By Patrick B. Craine
OTTAWA, Ontario, March 26, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Conservative Member of Parliament slammed Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in an interview with LifeSiteNews (LSN) yesterday over the latter's persistent attempts at pushing abortion in the government's G8 maternal and child health initiative, most recently through a failed Liberal motion.
“I think it was very cynical politics on behalf of Mr. Ignatieff,” commented Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC). “I think he's crossed the line between pro-choice and simply being pro-abortion, and I think that's who Michael Ignatieff is.”
The Liberals put forward a motion on Tuesday calling on the government to offer a “full range of reproductive health services” in their Third World maternal and child health initiative. Though abortion was not mentioned, the motion was interpreted as being a clear demand for abortion, based on its criticism of George W. Bush's Mexico City Policy, which prohibited overseas funding for pro-abortion groups.
In putting forward the motion, Del Mastro said Ignatieff “was trying to divide our caucus, divide the country, on an issue that I think Canadians are united on,” namely the maternal health initiative.
The motion, proposed by Liberal MP Bob Rae, was eventually defeated in a vote of 138-144, partly because three pro-life Liberals – Paul Szabo, Dan McTeague, and John McKay – defied their party's whip and voted against. Thirteen other Liberals didn't show up for the vote, many due to their pro-life convictions.
That the motion was defeated largely by their own party was a devastating embarrassment to the Liberals, and Ignatieff in particular, who has acknowledged that his leadership is being called into question. At a closed-door caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, the day after the vote, Ignatieff reportedly accepted full blame for failing to ensure they had the necessary votes. Party whip Rodger Cuzner and other senior caucus members also apologized for the gaff.
Ignatieff nevertheless has renewed his vow to fight for “reproductive rights” both in Canada and abroad. “The key issue here is that this party reaffirms and has pressed with, in my view considerable courage, since January, the absolute fundamental importance for Canada to remain consistent in its support of reproductive health rights for women at home and abroad,” he told reporters following a caucus meeting the day after the vote. “And we will continue to do so.”
According to Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), Ignatieff is “adamantly pro-abortion and he's dragged his party right along with him, without their consent.” She noted that “nobody was fooled by [the motion's] language. We knew it was abortion. [Ignatieff's] made no bones about the fact that that's what he meant.”
Douglas praised the “courage” of the Liberal MPs who opposed their party's motion and “commended” those of the 13 MPs who stayed away from the vote rather than back the pro-abortion measure.
The Liberal party's abortion push has also drawn criticism from a number of women's groups. In a press release before the motion vote, REAL Women of Canada argued that the Liberal party is pushing contraception and abortion in the G8 initiative because “such proposals will eliminate motherhood – every time.”
They highlighted recent comments from Liberal health critic Carolyn Bennett in the Hill Times which have been taken as derisive to stay-at-home motherhood. “Women of Canada want to hear about early learning and child care,” Bennett said, “that is the key to their economic independence, to be able to get back to school, to get a real job, to be able to go to work.”
“This narrow view of women being imposed by the Liberals with ideological blinkers should not be allowed to contaminate the G-8 proceedings on matters on which there is no consensus,” REAL Women states. “Women in third world countries deserve better.”
The Conservatives had indicated last week that their initiative would focus on simple and beneficial solutions for women and children in the Third World, such as inoculations and food and water, but they later backed down under pressure and agreed to consider contraceptives in the plan, leading to fears that they would also back down on abortion.
In the weeks following Harper's January announcement, party members had indicated that the plan would not deal with abortion, but now the government refuses to answer questions on the issue. Rather than saying whether they will support groups promoting or providing abortion, they have simply repeated the mantra that they won't be “reopening the debate on abortion.”
Pressed by reporters this week about abortion funding in the plan, Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda stated, “We are not closing any options . … We are not ruling out any options.”
There had even been rumors before the Tuesday vote on the Liberal's abortion motion that the Conservatives would back it, but they ultimately came out in opposition.
Asked if he was concerned about how his party would approach the motion, Del Mastro told LifeSiteNews (LSN), “No, I have great faith in my party.”
“Right from the get-go, we said that this was about providing essential healthcare, basic healthcare services,” he said. “It's about saving the lives of mothers and children. I think that is a laudable goal, and something that we should be striving toward. … I would think any party in Canada would want to support progress on that. I think Canadians broadly support us on that.”