I am grateful to Timothy Bloedow for providing me with word that Canadian Alliance MP Garry Breitkreuz’s (Yorkton- Melville) new motion on redefining “human being” is different from his previous one, which was debated last March 22,.

The motion, M-228 debated on March 22 said “that in the opinion of this House, the government should bring in legislation defining a ‘human being’ as a human fetus or embryo from the moment of conception, whether in the womb of the mother or not and whether conceived naturally or otherwise, and making any and all consequential amendments required.”

The new motion (M-392), introduced Sept. 18, reads: “That the standing committee on justice and human rights review the current definition of ‘human being’ in section 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada and report

a)Whether the law needs to be amended to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child so as to provide appropriate legal protection for a child before as well as after birth, and;

b)Whether the law should be amended so that an unborn child is considered a human being at the point of conception, when the baby’s brain waves can be detected, when the baby starts to move within the womb or when the baby is able to survive outside the womb.”

These motions are private member activities that provide opportunity for debating an issue in the House. They seldom result in legislation but do keep those particular issues alive.

The change in motion is significant in several ways.

First,, it reflects a move from trying to get a motion through the House that adopts only one viewpoint – that a fetus is a human being from the time of conception. Instead, the objective is to get a debate on the issue, with several options to be considered – and to get that debate in front of the appropriate standing committee.

Second, debate on this matter has been consistently opposed by groups that support abortion on demand. And Prime Minister Chretien has used that opposition as a means to suggest that such debate would be divisive.

Third, the justice and human rights committee is presently hearing testimony with regard to new reproductive technologies and stem cell research. This motion, unlike the previous one, does not deal specifically with artificially-inseminated embryos or those created outside the womb. So it gives the committee the option of considering the two kinds of conception either separately or together

Fourth, Mr. Breitkreuz, as a strongly pro-life MP, is showing some courage in putting forward a motion that would permit debate, rather than one which reflects only one position on the issue.

But he will probably find backing from people in all parties who see themselves as pro-life but are a bit fuzzy on the question of when life begins.