Jason Kenney

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If Jason Kenney’s strongly held personal convictions against a woman’s right to choose don’t matter, why are anti-abortion groups jumping on his unite-the-right bandwagon so enthusiastically?

Whenever anyone dares to discuss the anti-choice views of the candidate to lead the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party, Kenney’s supporters pile on to argue it’s outrageous for anyone to make such an argument.

Kenney’s personal views are irrelevant, strident commenters on social media sites and in the comments section of this blog said angrily in response to my July 8 post on St. Alberta NDP MLA Marie Renaud’s courageous Twitter messages, in which she stated, “I had an abortion and I thank God I was able to” and then saying, “Just one question for Mr. Kenney, Pro-choice or not?”

For this, Renaud was heaped with vilification and abuse, which is why I called her courageous, because anyone who pays attention to the vicious, well-organized and highly personal way the right-wing rage machine in this province responds to any statements of this sort had to know what was going to happen next.

For his part, presumably because he recognizes this is an important issue, Kenney has bobbed and weaved, refusing to answer Renaud’s question, regardless of whom asks it.

Instead, he has pointed to his record in Stephen Harper’s federal government of not working for his beliefs on this issue publicly or head on: “In my 20 years in Parliament I haven’t given a speech about this, let alone proposed a motion or a bill.” Never mind that the former chair of the Parliamentary pro-life caucus has a “perfect voting record” according to anti-choice groups.

In response to the fact this had become an issue regardless, a few talking points quickly emerged among Kenney’s more temperately spoken supporters:

  • That Kenney’s views on this topic are irrelevant, because abortion is a matter for the federal government — obviously not true, since health care is a provincial responsibility.
  • That he never did much about the issue as a member of the Harper Government, and therefore wouldn’t as the leader of his own government — a highly dubious proposition if you ask me.
  • And that anyone who would say such a thing about Kenney is just afraid that he’s going to win and thereafter defeat the NDP — to which I say, maybe so, maybe not, but who says chickenhearted bloggers aren’t allowed to comment on legitimate policy matters?

Now, thanks to the good work of Press Progress, we can see that the so-called pro-life crowd is organizing on behalf of Kenney — as, of course, is their right in a democracy where ideas on how to run society inevitably compete.

“What does this mean for pro-life Canadians?” asks the anti-abortion Facebook page run by a group called Right Now, referring its readers to a blog post by Alissa Golob, a former executive director of Campaign Life Coalition’s youth wing and a frequent commentator on right-wing media outlets.

In it, Golob set out the arguments better than I could for why it makes sense for people like her who oppose the right of women to reproductive freedom to support politicians like Kenney who share their views even if they don’t act on them right away.

“In our current situation, we need to be strategic,” she wrote. “Above all, we need to be patient.”

“Passing a piece of provincial legislation that restricts abortion is arguably one of the most effective ways to decrease the abortion numbers in our country,” she added, quoting a U.S. study that claims “public funding restrictions decreases abortions by 37 per cent.”

She concluded by exhorting her supporters to back Kenney to “kickstart our path to victory,” arguing that with politicians like Kenney in power, “we’re well on our way” to passing legislation restricting the access and right of women to choice.

Whatever else she says, Golob is quite right about this point, which is why Kenney’s views on access to abortion and reproductive services matter to anyone who supports the right of women to reproductive freedom, no matter how unpleasant the right-wing outrage machine gets about it online.

It is also a fact in a democracy that well organized groups with extremist views like the anti-choicers, the gun-nuts and the union haters enjoy power disproportionate to their numbers because they can get their supporters out to vote.

So call it fear or call it practicality, anyone who cares about the rights of women needs to be concerned about what it would mean to elect a radical social conservative like Kenney to anything.

Kenney’s supporters understand this, or they wouldn’t react the way they do when the topic comes up.

Hats off to Marie Renaud and Press Progress for insisting that this important issue stays on the radar.

If you care about women’s rights and reproductive freedom, you’d damn well better care about who runs this province!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...