September 26, 2012
Controversial abortion motion defeated
By Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau
OTTAWA - A majority of MPs rejected a motion put forward by a Tory backbencher calling for review of "when life begins," but eight cabinet ministers supported it, including the government's status of women minister.
House leader Peter Van Loan, International Trade Minister Ed Fast, National Revenue Minister Gail Shea, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue and Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose, all supported the contentious motion, M312, on Wednesday evening.
Despite the support from cabinet ministers, the proposal put forward by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, which calls for a 12-member committee to review evidence on whether a fetus is a human before birth, did not pass: 91 MPs voted in faovur, 203 voted against.
Woodworth released a statement following Wednesday's vote and promised to continue his fight.
"I will be there to encourage and to speak out in defence of the Canadian values championed by Motion 312" he said. "If possible, I'll travel the country to talk about the very, very grave importance of enshrining in Canadian law the equal worth and dignity of every human being."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper rejected Woodworth's motion and has long denied Tories have been using a "back-door" method to reignite the abortion debate. During the 2011 election, Harper vowed to leave this discussion closed.
At a press conference held in advance of Wednesday's vote, NDP MPs Niki Ashton and Francoise Boivin suggested Harper broke his election promise and said the motion should not have been able to make it to the floor of the Commons.
But Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae told reporters it is democratic to hold a vote, even if he doesn't agree with the proposal.
"The notion that you can somehow stifle, stifle even the possibility of somebody raising a question or raising a different point of view, I find it unacceptable," Rae said.
Every item of private members' business is deemed votable by default, according to parliamentary rules. Items may only be deemed "non-votable" if they fall outside federal jurisdiction, if they're unconstitutional, or if they resemble items already voted on by the House of Commons in the current session of Parliament.
Canada's famous Morgentaler case struck down the criminalization of abortion in 1988. The Supreme Court ruled the existing law was a violation of a woman's right to security of the person, outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In its decision, the top court suggested Parliament should look at drafting a new law to address particular issues, but new abortion legislation was never passed.
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