Sunday, April 01, 2012

Why The Abortion Debate Is Polarized



The abortion debate will be polarized no matter what, and if the politicians like Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth don't ensure that, the media will.

On March 14 Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth talked with reporters about his private members' motion asking for a public discussion on when life begins. Though his comparison between unborn persons and the civil rights movement is a stretch, Mr.Woodworth rationally presented a strong argument for the need of a public discussion surrounding abortion.

Mr.Woodworth's exchange with reporters is an example of how conflict and polarization is occasionally, if not more so, the result of the media and not from the standard-bearers of partisanship.

It is interesting to compare the calm and sensible tone of Stephen Woodworth, a partisan elected official, with the increasingly abrasive tone of the lead reporter in the scrum who is trying desparately to frame the story as pro-choice versus pro-life.

Perhaps no clearer example of this is when the MP admirably argues for an open non-partisan discussion with the purpose to inform Canadians, but the reporter retorts that Canadians can just use google if they want information and suggests the motion is a pretence for a hidden pro-life agenda.

While reporters should ask questions and hold politicians accountable, this reporter in repeatedly cutting the MP off, claiming he was avoiding the question, and using terms that only polarize debate, tried to turn a rare attempt at civil discourse into a headline designed only to sell newspapers. With this kind of reporting that attributes maleficent ulterior motives to calls for open discussions, it's no wonder why we have so few of them.

Politicians are often to blame when there's an abortion debate and not an abortion discussion, but in this case, where Mr.Woodworth could not have more clearly argued for a calm and orderly discussion on abortion, it was the media that sought to make it a debate.

Looking at the history of the abortion debate, when emotions are enflamed, no body wins, well except the media.

(At 3:58 in the video)

Lead Reporter: "If you want [Canadians] to be better informed they can google it, you must have a bigger goal than that."

Woodworth: "Well you can say that people will google things but I'm hoping parliamentary hearings where the evidence is open and able to be discussed and cross-examined upon, will be the best way-"
Lead Reporter: "-Okay....-I'm not sure why you're dancing around this, 'cause I know you're obviously pro-life right?"

Woodworth: "I am pro-life, I'm-"

Lead Reporter: "-Are you hoping this is part of your road for Canada to be more pro-life than it is?"

Woodworth: "I honestly don't mean to be dancing around it, what my goal is, what my election commitment, what my personal platform was is to promote a respective dialogue over such issues. So I don't intend to introduce my own views into it before the fact. I'm not going to stand up and say this is what I think should be done. What I want to do is have people look at the evidence and reach their own conclusions."

48 comments:

Alison said...

So your idea of a reporter is to take down verbatim the views of an MP without question. Why bother with reporters then? The MP's can just hand out a written spiel and have it parroted by the media. This Canadian wants to see the media pushing and prodding MP's when they put forward motions in Parliament that can affect the lives of women, and yes, men too.

The explanation of this MP may appear to be rational, but the reality is that it is a wedge issue and a sop to his base. The rest of the population doesn't care and doesn't want this issue reopened.

MigiziNse-ikwe said...

The reason the abortion debate that's upcoming will be polarized is because some people fundamentally believe that fetuses deserve full personhood rights, and the rest of us don't. These questions of Woodworth's have already been answered multiple times but our Supreme Court and it's a waste of taxpayer time and money to try and create a 'special comission' to hash it out again. Ontop of this, the CON government said specifically that the abortion debate in Canada would NOT be reopened, and yet here we sit in 2012 with a couple of guy MPs who are just so concerned over the status of fetuses that in all their questions the special commission might answer, they don't mention women once. Ludicrous.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Alison, yes, that's exactly my idea. I think reporters should be tape recorders with little old fashioned hat with press cards in the band.

Framing a motion to be about something it's not is not good reporting. Reporters have to ask questions, but they don't have to repeatedly try to create polarization when there isn't any.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

MigiziNse-ikwe, would you suggest a 30 week old fetus does not deserve any degree of personhood?

Medical experts all acknowledge fetuses obtain a high level of personhood in the third trimester.

In regards to your complaint about no women speaking on the subject, it hasn't been opened up yet to parliament, so I see that as premature.

