M312 debate: Woodworth passionate; Libs, NDP freak out over even discussing personhood
OTTAWA, Sept. 21, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Canada’s Parliament debated MP Stephen Woodworth’s pro-life motion Friday afternoon, with opponents expressing incredulity that the subject was even raised and supporters pleading for an honest discussion.
The motion, which seeks to set up a special committee to re-examine the humanity of the unborn, moves to a decisive vote on Sept. 26th.
The motion’s opponents, representing the New Democrats and Liberals, largely focused on characterizing it as a “backdoor” attempt to ban abortion.
New Democrat Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe) said she was “offended” by the motion, and described it as a “slap in the face” to women. Massimo Pacetti (Saint-Leonard—Saint Michel, Lib) expressed “astonishment” that Parliament was debating the issue, and said, “it’s a shame that we’re wasting debate on this.” And Sylvain Chicoine (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, NDP) said he was speaking “with great disappointment” about a motion that seeks “to break down the social peace in our country.”
But Woodworth, in one of the most passionate speeches of the afternoon, pleaded for an honest discussion, pointing out that Canada “was founded on the promise that two founding nations in conflict could reconcile their differences peaceably.”
Motion 312 proposes to re-examine section 223 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which stipulates that a child only becomes a human being once he or she has fully proceeded from the womb. The committee would be charged with examining the medical evidence with a view to assessing the humanity of the unborn child.
It is opposed by all of the party leaders, including Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has repeatedly pledged that he will oppose and vote against any effort to re-open debate on abortion.
According Woodworth, “it would fulfill our shared vision of Canada to allow, despite extreme and intransigent opposition, a mere study about human rights even if modern evidence might cause some to question our laws.”
“Or will Parliament reject those Canadian ideals? Is THAT what Parliament has come to?” he asked.
“The sweep of history for 400 years has brought ever greater recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. That bedrock foundation anchors Canada’s essential character,” he continued.
In her address, Mathyssen pledged that the New Democratic Party will “actively fight” any motion or bill that threatens Canada’s abortion regime. Noting that the vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester, she insisted that “a fertilized egg is not a class of people,” and passing the motion would “directly place Canada on the regressive path to banning abortion.”
Pacetti criticized Woodworth’s tactic of seeking to study section 223 when it’s clear that he actually disagrees with it. “If he truly believes [section 223] is archaic, the member … should seek to amend this section” instead of forming a committee, said Pacetti. “Why doesn’t he just propose the change … instead of pretending he is neutral?”
He said recognizing legal personhood for the unborn “would jeopardize the status of abortion in Canada,” and would result in a slippery slope. “Where would this assault on the rights of women end?” he asked.
Conservative Mark Warawa (Langley) said he was “saddened” by the falsehoods uttered about Woodworth since he proposed the motion, calling him “a man of integrity, a man of logic.” He said it is “important that people in this House not exaggerate, not turn to rhetoric,” adding that he is “saddened that the rhetoric is so strong at times.”
“The question that goes to my heart is: Why is Canada out of sync with the rest of the world? Why does Canada have legislation that’s on par with North Korea?” he said, noting that Canada has no legislation protecting children until the moment of complete birth.
“A child whose little toe is still in the birth canal has not fully proceeded from his mother’s body,” he noted. “Why does our law take such an unusual position?”
“Any parent knows that a child is there,” he added. “Let’s protect women’s rights, children’s rights, adult’s rights, all human rights.”
Conservative Stella Ambler (Mississauga South) insisted “the only thing Motion 312 does is to propose a study,” and said the fact that there are differing views on the issue “is even more reason” that Parliament needs to “show leadership.”
She rebuked opponents for mischaracterizing Supreme Court decisions as though they had “settled” the issue, noting that the high court has repeatedly said it’s Parliament’s responsibility. She pointed in particular the opinion of Justice Bertha Wilson in R. v. Morgentaler, where the feminist judge recommended “almost exactly the study” proposed by M-312.
Conservative David Anderson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, said he had received communications from numerous young women supporting the motion, and noted that this is a “rebuke” to Mathyssen’s charge that the motion is an attack on women.
“Do Canadians believe that a child transforms from a non-human to a human being at the moment of complete birth?” he asked. “We need to recognize that a majority of Canadians believe that human life begins long before a person is born.”
If the child becomes a child before complete birth, he said, then section 223 is “actually a law that dehumanizes and excludes a whole class of human beings from legal protection.”
“Is that an honest and acceptable law?” he asked.
Campaign Life Coalition, the political arm of Canada’s pro-life movement, issued a press release immediately after the debate condemning the motion’s opponents as “cowardly.”
“Motion 312 calls for parliament to evaluate an outdated 400-year-old law that denies modern scientific evidence that proves that life begins at conception,” said Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition. “Those who oppose this motion are anti-science, anti-debate extremists who refuse to accept modern day facts. What a bunch of Neanderthals.”
CLC joins Woodworth in finding it ironic that opponents of his motion criticize him for wanting to return to the dark ages when they themselves are defending an outdated 400-year-old law.
“The human being in every stage of life is deserving of basic human rights,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, Campaign Life Coalition National Organizer. “Those who oppose a discussion on this fundamental issue are discriminating against a whole group of human beings based on age and development.”