Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« Blogging roundtable: Candidates dropping like flies | Main | Run Mercer! Run! »

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Libertarian abortion compromise (safe, legal, rare...and de-insured) could be tough to implement

Libertarian Party leader Dennis Young provided Western Standard readers with a sneak peak at the party’s abortion policy -- and the response from pro-lifers has so far been positive but measured. The response from ardent pro-choice libertarians like Marc Emery has been negative but measured. In the end, the party may have struck exactly the right cord on this issue.

The policy is simple enough:

While the Libertarian Party supports safe, legal access to abortion, we also believe that the “freedom of conscience” of those who oppose abortion must be respected. The Libertarian Party will defend “freedom of conscience” and promote real choice by removing all federal government funding to the provinces for medically unnecessary abortions.

Young restated the policy in his CBC free air time address which will begin airing on Monday:

The Libertarian Party will fight to keep abortion safe and legal, but we also feel a compromise is needed to ensure that the deeply held views of pro-life Canadians are respected. If elected, I will work to protect the freedom of conscience of pro-life medical workers and taxpayers by getting the federal government out of the abortion business.

Young wants to “get the federal government out of the business of abortion,” whatever it might take as long as it is in keeping with libertarian principles.

While the policy is simple in principle, implementation may be a different story.

Joanne Byfield with Alberta Pro Life said “I applaud the Libertarian Party for having the courage to venture into this policy area,” but raised a number of challenges that might make the policy difficult to implement for any federal government.

Joanne Byfield:

When it comes to forcing taxpayers to pay for all abortions, that is a provincial decision. It may be that the money used by some provinces to pay for abortions is derived from federal government transfers, but provincial governments have the authority to decide what procedures will be considered ‘medically necessary’ and therefore covered under their provincial health act. Michael Kirby made this point in his Senate committee's interim report on health care:  ‘The determination of what services meet the requirement of medical necessity is made in each province by the provincial government in conjunction with the medical profession.’

Having said all that, I would still be thrilled to have an elected federal government clearly say that this is an issue for provinces to decide. Right now, provinces love to pass the buck and say that the courts have decided they have to pay or that the Canada Health Act requires them to pay. The CHA does not require that. There have been two fairly recent court cases in Canada, one in Manitoba and one in Quebec, in which provincial courts have said the province had to pay for abortions at private clinics but neither province appealed the decision. In both cases the provincial governments simply caved in and forced taxpayers to pick up the tab. It might help taxpayers to pressure their provincial governments if the federal government would remove any confusion about jurisdiction. The former Liberal government, under successive health ministers Alan Rock, Anne McLellan and Ujjal Dosanjh, all threatened provinces with penalties if they didn't pay for abortions.

I'm not a Libertarian but I am pro-life. When I look at my options in this federal election, I don't see a federal party with seats in the House of Commons that cares about my views. The Conservatives threw us overboard two weeks before calling the election just to be sure nobody could accuse them of having any social conservative policies. The irony is that they used a bill, C-484, that so clearly and explicitly said that legal abortions were not in any way threatened. It would have penalized people who injure or kill an unborn child in the course of an attack on a pregnant woman.  The pro-abortion crowd stampeded to abandon all those ‘willing mothers’ and ‘wanted children’ they like to talk about in order to kill the bill.

So does the Canada Health Act require the provinces to finance abortions? (Byfield says “no” but the courts have said otherwise.) Would the Libertarian Party policy then require an amendment to the Canada Health Act to prohibit the public funding of abortions? A federal Libertarian government could withhold federal transfer payments to provinces that fund abortion, but that would surely raise jurisdictional issues. Since small “l” libertarians traditionally support private healthcare, could privatization come incrementally by removing one insured service after another, starting with those that most divide Canadians, abortion being the best example.