Considering Mr.Woodworth is only asking for a public discussion in which no law currently exists, I don't see this as a waste.

JJ said...

Excuse me?
These are my extremely private, personal medical issues you're blithely going on about "debating".

The state has no business sticking its nose in womens' personal medical decisions. If you think some government bureaucrat is better suited to making these kinds of decisions than women and their doctors, you don't think much of women and doctors.

Anyong said...

So...can Canadian women who cannot afford to take care of another child leave it on this MP's doorstep? I'd like to know how many abortions were performed in Canada last year. I bet there were not very many.....huh!!

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Anyong,how is calling for a public non-polarized discussion on when life begins an action against abortion or a woman's choice?

fern hill said...

This MP is deliberately muddying the distinction between biological human and legal person. A common ploy in the insane abortion situation in the US.

A fetus is protected by protecting the woman's rights.

Joyce Arthur and Woodworth have the debate here.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Fern hill, I don't argue that this MP is pro-life, he says it in the video. Your comment is accurate except for the last point. Prior to being born, in the last trimester, a fetus should have some degree of individual protection as it is becoming a full person.

Seeing as there is no legislation on when life begins it would seem prudent to have a at least a preliminary discussion on the subject.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

A comment made by "JJ" which for some reason was not posted here but sent to my email by Blogger through comment notification:

"Excuse me?
These are my extremely private, personal medical issues you're blithely going on about "debating".

The state has no business sticking its nose in womens' personal medical decisions. If you think some government bureaucrat is better suited to making these kinds of decisions than women and their doctors, you don't think much of women and doctors."

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

JJ, the discussion on when life begins is a scientific and philosophical question with public policy implications. This discussion does not pertain to only one sex nor does one sex have domain over it.

ADHR said...

That's imbecilic, Scott, on two grounds. First, there's no scientific issue about "when life begins". Scientists don't recognize the question as making the slightest bit of sense. You've got a bunch of chemicals doing slightly different things at different times. Whether it's "life" is purely philosophical; saying otherwise is naked scientism.

Second, you're blithely ignoring the philosophical point that JJ is raising, namely that only one sex's autonomy is at stake here. Given that only one sex's -- indeed, one person's -- autonomy is at stake in any given case of pregnancy, how, exactly, is there any public policy issue to debate?

Give your head a shake, educate yourself, and then try again. This is quite pathetic.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

ADHR, besides being of high moral character, you are being pedantic. I am not a scientist so why would you take my words as if I was one?

Canada currently has no laws regarding a time when personhood begins other than birth; this is severely outdated and needs to be addressed.

I fail to see how an open public discussion places any person's autonomy at stake.

Beijing York said...

"Medical experts all acknowledge fetuses obtain a high level of personhood in the third trimester."

Really, Scott? Please name the names of so-called non-partisan medical experts who make that claim. "Personhood" is a dead giveaway of where such experts stand on reproductive choice. No credible doctor speaks of embryos or fetuses as having "personhood". It's not a biological term but a legal one.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Beijing York, as for naming non-partisan medical experts I'd point to the Canadian Medical Assocaition.

I wasn't quoting a doctor when I used the word "personhood". You can criticize my word choice, but I'm not interested in a pedantic argument with someone who only appears to be looking for one.

Feel free to offer an argument or attempt to refute the points I made.

JJ said...

"JJ, the discussion on when life begins is a scientific and philosophical question with public policy implications."

"Public policy"!? Are you sure you don't mean "PUBIC policy"?

My reproductive organs are not up for any pubic policymaking. Are yours?

CK said...

JJ, the discussion on when life begins is a scientific and philosophical question with public policy implications. This discussion does not pertain to only one sex nor does one sex have domain over it.

Gee, I wasn't aware men can get pregnant. Until they can, they shouldn't have any say over what a woman does with her own body. Period.

CK said...

Actually, I take part of that back. No one should have the right to tell a woman what she should do with her body.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

CK, please point to where I said or even implied men should be able to tell women what to do with their bodies?

Gordie_Canuk said...

Hi Scott...welcome to the abortion debate, I only just came across your piece just now.

This is such a tough issue, and I don't doubt that this Conservative MP's goal is the ultimae criminalization of all abortion procedures.

