On March 23, as The Interim went to press, Canada’s opposition parties sought to require the Conservative government to fund abortion as part of their maternal and child health initiative at the G8 summit this June. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae tabled a motion that would require “the maternal and child health initiative for the world’s poorest regions” to “include the full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options, including contraception.” In January, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said abortion was part of the “full gamut of reproductive health” options that had to be part of the maternal health program.
Campaign Life Coalition national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas said her organization called upon the Prime Minister to “urge his party to reject the divisive motion.” She said, “a vote in favor of Rae’s ‘reproductive health’ motion is a vote for abortion.”
Despite the disastrous ramifications for women and children in the developing world, Douglas said that the vote will be beneficial to the political arm of the pro-life movement as it will show clearly where MPs stand on abortion. “This is one of the clearest abortion votes in Parliament in the last decade and therefore we will be using the votes on this measure to designate where MPs stand on the right to life,” Douglas said. CLC will designate people who vote for the “reproductive health” motion as pro-abortion.
The motion said the government should “refrain from advancing the failed right-wing ideologies” advanced by former U.S. president George W. Bush, including the administration’s so-called “global gag rule” that prohibited non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding to refrain from promoting abortion. Douglas said that the reference to Bush’s policy demonstrates that the motion is conflating abortion and contraception.
Margaret Somerville, director of McGill University’s Centre for Medicine Ethics and Law, also charged the Liberal leadership with creating confusion saying that while abortion is the “central issue in this debate,” the motion fails to include the word. Writing in TheMarkNews.com, she accused the Liberals of intentionally generating confusion. She explained: “Reasons could include to avoid facing the facts of what abortion involves in practice or to persuade others, who might have ethical misgivings about abortion, to join their cause. In any case, they studiously avoid use of the word ‘abortion’.”
Jim Hughes, national president of CLC and vice president of the International Right to Life Federation, said, “Opposition politicians in Canada seem obsessed with the view that the only help we can provide women for their babies is to prevent or eliminate them.”
Canadians across the country were urged by national and local pro-life groups to urge their MPs to vote against the motion. Douglas said “we were in overdrive working on the MPs to ensure the motion’s defeat.”
The motion was defeated 144-138, mostly along party lines. The Bloc Quebecois, Liberals and NDP all supported the motion. The Conservatives whipped the vote and all 141 Tories present in the House voted against the motion. They were joined by three pro-life Liberals: Paul Szabo, John McKay, and Dan McTeague. Two Liberals abstained (Albina Guarnieri and Gurbax Malhi) and ten Grits were not present for the vote.