Friday, June 09, 2006

Heather Mallick on The Value of Life

Heather Mallick's latest column for CBC's Viewpoint talks about MP Leon Benoit's proposed private members bill that would punish the homicide of a pregnant woman by taking into account the life of her unborn child.

Her column is completely self-contradictory.

First off, she quotes a statistic about murder being the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the US. This is (I believe) also true in Canada and many western countries. It's also true that violence against women disproportionately affects the pregnant. In many many cases, pregnancy results in abuse escalating or beginning when it was not present before.

Far from devaluing anyone, Mr. Benoit's bill would value women more highly and increase their level of legal protection at the most vulnerable times in their lives.

Ms. Mallick then takes a moral mystery tour to arrive at the conclusion that somehow because she has chosen never to be pregnant that her life would somehow be devalued by Mr. Benoit's bill.

The real motivation behind Ms. Mallick's moral ducking and weaving is that she is completely unable to see a fetus (even one at 38 weeks) as a human being. For her, apparently, it only becomes a human being at the moment of birth (although it would be interesting to ask her when that exact moment is, given how long the journey into the world can take some children). In her world, should a doctor have acted negligently and killed her stepchild a day before birth, he would be guilty of nothing. One might hope her stepchildren don't know that - or they might feel just a teensy bit less valued.

Ms. Mallick is a vocal supporter of abortion, at any time, and on a woman's whim. In order for this position to be comfortable for her, she has to take this completely amoral stance on the fetus. To do otherwise would be unconscionable. It's a consistent position and one she is entitled to. But it is only for her and her co-believers that this bill and the abortion issue have anything to do with one another.

Far from Mr. Benoit being simplistic, it is Ms. Mallick who is simplistic. She is unable to see a moral difference between the death of the fetus in abortion, and the death of the fetus in homicide or spousal abuse. If the woman's right to choose stands, then surely a wanted fetus is more highly valued than the unwanted? Or does a woman only have the right to kill a fetus, but no right to protect it if she should (horrors!) happen to want it to live?

These are extremely complicated and murky moral waters, in many shades of grey. But it suits Ms. Mallick's feminist purpose to ignore that complexity in favour of the gross simplification that a life is not a life unless she personally chooses to see it as such.

This is just as simplistic as the opposite 'Christian Right' point of view on these issues. Mr. Benoit's bill actually attempts to steer into these swirling moral waters and it constitutes a discussion that should be had, but such a discussion is not well served by Ms. Mallick's monotone.