If you want an example of how Canada and the United States differ, look no further than developments in Alabama this week.
Alabama – a southern U.S. state with such a long history of fanatical conservatism and institutional racism that even people from Mississippi look down their noses at them – became the latest state to pass restrictive abortion laws. Actually, calling them ‘restrictive’ is like calling the Ku Klux Klan a fraternal organization. Alabama’s senate (25 Republicans, 6 Democrats, 85% male) passed the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. The bill prohibits abortion in almost every circumstance, and makes exceptions only for the health of the mother and for fetuses with “fatal anomalies” that make them unlikely to survive outside the womb. Impregnated by rape? Sorry, missy, you’re out of luck. Impregnated by rape by your granddaddy? No deal, sweetheart.
It was signed into law by the state’s 74-year-old governor, a woman.
Alabama is not alone. Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi have similar laws, most of which outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be even before a woman might know she’s pregnant, essentially making abortion illegal. Don’t these laws seem just a little restrictive, to put it mildly? Sure they are, and their proponents know it. The idea is to force the laws to go before the Supreme Court, in the hopes that the conservative-leaning court will rule in their favour, thereby overturning the famous Roe Vs. Wade decision that made abortion legal in the U.S.
So while Americans gird themselves for a long, divisive fight, where does Canada stand? As usual, quietly on the sidelines.
Canada currently has no abortion law. We’ve haven’t had an abortion law on the books since the existing laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988. Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has no laws restricting abortion.
This is not to say that the issue is settled here. There are plenty of pro-life Canadians who would like to see the procedure outlawed, or at least curtailed in some way. So why don’t we have abortion laws here?
I think it’s in part due to our natural reticence, our aversion to open conflict (Americans LOVE conflict), and a more liberal bent. Nobody wants to talk about abortion: it is the third rail of Canadian politics.
Justin Trudeau, desperate to burnish his feminist image after having the temerity to turf two female MPs, commented on the Alabama law this week, saying he is “deeply disappointed” by “backsliding” on abortion rights in the U.S. and around the world. What Trudeau should have said was nothing, because Alabama laws have no bearing on Canada, and they are none of our business. But Trudeau is clearly hoping to ignite the debate here, knowing that there are more than a few Conservative MPs who would fall into the ‘pro-life’ camp.
On Thursday, the Liberal Party of Canada sent a fundraising email to supporters calling it “alarming” that dozens of Conservative MPs had attended the recent March for Life, a yearly anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill. The email, which listed the Conservative MPs who attended the rally, accused them of “working to roll back women’s rights.”
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called it typical Liberal desperation.
“I’ve made it very, very clear. Canadians can have absolute confidence that a Conservative government after the election in October will not reopen this issue,” Howdy Doody said.
And there, in a nutshell, is the difference between Canada and the U.S. While Canadian politicians prefer to look at minefields from a distance, Americans politicians charge in with both feet.
Australians went to the polls this week, in an election that was labeled as “unlosable” for the opposition Labour Party. Didn’t quite turn out that way.
Incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the Liberal National coalition (in Australia, in keeping with their down under vibe, the Liberal party is actually conservative) won a third term in office, defying all the polls for what even he called a “miracle” win. Climate change was a huge issue, with the Labour party running on a high-profile campaign of taking action on climate change, improving funding to services, and ending tax cuts for top earners. Every poll gave the win to Labour, but the voters thought otherwise, as yet another country rejected climate change fears and left-leaning politics.
Justin Trudeau …. are you watching?
And now, the New York Times corrections of the week:
• An article on Page 101 about sour foods misstates the nationality of the historian Herodotus; he was Greek, not Roman.
• The By the Book feature on May 5 transposed the names of a writer. She is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, not Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi.
The Grim Reaper has been taking it pretty easy so far this year, but the man in black kicked it into high gear this week.
Doris Day, 97, the wholesome, all-American actress and singer, famous for her virginal image and mild slap-and-tickle comedies like Pillow Talk. She was also a major recording artist back in the day … Herman Wouk, 103, author (The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance), and Pulitzer Prize winner (1952) … I.M Pei, 102, one of the world’s most famous architects … Tim Conway, 85, beloved comic actor, a regular member of The Carol Burnett Show’s brilliant cast … Grumpy Cat, 7, one of the original Internet sensations.