rights ." What J O Y C E A R T H U R , Executive Director of the A R C C , there called a show of “profound disresepct for women " was that Ms . am b r o s e voted for Motion 312 while occupying the post of the Minister entrusted with protecting women's rights. The very rights she is obviously against, we are told! Wrote Ms . A R T H U R , “Her job is to advance the rights and interests of women ,

so her Yes vote on the motion was a shocking failure and a slap in the face to the women of Canada . She ’s proven herself to be unfit for the job and must resign immediately ."

Instantly, at lightning speed, the Minister was made the object of a campaign calling for her resignation. So let us ask the question of the

Z

hour: is support for motioN 312 A vote against wo m en ' s R i g hts & a b et r aya l o f w o m e n É ? “unfit for the job " because...? Here are ‘4' answers.

1 a vote for the motion was a vote against abortion right s

m

otion 312 was not about abortion - did not contain the word ‘abortion'. Abortion rights could be lost, by passing the Motion, only if passing the Motion would lead to the criminalization of abortion or some other such restriction. So a vote for the motion was a vote against abortion rights only if ...

2 the motion sought to crimina liz e a bortion ," said M “l “etthe's beanticlear-choice movement

s . arthur ,

hoped this motion would be their ticket to recriminalizing abortion ." ( Many of the M P s who opposed the Motion paid good money and bought that claim, and then proudly unveiled their purchase as a reason for voting No.) But, if passing this Motion ( and, as a result, hearing evidence as to whether and how we have human beings in the womb) could lead to another outcome than criminalization, then wouldn't it seem that they bought junk and t h e y a r e w rong . If passing this Motion could lead to another outcome than criminalization then this claim is fa l s e and its charge hollow.

It could lead to another outcome. It could lead to no outcome, other than to learn that science has no answer to the question “what is a fetus ?" ( As we were told, repeatedly, by people such as Ms . arthur , “There will never be a consensus on what the fetus is , because this question is inherently subjective and unscientific .") That is not “recriminalizing abortion ." It could lead to the outcome that at all points during gestation we have nothing more than human matter, like skin ( “a blob of cells that is part of a woman ," as was argued repeatedly throughout the debate on M-312) . We agree, I think, that tissue would not be granted legal personhood and human rights. That is not “recriminalizing abortion ." It could lead to the outcome that at a certain point during gestation ( but not before) we truly do have, we agree, an individual human being no different from a baby but for its presence in the womb. At that point, we would now be in agreement that we have two human beings. But that could not spell

a ban on abortion for the reason that ( as we were reminded repeatedly by Ms . arthur herself) , “women ’s rights cannot be arbitrarily removed or even ‘balanced ' with fetal rights . It is impossible for

two beings in the same body to exercise competing rights in any meaningful or just way .") Or ( I quote the Hon. H E D Y F R Y ) , “We have seen over and over [ how ] the Supreme Court " has ruled on this very competition of rights, by affirming that to compel “a woman , by threat of criminal sanction , to carry a fetus to term ... is a breach of the woman 's rights to security of the person ." That outcome is not “recriminalizing abortion ." And it could lead to the outcome that we would change our tune. I say, ‘Here's what you would have to show me, to get m e to think that that unborn creature is an individual human being like a born baby' - and then you s how i t : you show me by the very standards of evidence I acknowledge - and then I ( man of my word) now agree: ‘That unborn creature is as human as I was when I was born: it's an unborn child.' That's some kind of progress, because I never talked that way before. Should I cry foul?É Have I been hoodwinked, bamboozled, lured back to the bad old days? No. If we got to that point, in this country, it would simply “honour our commitment to honest laws to recognize a child 's worth and dignity as a human being before the moment of complete birth if " - please note the word ‘i f ' - “the evidence established that as fact ," just as Mr . W OO D W O R T H said this past week. That too is not “recriminalizing abortion ." Yes, I suppose there is no doubt that s om e p e op l e in the “the anti -choice movement hoped this motion would be their ticket to recriminalizing abortion ," but capable thinkers like Mr . W OO D W O R T H and Ms . A M B R OSE are not likely to be among them. The Motion did not seek to criminalize abortion, and neither did Ms . am b r o s e vote for a motion that threatened this. One does get the impression, however, that there are people in the pro-choice movement who ca n no t b e l i e v e that this charge ( no. 2, above) c ou l d e v e r a n d f or a n y r e a s on b e s how n fa l s e - the evidence of its falseness cannot penetrate them; they have a kind of force-field against it. - One hopes that we do not have such minds in government; the rebuttal above seems fairly easy to understand.

