Anti-Abortion Activists Tell Harper 'Debate Is On'

CBC  |  Posted: 05/09/2012 8:30 pm Updated: 05/10/2012 5:24 pm

Abortion Canada Stephen Harper

Anti-abortion activists say they have a message for Prime Minister Stephen Harper as they gather today for an annual demonstration on Parliament Hill: the debate is on.

Alissa Golob, a spokeswoman for Campaign Life Coalition, said Harper is scared of raising the issue, despite what she says is rising support among Canadians.

"Whether you like it or not, the abortion debate is on. The issue has been raised in Parliament by a private member's motion, it's been raised with recent studies exposing the practice of sex-selection abortion in Canada, it's an issue that is constantly discussed in the media," she said.

Harper has repeatedly said his government will not reopen the debate.

Golob said the March for Life has grown significantly since it started 15 years ago, which she says is a sign of optimism for the anti-abortion movement.

This year's march comes two weeks after a private member's motion by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth calling on a committee study on when life begins. The motion was debated for an hour last month and will be debated and voted on sometime in June or once the House returns in September from its summer break.

A private member's motion means it is backed by a single MP rather than by the government.

NDP MP Niki Ashton says that Golob's statements contradict what the government is saying.

"They obviously see the Conservative Party as an ally on the issue," Ashton said.

"A woman's right to choose is her own and not up to the state. That's a position that most Canadians have dealt with and we're ready to move on to other things."

'Lucky to be alive'

Golob calls those born after the Supreme Court struck down Canada's abortion law "survivors."

"Anyone born after 1988 is lucky to be alive," she said.

The coalition is focusing in particular on sex-selective abortion following a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that found a difference in the rates of boys and girls born to Indian-born women in Canada.

The study found that the third-child births among Indian-born women were at a ratio of 136 boys to 100 girls, much different from the third-child rates among Canadian-born mothers of 105 boys to 100 girls, which is considered about normal for the worldwide average.

Golob said pro-choice advocates who want to limit sex-selective abortions are hypocrites.

"The only reason you would be for abortion is because you are saying that the pre-born are not human. And if they are not human, then it does not matter why anyone should kill them, whether they are female, whether they are going on vacation, or whether they don't want to be fat for nine months, it doesn't matter if they're not human. But if the pre-born are human then these are issues that must be addressed."

Ashton said Golob can choose whatever language she wants, but the focus ought to be on the government's "Trojan horse agenda."

"What we need to remind ourselves … [is] that whether or not a woman chooses to have an abortion, that's her right and that access to reproductive rights should be respected, and there should be access to the services," Ashton said.

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  • Which Cabinet Ministers Oppose Abortion?

    The <a href="" target="_hplink">Campaign Life Coalition provides a listing of MPs who support and oppose abortion rights</a>. The list is based on voting records, previous comments and questionnaire responses. Here is a list of Conservative cabinet ministers who, according to the Coalition, oppose abortion. (CP)

  • Rob Nicholson

    Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. (CP)

  • Vic Toews

    Minister of Public Safety. (CP)

  • Peter Van Loan

    Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. (CP)

  • Jason Kenney

    Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. (CP)

  • Gerry Ritz

    Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board. (Handout)

  • Ed Fast

    Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway. (CP)

  • Lynne Yelich

    Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification. (Handout)

  • Gary Goodyear

    Minister of State for Science and Technology and for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. (Handout)

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  • Where The Parties Stand On Abortion

    Here's a look at the official position of Canada's federal parties, and how the controversial debate has reared its head in recent years. <em>With files from CBC</em>

  • Conservative Party

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said that he has no interest in addressing the issue head-on.<br><br>"As long as I am prime minister we are not opening the abortion debate," Mr. Harper said in April 2011. "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." (CP)

  • NDP

    NDP leader Tom Mulcair has stated that his caucus is unanimous in its opposition to the private member's motion calling on Parliament to look at whether a fetus is a human being, but he plans to force his MPs to vote along party lines.<br><br>"We're resolutely in favour of women's right to choose," Mulcair declared. (CP)

  • Liberal Party

    Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae has stressed that the abortion issue is matter of individual conscience. Rae expressed his personal opposition to reopening the debate, but said Liberal MPs will be allowed to vote "their conscience" rather than force them to toe the party line.<br><br>"Our position on reproductive choice, my position on reproductive choice is very, very clear. It has been for decades. The position is it's a person's right to choose." (CP)

  • Planned Parenthood Funding Controversy

    Saskatoon-Humboldt MP Brad Trost tells Saskatchewan's ProLife Association in April 2011 that the federal government has decided to cut funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a decision he says was influenced by anti-abortion supporters.<br><br>"I cannot tell you specifically how we used it, but those petitions were very, very useful and they were part of what we used to defund Planned Parenthood because it has been an absolute disgrace that that organization and several others like it have been receiving one penny of Canadian taxpayers' dollars," Trost said.<br><br>Maurice Vellacott, a Conservative MP from Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, also calls for Planned Parenthood to be defunded.<br><br>Vellacott says the controversy over the funding "exposed the lies and destructiveness of IPPF's agenda."<br><br>"It exposes what this abortion giant is surreptitiously trying to achieve worldwide."<br><br>International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda approves funding. (CP)

  • 'Coerced' Abortion Law

    Conservative Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge proposes "Roxanne's Law" in 2010, a bill that would penalize anyone who "coerced" a woman into ending her pregnancy against her will.<br><br>"It's not just as simple as feeling pressured to get an abortion; there is a lot of discussion of sex-selection abortion these days, as well," Bruinooge told the Winnipeg Free Press. "It's part of the overall topic of intimidation that goes towards a pregnant woman."<br><br>Bruinooge insisted the bill wasn't meant to force Parliament to wade into the debate banned by Harper, stating that nothing in his bill made it illegal to abort a fetus.<br><br>But the Liberals and New Democrats saw it as a backdoor entry into the touchy topic.<br><br>"How is an abortion bill not an abortion bill?" said then-Liberal MP Anita Neville. "This certainly introduces discussion into the House of Commons and it is a rather sneaky way of doing it."<br><br>Then-NDP leader Jack Layton echoed her concerns. "You have got to wonder what is really going on here."<br><br>The bill was defeated in December of 2010, with 178 votes for and 97 against it. Harper and many Conservatives voted against it and 10 Liberals supported it. The NDP was unanimously against it. (Handout)

  • Maternal Health

    International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda discloses for the first time in April 2011 that Canada will not fund abortions in its G8 child and maternal health-care initiative for developing countries.<br><br>Keith Martin, then-Liberal MP who had defected from the Tories years earlier, expressed outrage. "People here are perplexed and wondering why Canada is rolling back the clock and depriving women in developing countries from having the same rights to basic health care and access to abortion as women in Canada," he said.<br><br>Then-NDP leader Jack Layton accused the Tories of putting Canada on side with former U.S. president George Bush, who reduced support for abortion-related aid.<br><br>"It's picking up the banner that George Bush used to carry, and I think that that's not something that would be supported by the majority of Canadians, that's for sure," Layton said.<br><br>On June 25, Canada pledged $1.1 billion to a global initiative on maternal and child health for developing countries - a disproportionately high amount compared to other G8 countries. Canada did not allow for its share to be used in the funding of abortions. (CP)


Filed by Christian Cotroneo  |