Canadian Abortion Debate Delayed Until Fall
It’s the issue Stephen Harper appears to want to just go away.
In April, backbench MP Stephen Woodworth tabled a private member’s bill in Parliament to discuss the concept of when life actually legally begins in Canada. Under current law, life begins when a child emerges alive from the body of his or her mother. Woodworth wants to change that. He hasn’t said exactly *when* he thinks life begins, but he definitely thinks it begins before current law allows – and that, in turn, would give anti-choice activists a back door to impact access to abortion in Canada.
Stephen Harper has said repeatedly that he has no interest in reopening the abortion debate in Canada. Canada has had no laws around abortion since 1988. Harper has said that this bill was presented against his wishes, but that his caucus is free to represent their constituents as they feel is appropriate. Harper, however, is not known to tolerate dissent in the ranks well. He is making it clear that he has no intention of allowing the bill to pass when it comes up in the House for a vote next week. The Conservatives have apparently stopped just short of officially whipping the vote for fear of alienating their right-wing base, who favour stricter abortion laws. Instead, his team is making it clearly and vigorously known that a vote for Woodworth’s motion would garnish strong disapproval from the PMO – going as far to say that voting for the motion would be a direct vote against Harper.
The game changed this week when Woodworth made a move to delay discussion of his motion until the fall. Under current parliamentary rules, Private Members bills are discussed in order of presentation and Woodworth’s bill was scheduled for discussion this week. But early in the week, Woodworth swapped spots on the agenda with another politician whose bill was further down the list, which will delay debate on his motion until the fall. Woodworth says that he made the move because his mother is currently gravely ill and he did not have the time to focus properly on preparing for the debate.
Either way, the vote will be coming up within the year – and if Stephen Harper gets his way, the issue may be done with, at least for now.
Photo Credit: CPAC (screen shot)