By Carrie Campbell, Labour Council Vice President of Special Events
A dangerous anti-abortion motion is being voted on today by the Members of Parliament. Motion 312 calls for a Parliamentary Committee to examine whether the definition of “human being” should be revised to include fetuses in the Criminal Code. The goal of the motion is to re-classify fetuses as “legal persons” so that a bill can be passed to make abortions illegal.
There are so many things wrong with this. Firstly, the only discussion required, over whether a woman should have an abortion or not, should be between her and her doctor. Period. The fact that we are still having this discussion in 2012 is appalling. Passing this motion would place restrictions on all Canadian women.
Secondly, just as legalizing abortions was not the beginning of abortions, criminalizing them will not prevent them. It will just force women to seek unsafe, and sometimes fatal, options. It is imperative that they remain as medical procedures, performed in a safe and sterile environment.
Lastly, abortions have been legal in Canada since 1969 and the Tory government has previously stated that they would not re-open the abortion debate. Because of this, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has publicly stated that he will be voting against the motion, but by allowing it to even go to a “free” vote (allowing MPs to vote as they choose) in Parliament, Harper is sending the message that a woman’s reproductive rights is still up for discussion.
On May 28, 2008, the Canadian Labour Congress recognized Dr. Henry Morgantaler’s life time dedication to women’s rights by awarding him with its highest honor, the Award for Outstanding Service to Humanity. Dr. Morgantaler said “We must remain vigilant in defence of a woman’s right to choose, because there are still too many legislators and health care providers out there who are not pro-choice and too many women who continue to have their health put at risk because they are denied access to safe abortion services in a supportive environment – twenty years after Canada’s abortion laws were struck down.”
After watching the debate, it seems that it is highly unlikely that this motion is going to pass but will be interesting as it forces each Member of Parliament to take a public stance on this issue: do they support women’s reproductive health or not? Voters should play close attention to what their elected MP does during this vote.