Every minute of every day one pregnant mother and 18 young children die prematurely. That is 500,000 mothers and 9 million children under the age five die annually, mostly due to preventable causes. Prime Minister Stephen Harper highlighted the issue in January and announced that during the G8 summit to be held in Huntsville, Ont., in June, he would promote an initiative that would focus narrowly on clean water, nutrition, inoculations, and safe deliveries in order to reduce maternal and infant mortality.

The opposition parties howled that the initiative – the specifics of which were yet to be announced – did not include family planning including contraception and abortion. On March 23, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario, introduced a motion calling up the government to include “the full range of family planning, sexual and reproductive health options, including contraception.” While the motion did not mention abortion, most of the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs that spoke in favour of the motion did raise the issue of abortion.

The motion was defeated 144-138, mostly along party lines. The Bloc Quebecois, Liberals and NDP all supported the motion. The Conservatives whipped the vote and all 141 Tories present in the House voted against the motion, although most of the Conservatives who spoke chastised the opposition for playing politics with maternal health and condemned a particular anti-American line in the motion that condemned the George W. Bush administration’s restrictions on funding pro-abortion groups.

Ignatieff said he would punish McKay, McTeague and Szabo for voting against the motion, but neither his office nor the Liberal MPs were willing to speak publicly about what penalties, if any, were imposed.

Three pro-life Liberals also voted against the bill: Paul Szabo, John McKay, and Dan McTeague. Another dozen Liberal MPs were not present for the vote, including Derek Lee who spoke against the motion before walking out of the House of Commons.

See full voting record  here