the regina mom knows that Mr. Harper clearly stated, numerous times, that a Conservative government would not re-open the abortion debate. Yet, on Thursday, April 26, she watched members of Parliament debate Motion 312, which ultimately seeks personhood rights for fetuses which would enable the re-criminalization of abortion, as well as deny the constitutional rights of all pregnant women. In other words, it is yet another backdoor attack on women’s Charter rights.
And, the regina mom knows that the prime minister is not a stupid man, well, not unless power has gone to his head, that is. He must have known that Motion 312 was an attack on women’s rights. And, contrary to what some in the mainstream media and elsewhere have said, there are at least a couple of ways the Harper government could have stopped the abortion debate from being re-opened.
The blogger, Dr. Dawg, has clearly described how the prime minister and the all-party Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs could have stopped Motion 312 from making it to the floor of the House of Commons. Basically, there was not political will within either the Conservative Party to either further investigate it or stop it. And so it proceeded.
A harsher way of stopping it could have been for the prime minister to expel MP Stephen Woodworth from the CPC caucus when he first got wind of Motion 312. Doing so would have sent a very strong message to Canadians, a message which would have indicated that he really meant what he said when he said, “No debate.” But the prime minister did not do that. He lacked the conviction to demonstrate that strength.
Granted, when under pressure in the House of Commons he did say that he would oppose Motion 312. That, to the regina mom, was a small relief. She was a tad more relieved when the government whip, MP Gordon O’Connor, Minister of State, spoke very eloquently against Motion 312.
Perhaps the greatest relief to the regina mom came when she was reduced to tears. Perhaps it was not relief, but sadness, anger, appreciation, respect or perhaps a mixture of all. But when Niki Ashton, the NDP Critic for Women, delivered her speech in opposition to the motion the regina mom‘s tears started to roll. Perhaps upstaged by O’Connor on some points, Ms. Ashton spoke to the heart of the issue for the regina mom:
The reality is that the issue of abortion was settled in 1988. In 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law, ruling that it was unconstitutional. The justices found that the law violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because it infringed on a woman’s right to life, liberty and security of person. That was 1988, almost 25 years ago, a generation ago.
This decision came about after years of work from women who, from across the country, sent the message that women ought to have the right to choose, that women ought to have the right to decide their future, that women ought to have the ability to define their destiny.
That fight also took place in the House of Commons. Our leader in 1987, Audrey McLaughlin, spoke out clearly, saying:
Limiting the right to the ‘personal care and control of one’s body’ is a violation of a most ‘basic and fundamental right,’ that of ‘reproductive choice.’
As Ms. McLaughlin and others have pointed out, abortions, if they are not performed legally in medical facilities under the direction of a physician, will happen in much less favourable circumstances. As ugly as it may seem, women must not be forced to return to those ugly circumstances of using coat hangers, vacuum cleaners or putting themselves in the hands of quacks. ‘It is an ugly reality.’ Ms. McLaughlin said, ‘but it is a reality.’
There were caravans, protests, lobby meetings, speeches and debates, and the issue was settled in 1988. When Canadians have been asked, time and time again a majority have supported a woman’s right to choose. Here we are in 2012, seeing the government reopen the debate on abortion. It has not been truthful about it either. Time and time again the prime minister and members of his party have said that they will not reopen the abortion debate. The prime minister declared:
‘As long as I am prime minister we are not opening the abortion debate . . . The government will not bring forward any such legislation and any such legislation that is brought forward will be defeated as long as I am prime minister.’
That comes from an article in the Globe and Mail, from Wednesday, December 21, 2011.
An article written around that same time quoted the prime minister as saying, “As long as I’m prime minister we are not reopening the abortion debate.”
This is the Conservative Party’s trojan horse agenda. During an election, and even here in the House of Commons, the Conservatives tell Canadians one thing. Then, as a minority government and now as a majority government, we see what they truly mean.
If the prime minister did not want a woman’s right to choose to be debated, we would not be here tonight. What is interesting is the Conservatives felt the need to tell Canadians something else so those same Canadians would vote for them. They waited until they won a majority to then uncover their hidden agenda.
Indeed, the hidden agenda is hidden no more. the regina mom saw it right here on her computer screen. She watched Members of Parliament debate a motion about abortion, a motion that was introduced by a Conservative Member of Parliament. Perhaps it could be called the No Debate Debate.