It is time to get our pens out!
As most of you have likely heard by now, Conservative backbencher, Stephen Woodworth has won a bid to debate abortion in the House of Commons. The debate, which is tentatively scheduled for April 26, is calling for a special committee (made up of a majority of Conservative MPs) to examine the question of when human life begins. Anti-choice crusader and president of the Campaign Life Coalition, Jim Hughes, released a video this week saying that recent events have “created a ‘perfect storm’ helping move Canadians to a point where the majority is truly open to re-examining our laws on abortion.” (Note that “re-examine laws on abortion” or “re-open the abortion debate” is anti-choice code for “re-criminalize abortion and let women die,” or in the very least, come darn close.) While we know that Hughes’s claim that Canadians support a new law on abortion is untrue, Woodworth’s motion is still concerning.
Executive Director of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, Joyce Arthur, writes about why there is no need to re-open the abortion debate here. First off, the Supreme Court has already answered Woodworth’s question in various landmark cases, including the famous Morgentaler trials and Tremblay vs Daigle, Dobson vs Dobson, and Winnipeg Child & Family Services vs Ms.G, all of which definitively established the fact that fetuses have no legal rights. Even if we were to come to some backward, pseudo-scientific conclusion that somehow a cluster of cells was a person, the legal implications of developing legislation that criminalizes or limits access to abortion means that women die. Moreover, criminalizing abortion does not reduce the instance of abortion. As Arthur points out:
Every country in the world where abortion is illegal has a well-developed abortion underground, and abortion is generally more common in countries where it’s illegal than where it’s legal. More than half of all abortions in the world (21 million of 41 million) are unsafe and mostly illegal. In the U.S. where abortion is now heavily restricted, women will travel hundreds of kilometres for abortion care, use their rent or food money to pay for it, go before judges to get permission, listen to mandated anti-abortion propaganda, walk past aggressive and bullying protesters, and even huddle for hours in a car in the clinic’s parking lot until the bomb threat is over. In short, most women will do whatever it takes to get an abortion, regardless of the difficulty or risks.
In the very least this motion seems like a big waste of time for our elected officials. Personally, I’d rather my MP be grappling with issues not already addressed by law and that do not serve to harm women… you know, like poverty… or childcare… or missing and murdered Indigenous women. But alas, such is the way of the Conservative majority government.
Over the next few weeks it is integral that we begin by engaging our campuses and communities in letter-writing campaigns (you can check out a sample letter here). Write to your MP stating your desire not to see the abortion debate re-opened and have all of your friends do the same. You can set up tables at your campus and have students sign pre-written letters or e-mails. You can also have them write their own and do a “letter for a cookie” campaign. Get creative and make folks aware of what is at stake. If your MP is pro-choice (you can find a list of pro-choice MPs here and anti-choice MPs here) then adopt an anti-choice MP and write to them! The more pressure the government sees from pro-choice Canadians the more likely that Woodworth’s motion will go exactly where we want it to go: nowhere.