On September 10, Jim Jepson (PC, London East), speaking on the status of women, requested funding for REAL Women of Canada. Among other things, Mr. Jepson said,
“REAL Women, although desiring equal opportunity for women in the workforce, as well stresses the importance of the family unit and the role of women as mothers and homemakers. Having witnessed the drastic changes that have altered our society in the last 20 years, the supporters of REAL Women have come forth with a very important point.
“Throughout history the family has been the building block of our society and it is becoming increasingly obvious that the fragmentation of the family leads to a poorly functioning society and widespread social disorders as seldom unaccompanied by weakening family bonds. Alienation and delinquency are most often the result of broken homes, in whatever circumstances.
“REAL Women is a group that is sensitive to these dangers and they make this awareness a constant companion in their efforts to secure wider opportunities for women in society. In other words, Mr. Speaker, their agenda has been conceived to offer the greatest possible hope for progress for women while maintaining the family as a basis of Canadian society.
“To date there has been reluctance on the part of the Government to fund REAL Women, even though many other women’s groups do receive such funding. I believe that if the Government is going to fund some women’s groups, such as the National Action Committee for the status of Women, it certainly should be funding another legitimate point of view like that of the REAL Women’s organization. I strongly believe, Mr. Speaker that it is not for a group of bureaucrats in the Ministry left over from previous administration to decide which values best represent the interests of the women of Canada. REAL Women is a rapidly growing organization representing a view which I believe is widely held by a majority of Canadian women.”
In reply, Monique Landry (PC, Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of State) noted that
“In 1973, a women’s program was created at the Department to implement one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. Recognizing the important role played by women’s voluntary associations in women’s struggle for equal rights with men, the Commission recommended that the Government provide funding to encourage these associations to pursue their efforts, and also to provide funding for other voluntary associations working in fields of particular concern to women.
“The Women’s Program is funding a broad range of women’s groups across the country and in a broad cross-section of society to help them improve significantly the status of women in Canada.
“The program tries to fund groups that through their activities are trying to make a positive contribution to the status of women, that are representative of the female population and work will benefit all Canadian women.
“Although the work of women in the home constitutes an important contribution to society, the fact remains that in its efforts to improve the status of women – which were specifically referred to in the Throne Speech – the Government id not necessarily trying to promote a particular prototype of the family. This particular goal of REAL Women is not one of the objectives of the Women’s Program, which tends to fund groups that see it as their task to explore the entire range of options women have in their struggle to achieve full equality….
“Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I can inform the Hon. Member for London East (Mr. Jepson), as in fact he himself said earlier, that the Secretary of State who is responsible for the Women’s Programme intends to review and analyze all programmes under his jurisdiction as part of a comprehensive study of his new duties.
On September 12, 1985, John Gormley (PC, The Battlefords-Meadow Lake) moved an act to Amend the Criminal Code (Abortion) for second reading. Among other things, Mr. Gormley stated,
“Abortion is a medical, ethical, legal and theological issue touching all facets of human existence. Above all, abortion is a political issue that must be addressed by politicians in the Parliament. It is my hope that in this Private Members’ Hour, politicians can address this matter in a non-partisan, constructive fashion. It is for this reason that I have proposed Bill C-226 for discussion.
“What does this Bill propose? Presently, under Section 251(4) abortion is illegal except in cases where the life or health of a woman may be endangered or may likely be endangered. Bill C-226 proposes to amend the legislation to remove the words “or health” from this particular provision. As a result, this would make abortion less available than it presently is. I hope that in this hour, we may have a discussion on this issue and that I may be able to say why I feel the Criminal Code should be amended to make abortion less available.”
Mr. Gormley showed that in 1967 and 1968 the House of Commons’ own Health and Welfare Committee expressed fears that the term “health” would be interpreted too widely, a fact confirmed 10 years later by the Badgley Commission. He then elaborated on a dramatic change in perception about the viability of the foetus. As his third point, he analyzed the logical contradictions of the theory of “wantedness” as an excuse for abortion.
“In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, while opinions are certainly divergent and points of view differing, only Members of Parliament can address this most vital issue. By inaction we do a service to no one. By upholding the status quo, we allow an unacceptably high number of abortions to continue to be conducted every single day in this country. Failure to address this issue amounts to standing mute while lives are ruined. Let all Hon. Members of Parliament remember this.”
