Again and again Margaret Somerville is seen “gracing” our newspapers, our radio programmes, and pronouncing of moral issues on Canadian television. And, while she is, as Wikipedia tells us the ”Founding Director of the Faculty of Law’s Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University,” she gives no evidence of knowing anything about ethics beyond parroting the dogmatic Vatican line, especially when it comes to so-called “pro-life” issues. And on these issues, she shows no acquaintance with the literature on the ethics of either abortion or assisted dying, and she is given to imaginative ways of twisting language to get the results that she had before she started. Her latest contribution to her soliloquy on the ethics of abortion can be found in The Globe and Mail, with the unprepossessing title “The Preposterous Politics of Female Feticide.”
She has already been roundly condemned in the comments, many of whom wonder the same thing that I do: Why do newspapers and other news media give her a platform to spout off about her latest disapproval? It’s always the same thing dressed up a little differently. Even so, it is worth spending a few minutes with Margaret, because she shows so clearly how to go off the rails when you want to oppose something in the name of dogmatic certainty. Her ability to make an argument is weak, and, whether she realises it or not, her special pleading is obvious right from the start. So, we begin by taking it as read that Margaret is against abortion, period. There is no place in Margaret’s world for abortion, and she would be happy if we had draconian laws in Canada similar to the ones in some Latin American countries, where women’s bodies become crime scenes when their desperate attempts to abort go badly wrong. Then, after the indignity of being chained to hosptial beds is over, they will find themselves in prison, sometimes for life, because, in their desperation, they sought to terminate a pregnancy. This, I suppose, Margaret sees as a way to honour women, because there would be no sex selective abortions allowed where none are allowed, and this would honour women by making it sure that, no matter what the circumstances, female foetuses would be carried to term, and then would enter societies where they could be subject to the “machismo” of many Latin American societies where rape is rampant. In many Latin American countries, for instance, rape is widespread, and yet, at the same time, abortion is is often illegal except to save the life of the woman. You see how Margaret’s wishes would improve the status of women? It would happen just because women would not be able to abort female foetuses, and, magically, women would be respected. Well, Margaret, it simply doesn’t work that way.
You see, the trouble with Margaret is that she doesn’t think things through. She has a conclusion that she has to reach, and it doesn’t much matter how she reaches it. So, she says, as though butter wouldn’t melt (as they say), that having avoided the Scylla of Woodworth’s “definition of the person” bill (shades of American fundamentalism for the delectation of Canadians), that now Canadian MPs are smack dab up against the Charybdis of Mark Warawa’s anti-female feticide bill. And she seems to think that Canadians will support the second whereas they wouldn’t the first, but that the second will take them to the same place in any case — that is, the second would legitimate the state intervening in the life of women who want abortions for the reason of sex selection, but if you are prepared to allow this intrusion, then why not simply outlaw the practice altogether? Consistency demands it.