Compassionate conservatism

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Just as most liberals fancy themselves as more idealistic and compassionate than conservatives, so most Canadians fondly suppose that Canada is morally superior to the United States. Yet as recent political events on both sides of the border confirm, neither assumption is true.

Consider, first, the fate of Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. This private-members’ bill introduced by Conservative MP Ken Epp would make it a criminal offence for a person to kill a child before birth during a criminal attack on the mother. Such laws are commonplace in the United States, but under existing Canadian law, a person who deliberately kills a child in the womb by kicking, punching, stabbing or shooting the mother can only be charged with murdering or assaulting the mother.

Epp’s Bill specifically states that his Unborn Victims of Crime Act would not apply to “conduct relating to the lawful termination of the pregnancy of the mother of the child to which the mother has consented.” Nonetheless, most liberals and socialists have joined with the so-called Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada in opposing the bill. In the words of New Democrat MP Alexa McDonough, these critics fear that the legislation “could become a thin edge of the wedge in the direction of recriminalizing abortion.”

To make matters worse, Conservative Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has acceded to these concerns. Last week, he proceeded, in effect, to kill Epp’s bill, by announcing plans for an alternative government bill listing pregnancy as an aggravating factor in the commission of an assault on an expectant mother. In explaining the point of this initiative, Nicholson said: “Let me be clear, our government will not reopen the debate on abortion.”

Here we see the implacable resolve of the leading Conservatives as well the great majority of Liberals and New Democrats: That Canada shall retain the ignominious distinction among the world’s democracies of having no law to protect the right to life of children in the womb.

Barack Obama, the Democrat with the most liberal record in the United States Senate, is no less callous. While serving in the Illinois legislature, he voted against a bill passed by the majority that banned horrific partial-birth abortions. He also voted against a bill that mandated physicians to provide medical care for living, breathing babies who survive a botched abortion.

In contrast, Republican Senator John McCain supported the enactment of both kinds of life-saving legislation on the federal level. And he has solemnly pledged: “As President of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies.”

In a recent radio address, McCain decried Obama’s “extreme advocacy in favour of partial birth abortion and his refusal to provide medical care for babies surviving abortion” as a matter that “should be of grave concern to reasonable people of goodwill on both sides of this issue.”

McCain added: “There is a growing consensus in America that we need to overcome narrow partisanship on this issue for both women in need and the unborn. We need more of the compassion and moral idealism that my opponent’s own party, at its best, once stood for.”

Quite so. But what about Canada? Is there a growing consensus among Canadians about the urgent need to revive the compassion and moral idealism vital to protecting both women in need and the unborn?

Evidently not. It seems that most Canadians, like most of our politicians, have no compunction about abandoning women struggling with a difficult pregnancy to the guilt and pain of abortion. And none of our major party leaders shows any disposition to safeguard the lives of even healthy and viable babies either shortly before or after birth.

Our ancestors, both Liberals and Conservatives, would be appalled by such moral indifference. They understood the truth that we all have a moral obligation to help and defend even the last and the least and the most vulnerable of our fellow human beings—including babies in the womb.

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