Mary Collins (PC, Capilano), who followed Mr. Gormley in the debate, repeated her arguments for doing nothing which she had brought forward last March. She said that Private Members’ Hour is an inappropriate forum to discuss legal change on the issue. Regardless of one’s views on abortion, she said, the real need is for more contraceptive counseling. She then said (in a roundabout way) that she favoured a woman’s right to abortion,
“I would have to speak today against the motion of my dear friend and colleague. I know we agree in many different areas but this, as he said himself, is an area that even within our own Party there are many different points of view. I guess I would disagree with my hon. Friend on several points. First, with respect to the justice of the issue itself and, second, on the mood of Canadians with respect to this issue. First, my colleague is suggesting amendments to the Criminal Code which would delete the right of women to have an abortion if it would endanger their health and therefore restrict the rights of women to have an abortion to only those circumstances where there would be an endangerment to life itself.
“I would want to see in the future further changes made and that ultimately we could come to a situation where the issue of abortion is removed from the Criminal Code entirely because in my view the issue of whether to continue a pregnancy or not is the right of the woman in consultation with her physician or others who may be able to provide her with advice and counseling. Ultimately it should be the woman herself who should make that decision.”
Jim Jepson (PC, London East), on the other hand, supported Mr. Gormley’s Bill. Speaking eloquently, he stated,
“Respect for life has undergone a tragic change in recent years. It has gone from “sacred” status down to “important”. In society today it is more and more widely held that life should be protected but only until some other “important” consideration comes along. The obvious examples of this today are the increasing popularity of concepts like euthanasia and abortion on demand. Some people today say it is all right to have an abortion if you have an important reason. This kind of excuse has been broadened to include the most trifling inconvenience. Obviously when people say life is sacred, they mean completely different things.
“The point of this Bill, which I wholeheartedly support, is that most Canadians believe life is sacred. Unless this belief is reflected in legislation, we will be guilty of raising a generation which has no concept of lasting values. They will be sacrificed for expedience and convenience. Society’s laws are always a reflection of the moral norms which anchor our society. The abortion rights movement has reversed this relationship. By putting something into law they can restructure our values. By legalizing abortion on demand they can create a new morality in our society. Whenever society believes it can create its own morality, it is in trouble. The most obvious result of this self-reliance is irresponsibility to any sense of value altogether. History has shown us that rebellion, disorder and confusion inevitably follow. We must focus today on responsibility, not rights.
“This excellent piece of legislation will have the opposite effect. It will restore the legal framework of our society to a state consistent with the values which have formed the bedrock of not only our society but every society which comes to mind.”
The fourth speaker, Pauline Jewett (NDP, New Westminister-Coquitlam), explained that we are a parliament which reasons and it is worth continuing to talk in favour of choice on abortion.” She repeated all the stock arguments, such as,
“We must not allow one group in society to impose its moral values and beliefs on another. However, when it comes to defining more precisely what they mean by that, I would like to say that he, and others like him, are imposing upon myself, and others like me, a certain set of moral values and beliefs. They are, in the course of doing so, robbing me, and others like myself, of my fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom of choice.
“As Norma Scarborough of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League pointed out to the parliamentary Committee on Equality Rights in June of this year:
“Our law discriminates by limiting a woman’s right to control her fertility. A man suffers no such restrictions on his reproductive choice…Further, the law treats a medical procedure that pertains only to women in a way it treats no other medical procedure. Any man is free to decide on medical treatment in consultation with his physician, but a pregnant woman has no such freedom in making the abortion decision.”
Mrs. Jewett commended Mrs. Mary Collins for speaking in favour of choice on abortion.
The last speaker, Suzanne Duplessis (Lib. Louise-Herbert) ran out of time at the end of Private Members’ Hour. But, before she did, she managed to say this,
“I can assure you, because, being a devout Christian and Roman Catholic, I have always been consistent in opposing abortion, but I do not agree that the words “or health” should be deleted.
“I have always been in favour of abortion when the life or health of the mother is endangered, especially when a therapeutic abortion committee has examined her case.”
Apparently, this “devout” Catholic does not know that the Catholic Church rejects abortion for any reason as contrary to the fifth commandment.