As we go into a new Parliamentary session, we here at We Need a Law are eagerly hoping that a pro-life Member of Parliament will bring forward a Private Member’s Bill (PMB) that would restrict abortion – like MP Wagantall did in 2020 with the Sex Selective Abortion Act. This is a great time to talk about what Private Members’ Bills are and what the procedure is for bringing one forward.
Much of Parliament’s business involves government bills – that is, bills introduced by the governing party’s cabinet. Private Member’s Bills, on the other hand, are introduced by an MP on their own. It’s a privilege that every MP has in their role as a legislator: they can bring forward a piece of legislation they view as important and try to persuade other MPs to vote in favour of it. While it is rare for a Private Member’s Bill to pass, these bills are a great way to highlight an issue and start a conversation. MP Wagantall has twice used this privilege to highlight the humanity of the pre-born child – once with Cassie and Molly’s Law and once with the Sex Selective Abortion Act.
While introducing a Private Member’s Bill is a privilege and a right for all MPs, there are some restrictions on what they can introduce. Members of Parliament can’t propose spending money and they can’t introduce something too similar to a bill already before Parliament. They also have to wait their turn.
At the beginning of a new Parliament, a List for the Consideration of Private Members’ Business is established by draw. With hundred of MPs to choose from, a later slot on the list means your turn may not come up before the next election. So, it is our hope that a pro-life MP will get an early slot on this randomly selected list. They will then have an opportunity to introduce a pro-life bill for their colleagues to debate!
Why focus on a bill that’s unlikely to pass?
In our current political context, we know that the only way to advance protections for pre-born children is to work with individual MPs who are personally pro-life and committed to being a voice for life. Private Members’ Bills represent a great way to push forward the conversation about legal restrictions on abortion.
Canada has no abortion law, but the reality is that most Canadians are unaware of that reality and would support some restrictions on abortion. We see great value in educating Canadians about the lack of legal protection for pre-born children and showing them clearly what legal restrictions could look like, whether it’s banning sex selective abortions, putting forward something like the International Standards Law, or a host of other possible restrictions.
Canada needs a law. And we’re dedicated to making that a reality by working within the governmental structure we have. Right now, that’s waiting to see if any pro-life MP will have the opportunity in this Parliament to bring forward a law that would help protect pre-born children in this country.