Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s announcement that going forward all wanting to run for his party must be pro-choice was immediately condemned by Cardinal Thomas Collins and Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith. Register file photo.

Liberals, NDP reignite abortion debate

  • May 13, 2014

OTTAWA - After failed attempts in the past by Conservative MPs to reopen the abortion debate, the Liberals and New Democrats have re-ignited the issue with policy initiatives that promote an abortion agenda.

First, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced that his party would only allow candidates who “vote pro-choice” to run for the Liberals. That position overturned longstanding Liberal Party tradition of allowing conscience votes on moral issues.

The New Democrats followed with a motion from MP Niki Ashton that calls on the House of Commons to affirm “a woman’s right to choose abortion” as a “fundamental question of equality and human rights, both in Canada and around the world.” Ashton wants the Conservative government to change its 2010 international maternal health policy to allow for funding of overseas abortions.

Former Liberal MP Pat O’Brien, who now acts as a consultant for pro-life and pro-family groups, called Ashton’s Motion-510 part of an NDP “strategy to flush out the Conservative Party and put heat on Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper and the Conservatives to shift their position.”

The Conservatives “haven’t supported exporting the abortion ideology to other countries,” he said, adding that he believes the NDP motion is intended to “drive a wedge” into the Liberal and Conservative Parties, which still have pro-life MPs.

O’Brien said he hopes Harper resists this.

“He has in the past. I hope he will stand firm.”

Trudeau’s statement was called an “outrage” by Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith. He was responding to the Liberal leader’s declaration that all future candidates will be screened and anyone who professes to be pro-life will be banned from seeking a Liberal nomination to run for office.

“I would speak first of all as a citizen of the country and it angers me,” Smith told the Edmonton Sun. “Here we have a man who would like to be prime minister some day, dictating to party members that they must vote against fundamental human rights. I just find that absolutely outrageous.

“In effect, what they’re saying is, ‘There’s no choice but pro-choice.’ That’s a contradiction in itself,” Smith said.

Trudeau said that although future candidates must be pro-choice, existing MPs would be able to keep their seats and their view would be “respected to a certain extent.” However, going forward members of the Liberal Party will have no choice but to “be resolutely pro-choice.”

Speaking at the March for Life in Ottawa May 8, Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins urged the crowd to pray that “each person who is entrusted with the mission of public service would be free to do so with a free conscience.”

“We pray particularly that all of those who serve us in political life will not in any way feel inhibited from proclaiming the great gift of life, the great gift of marriage.”

Campaign Life Coalition Ottawa lobbyist Johanne Brownrigg noted the irony that Ashton, who “claims to be pro-woman” and “vocally opposed condemning female gendercide because she says this would reopen the abortion debate” would now bring a “radical” motion like Motion-510.

“This is a very polarizing, very divisive motion,” Brownrigg said. “Maternal health depends on quality of health care, not on the legal status or availability of abortion.

“It’s really a heinous form of cultural imperialism to offer abortion rather than clean sheets, sterile equipment and trained attendants to help in child birth,” she said.

Trudeau’s statement prompted NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair to accuse Trudeau of having a “two-tier system” within his caucus by allowing the present pro-life Liberal MPs to continue to vote their consciences.

“In the NDP, no MP and nobody running to be an MP is going to hold a different position than the party position on a woman’s right to choose,” Mulcair said.

As a former Liberal MP, worker and supporter, O’Brien said he is “saddened” the “once-great party of the big tent,” which had room for a wide range of opinions, “from the left and right across the centre,” has “shrunk to just a left-wing party.”

“I’m a practising Catholic and practising Catholics have been pretty loyal to the Liberal Party, though that has begun to shift to the Conservatives over the last two or three elections,” he said.

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