Alberta Premier Alison Redford waves to the crowd during a campaign stop in Calgary, Alberta April 4, 2012. Albertans go to the polls April 23 in a general provincial election
Credits: REUTERS/Todd Korol
It's not a real issue in Canada, where abortions are available on demand, for any reason or no reason, from the moment of conception until the moment of birth, paid for by taxpayers.
Doctors who believe in it do it. Doctors who don't, don't.
Canada has no legal limits on abortion whatsoever. It's a pro-choice utopia.
But on the campaign trail last week, Alberta Premier Alison Redford said she no longer believes abortion is a matter of personal conscience.
True, for years, she was the justice minister of Alberta where that was the rule. But Redford is losing the Alberta election badly - a new poll put her 17 points behind the upstart Wildrose party, with just two weeks to the election -so she hit the panic button.
So, off the cuff, she told reporters that doctors should now be compelled to provide abortions on demand, even if they don't believe in it. She styled it as an attack on the Wildrose party, whose platform supports freedom of conscience- like Redford herself did, until about fifteen minutes ago.
"I was very frightened to hear the discussion today," said Redford, who bravely managed to overcome that fear during her four years in a government where that was the law. "I certainly respect people's personal beliefs," she said. Unless, of course, she happens to disagree with them.
"All of the unique families in this province have the opportunity to know that when they're accessing services, they can trust those services can be provided. And when they take on professional responsibilities, I expect them to be able to meet those professional responsibilities."
That's buzz words and clichés and newspeak. What is a "unique family"? What is an "opportunity to know"? How does a unique family take on a professional responsibility?
No matter. Her meaning was pulled out of her: She opposes freedom of conscience for doctors.
She now believes that the government should have the power to force someone to perform an abortion.
So much for pro-choice and respecting diversity.
But see, there's this little thing called the Charter of Rights, and the very first freedom mentioned in - even ahead of free speech - is freedom of conscience. It's so important, it's in a special list in the Charter called "fundamental freedoms."
Redford might have heard of that, being a self-described human rights expert and all.
In fact, when she was justice minister back in 2009, her government brought in a law that guaranteed freedom of conscience for parents and their children in schools. Under Bill 44, parents can withdraw their children from classes where religion or sex ed were being taught in a manner that offended parents.
But desperate times call for desperate measures - and being behind 28% to 45% is certainly desperate. So now Redford isn't an advocate of freedom of conscience. She's its undertaker. And the token conservative in cabinet, Ted Morton, the Charter expert, is happy to help.
Imagine a world under a Redford-Morton government: A doctor who has moral concerns about abortion can pull his children out of a class at school. But then at work, he will be compelled to perform an abortion.
This is incoherent. It's desperate.
It's illiberal. It's pitiful.
It's a whimpering end to a 41-year political dynasty. It's not just an attack on the Wildrose party. It's an insult to the common sense of voters, who Redford thinks will go along with this.
Redford was a Red Tory back in 1993, when the Reform Party threw every single federal PC out of Alberta. In that desperate campaign, the PCs attacked Reformers as bigots and rednecks and dangers to minorities. It didn't work.
Panicked and exhausted, confused and angry, Redford and Morton are reaching for that old PC playbook again.
May it backfire in their faces as badly as it did back then.