20 September 2012

so it begins: Harper's attack on reproductive rights

from LeadNow, September 2012:

In just 48 hours, our MPs will debate a Conservative motion that the Canadian Medical Association, representing 70,000 doctors, is calling a ‘backdoor’ attempt to criminalize abortion.[1,2]

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the abortion provision of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional. But this week, Parliament will be debating a motion that would threaten our reproductive rights - and the rights of our friends, daughters, mothers, sisters, and partners.[3,4,5]

Prime Minister Harper has chosen to allow this motion to go forward to a free vote in Parliament, so every MP must decide whether or not they will stand up for the rights that women and our allies have been fighting to protect for decades. 

We need a huge public outcry to show our MPs that Canadians will not tolerate this covert attack on women’s rights.

Twenty-four years ago, Supreme Court Justice Wilson stated that governments in a democratic society must never interfere with a woman’s right to choose: “The decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision and in a free and democratic society the conscience of the individual must be paramount to that of the state.” – Supreme Court Justice Wilson[3]

The motion seeks to undermine the Supreme Court’s ruling by reopening the debate on the legal definition of a human being under the Criminal Code. High-profile members of Harper’s caucus have stated that the real goal of the motion is to attack women’s rights: “The ultimate intention of this motion is to restrict abortions at some development stage in Canada.” – Conservative Party whip, Gordon O'Connor[6]

This tactic has been used in the United States in a slow and relentless campaign to criminalize women’s reproductive rights and fan the flames of their culture war. Prime Minister Harper has publicly stated that he does not want to reopen this debate. Yet, while he exerts complete control over his own party, he has still chosen to let this covert attack on women’s rights go to a free vote that will test how Canadians react and open the door to attempts to criminalize abortion. 

If enough of us speak out and contact our MPs right now, we can make sure this motion is decisively defeated and send a clear message that Canadians will defend our reproductive rights.


  1. Tory MP concedes ‘abortion’ bill lacks support (Globe and Mail)
  2. Doctors call on Ottawa to reject ‘backdoor’ attempt to recriminalize abortion (Globe and Mail)
  3. R. v. Morgentaler, 1988 (Supreme Court of Canada)
  4. Facing little support, MP says he’ll stand up for rights of unborn children ‘as long as I have breath’ (Calgary Herald)
  5. For the full text of Stephen Woodworth MP’s motion, M-312, see:
  6. MPs denounce motion to study when life begins (CBC)

Further Reading:

Canadian Medical Association votes against reopening abortion debate (Postmedia News)
Protesters picket MP’s office over definition of life controversy (Kitchener-Waterloo Record)
Harper may have to watch his back(bench) (Globe and Mail)
Counter Arguments Against Motion M-312 (Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada)
The Right to Reproductive and Sexual Health (United Nations)

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