Some in the pro-life community believe that support for incremental legislation is wrong, that it is in effect "throwing babies under the bus". Their reasoning is that it makes a difference between those protected from abortion and those that would be targeted for abortion, dividing the children in the womb into two camps.
However the flaw with this reasoning is that, in Canada, all babies are currently thrown under the bus, since we have absolutely no protection for any child in the womb. Success in bringing in legislation of some sort would have the effect of at least saving some lives, even if we can't save all.
I met Father Tom Lynch this past summer and asked him that very question: what is your position on WeNeedaLaw and incremental legislation? He told me that holding the position that all abortion must be made illegal, since all life from conception is human, is simply unsustainable in Canada. Outlawing all abortion from the moment of conception is just not going to happen. In fact, in Father Lynch's opinion, our current politicians are even less pro-life now than they used to be in the past, and that doesn't appear to be changing. The pro-choice position of allowing all abortions through all nine months of pregnancy is upheld by the majority of MPs. And those who don't agree with that position are, for the most part, silent on the topic.
Despite the wishful thinking that we can change hearts and minds, that thinking is just that - wishful. Reality is quite different. The reality is that abortion is entrenched in our society and most people cannot think of not having abortion; they see it as a solution to the problem of unplanned pregnancies and all the babies that would be born and would have to be looked after by someone, and they don't want that someone to be them.
Throughout all of human history, the law has been a teacher. This is the reason why Moses wrote down the Ten Commandments upon hearing them from Yahweh. The people needed to be told what was right and what was wrong and they needed to know there were consequences for disobedience. In fact, most organizations and societies have rules precisely to keep people informed of which behaviour is good (both for themselves and society as a whole) and which is not.
The same holds true for abortion. Most people under the age of 40 in Canada do not see a problem with abortion because, for all of their lives, abortion has been legal. And what is legal, must be right. This is what the absence of a law does, it conditions people to think that something is morally good and right if it is not disallowed. I have heard young women say to me that abortion must be okay, because it is legal.
Therefore, enacting legislation would have the effect of teaching morality to a population that doesn't seem to be getting much in the way of moral teaching from any other source.
And enacting any legislation with regards to abortion is crucial if we wish to change hearts and minds on this issue. Rather than the other way around, as Harper says "we must change hearts and minds and then we can change the law", I hold that having a law would actually teach many people what is wrong. This is how we teach our children. We don't always expect them to understand the concepts behind the discipline we mete out; oftentimes, particularly with young children, they simply have to be given the boundaries of behaviour in order to make their behaviour conform to what is good for them. Understanding follows behaviour in the majority of cases.
The lack of abortion law has taught Canadians that lives in utero are dispensable. It will take the bringing back of legislation on abortion to begin to inform them otherwise.