UPDATE: Abortion: Why not reopen the debate?

29Dec08

That’s maybe the most controversial question to pose in the House of Commons. Obviously. Today, the Globe reported that Winnipeg Tory MP Rod Bruinooge wants to do just that. His opening quotation, a few lines down:

“Very few Canadians appreciate the fact that essentially until a child takes its first breath, it has less value than a kidney,” says Mr. Bruinooge.

“In Canada you can’t remove your kidney and put it on eBay and auction it off. That is illegal. Whereas you actually can end a beating heart of an unborn child the second before it’s delivered. Most Canadians would agree that is truly a poor bioethical position for our country to be in.”

Instead of attacking his opinion, which is his own and which he should be able to voice publicly regardless of its worth, I’ll take issue with just this for now:

Most Canadians would agree that is truly a poor bioethical position for our country to be in.

Really? Really, Rod? I don’t appreciate it when politicians speak for 30 million people off the cuff. Especially when they are likely wrong.

Later in the story:

But [Erin Leigh, acting executive director of Canadians for Choice] says the “silent majority” of Canadians are pro-choice and realize it’s important for women to have a safe, accessible alternative to pregnancy.

It’s obviously quite difficult to gauge the nation’s opinion without some kind of referendum (that would only represent the views of a sample of more active citizens, anyway). And proposing a referendum on abortion rights is … well, a bad idea. Voting on human rights = bad idea.

UPDATE: Canwest reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has “stiff-armed” Bruinooge’s hopes of an abortion law.

“Throughout his political career, the prime minister has been clear on this issue,” said Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for the prime minister. “We will not introduce or support legislation on abortion.”

But one would think that even if Harper’s government would not officially support the law — maybe the cabinet would vote against it — he could be expected to allow a free vote among his backbenchers.

That scenario would allow Bruinooge to vote for the bill, if he introduced it as a private member’s bill. He is neither a minister nor a parliamentary secretary (though he was a parliamentary secretary during the last session of parliament).

The bill, if introduced and debated, would likely receive the support of a large number of Tories and probably more than a handful of Liberals.

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4 Responses to “UPDATE: Abortion: Why not reopen the debate?”

  1. I agree. Holding a referendum on a rights-related issue would be a terrible idea.

    But on the same note, a fetus is human life. Is there really any reason why a fetus shouldn’t have some form of rights?

  2. “Whereas you actually can end a beating heart of an unborn child the second before it’s delivered.”
    Am I reading this wrong or are late third-trimester abortions now legal?

  3. My understanding is that there is no abortion law in Canada. After it was decriminalized, nothing further happened.

  4. Brian Mulroney tried to legislate on abortion, but the law he wanted to pass was essentially too moderate for the anti-abortion segment of his caucus and too extreme for the pro-abortion segment of his caucus.

    Abortion is legal at any point of a pregnancy in Canada. While we may expect doctors to decline to perform an abortion they judge to be unethical, the pro-abortion lobby opposes any legislation that would protect their right to do so.


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