One sign that a country is in trouble is when the top court's opinion is deemed controversial.
Canada doesn't have to worry about that, not because its Supreme Court is so respected, but because of how little Canadians know about its rulings, in particular that our highest court believes abortion should be restricted.
It was only a few months ago when many MPs, of all stripes, attacked Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's motion that sought to study when life begins, either pretending or genuinely not knowing their nation's Supreme Court had asked for the government to do the very same thing 25 years earlier.
It was the 1988 Supreme Court case of R v Morgentaler that made abortion legal and freely available to every woman in the country. However most Canadians, including many reporters, politicians, and interest groups who sensationalized Woodworth's motion, apparently didn't know that the court also called for abortion to be restricted in the later stages of pregnancy. The court also stipulated that Parliament should study and draft legislation on when life begins.
From the Supreme Court ruling:
"Accordingly, the foetus should be viewed in differential and developmental terms. This view of the foetus supports a permissive approach to abortion in the early stages where the woman's autonomy would be absolute and a restrictive approach in the later stages where the states's interest in protecting the foetus would justify its prescribing conditions. The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state's interest in its protection becomes "compelling" should be left to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive submissions on the subject from all the relevant disciplines."Now of course there's more than one sign a nation is in trouble, popular disagreement with it's Supreme Court is one, and certainly incredible ignorance of the law is another, but perhaps the most distressing is a third, and that's the sign of increasing public polarization.
For years the abortion debate has become defined around either being pro-choice or pro-life, but such a dichotomy wrongfully frames the issue. Canada's highest court pointed this out over two decades ago:
"Both traditional approaches to abortion, the so‑called "liberal" and "conservative" approaches, fail to take account of the essentially developmental nature of the gestation process. A developmental view of the foetus, on the other hand, supports a permissive approach to abortion in the early stages of pregnancy and a restrictive approach in the later stages."Despite the court's decision however polarization on the issue is only getting worse; being right is becoming increasingly seen as being either liberal or conservative, pro-choice or pro-life. If only Canadians stopped ignoring the Supreme Court they would find the only thing controversial is not the judges' opinions, but their own.