People's Party candidates in Red Deer, Alberta. Laura Lynn Thompson, Paul Mitchell (centre), with the party leader Maxime Bernier.

People’s Party candidates in Red Deer, Alberta. Laura Lynn Thompson, Paul Mitchell (centre), with the party leader Maxime Bernier.

On August 7, both People’s Party of Canada candidates in Red Deer, Alberta – Paul Mitchell (Red Deer-Mountain View) and Laura-Lynn Thompson (Red Deer Lacombe) – held a press conference in which they called for a ban on abortions beyond 24 weeks. They vowed to submit a bill in Parliament if either was elected.

They said in a press release that the Conservative candidates for the riding were invited to join them in vowing to submit a bill banning late-term abortions. PPC leader Maxime Bernier has said his party will focus on economic and immigration issues but has repeatedly said candidates and MPs are free to act on their conscience on moral issues and bring forward private members bills on moral issues. Since the day he announced he was running for Conservative Party leader, Andrew Scheer has repeatedly said a Tory government will not reopen the abortion issue; in May, Scheer refused to answer whether or not he would allow backbench MPs to introduce private members bills or motions on the topic or allow a free vote if such a bill was before the House.

At their press conference, Mitchell said Canadians do not know that preborn babies are being killed in the final three months of pregnancy. “After 30 years with no law in Canada, a debate on abortion in Parliament is long overdue,” Mitchell said. “Viable late-term preborn Canadian babies must be allowed to live, and I will fight for this.”

The bill, the Protection of Preborn Children Act, would provide for a prison sentence of up to five years for health care workers who commit late-term abortions. It would also provide exceptions in cases whether the health of the mother is compromised by continuation of the pregnancy, in cases of rape, and if the preborn child has a genetic or lethal flaw. Mitchell described the proposed bill as finding common ground among pro-life and “pro-choice” Canadians.

, but CLC vice president Matt Wojciechowski said he welcomed the debate and congratulated the People’s Party for recognizing candidates should be allowed to speak and take action on moral issues such as abortion. However, Wojciechowski noted that CLC holds the view that all human life is sacred and must be given full protection from conception until natural death and therefore does not support gestational limits or bills that provide exceptions for lethal deformities or in cases of rape or incest. Wojciechowski said, “As this suggested legislation is written, we ironically have pro-lifers proposing to legalize abortion for the first time in Canada’s history in order to prohibit it for the final few months of pregnancy, when relatively few abortions are committed.” Wojciechowski also pointed out that “the exceptions in the bill are the exact reasons most women have late-term abortions in the first place and therefore it will not prevent many late-term abortions as the sponsors hope it will.”

Wojciechowski said if Mitchell and Thompson believe that life is sacred, which I know they do, then why save only those babies past 24 weeks of age?  “Why not introduce a bill banning all abortions and have a real debate about whether Canadians should be killing babies in the womb.”

We Need a Law also supported the effort to begin a conversation about abortion in the political sphere. Tabitha Ewert, legal counsel for We Need a Law, said, “To have federal candidates talking about an actual piece of legislation is a good step forward in this conversation.”

According to BC Catholic, Right Now’s Alissa Golob called the proposal “a great piece of legislation” but dismissed the effort because “the PPC is polling so low, it’s highly unlikely it will be put forward by a member from their party since polling consistently shows none of their candidates has a chance of winning.” Right Now supports only candidates it thinks have a realistic chance of winning.

Le Devoir, a French-language paper in Montreal, reported that 30 colleagues running under the People’s Party banner support the late-term ban, including two in Quebec. The paper also reported that Bernier had no problem with the proposal from Mitchell and Thompson, reiterating that “members may introduce private bills if they wish and it will be a free vote.”

According to data collected by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 3.2 per cent of hospital abortions took place after 21 weeks in 2017.