But even with that being said I (like you) have some isssue with a late term viable fetus/baby having absolutely no rights whatsoever...I've even read about some advocates for 'post birth abortion' given that if its legal just days or weeks before birth, why not immediately afterward.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/post/after-birth-abortion-can-they-be-serious/2012/03/03/gIQADgiOsR_blog.html

Frankly I look at Sweden as being a reasonable compromise. In that country a woman has complete and unfettered access to abortion up to 18 week for any reason whatsoever...it doesn't matter the reason its up to the individual woman to decide...and with that I have no issue whatsoever.

According to the info at hand procedures after that are routinely approved in cases where maternal or fetal health is an issue:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Sweden

Unfortunately our neighbours to the south aren't Swedes, instead we have a lot of socially backward neo-cons who want abortion banned altogether...the other extreme.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Gordie, I don't really see this as a debate. Though I respect the other opinions shared, there was little factual evidence to constitute an opposing side. The opposition that did exist was against a position I did not hold.

I agree with most of your points, I would support a position that is more amenable than Sweden however. That 18 week period could be extended to 20-23 weeks, where the viability of a fetus is now determined. I would also support abortions after that time if a group of doctors and other relevant professionals approved of it.

Scott in Montreal said...

Oh please. You're in way over your head on this one, TSR. Look at yourself: you've been completely powned by a Harper Conservative. Gross. You need to bathe with a strong scrubby, and reflect on Tremblay v. Daigle a moment.

JJ said...

Hi Scott
I'm posting this at the request of a commenter at my blog, who said he can't comment because he can't get into his blogger account.

"The state has no business sticking its nose in womens’ personal medical decisions. If you think some government bureaucrat is better suited to making these kinds of decisions than women and their doctors, you don’t think much of women and doctors."

So tell me, how do statements like this:

Prior to being born, in the last trimester, a fetus should have some degree of individual protection as it is becoming a full person.

not suggest that you believe some government bureaucrat is better suited to making these kinds of decisions than women and their doctors?

I guess you don’t think much of women and doctors.

posted by
A Friend South of the Border

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

JJ, that's a very conservative argument. Conservative because it is that ideology that traditionally does not trust government and it is that ideology that moves important decisions out of the realm of public action and oversight and into the shadows of church basements and angry mobs.

The fact is because there is no law on abortion bureaucrats in medical associations and hospital boards already determine when abortions are conducted. Let me repeat a fact that you and others neglect, the Canadian Medical Association already prohibits abortions based on the viability of a fetus.

deBeauxOs said...

Women currently have the legal right to decide if they will carry a pregnancy to term, or will end a pregnancy if the fetus is anencephalic, for example.

Physicians provide this medical intervention for their patients.

Please explain to me why you want the CONSERVATIVE government to take this right away from women, and to dictate to physicians how to ethically provide health care to their patients?

Antonia Z said...

"Framing a motion to be about something it's not is not good reporting. Reporters have to ask questions, but they don't have to repeatedly try to create polarization when there isn't any."


Seriously? You are blaming the polarization of this debate on a media scrum? Look at your comments thread. What did a corporate media journalist have to do with the polarization between yourself and those here who believe that women should have autonomy over their bodies, and have just as much freedom to live physically, economically and emotionally unencumbered as any man can.

That's called equality.

The first step towards that is reproductive rights.

I know because I am old enough to remember being rejected for jobs because the prospective employer would accuse me of being ready to bail for motherhood -- something which was never in the cards and never did happen.

You want polarized? Point a finger at those -- mostly white men -- who would like to turn back the clock.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

deBeauxOs please point to anywhere where I said I wanted the Conservatives to make abortions illegal? If you fail to find that I hope you seriously reflect on the irrationality of your sensationalism.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Antonia, there is no polarization between me and those who support abortion and womens' rights, there is only polarization between me and those who are ridiculously sensationalistic and don't bother to understand my position, which coincidentally is that of the Canadian Medical Association.

deBeauxOs said...

If the CON government starts legislating how, why and who can can terminate a pregnancy in the third trimester, this is effectively criminalizing abortion.

If you fail to understand that, I sincerely hope you reflect seriously on the male-centered perspective of your denial.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

deBeauxOs you changed the subject. You said I wanted the Conservatives to make abortion illegal, please point to where I said that. If you cannot find any such reference please reflect on your exaggerations and sensationalism.

deBeauxOs said...

