We were driving across Africa’s dusty plains—he, a man who has never left his nation and I, a traveler far from my own. We bounced along rutted, unpaved roads and passed by villages with access to little more than the most rudimentary infrastructure. As we chatted about his life and mine, he asked me what’s meant by that little euphemism he has seen in Western media: “a woman’s right to choose.” As I explained it, his face registered first shock, then disgust, then judgment. He made it clear that in his assessment Canada must be a nation that is hopelessly backward and shockingly barbaric.
Recent news stories tell that in regions of Malawi, girls who menstruate for the first time are forced to have sex with a paid sex worker in a rite meant to mark their transition from childhood to womanhood. If the girls refuse, custom dictates that some great misfortune could befall them, their families, or their villages. And so, a local “hyena” is hired and he carries out the awful three-day ceremony. This is a horrifying custom that legitimizes sexual assault and carries a grave risk of passing along sexually transmitted diseases. Thankfully, it’s a custom the government is attempting to eradicate and, through official action and changing social mores, it is going into decline.
In Canada, we murder babies. We don’t say it like that, of course, but it’s the horrifying truth behind what we term “abortion.” When we abort a fetus, we are ending the life of a human being. Sure, that human being may be tiny, underdeveloped, within another person, and utterly dependent upon its mother, but humanity is not defined by size, level of development, environment, or degree of dependency. The stark fact is, we murder unwanted babies—we cut them into pieces and pull them from the womb. In fact, we give the Order of Canada to doctors who champion this right and carry out this grim procedure.
In Ukraine, many people consider disabled children taboo and their families can bear significant social stigma simply for having them or exposing them to the public eye. Instead of being integrated into family and society, people with disabilities are often relegated to institutions where they are left ignored and untreated, and where they bear an increased risk of assault or being trafficked for labor, sex, or pornography. Ukraine bears the ignominious distinction of being one of the least disability-friendly nations in the world. Thankfully, it seems as though the nation is slowly beginning to display a greater acceptance of disabilities and the responsibility to help the disabled flourish.
In Canada we murder babies—especially disabled babies. Some similar nations are celebrating the fact that they are preparing to be entirely free from Down’s syndrome, but this comes only at the cost of universal testing and widespread preventative abortion. As actress Patricia Heaton has said, these nations aren’t “actually eliminating Down syndrome. They’re just killing everybody that has it. Big difference.” Big difference, indeed. Aborting a disabled child is now considered an act of mercy to the individual, the family, and the wider society. It’s considered a mark of our social progress that we’ve nearly eradicated this disability (by eradicating all the people who have it).
In parts of Nigeria, thousands of children suffer terribly for being branded as witches. When a family member contracts an illness or experiences a misfortune, they may blame a child, declaring him or her a witch. This often leads to punishment, torture, or even expulsion. Many of Nigeria’s homeless children, vulnerable to assault and all manner of privation and exploitation, have been accused of witchcraft and thus driven from their homes and families. Thankfully, Nigeria’s criminal code and Child Rights Act have been updated to protect children by making it illegal to accuse them of being witches (though, sadly, enforcement is woefully lacking).
In Canada we murder babies. A woman’s freedom to choose is considered an inalienable right that’s as essential to human flourishing as freedom of speech or freedom of religion. Judgment-free, cost-free abortion is considered a necessary mark of any sophisticated first-world nation. No nation can be considered equal to our own if it will prohibit or even restrict abortion at any time or for any reason. Abortion rights remain in the ascendancy in Canada; it’s unlikely we’ve yet reached peak abortion.
Those who live in Western nations are prone to look down upon other cultures, and to see them as unsophisticated, backward, or even barbaric—they fear albinos or mutilate the genitals of their women or hold to a caste system. Yet in traveling far and wide, I’ve learned that many people in non-Western nations regard Western cultures as unsophisticated, backward, or even barbaric. Though they see we may have more developed infrastructure and greater access to necessities like clean water and excellent healthcare, they also see that we take the lives of the most vulnerable among us and consider this a point of pride and a mark of progress. They see what we obscure under a cloud of euphemisms and under endless discussions of rights. They see that we murder babies.