Conservatives won't support abortion coercion bill

  • April 21, 2010
Rod BruinoogeOTTAWA - The Conservative government will not support MP Rod Bruinooge’s bill to prevent women from being coerced into having abortions, giving the private member’s bill little chance of passing.

The Winnipeg South MP, who chairs the all-party Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, introduced Bill C-510 into the House of Commons April 14. The  Conservative backbencher told journalists the next day he had support from members of other parties as well as from within Tory ranks.

Bruinooge named his bill “Roxanne’s Law” after Roxanne Fernando, a 23-year old Winnipeg woman whose boyfriend attempted to coerce her into an abortion in 2007. When she refused, the boyfriend hired his best friend to kill her.

“Even under intense pressure and coercion, Roxanne chose life,” he said. “After several beatings meant to kill her and her baby, both were buried alive in a snow bank where they eventually died.”

Bruinooge said he hoped his bill would prevent threats and coercion from escalating to murder. He also said it would send a message to Canadian society that coercing a woman to have an abortion is wrong. He insisted the bill has nothing to do with whether abortion remains legal and expected MPs who are pro-choice to support the bill.

The Harper government quickly distanced itself from the bill.

“With respect to Mr. Bruinooge’s bill, the Government will not initiate or support any legislation that reopens the abortion debate,” said Andrew McDougall, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office April 16 in an e-mail.

“I find it unfortunate that, in Canada, we are resistant to discuss any legal matter that in any way relates to abortion. I think that’s not healthy for our country,” Bruinooge said.

The Catholic Civil Rights League quickly endorsed the bill. League executive director Joanne McGarry said she was not surprised at the Harper government’s response. It is not realistic to expect there will be any significant moves to limit abortion politically, she said.  

“I applaud Rod Bruinooge,” said Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes, who said he once saw a young woman being pushed and pulled into the Morgentaler Clinic in Toronto.   

Hughes expressed disappointment in the Harper government because Bruinooge’s bill stands no chance of passing without the government support.

Angelina Steenstra of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign said statistics gathered by the Elliot Institute indicate 64 per cent of women are coerced into abortion, though the coercion is often subtle. Working with women struggling with the aftermath of abortion, Steenstra said she often hears the stories of women who did not feel they had a choice. Some women are threatened with divorce and live with a terrible sense of shame and powerlessness that by capitulating they did not protect their unborn child.

She has also met women who felt they were coerced by “the powers that be,” including members of the medical profession.

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