3 the minister's position is c ou n t e r t o t h a t o f canadian wom e n

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he A R C C press release notes that “the Canadian people overwhelmingly support women ’s rights and don ’t want to ban abortion ." Having equated v ot i n g f o r M - 3 1 2 with o p p os i n g w o m e n ’s r i g hts ( i.e., the opposite of “support -


[ ing ] women ’s rights " along with “the Canadian people ") , it makes good sense to go there. ( I would certainly run with this if I believed it. The Status of Women Minister against women's rights? I can't breathe! - But I, who am not very smart, am too smart to believe that a v ot e f o r M - 3 1 2 is an attack on women ’s r i g hts via an a bortion ban . So, actually, I can breathe.) But the abortion-ban line is really the whole cavalry. Take it away and how does the Minister's position look, relative to women of Canada? Are Canadian women against placing any restrictions on abortion? No. Most are not in favour of late-term abortions done for lessthan-emergency reasons. Over ninety percent of Canadians are strongly against sex-selection abortion (2011 Environics poll). Ms . A M B R OSE voted to see if these abortions kill human beings. Are Canadian women in favour of discussing the issue of whether ( and in what sense) , before birth, we have actual human beings? We have no reason to think that the answer is No. Organizations like the A R C C like to suppose that their view is the common view, so that anyone who departs from their view is betraying the whole country, but where's the evidence for that? As A ndr e w c o yn e noted, Ms . A M B R OSE is “the Minister for Status of Women , not the Minister for Enforcing Feminist Orthodoxy ." It seems quite reasonable to think that the majority of Canadians are at neither end of the spectrum: they are not abortionrights activists and they are not abortion-ban activists. In which case Ms . A M B R OSE 's vote - which was, recall, a vote for looking into what is factual ( which is, by definition of the word ‘fac t ', what the average intelligent person will have good reason to support) ... her vote very well serves the interests of most Canadian women. - And finally, ...

sounds bad - but that is just another way of putting the argument we have already picked over ( women need abortions, banning abortions is not in their interest, the Motion would ban abortions ) . Let's just repeat this again and again, say the Minister's opponents, and waste no time wondering whether recognizing unborn females as human beings ( as the Motion was indeed equipped to do) might be in the interest of women.

DDD Speaking of the “retrogressive policies " that the Motion was said to advance ( Mr . P A C E T T I ) , might I ask a question on the issue of progr ess ?

ARE YO U moderN?

I

think you are. The 60s happened and you know it. The whole Modern Age

happened! We have made great strides! Good riddance to ... etc. Yes, good riddance to what, exactly? Ask people glad to be here in the Modern World what they are glad to be rid of and they will often say: i r r at iona l i t y , c om m i t m e n t s no t ba s e d on fac t s , b e l i e v i ng w h at you wa n t , “magical thinking ." “Science is factual , Religion is beliefs . Educate yourself !" “Why don't you grow some

QQQ

and just admit that your beliefs are just your beliefs ... not based on fact, but faith?" If you are Modern you want to say, Down with all of that - ESPECIALLY in the political sphere! If everybody is going to be bound by some decision of law, it had better be based on something more than personal commitment, likes and dislikes, private logic, because if it isn't - if it has no basis in r e a s on s or fac t s that citizens can be expected to see, because these facts are fac t s - then we have just gone back to the will of the powerful. And that ain't democracy . So it is quite ironic indeed , isn 't it ? I mean,

4 t h e minister voted t o r oll back pr ogre s s s [ the minister for ] the Status of Women , she clearly betrayed the women of this country by not standing up and ensuring that we don ’t let the clock be turned backwards ," said N D P Deputy Leader the Hon. li b b y da v i e s . We have heard again and again that “we should not be turning back the clock on women 's rights ; Instead , we should be making progress together for women " ( the Hon. ma s s im o p A C E T T I ) . Whereas this horrid Motion was against progress. The job of this Minister is to secure the gains of women against erosion, and voting as she did she showed contempt for progress. - Or so we are told.

“A

Again, by what means could Motion 312 undo progress and imperil women's rights? Not by answering the question that it asked but by criminalizing abortion - but, as we have said, an abortion ban is not at all a likely consequence of answering the Motion's question. ( As Mr . W OO D W O R T H often reminded people, “one thing that I have insisted that the committee not do is ... propose any options which are inconsistent with our Constitution or Supreme Court rulings . So , whatever the Supreme Court has ruled about women ’s rights ... is untouchable under the terms of my motion .") This Motion was a threat to established progress only in the minds of people who equated it w ith a ban o n a bo rt i o n . How does answering a question about the beginnings of life take away rights? Consider also this question: How was the Minister's vote for the Motion a “refusal to vote in the best interest of Canadian women " ( b e th ryan , organizer of the current petition against the Minister) ? If the Minister has balked at women's interests, that indeed

there you are, one day, M r . or M s . Mode r n just minding your own business, when along comes some doodlehead to ask, What is a human beingÉÉ? - And what do you do? ( Now, there are a lot of you who want right

away to know what this doodlebug is up to. But that's a separate question. One we could well pursue, it is true, but when we get back here won't that first question still be waiting for us?) When we get back to talking about belief s , about what you believ e about things, which would include things like h u m a n b e i ng s ( as in, What do you believ e a human being is? ) , then to take care of this, you've got the Modern way and that other way. But get this. Thinker, legal scholar, and general smart guy S T A N L E Y F I S H says: “Nowadays , it is pro -lifers who make the scientific

question of when the beginning of life occurs the key one in the abortion controversy , while pro -choicers want to transform the question into a ‘metaphysical ’ or ‘religious ’ one by distinguishing between mere biological life and ‘moral life ’.”

