C-510 or Roxanne’s Law, Rod Bruinooge’s private member’s bill that would outlaw coercing a woman to have an abortion was defeated 97-178. Bruinooge is quoted saying he expected only 75 votes in favour of his bill. Still, this is a disappointing result because whatever flaws the bill may have contained, the defeat of Roxanne’s Law before it even went to committee will send a signal to society that even the mildest pro-life proposal can’t pass.

It is not very surprising that the so-called pro-choice side exposed itself as pro-abortion by voting en masse against a bill that would outlaw coercing a woman into having an abortion. What does choice mean if there is room for abortion to be coerced? Jennifer Derwey says that opponents of the bill attacked what it could be, not what the bill actually is. I loved Derwey’s comment that “traditionally pro-abortionists don’t give any value to potentiality.”

It is disappointing that Stephen Harper is so afraid of the abortion issue that he sided with the pro-abortion side.

Big Blue Wave says the bill “failed to generate any genuine excitement” and “didn’t whip up a lot of controversy” — there were precious few stories in the media about Roxanne’s Law — because the bill was too safe. How big of a deal is coerced abortion from a public policy point of view? How many coerced abortions would the law prevent? More importantly, how many coerced abortions would be prosecuted? She also accused Bruinooge and pro-lifers who supported this bill  of operating “on our opponent’s premises– that of protecting women.” (Pro-life lawyer Geoff Cauchi and Campaign Life Coalition argued that C-510 also conceded too much that it needn’t,  including language that supported the notion that abortion is a right in Canada — Cauchi thought C-510 completely unsupportable, while CLC urged the bill be passed so it could go to committee and be amended to correct its shortcomings.) BBW suggests pro-life legislators introduce legislation that “goes to the heart” of the abortion issue: how abortion affects the unborn child. She proposes laws banning dilatation and evacuation D & E (abortions) and feticide be introduced next. Some might respond that if a mild, at-the-margin law premised on the most friendly terms (women’s rights) cannot be passed, how will a bill that is directly about abortion fare in Parliament? But that is precisely BBW’s point: going safe doesn’t work, so how can a more direct approach be any worse.

Despite its flaws, I am sadded to see C-510 defeated, perhaps more for what it says about the state of the abortion debate than anything it would have achieved. The message surely received by legislators and the Parliamentary Press Gallery that pro-life is a losing issue. I think that is the wrong lesson, but it is nonetheless the lesson that many people will learn. So now with nothing to lose, I’d like to see the pro-life movement embrace a much bolder strategy where abortion itself would be the issue.