Notwithstanding these policy challenges, Dr. Will Johnston, President of Canadian Physicians for Life, likes the idea Libertarian policy in principle:

"CPL finds it disturbing that there is a strong consensus for many uncontroversial health services that need far more funding while the taxpayer has no choice but to pay to cause harm through abortion.” 

Not everyone is applauding Young's decision to make abortion an issue in this election, however. Libertarian publisher and activist Marc Emery, who has endorsed Young and continues to support him, said:

"...this is a poor policy decision. I agree that those opposed to abortion should not be forced to fund it. But the reality is that taxpayers are forced to fund immoral wars, inoculations, the United Nations, corporate welfare, porno movies, CBC, hundreds of obscene government programs....This policy smacks of expediency."

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on September 28, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Libertarian abortion compromise (safe, legal, rare...and de-insured) could be tough to implement:


Any idea exactly when this will be broadcast?

Posted by: JC | 2008-09-28 2:41:53 PM

Not everyone is applauding Young's decision to make abortion an issue in this election,
Posted by Matthew Johnston

99% of the Canadian electorate have never heard of Dennis Young or the Libertarian Party. Both he and his party are irrelevant.

It would be interesting to do a survey and ask Canadians what party they thought the Libertarian Party was closest to in terms of ideology. My guess would be the communists.

Posted by: The Stig | 2008-09-28 3:06:10 PM

I have to disagree with the claim that to fund or not to fund is a provincial decision under the current system. To remove the funding was once proposed in BC only to have the feds inform the provincial government they could not de-fund abortion. Also, in the Maritimes, NS I believe, the province refused to fund abortions done in private clinics and were then forced to fund them nevertheless. This was interesting since for anything else funding to private clinics must not take place.

Clearly the de-funding of abortion would be a major step in the right direction. There never has been any justification for its funding since it has nothing to do with health care, and at best could only be compared to elective surgery - which is not funded.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-09-28 9:17:54 PM

Here is the most unlibertarian thing anyone ever said: "The fetus is not a person and is not entitled to protection under the law." Libertarianism proclaims personhood. It does not deny it. Libertarianism protects rights. It does not strip them away. Support for abortion rights is fundamentally antilibertarian, as an aborted baby cannot exercise its liberty, nor any human right.

Posted by: Mike Blevins | 2008-09-29 10:22:54 PM


Posted by: dax | 2008-10-02 2:36:01 AM

As a social conservative who has been abandoned by the Conservative Party of Canada, the final nail in the coffin was Bill C-484 and their rejection of it. The status quo, Harper and his pals must realize is PRO-ABORTION, something that goes against not only the majority of Conservative MPs, but the majority of their constituents (not to mention more than a few Liberal MPs and the hundreds of thousands of their constituents). How savage and inhumane a place Canada is where there is no law at all against abortion (while most of the rest of the "civilized" world has limits at 20 weeks gestation or less), where innocent people are violently denied "choice" and where women are not made aware of the profound risks to the procedure (one that we are all forced to pay for against our will for something absolutely not medically necessary).

If there was a Libertarian candidate (or even a Christian Heritage Party candidate) in my riding I'd vote for them as a protest vote, but I don't, so I'm forced to destroy my ballot (something I have never done before and hate doing and would rather not) as none of the options offered are even close to representing the things important to me: liberty (including the protection of innocent human life), moral/pro-family policies, less tax, and less government interference in our lives.

While the Conservatives are marginally better than the other options offered in my riding, I can't follow through with a vote for them as they have used and abandoned social conservatives in their lust for power and in trying to please everyone (the LEFT) stand for hardly anything anymore. Sad.

If only we had a Ron Paul in Canada!! (Actually, he'd be marginalized up here as well, particularly because he is pro-life, fiscally smart, and has integrity (something politicians in Canada sadly lack across the political spectrum).

Stand up for babies: http://www.umaskingchoice.ca
Stand up for women: http://www.abortionbreastcancer.ca

Posted by: Conservative | 2008-10-09 10:37:08 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.