Canadian Catholic News
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth met with journalists Sept. 17, and told them his Motion 312 is not about abortion but whether Canada has lost its consensus on inalienable human rights and honest laws.
Woodworth admitted his private member’s motion has little chance of passing when it comes to a final vote Sept. 26 because Prime Minister and chief government whip are on the record stating they will not support the motion because of promises not to reopen the abortion debate.
On the opening day of the fall session of Parliament, Woodworth told the 15 or 20 journalists at the National Press Theatre that Motion 312 “has much more important consequences than the abortion issue."
Woodworth said that at stake is whether Canada has lost a consensus that the dignity and worth of every human being must be recognized, that rights are inalienable rather than granted by the government, that rights cannot be taken away through laws that deny basic human rights to a class of people by dehumanizing them, and that laws must be honest.
Motion 312 would strike a parliamentary committee to examine the 400-year old definition of a human being in the Criminal Code’s homicide section concerning unborn children. For the purposes of the law, an unborn child is not a person with human rights until he or she leaves the birth canal. The committee would investigate whether this definition holds up in light of scientific evidence.
“Does anybody need to pretend that a child at eight or nine months pregnancy is not a human being to justify abortion?” he asked. His motion specifically states the findings of the committee could not go against any Supreme Court of Canada decisions or the Constitution when it comes to women’s rights, he said.
Supreme Court Justice Bertha Wilson, who wrote the Morgentaler decision, was concerned about the rights of the unborn in later stages of pregnancy and left it open for Parliament to craft a law protecting them, he said. The courts have not closed the issue, he stressed.
Woodworth explained the motion, if passed, could undertake an investigation that may or may not settle the issue of when an unborn child is a human being.
“Even settling the issue of when a child should be a human being will not settle the issue of abortion,” he said.
Woodworth said he has been accused of “wanting to back to the Middle Ages,” or of opening issues that were settled by the courts.
His opponents never talk about what his motion actually says, Woodworth noted. He said no one has disagreed with the suggestion that unborn children might be human beings before birth, and no one has tried to justify that a whole class of people should be dehumanized and excluded because a dishonest law has said they are not human beings.
“The first distraction is to talk about me, my character, my motives,” he said.
Woodworth said tens of thousands have written their MPs in support of the motion. He also recalled the tens of thousands of Canadians who came to Parliament Hill during the National March for Life last May. He said no windows were broken; no violence took place only a few heated conversations. This, he said, is a sign debate on serious issues can take place in a civil fashion in Canada, noting that many other issues he deals with from day to day are as contentious as abortion.
Woodworth said one of the options of the committee could be to decide an unborn child is not a human being. His motion, however, is about universal human rights and he hoped the second hour of debate Sept. 21 would bring out that aspect.
After the news conference, journalists scrummed NDP Justice Critic Francoise Boivin who said the debate on abortion is closed. She pointed out that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken the same view and Canadians have reached a consensus.
The legal definition of a human being sees the pregnant woman as one person, not two, for the purposes of the law. When confronted about whether she believed an unborn child is a human being, she said it did not matter what one’s personal religious or philosophical beliefs were. The woman has the right to choose what to do with her own body, she said.
Boivin added even sex selection abortions targeting females may be personally disgusting to her but do not justify interfering with a woman’s right to choose.
Surveys have consistently shown about two thirds of Canadians would like some law restricting abortion. One third oppose all abortions, another third would like to see them limited at some point in pregnancy. Only about a third support the present legal vacuum where there are no laws against abortion at any stage of pregnancy.
Boivin said she rejects the notion Canada has no law against abortion since the procedure is governed by regulatory regimes governing health care.
As Woodworth’s motion goes into the final stretch, support for the motion as well as opposition has grown. In the previous week, members of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) demonstrated outside his Kitchener Centre, Ont.
“I don’t regard that as a backlash,” he said in an interview. “It’s a normal part of a public discussion that everybody gets to express their point of view.”
“If they had told me about it beforehand I would have been happy to meet with them,” he said.