After months of media and political hysteria, Motion 312 has returned to the floor and the accusations against Harper and the CPC have hit all new inflammatory levels. What has been lost in all of the rhetoric is the truth: Stephen Harper has stayed true to his word, maintaining his stand that the issue of abortion will not be reopened in Canada so long as he is Prime Minister. That being the case, how did we reach the point where the blame for Motion 312 and it's implications on the reproductive rights of women in this country are perceived to be solely with Stephen Harper and the CPC?
To answer that important question, a very brief examination of the history of 312 is required.
Kitchener Center Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth brought forth Motion 312, which calls upon Parliament to debate whether an unborn child is a human being and to examine the human rights implications of those findings. The Harper Government was so opposed to the motion that Woodworth's only option was to bring the motion forth as a private member.
As is required for all private member bills, Mr. Woodworth's Private Member's Motion 312 went before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs' subcommittee on private members' business. There is a strict set of guidelines on what makes such a motion "votable" and members of the committee are held to those guidelines, whether they like it or not. The subcommittee is a non-partisan convention, made up of members from all parties. The Harper Government has no control over this committee. It was this committee that decided the motion was "votable", simply because they were bound by the procedures and regulations set forth in the guidelines.
The official comment of the subcommittee on Motion 312 was as follows:
This motion does not seem to fall outside federal jurisdiction; it does not clearly violate the provisions of the Constitution; it does not concern questions that are the same as ones already voted on by the House in private members' motions in the current session; and it does not concern questions that are currently on the Order Paper as items of government business.
As a result of the subcommittee's findings, on April 26th, 2012, Motion 312 came to the floor. At that point in time the CPC Party Whip, Gordon O'Connor, had the following comments to make:
The ultimate intention of this motion is to restrict abortions at some development stage in Canada. Trying to amend the legal rules governing abortion as is intended by this motion will not improve the situation, it will only lead to increased conflict as the attempt is made to turn back the clock. Society has moved on and I don't believe this proposal should proceed. As well, it is in opposition to our government's position.
Following those comments, O'Connor went on to reiterate Harper's stance on this issue by stating that the current government will not reopen the issue of abortion in this country.
Earlier that same date, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair confronted Stephen Harper during question period for a comment on Motion 312. Harper's response was clear, concise, and in keeping with his mantra on the matter of abortion throughout his leadership:
"In my case, I will be voting against the motion," Harper said.
When one examines the comments of the remaining federal parties, it is interesting to note that only the NDP have stated they will unanimously vote against the motion, according to Hedy Fry, Secretary of State for the Status of Women and Multiculturalism. And yet both Thomas Mulcair, leader of the NDP and Bob Rae, interim LPC leader, have declared this a free vote for their members, advising them to vote "according to their conscience."
Since April 26th, the media and politicians across this country have whipped the madding crowd into a frenzy, insisting that Motion 312 is a true risk to the rights of Canadian women while knowing full well that it is anything but. They've done this by focusing on a handful of CPC members who have announced they are in favour of the motion even though both the media and those in Parliament know this Motion hasn't the slightest chance of getting past it's second appearance on the floor, September 26, 2012.
Why would the media, the NDP and the LPC do such a thing?
It is one thing to report on those matters which directly affect the rights of women in this country. It is another thing entirely to use the very real fear women have of losing their reproductive rights to stir up a nation of those women for political gain, use their fear against them for nothing more than to sell a few more newspapers.In the case of Motion 312 that is exactly what has happened.
Regardless of what one thinks of Harper and CPC pro-life misogynists such as Jason Kenney (who voted in favour of the motion), this time around it was those who profess to be on the side of Canadian women who did us the biggest disservice of all. Rather than quell the fear of women, rather than act as true leaders would by expressing calm and reassuring us that Motion 312 is a non-issue, those leaders who profess to defend our rights decided instead to use us and our reproductive rights to further their own political agendas.
Those who profess to protect us used our fear to raise their profile. And for that it is they who deserve our chagrin, not Stephen Harper nor the majority of CPC members.
Follow Kathleen Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KikkiPlanet