Sunday, May 06, 2007

National Post's Honest Discussion on Abortion

There's a very encouraging article about the abortion debate in this Saturday's National Post. It's a feature article in the mainstream media that directly debunks the myth that there is any consensus in favour of abortion on demand. This excerpt shows that in reality only a third of Canadians support having no legal restrictions to abortion:

"Abortion is not on the agenda in Canada for the mainstream in Canada and has
not been for a very long time," said Darrell Bricker, president and chief operating officer of public affairs for Ipsos-Reid. But he says this sense that the majority do not want to reopen the issue is often incorrectly taken to mean that there is consensus on the issue in Canada.

"Is there consensus? No, the opinions are all over the map. And you'd be wrong to see this as a consensus in favour of abortion under any circumstances."

His organization has not done any specific polling on abortion since 2000. The issue has been raised in other surveys, such as the one in February, 2006, shortly before Stephen Harper became Prime Minister, to assess what issues might bring down the minority government.

In that survey, 50% of Canadians said they would not support bringing down the government if they tried to pass a law that limits a woman's access to abortion; but 45% said they would be in favour of bringing down the government on such an issue.

The polling done in 1988 and 2000 compares attitudes about when abortion should be permitted: only when a woman's life is in danger, only in certain circumstances, or whenever a woman wants one. It showed slight increases in support for abortion on demand (from 36% in 1988 to 41% in 2000) and for abortion in certain circumstances (39% to 41%) and a slight decrease in the percentage who support abortion only in the most extreme, life-saving circumstances (23% in 1988 and 17% in 2000.)

When Environics surveyed Canadians about their attitudes toward abortion last fall, they found that about a third each of Canadians supported the view on one end of the spectrum that human life should be legally protected from conception on and, on the other end, that it should be protected only from birth on. Another third think it should be protected prior to birth, but some months after conception.

According to the survey, conducted for the anti-abortion group LifeSite, 31% said protection should begin from conception on, 23% said after three months of pregnancy, and 10% said after six months of pregnancy; another 30% think human life should receive legal protection only from the point of birth.

What is most compelling about all of these numbers, and most surprising considering the way the abortion issue is typically framed in Canada, is that they are not at all conclusive. As Mr. Bricker says, "it's not like 100% are in favour of abortion on demand ? There are a lot of lines being drawn on this issue."

Hat's off to the National Post for having the courage to feature an honest discussion of what Canadians actually believe on a subject that's usually considered taboo in Canada!

No comments: