It gladdens my heart to read letters like the following. Truly. When the world is upside down, it is simple, small gestures that restore my hope in humanity. Here, it’s the fact that Dr. Harding took the time to write this thoughtful letter. Not everyone walks in lockstep. Some people do think differently and furthermore, have the courage to make their voice heard.
If time got away from you, please note it is not at all too late to show your support for Minister Ambrose and all those who voted in favour of M-312 by writing the PMO (firstname.lastname@example.org) and signing this petition.
Dear Prime Minister Harper,
My path toward a career in medicine began when I was 12 years old and taking a grade eight course in human biology. I was particularly fascinated by fetal development, amazed at what could transpire over nine months. I was correspondingly appalled when I came to understand that a pregnant woman could ever be so desperate as to terminate the life of her unborn child, and remain so. I am burdened by the knowledge that Canada shares with the likes of North Korea and Cuba the dubious distinction of having no legal limit to abortion. I am deeply disturbed that sex selection abortion has made its way to Canada.
M-312 was about having an honest conversation in plain English (and French!) about whether our established understanding of the status of the fetus should be amended in light of current knowledge. In all other aspects of medicine, we teach medical students to use plain, everyday language when speaking with patients and their families. Only when discussing unplanned pregnancies are we encouraged to use euphemism, obfuscation and tergiversation. In all other situations, our goal is to ensure that patients are making fully informed choices as autonomous adults. Only when considering so-called termination do we continue to “protect” patients from full knowledge of the facts, reverting to otherwise discarded patterns of paternalism and condescension. Paradoxically, the so-called “right to choose” most often refers to situations in which we refrain from providing information in language that would ensure clear understanding of the choice in question.
There is, perhaps, some comfort to be derived from the fact that you personally voted against M-312. Your vote was a tacit acknowledgement that any careful examination by Canadians of what is currently known about the human fetus would lead inexorably to a reconsideration of abortion in Canada. I give you credit for keeping your promise to not re-open the abortion debate, although the promise itself gives me pause. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that you may never allow yourself to examine this issue too closely. I continue to hope that there are others around you in the Conservative Party of Canada who have the intellectual honesty and courage to do what you will not. I am disappointed to learn that my own Member of Parliament, Ms. Lynne Yelich, is not apparently among them.
And so I am writing in support of Mr. Woodworth, Ms. Ambrose, and all those in your party who supported M-312, and the courage they demonstrated in doing so. I will be watching carefully to see what befalls them in the months ahead, and will watch the outcome of M-408 with keen interest. I have, until now, voted for Ms. Yelich despite her party’s overall lack of leadership in this arena. I may continue to do so as long as it is clear that those who are willing to question the status quo on abortion are not penalized for doing so. Should it become apparent that they are being quietly muzzled, shuffled, sidelined, punished, or worse, then the time will have come for me to direct my support elsewhere.
Sheila Harding, MD, MA, FRCPC