Recently Justin Trudeau made the bold statement that future nominees and new members of federal Liberal Party needed to have “pro-choice” values or at least understand an obligation to vote that way.
My first reaction was that this is JT once again creating a confrontation that is unnecessary. I’m sure that the same thing could have been accomplished either by a quiet policy statement within his caucus, or by phrasing it in a way that sounded less like an ultimatum. But it’s a minor point, and just seems to be part of his management style, somewhat reminiscent of his father’s approach. But what’s done is done and that is not actually the main point that I want to address here.
Shortly after JT’s announcement, however, there was a statement from Cardinal Thomas Collins, asking Trudeau to respect the right of his party members to have the choice of voting according to their religious morality and conscience.
Now, I am very willing to concede that the question of abortion is a complex one, worthy of debate. I personally have a stand of “pro-choice within reason”. In spite of that, Collins’ rebuke of Trudeau was awkward and more than a little hypocritical.
It is important to note that the opposition to the pro-life movement is not pro-abortion (or pro-death, as some would want to say), but is PRO-CHOICE. A pro-choice stand allows Catholics and non-Catholics to live their lives the way they want to. It even allows pro-life supporters to continue to advocate for their moral stand and try to convince others to agree. On the stage of public opinion, the two stands have equal rights, and that is the way it should be.
What Trudeau is recognizing (and what Collins is embarrassingly forgetting) is that by not voting “pro-choice”, you are denying to the women (and potentially their spouses/partners) the very right of choice that the Cardinal seems so worried about. Pro-life is not pro-choice. It blatantly wants to impose its own values on those that do not agree with them. Pro-life IS anti-choice.
As I said, a theological, moral or even ethical debate on the question of abortion is totally justified. But not a political one. For a pro-life, political stand it would be necessary to accept the fact that a religious moral doctrine has the right to dictate law to people that do not believe in it, and we’ve seen exactly how far that can go down in the traditional Bible Belt regions of the U.S. We have no trouble at all separating political from religious debate when looking at something like stoning a rape victim to death in Sharia Law, for example. We, as a society, have decided that murder is illegal, not because it is in the 10 Commandments, but rather because of secular agreement.
Regardless of one’s stand on the question of abortion, Cardinal Collins’ reprimand of Trudeau’s statement was hypocritical. Choice in one situation must mean choice in all (reasonable situations). To do otherwise is to claim that one religious view or group is an exception to the rules of the Charter of Rights.