OTTAWA, Ontario, January 3, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Another Canadian parliamentarian has joined the call for public debate on abortion, urging his colleagues in Ottawa to discuss applying human rights protections to children in the womb.
“I support this discussion in Parliament of all places. I mean, where else should it be happening? Around the water cooler?” Tory MP Jeff Watson (Essex) told LifeSiteNews on Tuesday.
Watson is at least the fifth MP since September to call for a debate on abortion in the wake of the Conservative government’s controversial decision to award a grant to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the world’s largest abortion provider.
Pro-life MPs and groups have said the grant flies in the face of the government’s 2010 promise not to fund abortion overseas.
Watson entered the fray in the days before Christmas when he told local media that he supports Tory colleague Stephen Woodworth’s (Kitchener-Centre) call for discussion on the rights of the unborn.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Watson suggested the debate take a “more comprehensive” approach, moving beyond the “old debate” about the criminality of abortion.
“Both camps are well entrenched around whether the procedure of abortion should be criminalized or not,” he said. “There’s a whole lot more to this discussion. It’s not that that isn’t an important part of the discussion. But that isn’t the discussion itself. It’s a whole range of things.”
He suggested as an example that the government consider better ways of supporting college-aged women with unplanned pregnancies, to remove the “false choice” between the child and a successful career.
On December 21st, Woodworth issued a press release slamming Canada’s current law that does not recognize a child’s status as a person until after he or she is born. He said the law treats a child as “sub-human while his or her little toe remains in the birth canal, even if he or she is breathing.”
While a recent poll had shown that 80% of Canadians believe Canada’s law protects children in the later stages of pregnancy, Woodworth emphasized that the law in fact “provides no human rights protection whatsoever for children before the moment of complete birth.”
Watson, a father of five, has been a regular at Canada’s annual March for Life, and has been a vocal advocate for the unborn since he was first elected to Parliament in 2004.
In 2008, he spoke out against Governor General Michaelle Jean’s decision to award the Order of Canada to abortionist Henry Morgentaler.
At the 2010 March for Life, Watson declared “the dawn of a new day in Canada where abortion will be unthinkable.”
“We will have in Canada a culture that supports life from conception to natural death – we will see that come to pass,” he predicted.
On Tuesday, Watson told LifeSiteNews that he does not have a “definitive position” on when human rights ought to apply to children in the womb, but hopes for a debate involving testimony from bioethicists, scientists, and human rights professionals around that question.
“Human rights may have a specific legal connotation,” he said. “I’m not a rights specialist. What I’m firm about is that personhood exists from the time of conception forward. That’s my philosophical belief on that.”
“I’m not sure that Canadians share that consensus,” he added.
“My layman’s read of the public mood, if you will, around life issues [is] I think most people mistakenly believe that there’s already restrictions on abortion, and so this issue is already settled,” he explained.
Watson said that when he informs people that there are, in fact, no restrictions, “they’re quite alarmed and feel something should be done about it.”
Since winning a majority in the May election, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has remained adamant that they will support the status quo on abortion, and has re-emphasized the point in the media whenever one of its caucus members raises the issue.
Under Harper in recent years, pro-life MPs have struggled to bring forward any discussion on abortion, even around broadly supported initiatives such as a ban on abortion coercion and or protections for unborn victims of crime, in part because abortion supporters frame them as backdoor efforts to re-criminalize abortion.
“My gut feeling is that groups who support free access to the procedure of abortion won’t have the broader discussion. They’re content to frame every discussion as being about the re-criminalization of abortion,” Watson observed. “They want to frame it in old terms. … I expect a very strong resistance by groups that favour full access to the procedure of abortion. I expect them to be full-out name-calling and everything else that characterizes groups like that.”
“I think we’re mature enough as a society, I think we need to be mature enough as a Parliament, to deal with these questions head on,” he added.
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