Friday May 21, 2010

Canadian PM Harper Opposes Law Protecting Women from Coercive Abortions

By Patrick B. Craine

OTTAWA, Ontario, May 21, 2010 ( – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper today openly opposed a bill seeking to protect women from being coerced into abortions. The prime minister said he doesn’t want any new legislation on abortion and will vote against any attempts to bring in an abortion law, reports CTV.

“I generally don’t comment on private member’s legislation,” Harper told reporters in Niagara Falls. “But I have been clear: I will oppose any attempt to create a new abortion law.”

Harper’s comments followed the unanimous passage on Wednesday of a motion from the Quebec National Assembly calling on the him to “put an end to the current ambiguity” from his government on abortion. In response, Harper’s spokesman insisted that the PM’s position on abortion is not ambiguous at all.

“[Harper] has never had more than one position on this issue. The debate is over. It’s done,” said Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s communications director, to the National Post (NP).

At the same time, a senior official in the Conservative government has told NP that it will be “very strongly recommended” that Conservative MPs oppose Roxanne’s Law, a bill proposed by Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge that seeks to protect women from being coerced into abortions.

In its Wednesday motion, which passed in a vote of 109-0, the Quebec National Assembly affirmed “the right of women to free choice and to free and accessible abortion services.” The bill’s sponsor, Carole Poirier of the Parti Québécois, told the Globe and Mail that it came as a reaction to the government’s refusal to fund abortion as part of its initiative to promote maternal and child health at the G8 summit this June, as well as Bruinooge’s bill, last week’s National March for Life, and recent federal cuts to women’s groups.

The motion also called on “the federal government and the Prime Minister of Canada to put an end to the current ambiguity on this issue,” and reaffirmed “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.”

The federal government had already denounced Bruinooge’s bill after he tabled it in the House of Commons in April, and the PM’s office had insisted that Harper would not support the bill.

NP’s government source, who remains anonymous, says that Harper will vote against the bill, but will not force a vote on his MPs. “It’s going to be strongly recommended that the bill be opposed,” said the source, who is a senior adviser to Harper. “This is an old debate. Canadians don’t want to have this debate anymore.”

CBC reports that in Niagara Falls today Harper dodged questions about whether he would force a vote on private member’s legislation relating to abortion.

Upon repeated questioning from LSN in April, spokesman Dmitri Soudas refused to state whether Harper would allow a free vote.

Bruinooge’s bill would have no effect on abortion access in Canada, and is specifically aimed at making it illegal to coerce a woman into abortion. But another government source told La Presse that should a bill seeking to criminalize abortion be proposed, the government would force its MPs to vote against it. “If a private bill seeking to recriminalize abortion was introduced it would be a party vote,” the source said in French. “So, all MPs would be forced to vote against this bill. We never want such a bill to pass.”

Jeff Gunnarson of Campaign Life Coalition emphasized that Prime Minister Harper is merely “holding fast” to the position that he has laid out since he became prime minister. “Harper has reiterated his four-year-old mantra that abortion will not be discussed or debated with respect to legislation in Parliament,” he wrote in an e-mail.

“I would like to remind all pro-lifers that we too must hold fast,” he continued. “Insist that the discussions continue. Be non-partisan and vote for the pro-life candidate in your riding. I encourage all who believe in the sanctity of life to find out where their candidate stands and inform him that you are disappointed with the lack of protection for the unborn in Canada and that you want to know what he or she will do about it.”

Gunnarson urged voters to see how Campaign Life Coalition has rated their MP by searching for him or her here.

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