OTTAWA, Ontario, April 30, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is making national headlines after he said that abortion “cannot be eliminated” and is “part of the human condition” in Thursday’s debate on a new pro-life motion by a Tory MP.

The address, by Chief Government Whip Gordon O’Connor, shocked pundits, one of whom labeled it the “most stridently pro-choice speech of the debate.”

Though the Harper government has consistently stuck to their line that they will “not reopen the abortion debate,” columnists are noting that O’Connor took this promise ten steps further by openly adopting pro-abortion arguments.

“In effect, the government engaged the debate it said it didn’t want to discuss, but rather than siding with Woodworth and the social conservatives who want abortion restricted, it came out swinging for the other side,” observed Dan Gardner of the Ottawa Citizen.

The government whip “delivered in fewer than 900 words as succinct and forceful a defence of women’s rights as has the chamber has heard (sic),” wrote the editors of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. “The force of his words was all the greater because they were delivered by such a senior and conservative member of what has been called Canada’s most conservative government ever.”

O’Connor was speaking in the first hour of debate on M-312, a motion by MP Stephen Woodworth (Kitchener Centre) that seeks to establish a special committee to re-examine section 223 of the Criminal Code, which is a 400-year-old provision inherited from British common law that states a child only becomes a “human being” once he or she has fully proceeded from the womb.

In the debate, O’Connor said the motion is a plain attempt to “restrict abortions” and so the government will not support it.

“Whether one accepts it or not, abortion is and always will be part of society,” the government whip insisted. “No matter how many laws some people may want government to institute against abortion, abortion cannot be eliminated. It is part of the human condition.”

Society has “moved on” from the abortion debate, said O’Connor, and so pro-life efforts are an attempt to “turn back the clock.”

“I cannot understand why those who are adamantly opposed to abortion want to impose their beliefs on others by way of the Criminal Code,” he said. “There is no law that says that a woman must have an abortion. No one is forcing those who oppose abortion to have one.”

“I want all women to continue to live in a society in which decisions on abortion can be made, one way or the other, with advice from family and a medical doctor and without the threat of legal consequences,” he continued.

“I do not want women to go back to the previous era where some were forced to obtain abortions from illegal and medically dangerous sources. This should never happen in a civilized society,” he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had pledged to vote against Woodworth’s motion and called it “unfortunate” that it was even deemed votable.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, said they sent a letter on Friday to their supporters in O’Connor’s constituency urging them not to vote for him in the next election. But he also noted that such comments from the Harper government were not surprising.

“Nothing’s changed here. Harper’s not pro-life, he never was, God only knows if he ever will be,” said Hughes. “The surprising thing is some pro-life Conservative supporters really believe that this guy is pro-life. But he’s not. He’s going to do everything he can to dissuade this discussion from going farther.”

In the debate, Woodworth’s motion was also opposed by New Democrats Niki Ashton (Churchill) and Françoise Boivin (Gatineau), as well as Liberals Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre) and Denis Coderre (Bourassa).

Woodworth, during his speech, insisted that Canadians do not believe birth is “a moment of magical transformation” changing a child from non-human to human, and so Canadian law should reflect that.

“Perhaps that ancient definition made sense when leeches and bloodletting were standard medical practices, but does it make medical sense in the 21st century?” he asked.

The motion has now dropped to the bottom of the House of Commons’ order paper and is expected to receive a second hour of debate in June or September, followed by a vote.

Find the full Hansard transcript of the debate.

Get contact information for Members of Parliament.