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John McKay is the Liberal member of Parliament for Scarborough-Guildwood. He wrote this column for the National Post on Monday, October15th. It is republished here with his permission.   As MPs exited the House of Commons chamber after the crushing defeat of the motion to study Canada’s definition of a human being, I was struck by the sombre atmosphere. Usually MPs are quite chatty and boisterous after votes, as they head off to various receptions, meetings, etc.; not so that Wednesday night. It was as if someone had died. In fact, I said to a colleague it was like exiting a funeral. Conversation was muted. The shrillness that characterized the debate was silenced. The motion was really nothing more than a carefully worded and quite innocuous attempt to fill a legal void left by the Morgentaler decision. The Supreme Court had anticipated that its decision would unbalance the law and the various rights claims, and therefore specifically asked Parliament to respond. But the rhetoric over the motion was amped up so much that it became a litmus test for one’s position on abortion rather than a discussion on when life should be recognized in law. The presumption underlying civilized debate is that it be “civilized.” Harangues and mischaracterization of positions make civility almost impossible. I realize that this is the daily fare of our current Parliament, so I suppose one should not be surprised when Parliament proves itself to be incapable of rational decision making — even when handed an issue by the courts.

"Many who before regarded legislation on the subject as chimerical, will now fancy that it is only dangerous, or perhaps not more than difficult. And so in time it will come to be looked on as among the things possible, then among the things probable;–and so at last it will be ranged in the list of those few measures which the country requires as being absolutely needed. That is the way in which public opinion is made.” The quote above, taken from the novel Phineas Finn, encapsulates the Overton Window theory that an idea can transition from the unthinkable to even discuss, to acceptable, and eventually be transformed into public policy. In his 1868 novel, the author Anthony Trollope tackles contentious issues in British parliamentary politics such as the political viability of voter reform and the implementation of the secret ballot. It’s nearly one and a half centuries since Anthony Trollope wrote his novel, but his expressions of what is now known as the Overton Window theory can be aptly used to describe the process of social reform in Canada today. Think for example of same-sex marriage; it used to be considered unthinkable and now it’s public policy. In fact, in 1999 the federal government passed a resolution calling on Parliament to use all necessary measures to   defend traditional marriage. While this did provoke a de facto debate on the use of the “Notwithstanding Clause”, the resolution wasn’t enforced and only six short years later same-sex marriage became official public policy. For several decades, the abortion debate has been toxic. Efforts at discussing pre-born human rights were quickly suppressed and those who prompted these discussions were labeled as extremists. Using the Overton Window axis, abortion was in the ‘unthinkable’ category. Canadians didn’t engage on the issue and much less so Canadian parliamentarians. How often haven’t we heard it said: “If you want to commit political suicide just start talking about abortion”?

by Jonathon Van Maren While no one generally accuses Heather Mallick of anything resembling nuance, her most recent screed, which rails against Member of Parliament Mark Warawa’s recent motion to condemn sex-selective abortion targeting females, is particularly revealing and mean-spirited. She first scoffs at the idea that Motion 408, which asks that “the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.” “It’s as though Conservatives think grown women and cell clumps are members of the same voting bloc,” she writes with scientifically illiterate annoyance, “as though they have the same interests, and the same IQ.” A revealing statement—besides Ms. Mallick’s lack of knowledge—or at least acknowledgement—of embryology, her argument seems to be that since “baby women” are not members of the same voting bloc (in that they can’t vote) or have the same interests (“living” would probably be among them), these female fetuses obviously do not have her IQ.

Last week Canada’s House of Commons closed the door on Motion 312. While over half of the Conservative caucus and four members of the Liberal Party of Canada voted in favour of examining the Criminal Code definition of a human being, the majority decided against it. So, at least for the foreseeable future, that 400 year old definition will remain and a child will not be considered human until they have fully exited their mother’s body. Interestingly enough, though most Canadian politicians refuse to exude the confidence and leadership to discuss our laws in relation to modern day science, British politicians regularly embrace every opportunity to do so. The Honourable Maria Miller, Minister for Women in the United Kingdom (yes, that’s their equivalent of Rona Ambrose) and a self-described “modern feminist”, has called for changes to Britain’s 24 week gestational limit on abortion. She has come to the conclusion that because babies are surviving at younger gestational ages, the limit should also be reduced. Ms. Miller said, “"You have got to look at these matters in a very common sense way. I looked at it from the very important stance of the impact on women and children. What we are trying to do here is not put obstacles in people's way but to reflect the way medical science has moved on." In other words, because of advances in science and medicine it’s time to assess the current laws in light of that newfound knowledge.

The unfair discrimination against females as manifested by sex-selective abortion is something Canadians don't tolerate, and Pariament ought to do all that it can to prohibit this practice.  Sex-selective abortion has been condemned by every national political party, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists...

Sex-selective abortion violates the high standard of human rights Canada is known for upholding. After CBC conducted a private investigation Canadians reacted with horror that abortion based on gender was occurring in our country. We have prepared the SimpleMail letter below for you to send...

On September 27, 2012, Conservative Member of Parliament Mark Warawa announced that he plans to introduce a motion to condemn discrimination against females via sex-selective pregnancy termination. The motion reads: "That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination." Mr. Warawa explains...

Mark Warawa, a Conservative Member of Parliament from Langley, BC has announced that he plans to introduce a motion to address the growing problem of sex-selective abortions in Canada. Motion 408 asks that, "That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination."...

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