Recently, we visited a number of women, prominent in politics but from different parties and with a range of views on the need for pro-life legislation. Three Liberal members were interviewed, two Reform Party members and one Liberal Senator. Several others either refused outright or failed to respond to our request. (Ed. Note, the article was completed prior to Roseanne Skoke’s defeat at a Nova Scotia nomination contest.)
We asked two general questions of each politician. Is there a renewed appreciation for pro-life, pro-family concerns among women MPs and is there a better understanding of the need to extend legal protection to unborn children? Our questions were based on the two cases which had been in the news in the past few months; that in Winnipeg where a mother had continued her glue-sniffing while pregnant, and that in Carleton Place, Ontario concerning Brenda Drummond who shot her full-term unborn child in the head with a pellet gun.
Beryl Gaffney, Liberal Member for Nepean, Ontario says that the matters of pro-life, pro-family concerns have not arisen as issues among women MPs.
The recent American election did a great deal to highlight the matter because of the focus on partial-birth abortion and Mrs. Gaffney, like most others, had heard about these grisly abortions but did not investigate closely. Her reaction to the Drummond case was that it was very different from abortion cases because, “That was a full term baby!” Sadly, she reports that she has received not one call on these matters.
Of the glue-sniffing case in Winnipeg, she feels that it has created room for discussion of cases of alcohol and drug abuse; there should be some way of offering protection for the child. Nevertheless, it has not been a focus of conversation between herself and other women MPs.
The Liberal Member for Central Nova, Nova Scotia, Roseanne Skoke feels that these issues are timely.
Definition of life
“The courts are waiting for Parliament to legislate. The issues of abortion and the protection of the unborn child need to be addressed by Parliament. The definition of life must be made clear.”
Ms. Skoke says that she has not had the opportunity to discuss this with other female MPs but that such discussion would be unlikely because the approaches most of them have to these matters is so different from hers. In fact the feminist approach is very different from the naturalist approach espoused by Ms. Skoke. She makes it clear that this life issue is not a woman’s issue. It is a matter to be attended by everyone and the pro-life movement has to make it a matter that Parliament will be forced to deal with.
Of the two cases which have recently brought life issues to the fore she says the reality of the situations has to be publicized more, people have to talk more and because no one previously wanted to deal with this, in the current political venue we must force legislation to happen.
Sharon Hayes, the Reform Party member of Parliament for Port Moody-Coquitlam, B.C., when questioned about whether there is a deeper appreciation of pro-life concerns responds, “Yes, I think there is, with pro-choicers it is a renewed concern that now pro-life will have a voice. The press says the matter must be re-visited, they say don’t use this as an excuse to bring this (pro-life) matter up. It has renewed the fear of this set of individuals and it has raised questions with the non-committed. There is a renewed realization – if not an appreciation – of the issue. The matter is back on the table and people see the issue.”
Mrs. Hayes did a survey in her constituency using the word pre-born and had a vehement response. People asked how she dare to put a new spin on the issue.
Right now with the public, Mrs. Hayes says there is a feeling running about 60/40 that Parliament should address the issue and politically there must be a definition of life.
Liberal Senator Anne Cools from Ontario is in close agreement with MPs Skoke and Hayes.
To the first question she responds, “I don’t think so. The feminist ideology is so dominant, they don’t allow discussion of these matters, it weakens their position, and so they simply shut down the debate.”
We talked about the response of the public to the Sullivan/Lemay case of 1991 which had failed to rouse public opinion concerning the inability of Canadian law to protect even the full-term baby because she is not a person. People were rightly horrified when the Drummond child was shot but their revulsion doesn’t last. The Senator says, “One has to ask, what woman would do this?” It seems to Senator Cools that it will be the job of the pro-life community to keep these causes before the nation and to overcome the obstacles put up by feminists and the media.
Liberal Rose-Marie Ur, represents Lambton-Middlesex, Ontario, Mrs. Ur has not been engaged in discussion of these cases with other women MPs. “The government as a whole is looking more seriously at these issues. The government as a whole is more positive towards the family unit – we need to help with family causes.”
It is her opinion that the need to aid families has been highlighted through the Drummond case and it is frightening that the law can be interpreted so as to find no protection for the child.
One of the most important things to be done, in her view, is to promote adoption. Many couples have been denied the opportunity to raise a child because they have been unable to adopt.
Deborah Grey served as the first elected Reform MP and continues to serve in the House in her second term.
She says, “There is not much sympathy for these issues on the other side of the House. In our caucus the Reform men are far more pro-life than the Liberal women.
Around the House, in regard to the second question, her answer was generally, no. These cases to Ms. Grey have not seemed to raise the understanding nor the appreciation of the need to extend full legal protection to unborn children.
Grey says she does not spend a lot of her time fraternizing with the women in the House, but she herself speaks very plainly in defense of life. Now, however, she finds that in the community the talk on the street is good about protection of life. In the coffee shops the questions are being asked. People are saying, “What is going on?” The average Joe in the riding is concerned. She is happy to spend her time there talking to people about these matters.
The women in the House, in particular, do not seem to Deborah Grey to be responding to the need for legislation to protect the unborn. In her opinion the answer of the Liberal party in the election which is nearing is to spend time parachuting women candidates into ridings over the wishes of constituency associations.
As all but one of these women prepare to face tough nomination and election battles, the debate on the right to life is smothered. Pro-lifers are apparently the only ones who can alter this situation.