Commons vote reveals pro-life strength
Parliament’s rejection of the government’s abortion-on-demand motion of July 28 pleased both sides on the controversial issue. But despite the claims of the pro-abortion lobby that the defeat was a victory for them, the facts revealed to Canadians nationwide that pro-life forces had much greater strength than the media had led the public to believe.The only pro-life amendment put to a vote (introduced by Gus Mitges) was defeated 118-105. But that the vote came that close surprised many, including pro-lifers. Said one clergyman who had not followed the developments closely: “I had no idea that pro-life was that strong.”
Neither did the rest of the country. Nor was it a question of voting for a pro-life motion full of escape clauses for the abortionists. The pro-life amendment in question was a strong one, refusing to permit abortion for “health” reasons, and allowing medical intervention only when doctors had ruled that the situation was life-threatening.
This amendment garnered 105 votes in support, despite the NDP’s directive to its members to vote in favour of the amendment. None did. Twenty-five voted against. It collected that many votes despite the fact that all 23 women present voted against it, completely unrepresentative of women’s opinion across the country.
The Toronto Sun had called the vote on abortion slated for July 28, an “exercise in futility.” The Toronto Star headed its July 27 front-page article, “Debate on abortion labelled hypocrisy.” But someone with better insight added in smaller type, “Historic vote tomorrow.”
On the morning of Thursday, July 28, precisely six months after the Supreme Court judgement of Jan. 28, 1988, the speaker of the House of Commons ruled half a dozen pro-life amendments out of order. They included an amendment to the government’s main motion proposed by Campaign Life Coalition and Alliance for Life, and introduced by John Oostrom (P.C. – Willowdale). This amendment would have transformed the government’s motion into a pro-life one.
The speaker did allow four pro-abortion motions, which in essence did not differ from the government’s motion. Dubbed by the press as “moderate” or “the middle way” between the two extremes of pro- and anti-abortion, the government motion was in reality a call for abortion on demand. It was, however, disguised with “restrictions” in the later stages of pregnancy.
Therefore, the separate vote on the four abortion-on-demand amendments proved very useful. They revealed the true weakness of the pro-abortion faction:
An amendment by Tory MP Mary Collins (Capilano) would have made an early abortion a matter between a woman and her doctor, while one later in the pregnancy would have required only one doctor’s opinion that continuation of the pregnancy would endanger her mental and physical health. It was defeated 191-29.
An amendment by Tory MP Kenneth James (Sarnia-Lambton), which would have permitted abortion on demand for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy but would have slightly tightened restrictions on later abortions, was defeated 202-17.
An amendment by Tory MP Barbara Sparrow (Calgary South), which would have defined the early stages of pregnancy as the first 18 weeks, was defeated on a voice vote.
An amendment by Tory MP John Bosley (Don Valley West), which would have simply required that abortions be conducted by qualified medical personnel and would have left the decision to a woman and her doctor, was defeated 198-20.
The final vote on the government motion itself was much less important. It was defeated 174-76. Liberals and NDPers voted against en bloc, not because of matters of conscience but out of partisan party politics. They wanted to embarrass the government.
A number of PC feminists, such as Barbara McDougall and Mary Collins, voted the motion down out of spite. But others also voted in favour of the motion out of party loyalty. At least eight PCers, including Deputy Prime Minister Don Mazankowski, voted in favour of the pro-abortion motion although earlier they had voted for the pro-life amendment.
In the days following the vote, editorial writers and pro-abortion “experts” such as law professor Bernard Dickens, were very annoyed. They uttered solemn warnings that the clock must not be turned back, that the Supreme Court will not allow it and that the country has decided that women must have the right to kill their unborn babies.
But pro-lifers knew better. For the first time in many years the pro-abortion bubble had been pricked and exploded. A Campaign Life Coalition press release hailed the votes on the various resolutions as “an important step forward in the drive for full protection for unborn children.” Said the vice president of Campaign Life Coalition Canada, Margaret Purcell, “We applaud the courage of the many PC MPs who voted against their own government’s resolution.”