MP Cathay Wagantall’s bill to prevent sex-selective abortion stands little chance of passing. Even her own leader, Conservative Erin O’Toole, won’t support it. CCN file photo

Charles Lewis: Morality has little hope in government

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  • April 22, 2021

Erin O’Toole, the federal Tory leader, has said he will not support a bill to ban sex-selection abortions.

“I’m pro-choice and I will be voting against this private member’s bill,” O’Toole told reporters this month. “I will always as prime minister defend the human rights of all Canadians, including women to make this decision for themselves. I’ve been crystal clear on that and will be as prime minister.”

The bill he said he could not support comes from Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall, a Tory backbencher.

It does not have a snowball’s chance in succeeding given the leftward makeup of Parliament. But it could have been a welcome symbolic gesture to those of us who would like to see some morality back in government.

So many politicians are terrified of being associated with anything social conservatives promote, even when it is something that should be considered beyond the pale.

The Conservative Party of Canada, judging by the vote of the last year’s leadership convention, has a strong core of social conservatives. Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis garnered 40 per cent of the vote. That is a significant portion of a national party. It clearly shows there is a desire among many rank-and-file Tories to put some emphasis on life issues.

Clearly O’Toole or any other leader with any hope in hell of being elected will never call for a ban on abortion. The topic can barely be debated civilly let alone suggest it be made illegal.

Opposing sex-selection abortions, however, should have been easy. The practice has a dark side to it. To decide to end a pregnancy because one prefers a boy or a girl — usually it’s a boy — seems the absolute height of selfishness.

“One would think that the private member’s bill to prohibit sex-selection as a reason for abortion would be supported by every Member of Parliament, since Canadian society insists on equity, diversity and inclusion,” Moira McQueen, director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, said in an e-mail. “Strenuous efforts have been made to promote women, therefore any practice which clearly discriminates against female babies should be abhorrent.”

I realize that in Canada there is the awful notion that a fetus has no legal protection and is not considered human till it emerges from mother. At the same time, it is not just an inanimate thing. Ask any soon-to-be mother whether what is inside her is a person or a thing.

A sex-selection abortion reeks of a form of soft genetics and has echoes of China’s obscene one-child policy.

Granted, O’Toole did vote against Bill C-7, which extended euthanasia (MAiD) to more categories of Canadians and contains a rider that would open the door to euthanize the mentally ill.

Which is why his comments feel so inconsistent.

It would seem that a good leader at some point would have to take a moral stand and even risk some blowback. That is what a good leader, even in opposition, should be able to do. Otherwise how can we predict what he might do in power?

Would he dare reverse Liberal policies on euthanasia, especially if the polls showed they are popular?

When Doug Ford ran to become premier of Ontario he at first welcomed pro-life support. Then in a fit of panic he got rid of Tory candidate Tanya Granic Allen, duly nominated by her riding association, for fear she was too pro-life.

In opposition, the provincial Tories supported conscience rights for medical professionals who wanted no part of MAiD. That still has not happened and it was promised in 2018.

Saying you’re for helping working families get ahead, as O’Toole has promised, is not exactly courageous. It is the equivalent of saying you support the right to breathe air or own shoes.

Once again social conservatives have reason to fear that their views will be tossed aside like so much trash. It’s another reason why politics feels so pointless.

We should be getting used to it but each time it feels like a slap in the face.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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