Letter to Editor from Alex Matan

Published on December 30, 2012 in The Record

Re: Let’s talk about the rights of the unborn child — Dec 23

Consider this: Five seconds after a child emerges into the world, she has the same legal rights as any other kid. Five seconds before she emerges, she can be legally killed by a lethal injection and nobody could say a thing. That’s a pretty arbitrary deadline.

Now, nobody would actually do such a thing, but how about 15 seconds before birth? A minute? A month? At 22 weeks gestation, when premature babies have survived and grew up normally? When she starts to look human? Act human? Look cute? Defined organs? When she has unique DNA?

If and when is it OK, at what age should we acquire human rights and equal protection under the law? Should a 15-year-old be able to get a same-day abortion without parental knowledge or consent when society doesn’t trust her judgment to drive, buy alcohol, quit school, or get a tattoo?

Should we allow abortion of an intended pregnancy based on genetic problems? Gender? Triplets down to a singlet? Do we have a right to perfect children? Are disabled kids worth less? More? Is non-existence better than a painful one? Who decides? Should economic and social burdens be considered? Do we have a right to assign differing value to the lives of others? Does life trump liberty? When?

These are all big questions with many possible combinations of responses. But are these not matters of discussion that calm, reasonable people can engage in without invective and ad hominem attacks? I believe so. Is balancing and re-balancing conflicting rights and responsibilities through reasonable laws not Parliament’s job? Should we expect 100 per cent agreement from 100 per cent of the electorate before passing a law? Just because we cannot all agree does not mean that change is impossible.

As a starting point for a reasonable dialogue, perform an internet search for “Europe’s abortion rules” and decide for yourself if Canada’s complete absence of legal restrictions is the only option going forward. Then join in the discussion.

Alex Matan
Waterloo

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