On Facebook today, I noticed that a friend had posted a link to a petition to be signed, expressing outrage that the Canadian government had reopened the debate on abortion.

And then I made a terrible, terrible mistake.

I recognize that the few people who bother to read this are almost all female, so I feel like I need to tread lightly here. Unlike my last entry, which likely elicited yawns, this one could inspire outrage. The joke I made last time about having my head placed on a pike could come to fruition if I’m not careful, so let me explain a few things before I tell you what my terrible, terrible mistake was.

Firstly, it should be noted that Canada currently has no law on abortion whatsoever. Nothing in the Criminal Code of Canada applies to abortion. There used to be a law governing abortion, but when this law was struck down in 1988, no new law was created to replace it. Abortion is not legal because the law says it’s legal. Abortion is legal because the law says nothing about it at all. This may seem like semantics, but it’s an absolutely vital and often overlooked part of the debate.

Second, the Canadian government is not looking at criminalizing abortion. Anyone who tells you this is lying, or crazy, or a militant feminist. Or all three. What the Canadian government is doing is looking at creating a law governing abortion, like the majority of Western democracies have. At worst, the government would cap abortions at something like 24 weeks as our British friends have.

Third, nothing is likely to come of this action. There’s just too much opposition.

Okay. With that out of the way, let me tell you what my terrible, terrible mistake was.

I…

Geez this is tough.

I commented on that post with the three points I made above, and then ended by saying that I wouldn’t be opposed to the creation of a 24 week cap.

There, I confessed. Go on then. Stone me to death.

No?

Well why not? Why haven’t you crucified me?

What’s that you say? You’re telling me that I’m entitled to my opinion? Seriously?

Well isn’t that a relief! Here I was, thinking that we were living in Paris in 1793, where the penalty for having an opinion was death by guillotine. But we’re not, are we? We’re in Canada in 2012.

Well, you could have fooled me. Because a half hour after I posted I received one of the most scathing responses I’ve received in my life. The entire thing was typical extreme feminist bullshit (“don’t call a fetus a child, it’s offensive to women” “Stop trying to oppress us”, etc), but that’s not what bothered me. What bothered me is that I was told that as a man, I had no right to an opinion on this subject.

No right to an opinion.

As a politics student, I have studied the philosophies of a great many dead white men, many of whom were terribly misogynistic, but even they never claimed that a woman didn’t have the right to an opinion. Many of them said that woman shouldn’t be allowed to vote, or join the work force, or to leave the house, but not allowed to voice an opinion?  The most recent philosopher that I can think of to voice the point of view that a person should not be allowed to have an opinion based on their gender was Aristotle, over 2300 years ago.

I’ve never understood why some people get so aggravated over other peoples’ opinions. They’re just words. My words don’t have any more power than yours do. They don’t harm you, or anyone else. You may disagree with them, sure. And I welcome that – In fact, I would love to hear what your opinion is.  That’s one of the beautiful things about living in a democracy. Everyone has a different perspective on life. But just because someone’s perspective isn’t the same as yours doesn’t lessen their right to express it.

This applies to pretty much everything.

I don’t agree with the views expressed by members of the Church of Scientology, but I don’t deny them the right to express their viewpoint.

I don’t agree with those who argue against gay marriage, but they’re just as free as I am to express their opinions.

I don’t agree with Shulamith Firestone, the single most radical feminist writer I’ve ever come across in my education. She advocated using technology to end sex as a means for reproduction, calling for mandatory in vitro fertilization. This would free women from the “barbarism” of pregnancy. She also believed that sex should become solely a means for pleasure, and everyone, regardless of age or gender, should be allowed to practice it. In one particularly interesting passage, she advocated the legalization of what we would call “child molestation”. Now, I don’t agree with her in the slightest, but she has the right to express her opinion.

 

The only exception is when the opinion itself is harmful to other people. Hate speech is not and should not be considered permissible. James Keegstra, who taught his students that Jews are lesser human beings and that the Holocaust was a fraud, was not just expressing an opinion. He was harming his students, and he was justly punished for this. But as long as an opinion does not harm anyone or disallow competing opinions, why get upset?

Here’s an opinion for you, if you’ll allow me to have one: Everyone should have the right to their own opinion in so far as their opinion does not harm you or take away your right to your own equal opinion.

Advertisements