America has a lot in common with Canada, its sister to the north, but our approach to the abortion debate is not one of them. While America is like an angry giant, busy trying to block access to abortion in every possible way, Canada is a gentle giant, sitting up there cool as a cucumber. There are certainly those who oppose abortion in the country, but there are no laws restricting abortion and haven't been since 1988, which sounds like a dream scenario to many Americans. But yesterday things heated up a bit when Stephen Woodworth, a Conservative member of parliament, proposed a motion which its critics said would reopen the abortion debate in the country—and here's how reasonable Canada is on this issue—it was immediately smacked down from every direction. That sound you hear is the collective sigh of jealousy being let out by all of the pro-choice citizens of the U.S.A.
The motion from Woodworth that is at the center of this controversy actually addresses something the 400-year-old definition used by the country's current law to determine what is considered a human being. Woodworth called it dishonest and said that most Canadians don't agree with it. That's certainly up for debate, but Woodworth maintains that most people (or people outside of the womb, to be more specific) don't accept the idea that "birth is a moment of magical transformation that changes a child from a non-human to a human being," So, yeah, you can see where this little argument is heading.
Woodworth swore up and down that this motion was simply meant to bring about, "a study of the evidence when a child becomes a human being. It does not propose any answer to that question." Suuure. Of course, as you may have already guessed, Woodworth has his own ideas about the answer, which is that one's status as a human being actually begins much earlier than when one emerges from the ol' birth canal and into the light.
He doesn't understand why those opposed to the motion would be so scared of investigating this matter anew: "What have they to fear from the full flood of light? Why oppose a mere study?" While Woodworth may be playing dumb regarding the potential implications of flooding the matter with light aka redefining fetuses as people, it's obvious to just about everyone—except maybe those still in utero—where this kind of debate reaches its logical conclusion. And this sad attempt to start down the road to making abortion a criminal act (since, you know, it'd be killing human beings) has upset a lot of people on all sides of the issue. Even fellow Conservative members were quick to denounce Woodworth's move.
Conservative whip Gordon O'Connor spoke during the debate and said he wasn't buying Woodworth's claims that this was all innocent truth seeking: "[T]he ultimate intention of this motion is to restrict abortions at some development stage in Canada." He urged all of his colleagues to vote down the motion, and he said women should continue to be able to have abortions "without the threat of legal consequences." He also, amazingly, said that whether everyone likes it or not, abortion will always be a part of our society, and he doesn't get why pro-lifers "want to impose their belief on others through the Criminal Code." Well, if you'd like an answer to that Mr. O'Connor, make a stop by almost any abortion clinic in the United States, and you'll likely find a number of protestors who'll be willing to scream an explanation into your ear at top volume.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said he does not support the motion, though there was some question why he'd allowed a member of his party to even raise the motion, given its clear intention to reopen the abortion debate. Harper maintained that he thinks it's unfortunate, but that party leaders don't have total control over what's being introduced, and he said he'll vote against the motion.
The Liberals are wholeheartedly against the motion, and they're upset it's even been brought forward in the first place. Liberal MP Denis Coderre cast doubt on Woodworth's motives for introducing it, saying it was particularly ironic that that he'd say the law was dishonest when he "wasn't being truthful about what he is trying to do with his motion." (Polite Canadian burn!) Niki Ashton, who's the women's issues critic for the New Democratic Party, announced that her party stands in unanimous opposition to the motion, saying, "In Canada, in 2012, a woman's right to choose is not up for negotiation." Would that the same were true in the country just south of Canada, where it is also 2012. Ashton also accused Prime Minister Harper of being disingenuous in claiming he doesn't want the abortion debate re-opened: "If the prime minister didn't want a woman's right to choose to be debated, we wouldn't be here tonight." Tom Mulcair, leader of the NDP, also said Harper was full of it in saying he couldn't stop Woodworth from introducing this motion:
I've never seen anyone control (his caucus) so absolutely as he does. If he didn't want that to be discussed, it wouldn't be there. This is their backdoor way of signalling to their base that this is what they'd actually like to do and they just can't do it.
Ahh, the old dog whistle. We know it well! Though it's important to remember that as irritating as it is that Woodworth, with or without support from on high, has taken it upon himself to try to re-open the abortion debate in Canada, in practice it won't change anything. Still, it's got pro-choice groups on edge, and roughly 50 protestors rallied on Parliament Hill the day before Woodworth's motion was to be debated. Julie Lalonde, of the pro-choice group Radical Handmaids, perhaps said it best when she expressed her hope that Woodworth's motion will be sent "back to the hell hole it came from." Lucky for the people of Canada, the motion faces certain death when it's voted on later this year and will probably be put on the fast track to hell after that.
Image via Tiplyashin Anatoly/Shutterstock.