by Susan Martinuk.  February 21, 2013
In June 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska state law that banned partial-birth abortions. The procedure, medically known as dilation and extraction, is performed late in gestation (typically in the third trimester) and involves dilating the cervix, then pulling the baby down the birth canal in a breech position until only the head remains in the mother.

The doctor then creates an opening in the base of the skull and inserts a suction catheter that essentially sucks out the baby’s brain, allowing the head to collapse and the dead baby to pass through the cervix, into our loving, humane world where, if anyone were to do such a thing to an animal, they would likely be in jail.

As a weekly columnist for a Vancouver newspaper, I wrote an op-ed piece on that court decision. But it was never published. My editor felt the issue was too inflammatory (which is usually what editors want) and she just couldn’t bring herself to put such graphic details on her pages. In my mind, that action clearly showed the timidity and lack of maturity that has characterized the attitudes of many Canadians who simply can’t fathom a public debate on abortion.

Fast-forward a dozen years to now, and an investigative journalist (who took the time to piece together difficult-to-access, late-term abortion numbers from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information) has determined that from 2000 to 2009, there were 491 failed late-term abortions (past 20 weeks gestation) that resulted in live births. Once born, these babies are recognized as human beings in Canadian law and are due the rights and protections of all Canadians.

As we all know, Canada does not have a law against abortion. But Section 223(2) of the Criminal Code states that it is a homicide if someone “causes injury to a child before or during its birth” which results in its death “after becoming a human being.”

Publication of these statistics prompted three Conservative MPs (Maurice Vellacott, Leon Benoit and Wladyslaw Lizon) to write to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to request an investigation into whether any of these deaths may constitute homicide.

To my knowledge, the commissioner has not yet replied to this request and it probably wouldn’t be totally surprising if he never does. After all, most politicians have no desire to create abortion laws and, similarly, few Canadians seem able or willing to debate this polarizing issue. If everyone wants the bloody mess swept under the carpet, the commissioner is probably more than willing to oblige.

But there seems to have been a small shift of the wind in the public square. These events have now sparked a serious discussion in the National Post and on the web. It seems that both ordinary Canadians and intellectual elites have mutually discovered something about abortion that is so distasteful and inhumane that they must speak out.

Not all of the discussion has been helpful or even fact-based, but a national conversation of any sort must be viewed as progress in terms of a new willingness to have an adult discussion.

Over the past few years, various Angus Reid polls have shown that vast numbers of Canadians have no idea what kind of restrictions or laws govern abortion in their country. Just this month, a poll revealed that most Canadians don’t even know that late-term abortions occur — 58 per cent of Canadians mistakenly believe that abortion is restricted to the first trimester. In 2010, a poll found that only 20 per cent knew there are no legal limits on abortion. That means 80 per cent had no idea what Canada’s abortion policies are; and that same ignorant majority was shown to be 92 per cent in a 2009 poll.

In December, the National Post used CIHI data (that excludes Quebec stats), to estimate that 1.9 per cent of Canadian pregnancies are terminated after 21 weeks. (This is a key time frame, as the Canadian Medical Association’s policy on induced abortion states that “extra-uterine viability may be possible if the fetus weighs over 500 grams or is past 20 weeks’ gestation.”) Of the 93,755 abortions done (and reported, with the exception of Quebec) in 2009, 1,781 were past 21 weeks.

That’s not exactly rare. The Criminal Code demands that we investigate some late-term abortions that failed, but basic human dignity should compel us to eliminate them.

Source:  Calgary Herald