Woodworth’s Attacks on Abortion Rights Challenge Harper to Step Up

by | February 19, 2012
filed under Can-Con, Feminism, Politics

Canadian House of CommonsJosey Ross is an anti-violence worker and reproductive justice activist living in Vancouver. She has an embarrassing and uncontainable love of small dogs but fears corgis.

The abortion debate is over in Canada. We won. Stop worrying so much.

This is what I kept hearing as I was beginning to write my Honours thesis, which looked at anti-choice legislation in Canada. And it’s partly true. We won. Oh boy did we win. Unlike in the U.S. where the increasingly fragile Roe v. Wade decision is based on an easily trump-able right to privacy, women’s right to abortion in Canada is predicated on security of the person.

Since the Morgantaler decision was handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988, precisely zero laws have been passed that regulate or prohibit abortion. However, there have been nearly 40 bills and motions introduced that sought to limit or prohibit abortion. In 1991 women’s right to bodily autonomy was maintained by a single vote when it tied in Senate.

And while I’m confident that Bill C-43 would have been deemed unconstitutional if not for that single vote, it would have been a nightmare. And it would have been women who paid the steep price of years of legal wrangling.

Conservative misogynist (or “pro-lifer” as he seems to prefer) Stephen Woodworth is using a well-worn tactic to attack abortion rights from the side. Focusing on personhood arguments neatly skirts the existence of the gestational vehicle otherwise known as a woman.

Woodworth is being not just disingenuous (“whatever view one has on abortion, it would surely be important to know whether not a child is a human being before birth”) but is dressing up his fight against women’s fundamental right to bodily autonomy in the language of human rights.

His motion (M-312) to appoint a special committee consisting of seven Tories, four NDP and one Liberal Party member to investigate “what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth” would, if passed, require the House to strike said committee that would report its findings within 20 sitting days.

Which means we will soon see how truthful Prime Minister Harper was when he repeatedly stated his government will not reopen the abortion debate. If he is truly committed to that stance he’ll lay down a whip that directs Conservative Party members to vote against the motion.

If, on the other hand, it’s been merely empty rhetoric meant to appease he’ll allow a free vote. Given his showings on the abortion debate outside of Canada (denying abortion as part of maternal health care and defunding International Planned Parenthood), I’m not holding my breath.

(photo via Wikimedia Commons)


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