Election can't shake abortion debate

  • September 5, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Abortion remains a heated subject, despite the attempts of Justice Minister Rob Nicholson to keep it out of the federal election.

“The Canadian public does not have any viable political option to advance its grave and serious concern to promote and protect human life in the womb,” said St. Catharine’s Bishop James Wingle.

Wingle said he is disappointed by Nicholson’s recent undermining of Conservative MP Ken Epp’s Unborn Victims of Crime Bill C-484.

“The bill as it was formulated would have achieved that small recognition that what is heinous about attacking a pregnant woman is that there are two separate victims who are victims of the violence,” Wingle said.

Wingle noted Epp’s bill “did handstands backwards” to make sure it would not recriminalize abortion. Despite that weakness, Wingle said it had merit.

“It would have in fact at least achieved some form of recognition that an unborn child is worthy of concern and protection.”

Though Wingle would not comment specifically on Nicholson, who is a Catholic from his diocese, the bishop outlined the responsibility that Catholics and “all right thinking people” have in defending human life. He pointed to technology such as ultrasound that reveal the growing child in the womb.

“We know we’re not talking about lumps of tissue,” he said.

He recognized, however, that politics involves “trade offs,” and that moving in the direction of “absolute good” may require an incremental approach that Epp’s bill represented.

“With the supreme value of life, there is no trading off,” Wingle said.

“At the time it would seem the reigning wisdom is if a party opens or reopens the issue of abortion, they think it will disrupt their electoral hopes,” he said. “That’s a very sad state of affairs.

“We seem to have such immense difficulty to find a public voice to speak cogently, eloquently and coherently about matters of ultimate value.”

On Aug. 25, Nicholson promised the Conservative Party would not reopen the abortion debate. He said his government would bring in legislation to make pregnancy an aggravating factor in sentencing to replace Epp’s bill because the medical community feared it might instill fetal rights.

Catholic Insight editor Fr. Alphonse de Valk warned the Tories risk alienating their socially conservative base.

“When considered in tandem with past actions, such as squandering the parliamentary vote on so-called same-sex marriage, failing to rein in human rights commissions run amok and not taking steps to overturn the naming of Henry Morgentaler to the Order of Canada, it is clear that the Harper government’s initiative to squelch C-484 means it may well lose the support of social conservatives in Canada,” de Valk said in a statement. “This will likely have dire electoral consequences for Mr. Harper and the Conservatives in the next election.”

De Valk pointed out Nicholson had moved beyond the Conservative Party’s previous refusal to take a position on abortion by undermining Epp’s bill.

Epp, who will not run in the next election, continued to defend his bill on radio and television programs across the country. Eight Conservative MPs said publicly they would continue to support it if it reached third reading.

The Morgentaler Order of Canada also continues to keep the abortion issue alive. On Aug. 28, Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) revealed the names of 105 MPs who publicly oppose the abortionist receiving Canada’s highest honour, including 80 Tories, 23 Liberals and two Bloc Quebecois, but no New Democrats. It also revealed the names of 35 MPs who support it, and 34, including Nicholson, who refused to comment. CLC also noted Harper had distanced himself from the award and called it “divisive.”

Nicholson’s Catholic faith and its clash with his public policy may also provide grist for the abortion debate, as it does for Catholic politicians in the United States.

“I’m proud to be a part of this government and I realize that this is an issue that divides Canadians but we have been very clear as a government that we are not reopening this debate,” Nicholson said.

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