By Patrick B. Craine

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec, May 28, 2010 ( – In the wake of a unanimous motion in the Quebec National Assembly emphasizing “the right … to free and accessible abortion services,” a key leader in the province’s pro-life movement is calling on the bishops of Quebec to join Cardinal Marc Ouellet in taking a stand for the unborn.

In an all-party motion May 19, the Quebec legislature voted 109-0 to reaffirm “the right of women to free choice and to free and accessible abortion services.”

The legislature also called on the federal government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper “to put an end to the current ambiguity on this issue.”

The motion was sparked by comments from Cardinal Ouellet, the Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, who simply reiterated the Catholic Church’s teaching against abortion in all cases, including rape, while speaking at a May 16th Quebec City conference organized by CQV. The remarks provoked a firestorm in the Quebec media, and were even denounced by Fr. Raymond Gravel, a prominent dissident priest and former homosexual prostitute based in the Diocese of Joliette.

But Quebec will only be able to regain its pro-life voice “if every bishop of Quebec did what Cardinal Ouellet did,” said Georges Buscemi, president of Campaigne Quebec Vie (CQV). “That would be awesome. A lot of heads would pop, and it would be really interesting to see what would happen.”

On May 26, Cardinal Ouellet conducted a press conference with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa where he declared: “the abortion debate is ON.” But in view of what he called “the political and legal impasse” on abortion in Canada, he called for a reframing of the abortion debate by focusing on “an awareness campaign and more programs providing assistance for women in distress in Canada.”

“It is vital that more effective aid programs for women facing a difficult pregnancy be implemented at every level, governmental, medical and social, so that the largest possible number may avoid abortion,” he said.

The anti-life motion was introduced by Carole Poirier of the Parti Québécois, who told the Globe and Mail that it was provoked by a number of recent actions, such as the federal government’s decision not to fund abortions in the Third World and the recently-proposed bill by MP Rod Bruinooge to protect women from being coerced into abortions.

Poirier also said the motion was in response to the 12,500-strong May 13 March for Life on Parliament Hill, which slightly surpassed last year’s numbers, but received unprecedented national media coverage following the prominence of the abortion issue in recent months.

The motion also sought to reaffirm “that the fact of supporting women’s right to an abortion should not in any case be used by the federal government to cut funding to a women’s group.”

Quebec Premier Jean Charest claimed that the motion is a reflection of the consensus in the Quebec population. “Abortion is an inalienable right and the consensus expressed in the National Assembly reflects the consensus on this issue in Quebec society,” he told the Globe and Mail. “Today’s motion sends a clear message to the federal government on the need to protect an essential right for all women.”

According to Charest, in Quebec, the abortion “battle is over and here there is no turning back.”

“What we’re seeing is the rise of the religious right in Canada,” Poirier told the Globe and Mail. “We’re telling Mr. Harper, ‘Don’t try to reopen the debate. We’re keeping an eye on you.’… In Quebec, if you touch the right to abortion, it’s explosive.”

While 16 members of the National Assembly were not present, Buscemi said the vote is “definitely” a sign that there are no politicians in the Quebec legislature that the pro-life movement can rely on. “There is no political will to take a stand on this issue in Quebec,” he said. “It’s basically a wasteland as far as abortion. The legislative route is one hundred percent closed right now.”

He noted that there might have been some who didn’t show up in order to avoid voting on the motion, but he pointed out that the vote showed “nobody’s going to make a vocal stand and actually vote against it.”

Buscemi explained that there are many Quebecers who are pro-life, but said that they nevertheless vote for the largely pro-abortion Bloc Quebecois because they are nationalists. A lot of members in the Quebec nationalist movement “don’t like the idea that abortion decimated the French Canadian population,” he said, “but they’re willing to shut up and they’re willing to tow the party line, and they vote for Bloc one hundred percent of the time.”

See related coverage:

Cardinal Ouellet and Ottawa Archbishop: “The Abortion Debate is on”

Canadian PM Harper Opposes Law Protecting Women from Coercive Abortions