CHP leader Jim Hnatiuk has outlined his party's view that most incremental measures are good and supportable, but that a gestational limit is not.

The Christian Heritage Party of Canada issued a position paper outlining its support for various incremental measures to restrict abortion to offer guidance in what it seems as the best ways to limit abortion in Canada on route to eventually eliminating it. The document, signed by party leader Jim Hnatiuk and deputy leader Rod Taylor reiterates the party’s “unequivocal and unwavering defense of innocent human life from conception to natural death” as it describes what constitutes supportable incremental measures and the principles behind them.

The Interim obtained a draft of the document Aug. 13 from Taylor, along with a letter to the editor from Hnatiuk, in response to the feedback the CHP received to an unintentional omission in their response to our survey on incrementalism, which focused on gestational limits and appeared in the August issue of the paper. The letter, which appears in its entirety on page four, explained, “at the time of the survey, we were busy preparing a document specifically highlighting the types of incremental strategies that we think would be most successful and that could be supported by a majority of pro-lifers and a majority of Canadians.”

The position paper notes that not only is the CHP a registered federal party, but “a substantial and distinct national pro-life group.” As such, its leadership felt is should contribute to the discussion about “strategic and incremental steps to reduce and ultimately eliminate abortion in Canada.”

Noting that “we believe a primary role of the government at all levels is to protect its citizens from harm and loss, regardless of public opinion,” and that “both hearts and laws” must change to uphold the sanctity of human life, they articulate both principles guiding their specific policy proposals and policies that would lead to the protection of human life.

The document notes that their “core policies” are “drawn from CHP constitutional goals” that “provide Christian leadership (and) promote Biblical values in federal legislation” and therefore their platform calls for “Legislation recognizing the personhood of the unborn and the legal protection of unborn persons from the moment of conception.” They also seek “a thorough and comprehensive national ad campaign, educating the populace and encouraging each individual to ‘Make Life Your Choice!’,” which ideally would be “funded by a government committed to the protection of the unborn,” but until the time such a government exists, it could be supported by the entire pro-life movement. The CHP says that such a campaign might be a precondition for legal changes because minds and hearts must be open to changes in law.

The CHP noted it has supported incremental measures in the past, including an Unborn Victims of Violence bill “which raised the issue of the personhood of the unseen victim,” an anti-coercion bill “which raised awareness about peer pressure and coercion, factors in a significant number of abortions,” and Stephen Woodworth’s Motion 312 “for its fresh and reasonable call to investigate and debate the issue of personhood and humanity.”

The CHP acknowledge “that each of these measures have had their critics due to perceived weaknesses or wording that could be interpreted as compromise” but added that in the future, pro-life groups and MPs should work together to bring forth legislation. The document said, “We would hope and expect, once a clear course is set, that prolife MPs with the opportunity to table pro-life legislation will – through the counsel of many – be able to craft that legislation such that it will have the enthusiastic support of every pro-lifer and – if possible – garner the support of other common-sense MPs, even those who may not be committed pro-lifers.”

The CHP says it supports life-affirming measures that would genuinely restrict abortion and teach the public about the realities of abortion with the goal of its eventual recriminalization.

The incremental measures the CHP supports include defunding groups (including non-government organizations such as Planned Parenthood and government departments and agencies) that promote or provide abortion; defunding the abortion procedure by cutting transfer payments to provinces by an amount equal to that spent on abortion; conscience legislation for doctors, nurses, hospital staff, etc; protection of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech through the elimination of bubble zones that violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and enforcement of Charter rights for students on university campuses; mandatory release of all abortion statistics in all provinces; informed consent for women seeking abortions with mandatory disclosure of information about fetal development and possible health risks associated with abortion; improved material support for women facing unplanned pregnancies “to encourage live birth and adoption or supported motherhood”; parental notification to teens seeking abortions; a ban on sex-selection abortion; and improved anti-coercion legislation.

The CHP document says “other creative and principled legislative proposals” may be supported if they “do not specifically give the appearance of legitimacy or approval to abortion.”

To that end, the CHP made clear it does not favour a gestational approach because “it seems to be a path fraught with difficulty” because “the numbers of babies that might be saved and the impact of such legislation on future attempts to pass better, more comprehensive legislation are purely speculative.” The document does not rule support a gestational limit if “an MP from another party should table” it, but added it would depend on the wording of the bill.

But considering its divisiveness within the party and dubious utility, the CHP maintains the focus should be on effective restrictions that would reduce abortion. The document states, “we propose that we in the pro-life movement covenant to work together on any legislative proposals and support – as much as possible – the pro-life initiatives of our fellow-workers.” But at the same time it warns: “This mutual commitment must not bind us to blindly support an initiative which violates our consciences but we need to foster a spirit of encouragement for our fellow pro-lifers and recognize that ‘we need each other’ to get the job done.”

Hnatiuk and Taylor say, “While the implementation of full protection for the unborn may (to some) seem idealistic and unattainable, we remain committed to this position and will continue to work toward its fulfillment.”