It has been customary for the NDP, just as it has been for the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, to deny that the movement is “pro-abortion.”
On December 23, 1984, Toronto Sun columnist Claire Hoy discussed Morgentaler and the NDP. He first refuted a Toronto Star editorial of December 21, which had argued that Morgentaler should not have been re-charged. This, Hoy said, implied that juries overrule parliament and that Morgentaler’s renewed illegal action should go unpunished. Hoy then discussed the NDP’s position:
Lies, lies, lies
“The most intriguing development was a press release Thursday from NDP leader Bob Rae.
“Rae rushed to Morgentaler’s defense of course, but also claimed, “I am not an advocate of abortion, nor is the New Democratic Party.
“That’s a lie.
“The NDP favors abortion on demand. Period. Likely Rae is uneasy about the fact that when Attorney General Roy McMurtry announced the Morgentaler appeal earlier this month, some NDP members applauded, particularly the Italian MPPs from West Metro.
“Rae must know his pro-abortion stance is offensive to most Italian and Portuguese voters, the heart of NDP strength, so he could be hoping to con them into thinking he doesn’t advocate abortion.
“Well he does. And Rae is horrified by the prospects of Roman Catholic priests reminding their parishioners of this in the next provincial election.
“If nothing else, at least Morgentaler admits what he’s doing. Not Rae. He’s trying to have it both ways.
“Morgentaler isn’t helping him by attacking Emmett Cardinal Carter over a pastoral letter he sent to Roman Catholics condemning abortion. Morgentaler accuses Cardinal Carter of having ‘Fanned the flames of violence’ by fighting for the unborn.
“Rae is suitably wedged between a rock and a hard place, defending Morgentaler while desperately hoping to avoid offending his own large Roman Catholic constituency.”
How ell substantiated is Claire Hoy’s accusation? The briefest of chronologies show the following:
Stephen Lewis, leader of the Ontario NDP, is the first politician in Canada to introduce a bill for legalized abortion. The bill dies on the order paper of the Ontario Legislature.
The federal NDP adopts abortion on demand as party policy.
The federal NDP confirms its previous stand and adopts the following resolutions:
– that abortion be removed from the Criminal Code;
– that doctors convicted or facing prosecution for illegal abortions should be pardoned;
– that more hospital or clinic facilities should be constructed for abortion.
MP Stuart Leggatt (NDP New Westminster) introduced a private Members’ bill in the House of Commons to remove abortion from the Criminal Code. The measure is defeated.
The Regina Convention held in honour of the 50th anniversary of the original Regina Manifesto of 1933, confirms the abortion on demand position as party policy. In addition, these resolutions were passed.
– in support of Morgentaler’s abortion clinics and the establishment of similar clinics “wherever necessary>
– in condemnation of police charges in Winnipeg and Toronto against Morgentaler’s illegal abortion clinics as harassment.
Reporting on the August 15 televised debate on women’s issues in the 1984 federal election campaign, the four authors of a news report in the Globe and Mail declared: “Mr. Broadbent, who has in the past supported freestanding abortion clinics and abortion on demand, reiterated his position that women should have the freedom to choose an abortion if they want one.
The Southam News analysis stated: “Broadbent said he favours freedom of choice for women on abortion.”
MP Svend Robinson, NDP justice critic, called a press conference on the day of Henry Morgentaler’s Ontario acquittal to say that the verdict indicates the need for scrapping the abortion law. The question of whether an abortion should be performed should be left to the individual woman, he asserted.
Ed Broadbent, federal NDP leader, declares in an Ottawa radio interview that the four-jury acquittals mean that Canada’s abortion laws must be changed.
NDP member Margaret Mitchell argues in the House of Commons, “remove abortion from the Criminal Code…women should be allowed to make this decision for themselves…”
Also in the House of Commons, Svend Robinson declares, “Canadians demand a change in this unjust law…the present law is unworkable. Rather than returning to the days of the dark ages advocated by the Liberal Member (John Nunziata, York South-Weston), I suggest that we move forward by repealing the provisions of the Criminal Code…I believe that Henry Morgentaler has blazed a path for Canadian women…”
MP Mike Cassidy (Ottawa Centre), former Ontario NDP leader, says in the House of Commons: “I am rising to express my concern…that yet another charge is being laid against Dr. Morgentaler…my Party calls on the Government to repeal Section 251 of the Criminal Code so that women can have access to abortion in free conscience.”