On Sept. 26, four Liberal MPs and more than half the Conservative caucus, including 10 members of the government, voted for M-312, Stephen Woodworth’s private member’s motion calling for a debate on the beginning of human life.

Woodworth, a Conservative MP from Kitchener Centre, hoped to launch a special committee to re-examine section 223 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which stipulates that a child only becomes a human being once he or she has fully proceeded from the womb. While pro-life leaders would have preferred the motion to pass, the 91-203 vote contained several silver linings.

Campaign Life Coalition national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas stated in a press release, “to have the Conservative and some Liberal MPs take a stand for life together is encouraging for the future, despite the sad loss of this important vote.” She added, “We hope the MPs will continue to bring forward common sense motions such as Mr. Woodworth’s, and educate and inform the public on the humanity of the unborn child.”

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes told The Interim that the debate, especially within the media, but also among ordinary Canadians and within the House of Commons, was a sign that Canadians are ready for a debate about abortion. He said “the amount of media coverage shows there is an appetite to discuss and challenge the abortion status quo in Canada.”

Hughes said Woodworth’s motion suffered the same fate as Rod Bruinooge’s bill on coerced abortion and Leon Benoit and Ken Epp’s bills on unborn victims of crime which had popular support but insufficient political support. Hughes said the leadership of each party is out of step with the 60 per cent of Canadians who oppose the status quo of abortion-on-demand in Canada.

Bruinooge’s bill, tagged Roxanne’s Law, sought to ban the coercion of women into having abortions, and it was defeated 97-178 in a December 2010 vote. Woodworth’s motion did slightly worse. All but four of the 91 votes supporting M-312 came from Conservatives. They were joined by Liberal MPs Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough Agincourt), Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North), Lawrence MacAulay (Cardigan), and John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood).

Ten members of Stephen Harper’s cabinet also supported the motion: Minister of State (Foreign Affairs) Diane Ablonczy;  Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and Minister of State (Status of Women) Rona Ambrose; Minister of State (Seniors) Alice Wong; Minister of National Revenue Gail Shea; House Leader Peter Van Loan, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz; Associate Minister of Defense Julian Fantino; Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Peter Penashue; International Trade Minister Ed Fast; Immigration and Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney.

Hughes said that two ministers of the Crown rated pro-life by CLC voted against the motion: Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.

Hughes said pro-lifers “must take a very close look at how their MPs voted” as CLC is “developing a strategy to replace MPs that voted against M-312.”