This is my original comment:

"Women currently have the legal right to decide if they will carry a pregnancy to term, or will end a pregnancy if the fetus is anencephalic, for example.

Physicians provide this medical intervention for their patients.

Please explain to me why you want the CONSERVATIVE government to take this right away from women, and to dictate to physicians how to ethically provide health care to their patients?"


You did not answer my question, thescottross.

You changed the subject.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

deBeauxOs I clearly responded to your question which you exaggerated my position. I said, "please point to anywhere where I said I wanted the Conservatives to make abortions illegal? If you fail to find that I hope you seriously reflect on the irrationality of your sensationalism."

AGAIN, please point to one instance where I said I want the Conservatives to make abortion illegal. If you continue to argue in circles and not justify your statements this conversation is over.

deBeauxOs said...

thescottross, in light of the erosion of women's health rights and criminalization of abortion in the US, if you don't understand that the manner in which the majority CON government is framing the "debate" will make abortion incrementally illegal in all the ways it wants to make it, I can't make it any more clear for you.

Our daughters' lives are at stake here. If the CONs get their way, with the support of people like you, my daughter who is a health care provider will come under attack by religious zealots. If she gets pregnant and the fetus inside stops developing, she will have to carry its cadaver to its legal personhood term. By the time she and the hospital will have met the requirements set up by the CONs, this may have precipitated toxemia and septicimia.

This is not sensationalism, this is what is happening in the US.

What is sensationalism is the claim that women capriciously abort in the last weeks of their pregnancies and that their fetuses need to be protected from such evil. That is the principle upon this whole CONSERVATIVE witch-hunt for the control of women is based.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

deBeaux please stop changing the topic, doing it once could have been a mistake but your continual failure to provide evidence of your claim that I support the Conservatives in banning abortion shows just how irrational your position is, if your rants didn't already.

deBeauxOs said...

Interesting.

I believe that it is your position that is irrational, shortsighted, and that is influenced by religious fundamentalist propaganda.

I have given life and birth to my daughter, and I have stood at a prochoice rally, holding her and protecting her while antichoice zealots spit at me and accused me of being a "baby murderer".

That is not sensationalism, that is what the people you are aligning yourself with, do.

You are unable to understand that your support for a CON-framed debate on the legal personhood of the fetus will erode women's rights, allow the government to control women's pregnancies and criminalize abortions.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

I'll just repeat my comment until you answer.

DeBeauxOs please point to anywhere where I said I wanted the Conservatives to make abortions illegal? If you fail to find that I hope you seriously reflect on the irrationality of your sensationalism.

deBeauxOs said...

Good luck with that volunteer work as a mouthpiece for Lib-Con propaganda.

You have the Parrot part down pat: repeat, repeat, and repeat your illogical claims and attacks on whoever challenges your opinion.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

DeBeaux you made a claim against me and all I've asked is for you to justify it. You have ignored my question so I will say it again.

DeBeauxOs please point to anywhere where I said I wanted the Conservatives to make abortions illegal? If you fail to find that I hope you seriously reflect on the irrationality of your sensationalism.

Matt said...

I consider myself a pro-choice person for the most part and a progressive and I want to contribute some food for thought to this discussion. Here goes:

1. I believe that abortions should be legal at any point in a pregnancy if there are serious health concerns for the mother and/or the baby.

2. I believe that abortions should be limited to, in a healthy pregnancy, to the period before a vast majority of babies would survive outside the womb. If 70% of babies, for example, could survive after 25 weeks, then 25 weeks should be the cut off for abortions.

3. In connection to the last point, once a pregnancy is well into the third trimester, why can't a woman have a C-section or carry the birth until full term and then give it up for adoption? That way the kid can still have a life and the mother doesn't have to be responsible for it.

4. why would a woman need to wait till the third trimester to have an abortion? It doesn't take 20+ weeks for anyone to realize that they can't afford or care for a youngin' properly.

