Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, who represents the Ontario Kitchener Centre riding Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Private member’s motion could re-open abortion debate

  • February 8, 2012

OTTAWA - A Conservative backbencher is using a private member’s motion that could re-ignite the abortion debate in Parliament.

MP Stephen Woodworth, who represents the Ontario Kitchener Centre riding, tabled a motion Feb. 6 that Parliament appoint a special committee of 12 members to review the section of the Criminal Code that states a child becomes a human being “only at the moment of complete birth.”

Though Woodworth told journalists he was not addressing abortion in his motion, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson issued a terse statement, saying “The Prime Minister has been very clear, our government will not reopen this debate.”

At a news conference to announce his motion, Woodworth told journalists he is comfortable with bringing this issue forward, even though Nicholson’s statement was issued while his news conference was going on.

“Don’t accept any law that says some human beings are not human beings,” said Woodworth. “It does not matter what result you’re trying to achieve with such a misrepresentation or whose philosophy supports such a misrepresentation.

“History is littered with disastrous examples of laws which pretended some people were not human beings to achieve some desired result or suit someone’s philosophy.”   

Woodworth wants this committee to examine the medical evidence about whether a child “is or is not a human being” before complete birth, and whether this evidence is consistent with Subsection 223 (1) of the Criminal Code.  

The motion also asks what the legal impact and consequences are of this subsection on the fundamental human rights of a child before birth. It also asks the committee to examine what options Parliament has in affirming, amending or replacing that subsection.

The committee would have 10 months to study the issue before reporting back to Parliament, the motion says.

“Now there might be some people who can convince themselves that a child magically transforms into a human being when their little toe pops out of the birth canal,” Woodworth said. “However, I’ve concluded that modern medical science will inform us that children are in reality human beings at some point before the moment of complete birth.

“For me, and I think for most Canadians, this law clearly misrepresents the facts,” he said. He added, however, that 79 per cent of Canadians do not know there’s “no recognition of a child’s humanity” before birth.

“Just laws must be based on accurate evidence, not arbitrary lines unrelated to reality,” he said. “If there’s no objective criteria for who’s a human being, then personhood and the fundamental rights that go with it can be defined in any way any powerful person or group decides. Is that the Canada you want?”

The motion is expected to come up for debate in late March. Even if the motion does not pass, it is guaranteed two hours of debate in the House of Commons.

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