Despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s repeated protestations that he will not re-open the abortion debate, the record of his government in power shows a stealthy and determined effort to do just that.
Here is just a brief summary of the Tory attack on choice in recent years.
- 2008: Bill C-484 is introduced in Parliament, proposing to criminalize the murder of a pregnant woman by charging the accused with two counts of murder, thus defining the fetus as a “person.” The bill is defeated.
- 2009: Saskatchewan Tory MP Brad Trost initiates a Parliamentary petition de-fund the International Planned Parenthood Federation (PPF), arguing against its promotion of abortion as an international human right. PPF Canada’s applications for funding renewal go unanswered for the remainder of the year.
- 2010: An ambitious year for Harper’s anti-choice lobby:
- In June, then-Minister for International Cooperation Bev Oda announces Canada’s G8 Child and Maternal Health Initiative will not include funding for abortion services, thus expanding the government’s anti-choice agenda to women on a global scale.
- Later that year, Conservative Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge proposes Bill C-510, “Roxanne’s Law,” in response to a young woman’s murder by her boyfriend for refusing to have an abortion. Rather than focusing on protecting women against domestic violence, Bill C-510 proposes penalizing anyone who “coerces” a woman into ending her pregnancy against her will. The bill is defeated in Parliament. However, PPF Canada’s 2010 application for funding remains ignored.
- 2011: Bev Oda announces PPF Canada’s funding renewed, but only for work in countries where abortion is illegal, thus de-funding the agency’s abortion services.
- 2012: The most blatant attack on pro-choice rights yet comes in April when Kitchener-Waterloo Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth launches private member’s Motion 312, challenging the Criminal Code’s definition on when life begins. The effort rallies the vociferous support of—among others—Harper’s lead henchman, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who touts a long and loud history of attacking pro-choice rights. The PM also opens the floodgates, handing Conservatives a free vote so they may “vote with their conscience.”
Pro-choice activists across the country have challenged these attacks since they began, for the most part holding them at bay. This is largely due to the support of the majority of Canadians who continue to see abortion as an issue of personal choice rather than legislation.
However, it is clear that, as long as the Conservatives remain in power, pro-choice rights will have to be repeatedly defended. This message continues to spread widely by email, letter-writing and phone campaigns, as well as attendance at pro-choice rallies across the country.
Next stop: October 20, all out for a national day of action to demand, “Reproductive Justice! Equal Access Now!” For updates visit the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.