5. I will concede a couple of things: I know that this "conversation" the Conservatives want to have is probably the first step in an attempt to outlaw all abortions, so they shouldn't be trusted or taken at face value. I will also admit that women should have the final say about what happens to their body; however, it's selfish not to consider the wishes of the father and the baby when deciding to have/not have an abortion. It took 2 people to get pregnant and now there is a baby in the womb, so all 3 need to be involved in the decision.

Matt said...

I will also add that Rush Limbaugh-style questions that are meant to lead the target into a trap serve no positive purpose. One can ask hard-hitting but fair questions if they want to find out one's true motivations and opinions. Journalism needs to take a smarter, higher ground than the likes of Limbaugh, Fox News and Sun TV like to take.

deBeauxOs said...

Matt, you're not the only person who is resolutely pro-choice who wonders about this.

I appreciate your candour and your compassion.

The perception that women afflicted with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies "wait" too long to terminate them could be drawn from the US reality. that access in the first trimester is delayed or not easily available from health care providers and physicians.

In Canada, women living in PEI have to leave the province to find an abortion provider.

Nonetheless here are some facts that antichoice lobbyists rarely address. Even in pregnancies that are wanted, nurtured and well-monitored, medical crisis can and do occur in the third trimester.

When emergency caesarians are performed for immature fetus removed from the uterus, those that survive for months in highly medicalized artificial support systems for preterm neonates are often severely handicapped, a hardship that many loving parents are forced to bear with limited resources available, even in urban centres.

Those who believe that zygotes, embryos and fetus should be awarded legal personhood strategically propagate the lies that many abortions are done in the third trimester for frivolous or capricious reasons.

In fact, late-pregnancy abortions are gruelling and can be as life-endangering as the medical conditions that precipitate a miscarriage.

Balance the antichoice lies with the reality of terrified young teen girls who have been sexually assaulted by family members, who are hiding or perhaps unaware of their pregnancies, who try to self-abort. That is sadly a more common occurence, especially in the US these days.

Matt said...

deBeauxOs:

I see your points. I do believe that there always needs to be exceptions and provisions in a law to take into account sexual assault, shame, fear and the lack of availability of abortion clinics. There always needs to be room to take individual circumstances into account.

Interesting point about emergencies happening in the third trimester. I agree with you that abortion may be the better way, even that late, when an emergency springs up. Again, it's all about having room for unexpected situations that arise.

I think there can be rules for "healthy, normal pregnancies" that make it easy enough for the rules to be bent for "every other pregnancy".

deBeauxOs said...

There are rules now, that operate without the interference of a religious conservative government.

The health care system in Canada is not perfect in all ways, but it is a paragon of health care delivery when compared to the nightmare people experience in the US.

My concern is this: if the CONs make abortion illegal by declaring the fetus a legal person, physicians and other health care professionals won't intervene in life-threatening pregnancies because if they save a woman's life and the fetus does not survive the medical crisis, a criminal investigation will follow.

A third trimester medical intervention, whatever the reason, is complex and it requires the involvement of a number of health care professionals. This does not occur as a result of a patient's "whim".

The health care system does its own reviewing and policing of medical procedures.

It doesn't need CON politicians - most of them caught up in their own ethical conflicts of interest with regard to election fraud - meddling with its professional staff ethical standards.

Matt said...

I am starting to see the problem now. I agree thar its dangerous for women to declare a fetus a person. That also starts the ball down the slippery slope to making abortion illegal entirely. Women's rights need to be protected for sure and a religious based conservative government can't justify taking away the right to necessary abortions by saying it's their religious duty.

thescottross.blogspot.com said...

Matt there's only a slippery slope to uninformed people. The Canadian Medical Association only permits abortions in first 20 weeks and after that only in the most extreme conditions. The science in finding the viability of a fetus with extending degrees of personhood would seem reasonable.

At the very least since the Canadian governemt must include all facts, not just those from the CMA, abortion just like all healthcare should not be lawless and should have foundations in law.

I find it funny how initial commentators on this post said there should be no discussion on abortion, yet what are we having here?

deBeauxOs said...

"... there's only a slippery slope to uninformed people."

LOL! By that, do you mean CON MP Woodworth and his fundamentalist religious, fetus-lobby colleagues who will criminalize abortion if given the chance?

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this.

LOVE CHILD said...

Thank you for your post, I appreciate it.