If you've been following recent developments in the culture wars south of the border, you'll know that in some places in the U.S., if you want to have an abortion, you have to now jump through several proverbial hoops both invasive and bizarre. For instance, before the holiday weekend, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law stipulations that women can't get an abortion through a provision in the Healthcare Reform Law (Obamacare) when it goes into effect in 2014, and that they have on confer with a doctor one-on-one to prove that they're not being pressured into having an abortion by a friend or family member.
Believe it or not, this might not be the most draconian, anti-abortion measure taken in the last week in the United States. Over in our old friend Arizona, some language in a new bill would ban abortions for some women depending on how long they've been pregnant. The big deal? You ask. Well, according to the language in the bill, a woman might be considered pregnant even before she's pregnant. As quoted from the website RT:
Under Arizona’s H.B. 2036, the state would recognize the start of the unborn child’s life to be the first day of its mother’s last menstrual period. The legislation is being proposed so that lawmakers can outlaw abortions on fetuses past the age of 20-weeks, but the verbiage its authors use to construct a time cycle for the baby would mean that the start of the child's life could very well occur up to two weeks before the mother and father even ponder procreating.
Isn't this kind of crazy? Let's ask Arizona State Senator Steve Smith (R-Maricopa):
"I would like to listen to the 50 million-plus children that have been aborted and killed since Roe v. Wade,'' the senator says. "I would like to listen to what they think of this bill.''
Putting aside the ready for Daily Show quotability of Mr. Smith's comments, the "death by a thousand cuts" approach the American right is taking to peeling back abortion rights would typically cause pride in Canadian social liberalism to swell. But then something like the notion of introducing "conscience rights" laws in a Canadian province starts getting reported, and you're forced to wonder just how far off Canada might be from embracing regressive social policy.
I speak, of course, about recent discussions by another Smith, Danielle Smith, leader of Alberta's Wildrose Party, about bringing "conscience rights" to Alberta. That means that if you're a doctor that doesn't want to perform a medical procedure that goes against your religious or moral code, that's okay. If you're a pharmacist that doesn't want to hand out drugs that violate your religious or moral code, you don't have to. And if you're a marriage commissioner, a government representative that officiates civil marriage ceremonies, and you don't want to marry a same sex couple, you don't have to.
You'd think the notion of allowing something like this would conflict with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Celebrating 30 years!), but don't worry, Smith and the Wildrose have a solution. “We want to set up a separate division of the provincial court to deal with these exact kind of complaints, so that real courts and real lawyers with real rules of evidence would be able to decide them,” she said last week.
Laying aside the fact that there already are "real courts" and "real lawyers" that would hash this out, there's an even simpler solution that could be employed. If you don't want to do a medical procedure you don't want to do, like, say, abortion, maybe don't be an abortionist. As for the pharmacist that doesn't want to sell birth control, Plan B, or whatever drugs they object to on a moral basis, could you imagine if your local grocery store stopped selling certain fruits on the basis that if they can' be grown in Canada, then they shouldn't be sold in a Canadian store? So no more oranges, lemons, and assorted melons... Wouldn't this person be something of a laughing stock?
And let's not forget the rights of the consumer. The patient. The practitioner. In a province covered with small towns, how are people supposed to cope when their local amenities aren't so amiable anymore? Take them to Wildrose fake court? Who's going to pay for this? Why would anyone want to pay for this? Is this a huge thing in Alberta, or at least huge enough to make the debate in a provincial election?
If Smith and Wildrose are playing the wedge issue game straight from the Karl Rove handbook, that's fine. But I think the comments of Alberta Progressive Conservative Leader Alison Redford say it all, "I certainly respect people’s personal beliefs, but I believe in a province where we have to treat individuals with dignity and respect. We have to live in a community where we respect diversity and we understand that everyone feels safe and included.”
And I think a lot of Canadian liberals will think it's a cold a day in hell when the Conservative Premier of Alberta speaks for them.