The Meaning of Life

The “definition of life” bill was defeated, but I still feel less than assured about women’s right to choice being protected in this country. Is it because our Minister for the Status of Women voted for it? Is it because Canada still has no laws protecting the right to abortion? Is it because I still see protesters waving rosaries and throwing holy water outside the Morgentaler clinic? Who knows, it’s a rich tapestry of bullshit.

The gist is, MP Stephen Woodworth wants to open a debate on the criminal code’s definition of what a human being is, i.e. does it start at birth, at conception, sometime in between? As hilarious as it would be for the government to sponsor some kind of philosophical debate about the Meaning of Life (I keep thinking of those Star Trek TNG episodes where they try to figure out whether or not Data is a person), it’s less funny when you consider that we’re talking about the criminal code, not an abstract ethical or moral tendency. The far-reaching implications of such a debate could be something like what’s happening in some parts of the States, where a woman who miscarries could be considered a murder suspect. So, terrifying possible outcome.

But this is all a bit of a distraction from what the right to choice is really about. My reasons for being pro-choice are not that I think a fetus isn’t a person so it doesn’t have rights. Even if the government, scientists, and philosophers could prove that life begins at conception, or ovulation, or thinking about sex, or looking at a cute baby and going Awww I want one, I would still be pro-choice. To be honest I don’t even really care whether or not a fetus is a person. If you’re pregnant and you have a whole relationship with your 2-week-old fetus, you know its name and its favourite song and if it’s a fall or a winter, that’s totally fine and cool, but it doesn’t change the fact that women should still be allowed to have abortions whenever they want. I have my own feelings about what makes life life, but I don’t think they should be legislated – they’re between me and my conscience. Yes, it’s kind of weird to live in a world where one person’s little angel is another person’s nonsentient tumour. Get used to it – it’s what pluralism is actually about.

Any debate about when life begins is going to be subjective and culturally bound, but any attempt to ban or restrict abortion is an attack on women’s freedom, and an attempt to further the state’s control over our bodies. The right to choice is not really bound in morality or religious belief; it’s bound to class and patriarchy. Women who can afford it will always be able to get abortions, but if abortion is restricted or outlawed, poor women won’t. A ban on abortion won’t stop abortions from happening, it’ll just criminalize women who already probably don’t have a lot of social and financial support – young women, immigrant women, poor women. Oh man, do you think the right maybe… doesn’t actually care about fetuses… just about maintaining women as public wombs? And the state is still trying to tell me whether or not I’m allowed to have a medical procedure! As if! Get out from behind the guise of philosophy, yahoos. I’m not fooled, I can see your fucking jackboots from here.



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