Sean Willett/the Gauntlet

Editorial: Reproductive rights not up for debate

Publication YearIssue Date 

For better or for worse, Canada has a tendency to follow in the footsteps of the United States. They go to war, we go to war. They elect a right-wing leader, we elect a right-wing leader. However, there have been a few areas where our country has thankfully retained its autonomy, such as access to public health care, the national legality of gay marriage and our lack of restrictive abortion regulations. 

These are the policies we cling to as Canadians — the things that allow us to convince ourselves that no matter how bad it gets, certain things will always be better here than in the U.S. Yet, despite our best efforts, these important freedoms may slip through our fingers.

The flavour of the day in the U.S. is abortion. Republican lawmakers have been pushing hard to restrict the rights of women, limiting the control they have over their own bodies. In some states they have come close — in Virginia, a proposed bill would have made trans-vaginal ultrasounds mandatory for women who want an abortion. 

This regulation, and others like it, are a part of a concerted effort by the Republican party to make it unnecessarily difficult for a woman to get an abortion in a misguided attempt to criminalize it. Canada has done pretty well at avoiding such a debacle.

Until now, that is.

Two separate motions pertaining to abortion regulations have been proposed to the House of Commons in the last two weeks. The first was a motion set forth by Member of Parliament Stephen Woodworth to reopen the debate on whether fetuses should have rights. Thankfully, it was voted down, with only 10 cabinet ministers voting in favour of the motion. However, one of these 10 ministers was Rona Ambrose, the appointed leader of Canada’s Status of Women agency. 

Ambrose explained on Twitter that by voting for the motion, she was attempting to open a conversation about sex-selective abortion. A new study from the Canadian Medical Association indicates a depression in female births in some communities, suggesting a trend toward sex-selective abortion. 

The second abortion-related motion, which is still up in the air, was tabled by MP Mark Warawa only a few days after the first was voted down. It asks the House of Commons to officially condemn sex-selective abortions, in order to serve an “educational purpose.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly made it clear that he does not support reopening any facet of the abortion debate, and most MPs support him in this stance, so there is little threat of the motion actually passing. However, it is still telling that this issue has been brought up at all. There are a number of politicians with a clear interest in imposing regulations on women’s reproductive rights, not to mention a quarter of Harper’s own cabinet.

Canada should not reopen this discussion, and the leader of Canada’s Status of Women agency should be the first person to realize this. If we declared that abortion is only acceptable in certain cases, we would be treading down a very dark path. When a government begins to decide what is wrong and what is right in regards to already established women’s rights, it is no longer a government that supports freedom and individual rights. The U.S. has been on this road a long time, a road Canada can’t begin to walk down.

Gauntlet Editorial Board