Memo to Harper: the abortion issue isn’t going away

13/06/2013 / blog posts 

This column was published in the National Post on June 13, 2013

This summer, if one anti-abortion group has its way, nearly a quarter of a million Canadian mailboxes soon will be stuffed with a graphic photograph of an aborted fetus juxtaposed with the smiling face of the local Member of Parliament.

The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) has initiated what they call “Face the Children,” a project in which 250,000 postcards will be delivered into five key constituencies. They are targeting the ridings represented by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Calgary MP Michelle Rempel (an up-and-coming Conservative MP said to be in line for a cabinet position) and southern Ontario MPs Bal Gosal, Parm Gill and Rick Dykstra.

The CCBR is concerned that these MPs (among others) have refused to protect pre-born children at any stage of pregnancy. “[Harper’s] position to defeat any abortion-related legislation and to shut down debate in Parliament is so extreme that it means he is unwilling to ban abortion [even] in the third trimester — pitting our prime minister against a majority of Canadians,” says Stephanie Gray, CCBR’s Executive Director.

It is one more indication that many Canadians reject the Canadian legal status quo on pre-born vulnerability, i.e. abortion on demand with no restrictions.

In the past year alone, the ruling Conservatives have had to deal with two pro-life motions. Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth introduced Motion 312, requesting that a Parliamentary committee study the Criminal Code definition of “human being.” This Motion was immediately followed by Mark Warawa’s Motion 408, asking that the House of Commons condemn sex-selective abortion.

The mainstream press published hundreds of articles related to these private-members’ initiatives. The level of coverage is a clear sign that the groundswell of support for some restrictions on abortion remains politically significant. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Harper has missed several opportunities to build support within his caucus — and, for that matter, within Parliament — on this important bioethical issue.

His actions, especially regarding Motion 408, have caused division within his own party. Approximately one quarter of Mr. Harper’s voting base are social conservatives and adamantly pro-life. These are the folks who have been the foot soldiers in the Conservatives’ rise to success. If Harper will not allow even a discussion to take place on this issue — if he prefers to kowtow to Canada’s most militant feminists (none of whom are ever going to vote for him anyway — then he will isolate many of his supporters. Why should these people continue to work for his party, or even show up to vote for it?

In fact, political pundits are openly opining that a new leadership race in the Conservative party could well happen before 2015 — partly because of this issue. In response to CCBR’s project, long-time politico and former PMO Chief of Staff Norman Spector commented on Twitter: “Why Stephen Harper won’t be running in 2015.”

The legal status quo that the late Henry Morgentaler helped create can no longer be supported, morally or politically. It is high time the Prime Minister recognized this and acted accordingly. As the grass-roots activists who will soon be sending out pro-life materials can attest, this issue won’t go away, no matter how hard Harper wishes it would.

— Mike Schouten is Campaign Director for, a group advocating that “the right to life of our pre-born neighbours be protected by law.”

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