Jordan Peterson on Abortion

We were able to track down several instances (January, 2020) where Jordan Peterson has given his opinion on abortion. One popular clip which was clearly constrained by time. However we were able to find a longer response, particularly about the current status of the current state of Canadian abortions laws. Though it’s a long question we are going to republish the transcript in its entirety. There’s some pretty interesting stuff in here.

(Interviewer) One of the most divisive issues that we’ve seen in our nation over the last generation, of course, is the issue of abortion. I’m wondering if there’s actually a centrist position on this topic to expand. Many Canadians might not be aware that you can actually legally abort a baby right up to nine months in Canada, legally, at taxpayer expense, because there are no legal restrictions to stop that right now. There’s no law on abortion. Whether somebody’s really strong pro choice, or really strong pro life, is there something to be said that there’s a centrist position where both of those camps could perhaps come together and say, hey, maybe it should be illegal to abort a child in the third trimester after 32 weeks gestation, or whatever the marker point would be. Because the baby (at that point) is fully viable and it can exist outside it’s mother’s body on it’s own. It is (the baby) then adoptable by the many families in Canada that are wanting to adopt newborn babies, et cetera, et cetera. My babies actually were born at that time frame of 33 weeks, and they’re super, super healthy. And so is that a centrist position to say okay, let’s protect the unborn in that third trimester, or perhaps the angle of gendercide, say it should be illegal to abort a baby girl, just because of it’s gender, just because it’s a baby girl, or then of course there’s the angle of women being harassed into abortion, which we know is a major issue as well. So is there an opportunity here, whether it’s for the conservative party, or maybe even another political party, to recapture the center even on that issue, and perhaps unite those two voter blocks for support? I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on that.

I think two things about that. I think that’s part of a much broader conversation that we seem incapable of having in our society about how the sexual relations between men and women should be handled. I would say the most appropriate social conservative strategy in that regard is to push really hard for continued respect for the sanctity and primacy of marriage as the proper container let’s say, for intimate activity between adults. I don’t see the alternatives to that as being particularly attractive. I don’t think people are particularly happy with serial promiscuity let’s say, and fragmented relationships, and all of that. The alternative to marriage, dreadful as marriage is, the alternatives seem to be much worse. So I think the social conservatives should be beating the drum hard to have the institution of marriage supported in every possible way. And also to be doing what they can to market it’s value and utility to young people as really their best alternative, because I really do think it is. I think a strong case can be made for that, and it’s crystal clear that intact nuclear families are much better for children than fragmented families. The empirical evidence for that is absolutely crystal clear, and I think the social conservatives have done a relatively poor job of, what we would say, acting as a proactive force to publicize the tremendous advantages to traditional marriage. 

Now that’s going to solve the abortion problem to some degree on the production side, let’s say. And then with regards to the legislative side, it’s a very, very tricky problem. I certainly believe that abortion is morally wrong. I think that it’s something you do after you’ve done a bunch of other things that you shouldn’t have done, and I don’t see any way out of that argument. You find yourself in the position of needing an abortion when you’ve made a lot of very serious moral errors already, and then the question is, well even if it’s wrong fundamentally, in that it’s not something you would ever recommend that someone do. Which I think is a good definition or wrong, if you can’t under any circumstances say that you would recommend something to someone, except in sorrow, I can’t see how you can think that it’s anything but wrong. Then there’s the issue of whether it should be left up to individual conscience. And I would say there’s enough fractiousness in our society around the issue so that that might be necessary inevitably. But then what I would do practically is I would slope different legislative propositions regarding abortion, like it’s not that hard to do a compelling poll. I don’t think the majority of Canadians would think that abortions at nine months are a good idea. You can test people’s attitudes, to find out what policies they would support. The fact that we’ve been without law surrounding abortion for years, because of the judicial decisions is another indication of the abdication of legislative responsibility that’s emerged in Canada as a consequence of the installation of human rights legislation for example. What’s happening is we’re defaulting these decisions to the courts, because our politicians don’t have enough courage to attack the issues head on, and that’s a very bad thing. So I think we should test people’s attitudes and find out where the consensus is. I don’t see any other way of approaching it really.

The conversation continued: 

(Interviewer) Why do you think we haven’t been able to bring a law forward on the issue, is it just the courage factor as you just mentioned, or do you think there’s something more there?

