Abortion, the CPC, and the Liberals 
I was emailed a link to a page discussing the Oakville Electoral District Association's amendments to be proposed at the CPC's policy convention in March. There is quite a bit of stuff there but I'm going to focus on one of the more controversial issues that the CPC will face - both at the policy convention at during the next election - abortion. The Oakville amendment as it stands now is:

8. Abortion
(This is not in current policy. This is a proposal for an addition)
The Conservative Party of Canada believes that abortion before the end of first Trimester is a matter between a Doctor and patient. However if there is a serious risk to the woman’s life there should be no time limit.
Let's review things a wee bit by reading what Andrew Coyne wrote about the subject a few months ago during the campaign:

This is not the first time we have seen this sort of election-induced hysteria over abortion. Last time out, the occasion for outrage was the Alliance's suggestion that the public be allowed to vote on the issue in a referendum. Opponents said it was too complex a matter for the general public to decide, that this was the sort of thorny issue that could only be addressed by Parliament. Now apparently not even Parliament can be trusted to vote on it.


Because, we are told, the matter has been settled. There's a consensus. On the other hand, it's because the issue is too divisive: it would tear society apart. Well, which is it? If there's a consensus, how can it be divisive? Or if it is indeed divisive, that's a pretty strong indicator there's no consensus. Those who insist that abortion cannot even be debated are simply saying they happen to like the status quo, and are intent on shouting down anyone who deviates from that position to the slightest degree.

There's a word for those who are intolerant of any opinion other than their own. That word is "extremist." The more so, since the status quo -- no abortion law of any kind -- is, objectively speaking, at one extreme among the possible legislative options. Canada is the only country in the western world in this extraordinary position, with the result that the child in utero has no legal status whatever, not only with respect to abortion, but in any other regard. To compound the absurdity, we have arrived at this extreme, not by any act of Parliament, nor even by decision of the courts, but because the last legislation, passed by a free vote in the Commons, died by a tie vote in the Senate!

In fact, there is no consensus on abortion. Gallup polls on the issue regularly, and regularly reports that Canadians are divided on the matter. About a third say they are in favour of the status quo, while the rest favour options ranging from allowing abortion "only under certain circumstances" to total prohibition. Apparently these other two-thirds of Canadians are all extremists.

In talking to people over the years it continues to amaze me the percentage of people that don't know that there are no legal limits on when a pregnancy can be terminated. I specify legal as there are some practical limitations by way of doctors/clinics/hospitals that won't perform an abortion after certain gestation limits. That some health professionals, including Morgantaler, won't perform an abortion after a certain time period tells you volumes about our society's view on the practice. This article's numbers would indicate that around 3000 abortions take place in Canada each year after 16 weeks gestation and that around 50 a year are after 22 weeks and take place in the US as "no Canadian doctor will perform them here."

Many Canadians are quite certain that abortions can only be performed during the first trimester and that our laws are in line with the rest of the developed world. Both are totally incorrect of course.

The Center for Reproductive Rights report (June 2004) on abortion laws around the world show that only four countries in the world have no gestational limits on abortion:
(many states in the US have no limits as well)

So what would happen should the CPC adopt a more European abortion policy?

I think they should. I would support the Oakville amendment even though I have a hard time justifying to myself that an abortion at 2 months should be legal while one at 4 months should not. I can look at fetal development pictures and point out scientific analysis on when 'life' begins but in the end I just have a sense of right and wrong that I will go by and it's hard to put it all in words why I would support this amendment.

It is important that the CPC take a stance on the issue because in the end, as they say, if you don't define yourself, your opponents will. That's what happened in the last election and it can/will happen again. For me, it's not a ballot question, and it won't be for a lot of Canadians but it takes away one more chapter of the so-called 'Hidden Agenda' that Liberals and NDP make so much hay on.

The key for the CPC would be to frame the debate as NDP/Liberal = no limits, and CPC = some limits. The Liberals would attempt to frame the debate as Liberal = status quo and CPC = anti-choice.

Of course the CPC would be attacked by many groups and many would try to paint such a policy as a mere sign of things to come. Conservative critics of the idea might argue that it would merely open more questions on gay marriage, capital punishment, etc and I would suggest that those issues too need to clear and concise - the Oakville amendment for same-sex marriage:

7. Same Sex Rights
The Conservative Party believes that Parliament, through a free vote, and not the courts should determine the definition of marriage. A Conservative government would support the freedom of religious organizations to determine their own practices with respect to marriage.
The Conservative Party of Canada believes in Same Sex Unions and will ensure that
all rights allowed to Heterosexual couples will also be available to Same Sex Couples. This will include the right of a partner to over see medical care for his or her partner.

What do you think?

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