I was going to write about abortion this week. I was going to write about New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and the overall lack of access to abortion in Canada and especially in the Atlantic Provinces.
I had planned to discuss how a woman’s right to choose has been upheld by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and how the Supreme Court of Canada has distinctly ruled that it is a woman’s choice. And then I was going to delve into how we institute abortion practices in our country and how granting permission but limiting access is akin to saying everyone has the right to an education and then closing the schools.
I was going to argue against the idea that we need legalization laws around abortion as right now it is a right and creating laws around it would limit that right. I was going to suggest that instead we need laws around access to abortion and the responsibility of provinces to make it available as part of their health care system.
All of that would have been treading dangerous waters for me. I’ve had contracts taken away and jobs threatened for writing about politics — federal or provincial — before. Financially it’s not worth it. I don’t make enough writing this column to justify risking a better paying contract or job. Emotionally it’s not worth it either. I’ve had critics suggest I write this column for the “fame.” Trust me, I often receive more and worse criticism than I do compliments.
Morally, though? The fact is, I’m opinionated and stubborn and on top of that I have a strong moral code against standing by and doing nothing when I see wrong. That is what compelled me to start writing a parenting column in the first place — I saw so much wrong being done to parents and the institution of parenting by “experts” looking for a quick buck and a book contract.
And what has stopped me from writing about abortion this week is my moral code. I will not jump on a bandwagon because the CBC led a clarion call to all protestors and declare someone else’s rights invalid.
The right to abortion is protected by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The central right within that Charter, the one that defines us as a country and a democracy, is the freedom of expression. It’s a right I’ve butted heads against. And it’s a right I support whole-heartedly. There have been very limited occasions where I felt someone’s right to expression should be supressed and these all involved immediate threat of harm to others. In this, the courts and I agree.
There’s not a lot the Coleman family and I have in common. I don’t agree with their politics and I don’t agree with their religious beliefs. And I know they don’t agree with my support of abortion and gay marriage.
One thing we do have in common though, is that we have beliefs and codes that we hold dear. Another thing we have in common is the right to express those beliefs as long as they don’t harm others.
So Yvonne Coleman and her family attended a pro-life rally in Corner Brook. As someone who has lived in Corner Brook, this doesn’t surprise me. They attend every year as far as I recall. They’ve never tried to hide their personal religious beliefs and they shouldn’t have to.
As premier, Frank Coleman will have to answer to whether such a rally is indeed a political rally (or alternatively a religious vigil) and whether his attendance at the rally puts his party’s politics in question. But Frank Coleman isn’t premier yet and his wife is not ever going to be the premier.
Politically, the correct thing would be for the Coleman family to distance themselves from hotpoint issues such as this. Coleman’s insistence that his pro-life stance is personal but that he respects and will uphold the laws of our people is admirable but not quite enough for a premier.
The party could, and in my opinion should, ask Coleman to not attend such rallies while he is premier. This would give him a choice to make as to whether he can represent a party that asks him not to express his beliefs so publically. But they cannot, and should not, ask him — and nor should anyone — to declare his personal beliefs invalid. In a time when our provincial leaders have torn apart transparency and access to information, Coleman’s stance is clear and transparent. And we can comment upon what he believes when the election is called.
What no one can do, though, and be morally or legally in the right, is ask Frank Coleman’s wife not to attend such rallies. She is her own individual, as is every member of her family. There is no justification to tell her not to believe and express her own, individual and personal beliefs merely because she is the wife of the premier in waiting. To do so would be to set back women’s rights, deny her Charter rights, and even to distract attention from the crux of the issue at debate.
A woman’s right to expression in our country is as protected as her right to abortion. These rights should not ever be in question. The debate should center, instead, in how we provide every individual access to their full complement of rights and how to protect that access and freedom through legislation that makes their rights the center of all laws.
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