Editorial: A call for tolerance

Published on November 25, 2016

Rallying against abortion, the Right To Life Association held their annual Good Friday vigil, prayer service and march around the Health Sciences Centre parking lot on Good Friday morning. An organizer estimated almost 1,000 people turned out for the event.

©-Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and Pope Francis are names not usually included in the same sentence — especially when the topic concerns abortion.

On Monday, Pope Francis announced that priests could forgive women who have had an abortion, saying the procedure remains “a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life,” but one that God’s mercy could wipe away if the woman is repentant.
“There is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father,” he said.
His words should provide an example for Trump and his zealous supporters.
They should offer a lesson to others as well, such as anti-abortion demonstrators in Newfoundland and Labrador whose actions have been curtailed by provincial legislation.
The N.L. government introduced a bill last week that prevents protesters from getting any closer than 50 metres from an abortion clinic and 160 metres from the homes of abortion service providers. The bill would also make it illegal to protest or to photograph or film people within those exclusion zones. British Columbia recently upheld a similar law.
With the imminent opening of a women’s reproductive health centre in Summerside, P.E.I. — which will offer abortion access for the first time on the Island — the Pope’s words should offer a cautionary lesson as well, although P.E.I.’s anti-abortion groups have been active but respectful and it’s unlikely that will change when the new health centre opens.
The Pope looks at the issue of abortion less with condemnation and more with a focus on reconciliation.
Trump, meanwhile, in March said women should face punishment if they had an abortion. He subsequently backtracked, but then suggested doctors should be punished if they performed abortions. He campaigned in favour of outlawing abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood, appointing conservative Supreme Court justices, and cutting back on access to reproductive rights. In essence, he’s radicalized the issue.
Trump says the issue of same-sex marriage is irrelevant because it was just settled in the Supreme Court. Yet, the right to a safe and legal abortion has been legal in the U.S. since 1973. The double standard on these issues is hardly fair.
Even as the anti-abortion rhetoric rises in the United States, the number of abortions is declining, falling to its lowest level in decades. A report last week said the abortion rate for 2013 was down five per cent from 2012, and was half the rate recorded in 1980.
The decline is credited to better education, additional counselling and access to birth control — supports that Trump wants to defund. Perhaps he should pay closer attention to the Pope’s message.
After all, it was Pope Francis who said, “in God’s heart there are no enemies,” while criticizing those who would “raise walls, build barriers and label people.”