I think that no matter what you say about abortion, you lose, so no politicians are motivated to stick their neck out and be the sacrificial lamb for the discussion, but that’s not good, it’s the legislative branch that should be handling such things. I would do it as a social scientist essentially, I’d do it empirically. You can generate 10 different policies, and test them publicly, and see what people think. The whole idea in the final analysis is that we should turn to the opinion of the majority when we can’t decide things, when there’s complex decisions to be made, we turn to the decision of the majority for better or for worse, and let that play itself out in a hopefully self-correcting manner. So I think there are ways that this could be dealt with

that would be sensitive to the issues of bodily autonomy on one side, and protection for the unborn on the other. And there’s issues here, like even if you’re a radical advocate for the pro abortion position. There are very, very complicated issues at play we have to take into account, so most pro choice advocates aren’t very happy with the sex selective abortion of females, right? Gendercide. That rubs them logically the wrong way, let’s say, as well as ethically. If abortion is all right under any circumstances, then sex selective abortion is also all right, but it doesn’t seem to be all right, so serious conversation that has to be had about that. And late term abortion starts to become indistinguishable from infanticide at some point, and nobody seems to be advocating for infanticide. 

(Interviewer) Okay, why do you think Trudeau, he really positions himself as a women’s rights advocate, and why do you think he’s not willing to have the gendercide conversation?

I don’t think he’s willing to have any hard conversations. I haven’t seen any evidence of his ability to engage in difficult conversations emerge at all. All I see is someone who’s running out a post modern neo-Marxist ideology. His positions on everything are entirely predictable, and from what I’ve read he doesn’t really view himself as a leader. He views himself as something like a facilitator, or even as a figurehead. When I read his descriptions of his roles of prime minister it sounded to me more like he was describing someone who would be the governor general. So the other issue on the abortion side is that well, if the unborn fetus has no rights whatsoever, then is it okay imbibe alcohol while you’re pregnant, or to use cocaine, or other addictive drugs? Is there no responsibility whatsoever if you’re a mother, to protect the fetus from the damaging consequences of your own behavior? And you can say no, the mother has full autonomy, but that doesn’t help you deal with the child that’s born with fetal alcohol syndrome. So we have some serious talks to have about such things, but we’re not courageous enough, let’s say, or maybe we’re too polarized to have the sensible, mature discussions that we need to have. The abortion issue is a fragment of a larger discussion about desirable sexual morality, and the role of the state in, let’s say, supporting that. But we can’t even come out and say, and this has been true in places like Ontario. We can’t even come out and say, well the nuclear family that consists of mother, father, and children is the smallest viable family unit. Even though the research evidence indicates that absolutely clearly. Fatherlessness is a complete bloody catastrophe, not only for Fathers, but for children and for mothers, because mothers without husbands get poor fast, and their children don’t do well, but we’re under the sway of this insistence. This idiot egalitarian insistence that all families are equal for example, which was the mantra of the Ontario liberals, and that’s driven by the requirement that two women in a lesbian relationship have to be regarded as parents that are just as viable as the standard nuclear family arrangement, and that may be true in a minority of cases, although we don’t know, but as a standard social policy, it just doesn’t seem to me to be a tenable solution. But we’re so far away from being able to have that conversation, that it’s a kind of miracle.

Compared to Other Canadians

In many ways, especially after the passing of the “heartbeat bill” in many U.S. states, Canada finds themselves in the opposite position as America. After the Canada Health Act abortion became both legal and “free” (outside of restrictions such as geography) with restrictions in only rare circumstances. Though it’s been this way for most of the current adult generation in Canada, it was not always this way. As author Cherie Stachan writes “Prior to 1969, all abortion was illegal until Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government legalized abortion, provided a committee of doctors signed off on it (Strachan, 2019).”

As one might imagine, the percentage of citizens who view abortion as morally acceptable in the United States vs Canada are inversely related. A 2002 study comparing the two, showed 53% of Americans viewed abortion as morally wrong. Meanwhile 57% of their Canadian counterparts viewed abortion as morally acceptable.

Views on Abortion Around World

Canada is unique in that it is currently one of the few countries with almost no restrictions to abortions (Ammer, 1994). The case study of de-criminalized abortions that Canada has provided the world has shown some reasons for optimism as well as pessimism as the debate moves forward. In Dorothy Shaw’s 2019 study,  she noted that “Regulating abortion as a healthcare service has not led to higher abortion rates” and the “average gestational age at abortion is decreasing as access to services increases.”

However she goes on to point out (all of this is in the abstract) “as medical abortion increases, training and access for second trimester abortion are concerning.” The truth is that there’s simply a lack of medical personnel who are trained to give abortions at varying levels of gestational development, specifically the second trimester which is both a) when a large proportion of abortions are had in Canada and b) when major gestational developments are observed.

As always, should we become aware that Jordan has changed (or added to) his opinion or should new evidence be submitted that we have either misconstrued his opinion or failed to include important statements from him, we will 1) make the correction, 2) note the correction here, 3) issue a mea culpa that attempts to explain and improve on how we missed this. 

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