By Patrick B. Craine

OTTAWA, Ontario, April 16, 2010 ( – Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, refused today to say whether the PM would allow a free vote in his party on the recently-tabled private members bill from Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge that seeks to protect women from coercive abortions.

Asked by LifeSiteNews (LSN) whether there would be a free vote, Soudas responded that “the government's policy is that we will not initiate or support legislation that reopens the debate on abortion.”

“That's been the consistent policy of this government and this Prime Minister since he took the position and since he was leader of the opposition,” he added.  “The government will not be supporting this piece of legislation.”

Asked again, Soudas reiterated, “Like I said, the government will not be supporting this piece of legislation because we do not support reopening the debate on abortion.”

LSN asked “So that means no [free vote]?” and Soudas said again: “The government will not be supporting this piece of legislation.”

Bruinooge, who is chair of the parliamentary pro-life caucus, has said that he expects support from MPs in every party, noting that members are generally allowed a free vote on private members bills.

But according to the Montreal Gazette, Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall said that the government would show its opposition to the bill by requiring cabinet ministers to vote against it.

Bruinooge introduced his legislation, known both as Bill C-510 and “Roxanne's Law,” into the House of Commons on Wednesday, when it received first reading.

The bill seeks to protect pregnant women from intimidation and pressure to have an abortion against their will.  On the official website, Bruinooge explains that the legislation is inspired by the case of Roxanne Fernando, who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2007 after she refused to abort their baby.

Pro-abortion politicians, columnists, and activists have accused the bill of being a backdoor or “sneaky” way of bringing up a debate on abortion, but Bruinooge has denied such claims.

At a news conference Thursday, he told reporters that he doesn't believe his bill violates Harper's policy against opening the abortion debate.  “This bill doesn't affect gestational limits or access to abortion in Canada,” he said. “It's something that, in fact, doesn't reopen the abortion debate. But it does make it a crime to threaten or intimidate a woman into an abortion.”

Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition, said she thinks Harper will do whatever he can to put a stop to Bruinooge's bill.  “They're not going to let it go to any kind of a vote,” she said.  “That's Harper.  That's what he did with the unborn victims of violence bill.”

“He's said that all along,” she added.  “He won't allow this to come up, period.  He's determined not to let anything pro-life come up, because he's pro-abortion.”

See related coverage:

Bill to Ban Coerced Abortion Introduced into Canadian Parliament

Two Men Plead Guilty to Murder of Woman Who Refused to Have Abortion

Two Murders of Pregnant Canadian Women Renew Calls for Unborn Victims' Legislation


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