OTTAWA, Sept. 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Tory MP Stephen Woodworth, whose Motion 312 sparked a renewed national debate on abortion in recent months, has vowed to “fight on” after the defeat of his motion Wednesday.
“I will be there to encourage and to speak out in defence of the Canadian values championed by Motion 312,” he pledged in a press release after the vote. “If possible, I’ll travel the country to talk about the very, very grave importance of enshrining in Canadian law the equal worth and dignity of every human being.”
Motion 312 had called for a special committee 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.
It was defeated in a second reading vote on Wednesday by a vote of 91 to 203, but surprised many by winning support from more than half of the Conservative caucus and ten Cabinet ministers, despite Prime Minister Harper’s insistence the government would not reopen debate on abortion.
At a press conference Thursday morning, Woodworth called section 223 Canada’s “most vile, most unjust law” and criticized opponents of the motion for an “extreme preoccupation with abortion.”
Asked about concerns that the motion would curtail women’s reproductive “rights,” Woodworth said, “To be honest with you, I think that there are many women who would be offended at the notion that, because they are a woman, they believe that their rights depend on dehumanizing and excluding another human being.”
“To say that Motion 312 has implications for women’s reproductive rights is really to say that women’s reproductive rights depend on the pretense that some human beings are not human beings. I don’t agree with that,” he continued.
“The one thing that we do not do in a civilized country when there is a conflict of rights, is we do not begin by saying we’re going to pretend that you’re not a human being so that we can write you out of the conversation and just completely ignore you. That is an abhorrent principle,” he added.
The Kitchener MP expressed incredulity at the arguments put forward against the motion, saying they “lacked any logic or coherence.”
The opponents’ “focus on abortion actually justified abandoning the principles of equality and human rights which are at the heart of Canadian democracy, and that’s just appalling,” he said. “Unbelievably they advocated shutting their eyes to scientific evidence and advances in modern understanding.”
“In the previous Parliament, some of these same MPs with the same intransigent personal preoccupation with abortion actually stopped Parliament from denouncing men who coerce women into having abortions. For them, even protecting women could not trump their preoccupation with abortion,” he added.
Woodworth criticized the opposition New Democratic Party in particular, noting that they took their opposition to the motion so far as to claim that the Prime Minister should veto a piece of private members’ business.
While the mainstream news coverage on the vote has focused on the split it showed in the Tory caucus, pro-life leaders have indicated that perhaps the most concerning aspect of the vote was the fact that the NDP whipped their MPs’ vote on such a central issue of conscience, one which Parliamentary tradition has always afforded a free vote.
In fact, as Woodworth noted, before the vote the NDP lambasted Harper for not whipping his MPs to vote against the motion, and, in fact, for not having put a stop to the motion before it came to a vote.
But Bob Rae, the Liberals’ interim leader, defended the free vote as a basic principle of democracy. “If you believe in the House of Commons and you believe in private motions, you believe that members have a right to bring these motions forward and that people will vote on them,” he said in an interview with CBC. “I don’t see why this seems to be so unusual.”
“Can you imagine?” Woodworth asked the reporters. “[The NDP] propose to take away one of the most effective democratic tools left to MPs in the face of an MP’s diminishing role.”
Woodworth called on Canadians to “redouble their efforts to promote the view that democratic institutions, honest laws and every human being are more important than preoccupation with abortion or any other agenda or ideology.”
“I want Canadians to remember that no great issue is ever determined by a single vote in the House of Commons,” he said. “It remains for the Canadian people to rise up even more strongly in defense of laws which honestly reflect reality, and in defense of human rights which are so shamefully violated by sub section 223(1).”