National Affairs Rory Leishman

National Affairs Rory Leishman

Let us be frank: This year’s federal election campaign marked another severe setback for the pro-life movement.

The lowest point came on Sept. 29, when Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe reiterated the time-worn canard that the Harper Conservatives harbour a secret agenda. Specifically, he charged: “There is every reason to believe that a Harper majority government would reopen wide the door to the criminalization of abortion.”

Alas, there was no truth to the allegation. And Duceppe knew it. He was indulging in shameless demagoguery. There was not then, and never has been, any evidence to suggest that Harper plans to recriminalize abortion.

To the contrary, there is far better reason to believe that Harper will do nothing about abortion. He will stand by the commitment in the founding Policy Declaration of the Conservative Party: “A Conservative government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion.”

And sure enough, in response to Duceppe, Harper categorically stated: “This government will not reopen, and will not permit anyone to reopen, the debate on abortion.”

Harper added: “I’ve been clear throughout my entire political career. I don’t intend to get into the abortion issue. I haven’t in the past. I’m not going to in the future. Yes, there will be people in the Conservative party who wish I would and there are some in the Liberal party who also wish I would. But I have not done that in my entire political career and I don’t intend to start now.”

In a subsequent e-mail to the Globe and Mail, Harper’s spokesman, Kory Tenycke, explained: “We can’t prevent private member’s bills from reaching the floor. But the government would not support them.”

That’s disgraceful. In taking this hard-line stance, Harper not only violated the right to conscience of members of his own government, but also repudiated the Conservative party’s own policy declaration on free votes, which states: “On issues of moral conscience, such as abortion, the definition of marriage and euthanasia, the Conservative party acknowledges the diversity of deeply held personal convictions among individual party members and the right of members of Parliament … to vote freely.”

It is a measure of Harper’s dictatorial control over the Conservative party that none of the pro-lifers in his cabinet or the rest of the Conservative caucus has publicly rebuked him for unilaterally violating this key plank in the party’s policy platform. At most, Harper would allow only his backbench supporters to vote in accordance with their consciences on a private member’s bill on abortion.

The same cannot be said for New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton or Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois. They both require all members of their party caucuses to oppose any bill restricting abortion.

Worse, Liberal party leader Stephane Dion has now also adopted the same freedom-stifling policy. Just last year, he allowed Liberal MP Paul Steckle to introduce a pro-life bill that would have made it a criminal offence to perform an abortion after the 20th week of a pregnancy.

Today, the Liberal party no longer tolerates any dissent from its implacable support for abortion on demand. On the day that Harper declared his intention to compel members of his government to oppose any bill on abortion, a spokesman for the Liberals likewise told David Akin of The National Post: “If there were a vote on a bill that would restrict a woman’s right to choose, Dion, like Layton and Duceppe, would whip his caucus to vote against it.”

How pathetic. Until this year’s federal election, the Liberals and Conservatives could at least be counted upon to allow a free vote on a private member’s bill on abortion. Now, even that faint hope for getting Parliament to adopt some restrictions on abortion has been eradicated.

To make matters worse, the Liberals also favour assisted suicide, while the NDP and Bloc Quebecois support the legalization of both euthanasia and assisted suicide. Of all the parties in Parliament, only the Conservative party still backs the longstanding bans on euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Criminal Code.

Still, the duty of pro-lifers is clear: despite all setbacks, it is vital for us to go on doing whatever we can to combat the enveloping culture of death.