Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Philosophical Dilemma of "Pro-Choice"

"Pro-choice" movement decries doctor's right to choose

While the topic of abortion has proven to be a matter of intense interest for a great many Canadians, the topic of the rhetoric surrounding the debate can prove much more interesting still.

The people most emotionally invested in the issue have divided themselves up into opposing camps, calling themselves "pro-choice" (those favouring legalized abortion) and "pro-life" (those who oppose it). Conversely, each lables their opponents as "anti-choice" or "anti-life".

Each label is designed to give its camp a rhetorical advantage. The "pro-choice" movement insists that what they are really is in favour of is freedom, and their opponents reject it. The "pro-life" movement insists that what they are really in favour of the preservation of human life, and that their opponents are inhuman nihilists.

Each label is, in its own small way, a canard.

For example, the "pro-choice" movement isn't always fully in favour of choice and freedom. While they favour women's freedom to seek an abortion and the ability to legally receive one, they don't always necessarily favour freedom on this topic. For example, they tend, oddly enough, to not favour doctors having the right to choose whether or not they'll administer abortions, or whether or not they'll administer any particular abortion.

In the city of Saskatoon, in particular, many doctors have placed a 12-week limit on abortions, after which most doctors will decline to perform the procedure.

Naturally, some members of the "pro-choice" movement don't like that.

"I speak to women on a weekly basis who pass the cut-off and have to go out of the city," explained Evelyn Reisner, the executive director of Saskatoon's Sexual Health Centre.

"It can be quite a problem for low-income women," Reisner continued. "The reality of the situation is that it becomes a scramble. If a women needs an abortion, she'll make it happen ... often in an unsafe or illegal manner."

And while many members of the "pro-choice" movement refuse to support the notion that a doctor should have their right to choose protected. Moreover, they've often suggested actions -- such as entrenching the "right" to an abortion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- that would make protecting a doctor's right to choose not to perform an abortion they consider to be unethical, or otherwise objectionable.

Fortunately, not all members of the "pro-choice" lobby are so resistant to other people's right to choose. For her own part, Evelyn Reisner seems to believe that the solution to the effect of these 12-week limits on abortion is for more doctors to choose to extend it.

"More pro-choice doctors need to consider making [abortion services] a part of their practice," Reisner suggested.

Which would seemingly make Reisner something of a rarity -- an actual, honest-to-God, pro-choice activist -- as opposed to those who would selfishly strip doctors of their right to choice, who could be described as pro-abortion at best.


  1. Fortunately, not all members of the "pro-choice" lobby are so resistant to other people's right to choose.

    Namely Henry Morgentaler. He's spoken out in favour of leaving doctors the right to choose. He himself wouldn't do abortions past 16 weeeks. And yet he's a hero, so they say.

  2. No one's obligated to like everything or anything that Morgentaler has done. But I respect him for that particular ethical stand.


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