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Reopen the abortion debate?

Kyle Dupont

On May 10, the annual anti-abortion rally was held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. This year’s event has come at a very interesting time in the Canadian abortion debate. Only weeks earlier, Stephen Harper denounced fellow Tory Stephen Woodworth’s bid to reopen the debate in the House of Commons.

Woodworth, a Conservative backbencher, recently proposed a private members motion to reopen the conversation on Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code, which states a child does not become a human being until it has “completely proceeded” from the mother’s body. The motion was quickly denounced by the opposition as well as the Prime Minister.

Stephen Harper said in a recent question period that he does not want the abortion debate reopened and he would vote against any move to do so. Many of Harper’s supporters at the rally were frustrated with his recent remarks and disappointed that a Conservative PM supposedly has no intention of supporting a bill that would restrict abortions.

Any time the word abortion enters into conversation in the media, or really anywhere, very strong public opinions—both for and against—come along with it.

I am not pro-abortion, but I am pro-choice. The anti-abortion rhetoric, to me, is a violation against women’s rights. If this country were ever to allow restrictions to be implemented on a women’s choice over her own body, we would be taking one giant leap backwards.

However, debate today is greatly different than in 1988, when the Supreme Court ruled to not put any legal restrictions on abortions. At that time, the Supreme Court’s ruling of Regina v. Morgentaler, found the Criminal Code of Canada was unconstitutional, because it violated women’s rights under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With advancements in medical screenings the debate is no longer just a yay or nay discussion; it has become much more complex.

Major advances in science and maternal healthcare means genetic counselling is now a growing medical field. Through screening and family history, doctors are more capable than ever when it comes to determining if a child may be born with Down syndrome or have a predisposition to a variety of illnesses. What happens when we reach the point when we can find out with certainty that a child will grow up to have Parkinson, ALS or Alzheimer’s? Is it humane to let the fetus survive only to live a life of unspeakable pain and suffering? Female feticide is a regular occurrence in  China and India where boys are the preferred sex—and is now occurring in North America. Should parents be allowed to choose the sex of their child?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. Nobody does. But based on our advances in science and technology the abortion debate will only become more difficult as we move forward—new science-made options in family planning have generated a whole new avenue for heated argument.

The ongoing debate around not having the abortion debate within the House of Commons only confuses matters. The conversation needs to be reborn. We currently have no laws around abortions and it’s about time we enacted policy to officially protect women’s rights.

As Andrew Coyne wrote in his April 27th column for the National Post: “Possibly, after a full and open debate, we might decide we wished to continue to have no abortion law—by policy, rather than by default. That is how a democracy decides such questions. It does not leave them to a tie vote of the Senate.”

We live in a democratic society where issues are openly discussed and voted on by the individuals we have elected into power. Would it be wrong or dangerous to reopen the discussion? I strongly doubt it.  It would be wrong and dangerous not to reopen the debate in a democratic nation. By not allowing this to be discussed within the House of Commons, it would sent a precedent that could prevent other major issues from seeing the floor. We live in a progressive country, a country where church and state are separated, and I think there are enough sound minded individuals who can make the right decision.

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