02/01/2013 05:05 EST | Updated 04/03/2013 05:12 EDT

Under My Leadership the Liberal Party Would Legalize Abortion For Good


With the recent news that several Conservative MPs are demanding that the doctors performing abortions and the women having them be charged criminally, it is time to speak out clearly.

This is wrong.

This is not an isolated issue. Nor is it only relevant to late-term abortion. The Woodworth motion implicitly argued this too -- that abortions are murder. That motion called on Canadians to study classifying fetuses as people -- a definition only relevant to criminal law definitions of murder. Mr. Harper's government called a free vote in that case, and eight cabinet ministers voted with Mr. Woodworth at that time, with no repercussions -- including the Minister for the status of women.

Conservatives are calling women who have abortions, and their doctors, murderers.

This is extreme, cruel rhetoric, which drags through the mud families who've gone through so much. Making a decision about whether or not to have an abortion is a wrenching moral choice. For these Conservatives, it isn't enough for these families to have to deal with that internal struggle -- they are actively attempting to ensure they'll be investigated by the police for murder and, they hope, jailed.

I can't imagine any family having to make a decision like that. I simply can't imagine the pain. But I can imagine the rage I would feel at being told that decision was a public one, and that men in suits have a say. They don't -- we don't.

Make no mistake -- the action of these Harper MPs is intended to instil fear. These extremists want to control women's bodies by making them fear future prosecution. These men want women who've ended pregnancies in the past to look over their shoulders. It's always the same with the radical right -- controlling women's freedoms through public shame and the coercive violence of the state.

I'm pleased that Prime Minister Harper recognizes that abortion is legal, and claims his government will not change the law. But actually, the law needs to be changed. Currently, abortion, so far as the federal government is concerned, is decriminalized -- the law banning abortion was struck down some time ago, and hasn't returned. That's not good enough, and obviously isn't good enough for Harper's caucus, and I think questions as to whether his plan is to have it both ways by officially absolving himself while allowing his caucus to try to villainize women and doctors are entirely valid ones that only action can answer.

That's why, right now, there's something I call on every Liberal to commit to. The Liberal party under my leadership will immediately introduce legislation to amend the Canada Health Act to make clear what should have been made clear a long time ago -- abortion is a medical procedure. It must be funded by all provinces, and made available to all women who need it. No more games.

This will take abortion out of a legal grey area and into the light, where it belongs: as a decision that only the individual affected can make.

We cannot allow a woman's right to choose to be legally impinged upon. It's time for the Liberal Party of Canada to stop riding the fence on abortion. We must never waver again.

Ministers Who Voted Yes On Motion 312