In early June both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun reported that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was pressuring Conservative MPs to vote against Stephen Woodworth’s private member’s motion calling upon Parliament to create a select committee to examine the modern scientific and medical evidence regarding preborn life and the human rights implications of those findings. The Criminal Code says that a child in the womb is not a human being and that she does not become so until proceeding completely from the mother’s body. Woodworth says that the law is based on a century’s old understanding of fetology.

Both the Globe and the Sun report that Harper is incensed that the abortion issue is being re-opened and wants his caucus to join the opposition in defeating his own MPs motion.

According to the Globe, the pressure was “unofficial” and apparently applied by surrogates, probably from the Prime Minister’s Office, and not Harper himself. The pressure was also reportedly applied before Woodworth (Kitchener-Center) traded with another MP so his bill would not be further considered until after the summer parliamentary recess. Woodworth switched with Liberal MP Scott Brison because the Tory MP’s mother, Olga, fell ill and he did not feel he could provide the attention his motion (M-312) required.

The Globe reported that MPs are being told that supporting M-312 “would be considered a vote against Mr. Harper’s wishes.” The Sun reported that a vote for M-312 would be a vote against Harper’s leadership. Both report that the Prime Minister considers M-312 a violation of his campaign promise that a Conservative government would not re-open the abortion issue.

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes said Harper’s reaction is nonsense. Hughes told The Interim that M-312 is a private member’s motion, not a government bill and thus does not compromise Harper’s promise. He added that Harper should permit a debate and allow a totally free vote, but alluding to the government whip Gordon O’Connor’s stridently pro-abortion speech in May, said Harper has “sent a signal to his caucus that they need to fall in line with the PMO on this issue.”

Hughes said Harper mistakenly “considers abortion to be a political albatross” and has “never been in favour of the pro-life side.” He said the government is afraid to discuss abortion but warns that its heavy-handedness might turn off socially conservative voters.

The Globe reported that the PMO dropped plans to force cabinet ministers to vote against the motion and is focusing on MPs who are not known to have strong opinions on life issues.

An unnamed source told the Sun, “The PM himself wants this vote beaten down.”

Hughes has told, “At some point some Canadian prime minister is going to allow this (debate) and certainly backbench pro-life members of parliament are going to stand up and demand it, and soon the people of Canada will begin to demand it as well.”