Two thing decided the defeat of Gus Mitges’ motion to amend the Charter to protect the unborn. One was the pressure brought to bear on Conservative MPs by their leaders. Despite assurances that this was to be a “free vote,” Mulroney and his advisors made it clear that a pro-life vote was unacceptable. Congratulations and continued support are due to those Conservative MPs who risked high-level displeasure and voted for life.
The second crucial factor which encouraged many MPs, especially those from Quebec, to cast a negative vote was the letter signed by the two General Secretaries of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, presumably on behalf of the Bishops.
Their letter mentioned two recent statement on abortion. They added, astonishingly, that the Bishops “do not want their position to be understood as necessarily endorsing the constitutional amendment…as the most suitable means to implement this right to life of the foetus.” The letter reached all MPs and – predictably – gave those who wanted one the perfect escape hatch: they could even cite the Bishops’ position as their justification.
Pro-life supporters, Catholic or not, are angry at and confused by the CCCB subversion. Many Catholics are sick and tired of trying to explain the actions of the CCCB bureaucrats in pro-life affairs. Now they are faced with trying to understand this backstabbing of a parliamentary procedure which would have been a first step in the right decision.
The least the CCCB might do, now that they’ve helped to defeat the Mitges’ motion, is to issue a public statement clarifying their stand in opposing it. Without such a statement, their actions will remain a public scandal.
Despite the Conservative cabinet and the Ottawa CCCB, pro-lifers can be proud of their movement’s increasing momentum. Pro-life support in parliament has grown since the constitutional debates of 1981. And this recorded vote will be invaluable to pro-life political activists during the next federal election.
Although the vote went against us, the lobbying campaign was a resounding success on the educational front because so many MPs were reached with the pro-life message. Grass-roots lobbying from the constituents had a definite impact: several MPs who had never made their positions known on the abortion issue came out of the closet and voted pro-life. Well done!
“We have only lost a battle. We have not lost the war,” writes Dr. Gus Mitges in a letter of thanks to the thousands of pro-lifers who lobbied in support of his motion. We think this battle may prove to be the turning point in the war.