Sure, there is a point to be made in that m e dic i n e is applied science - but why would you turn to p h i l o s op h e r s for an answer? Why not scientists, embryologists, the people who actually study this natural life form? Why exclude these people? It would be good to ask, when did the question What is a human beingÉÉ? c e a s e t o b e on e that you could answer by pointing to scientifically detectable facts? Because not very long ago, in the Modern Age, this was a question that scientists answered. [ FO R MO R E O N THAT S E E I s s u e 2 ] ( f o r t h os e i nt e r e st e d ) a B r i e f as i d e to a n sw e r : When did w e start giv ing a Moder n r esponse to the qu estion w hen does a human being begin ? In 1800 the answer to this question

was still coming from the philosophers - that is, ancient philosophers like A r i st o t l e and T hom a s Aqu i na s . They believed (and what was their evidence?) that a human soul appeared at around 40 days, turning primitive life into human life. Then in 1827 K a r l E r n st von B a e r , the “father of modern embryology,” discovered that mammals produced eggs, changing the picture dramatically. It soon dawned on folks that a human being was created not by “ensoulment" but by the fusion of egg and sperm. In short order the law and the Church both began to follow the science (great strides and all that). Laws were passed against abortion and in 1869 P op e P i u s I X issued a decree rejecting the Aristotelianism of Aqu i na s , who had said that for the first eight weeks abortion was not the killing of a human being - but science had now showed that it was.

Scientists gave us the s c i e n t i f ic st ory ( a human being is created by the fusion of egg and sperm, which, as the 20th century made clear, involved genes ) , which became the sta n da r d st ory that people on the left and on the right are still ready to tell, in the Modern Period, about every other form of life,– and even human life when the stakes are different. When does Fluffy begin to exist, ready to unfold as the adorable fuzzball she is? The standard story is: w h e n t h e g e n e s as s e m b l e . When that happens, the individual is made. We say pretty much the same thing when sporting the Darwinian hat we so often wear these days: it ’s a l l a bo ut t h e g e n e s . How do we know that that tissue came from a human being? It has the human genome. How do we know that that being is an individual? You’ve watched C S I : by all the standard signifiers of individuality in our culture: unique fingerprints ( at 11 weeks) , genetic particularity ( acquired at fertilization) . It's all s c i e nc e . So Fish is quite right: “pro -life arguments are now based on scientific evidence , and the pro -choice arguments are not . That is a cultural , historical fact .” And it doesn't look like Fish is ready to d r o p s c i e n c e and go back to p h i los o p hy , so that he can uphold some previously arrived at view of rights. The rights of human beings at tac h t o h u m a n b e i ng s : they don't dic tat e w h at h u m a n b e i ng s a r e . “I am in favour ,” he says, “of affirmative action and gay and lesbian rights , but I do not support abortion rights .”

DDD

Ironic , isn 't it? In other words, what Modern

pro-choicers are saying is: beliefs about w h e n a h u m a n b e i ng b e g i n s - plus beliefs about w h at a h u m a n b e i ng i s (how do you know when an opera begins if you don't know what an opera is? ) - are not based on observable facts or features of these things. They are in the case of fish (‘All fish have gills,' etc.) but not, for Modern pro-choicers, in the case of humans. No, the beliefs you hold about w h e n a h u m a n b e i ng b e g i n s and w h at a h u m a n b e i ng i s are based on philosophical commitments. And so people say things like, “How does a medical school teach what is and isn 't ‘a human life '? It 's a medical school - essentially a glorified plumber -mechanic school - not a philosophy department ."

People are saying, “we do not want to go back ; we want to move forward ." OK, do it. Because it looks a little like we d i d g o bac k . It looks a little like we q u it s c i e n c e for p h i los o p hy . I didn't get this memo. Are people having second thoughts about Modern Progress? Sounds to me like o t h e r M P s - not Ms . A M B R OSE and Mr . W OO D W O R T H - are saying, ‘Here's a place where it doesn't matter what the facts say.' Correct me if I am wrong but didn't we say, “t h at a i n 't d e m o c r acy "? I think a lot of people are wrong about just who is returning us to the dark ages. I am, etc. 11

D i s s e n t i n g f u t i l i ta r i a n . b l o g s p ot. c a


Dissentingfutilitarian no. 11