Conservative MP says his motion is a 21st-century piece of legislation that looks at human rights
By Nathan Rumohr
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth says he's not trying to be revolutionary with Motion 312, just responsible. While many politicians from both the left and right have accused Woodworth of trying to open up the abortion debate with the motion, Woodworth says it's not a tool to criminalize abortion but a 21st-century piece of legislation that investigates human rights.
"We can't pick and choose who a human being is," Woodworth told The B.C. Catholic. "There have been wars fought over these principles. If we don't have honest laws how can we have faith in our system of governance?"
Motion 312 requests that a parliamentary committee be set up to investigate the 400-year-old definition of a human being. The motion will be voted on in the House of Commons Sept. 26. Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada states a human being does not receive any legal protection until the moment of complete birth.
Woodworth added this 400-year-old definition is a threat to human rights and noted Canada joins North Korea and China as countries that do not recognize a human being at any point in the mother's womb.
"One could understand why 400 years ago law makers wouldn't be able to know what a human being is," he said, but with today's medical technologies that prove a child is a human being sometime before complete birth, there should be no excuse for Canada to hold onto the old definition.
"To have a law that says to a child, 'You have no rights,' for political or cultural reasons, is a bad sign for Canada."
The motion was introduced in February, with the first hour of debate in late April. Members from the NDP and Liberal parties spoke against the motion, calling it an attack on "women's rights."
"Abortion was settled in 1988 when the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional," said Niki Ashton, the NDP Status of Women and Equality Critic. "This came after women fought hard for the right to choose."
Ashton also accused the Conservative Party of using this motion as a way of rolling back the clock on women's rights.
"The abortion issue is more topical than what I am doing," Woodworth said. "I've been accused of reopening the abortion issue that's been open for 20 plus years. I'm actually trying to close this issue (with Motion 312).
"I don't buy the fact that women's rights or anyone else's rights should justify us taking rights away from someone we know to be human."
Unfortunately for Woodworth, many of his own Conservative party peers oppose Motion 312. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has publicly stated he will not support the motion. Sun News Network and the Globe and Mail reported that the prime minister's office and senior Conservative members have reminded MPs that a vote for Motion 312 is a vote against Stephen Harper.
"I think every member of parliament from every party has a grave obligation to object to laws that assault human rights," Woodworth said. "I wish I could convince every member of that."
Woodworth believes Motion 312 is misunderstood by politicians and the public. He said the motion isn't revolutionary, and if the motion is passed the special committee would conduct an unbiased study and present back to Parliament whatever they find.
"Who's afraid of a study?" he asked. "No one should be."
But joining the politicians decrying Woodworth's motion were delegates at the Canadian Medical Association's annual general meeting in Yellowknife Aug. 15. Many of the doctors in attendance voted to keep Canada's personhood law the way it is.
"I'm not asking you whether you are for or against abortion," said Dr. Genevieve Desbiens from Montreal during the meeting. "I'm asking you to recognize that women must retain their full and complete rights."
Desbiens said doctors must pressure the government so Woodworth's motion doesn't pass.
With the mounting opposition, Woodworth isn't optimistic that the motion will be successful, but he said he would continue to fight for human rights nonetheless, because he believes human rights should always remain a front-burner issue.
"I will trumpet human rights as long as I have breath," he said. "I cannot figure a more noble cause."
He also said Canadians who support the personhood issue shouldn't get discouraged if Motion 312 fails.
"No great issue rises or falls on a single vote in the House of Commons," he said. "We just have to continue to promote these issues."
Woodworth said those in favour of Motion 312 should try to meet with their MPs in person to discuss the issue. He added we should pray for MPs.