A Kamloops pro-life advocate believes Prime Minister Stephen Harper should put politics aside and support a private member’s bill that could re-open the abortion debate.
“To me, it’s a no brainer. It’s a human being from conception,” Marlene Campbell, a director with the Kamloops Pro-Life Society, said Thursday. “Most people don’t need the law to tell them that. They already know that.”
But Harper and Kamloops Thompson Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod have pledged to reject Tory MP Stephen Woodworth’s motion, saying they are holding true to an election promise to leave the abortion issue alone.
If passed, Woodworth’s motion would set up a committee of MPs to review the Criminal Code section that says a fetus does not become a human being until birth is complete.
The motion isn’t binding, and didn’t come to a vote on Thursday, but was debated for one hour and then dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence.
McLeod said it will get another hour of debate when it comes to the top of the list. A vote will happen at that point, which she believes will be in June or September.
The Opposition and pro-choice advocates said Harper himself was inciting a new round of public battles over abortion by allowing debate on the motion.
Michael Crawford, the former federal NDP candidate for the Kamloops riding, said Harper is, in essence threatening a woman’s control over her own body.
“It’s disappointing to see Harper allow this kind of motion to come forward,” he said. “He promised this kind of motion wouldn’t even be debated in the house.”
While Harper said he would personally reject the motion, he noted that individual members of Parliament can bring anything they choose to the Commons floor.
“Every private member can table bills and motions in the House,” Harper said. “Party leaders don’t have any control over that.”
Crawford said Harper has a history of interfering in political matters whenever he chooses and suggested allowing the debate is further proof of that.
Campbell believes this is a matter that should be debated. If it where up to her, she would change the Criminal Code.
McLeod, who is pro-choice, said there are heavy emotions at play on both sides of the debate. Her party pledged to leave the matter alone, which is why she and the prime minister aren’t supporting Woodworth’s motion.
Ernie Cordonier, president of the Kamloops Thompson Cariboo Liberal riding association, said his party is traditionally pro choice, believing any decision to abort should be up to the parents.
During a one-hour debate of his motion, Woodworth told the Commons that the current legal definition of a human being is “dishonest.”
“Here’s what our 400-year-old definition of a human being says: a child becomes a human being when it has completely proceeded in a living state from the body of its mother,” said Woodworth. “How many Canadians believe that?”
Pro-choice advocates, however, consider Woodworth’s motion the thin edge of a wedge to eventually make abortion illegal.
“The motion is a vehicle for religious groups and the anti-choice movement to establish legal personhood for fetuses,” warned Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.
“If they succeed, they’ll try to re-criminalize abortion next.”