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MP Cathay Wagantall, speaking at a March for Life rally in Ottawa. Her bill to stop sex-selective abortions failed to pass in the House of Commons. CCN file photo

MPs ‘unprepared’ for rational talk on abortion

  • June 9, 2021

OTTAWA -- While Canadians are still having conversations around abortion, the latest vote in the House of Commons shows the nation’s lawmakers don’t want to hear what is being said, pro-life organizations say.

Bill C-233 died in the House June 2, defeated by a vote of 248-82, and it remains legal in Canada to have an abortion based on the gender of the baby in the womb. Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall had sought to have the procedure banned with her private members’ bill, citing the practice predominantly targets girls.

Wagantall and supporters of the bill argue that Canadians support such specific restrictions on abortion, but most MPs have made it clear there is no path forward at this time in the House of Commons for any legal changes that would impede access to abortion.

“It was evident in the debates that while Canadians are having ongoing conversations about abortion, elected lawmakers seem unprepared for it. Most Canadians support common-sense abortion restrictions, including a restriction on sex-selective abortion. There can be nuance in restricting abortion in a way that many in Parliament do not yet acknowledge,” said Tabitha Ewert, legal counsel for the pro-life organization We Need a Law.

“This is clearly an issue that resonates with Canadians.”

As the debate during second reading of Bill C-233 showed, any discussion of adopting abortion laws runs into a stone wall of opposition from the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois. MPs from those parties dismissed Wagantall’s proposed bill as a Trojan Horse attempt to chip away at existing abortion rights in Canada by the pro-life movement, with Bloc Quebecois MP Christine Normandin accusing Wagantall of “shamefully” using sexism as an excuse to roll back access to abortion in Canada.

“It is a pretext, a roundabout way for the member to achieve her purpose, an attempt to reopen a debate that we hoped had been closed for several decades now,” she said. “The member is shamefully using and hijacking the discourse on human rights to hide other intentions.”

Wagantall and pro-life organizations dismiss the charge as being out of touch with the views of the majority of Canadians, whether they are pro-life or pro-choice.

“As I have said many times during the course of this discussion, the vast majority of those who would like sex selection to be made illegal are in fact pro-choice,” Wagantall said May 28 during debate before the June 2 vote.

Canadian Physicians for Life’s Dr. Kiely Williams said that in monitoring the debate surrounding Bill C-233, she didn’t understand the opposition to the bill.

“During the debate, many female Members of Parliament in particular professed that they could not support sex-selection abortion, but that they were also firmly committed to opposing any legislation which would prohibit this practice,” Williams wrote to MPs.

“The Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois conceded that they do not support sex-selective abortion, yet they joined the NDP in opposition to this bill. As a physician and a woman, I asked myself how they could adopt such an irreconcilable position.”

We Need A Law vows it will continue the fight, said Ewert.

“The debate around sex-selective abortion is necessary and will continue. Women’s rights cannot include targeting women before they are born. Sex-selective abortion is antithetical to Canada’s commitment to equality and needs to be prohibited as an unacceptable practice,” said Ewert.

“We look forward to when Parliament catches up to where Canadians are already at and accepts a prohibition on such an overtly sexist practice.”

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