Canadian parliamentary discussions on abortion have been just about non-existent since 1990. The Progressive Conservative Government of that time deep-sixed it after failing to have the House of Commons pass a phoney abortion law which in effect would have put no restrictions at all on abortionists (the Justice Minister presenting the bill had even sent a letter to doctors assuring them that they would be immune from any prosecution under the provisions of her bill).

However, now with the arrival of the Canadian Alliance on the political scene, the abortion landscape seems to be in for a welcome transformation. This rookie party has undergone a meteoric rise to its current official opposition position in Parliament, mostly due to its unabashed social conservatism - an orientation it proudly shares with the U.S. Republican Party. It is the only one of the three national opposition parties to have a shadow cabinet post devoted exclusively to family issues. Both the former and current leaders are staunch defenders of the unborn and have promised to actively support a law providing constitutional protection of the unborn`s right to life, should such legislation be presented to the House.

Well, the unthinkable has at last occurred! The Canadian Alliance presented a motion in the House of Commons (March 22, 2001) urging the Liberal-led government to amend the definition in section 223 of the Criminal Code which states that a baby isn't a human being until it emerges completely from the womb. Not surprisingly, as allowed by antiquated rules of Parliament, this private member`s bill was declared non-votable - and therefore defeated - by members of all three other parties whose leaders have proudly and officially declared them to be "pro-choice."

Although the failure of the motion to be acted upon was a disappointment, the exercise was nevertheless valuable because, after ten years, it finally provided the opportunity for pro-life politicians to put the issue squarely before the public. The right-to-life question was eloquently defended by the Alliance Party as well as two colleagues from the governing Liberal Party, who spoke in favour of the motion.

A brief summary of the comments that flowed freely on that memorable day should reveal to most of us Knights some of the terribly perverted thought processes afflicting a large number of our legislators, and the need to kick-start, so to speak, our seriously underused potent political advocacy for the rights of our unborn children. As followers of Pope John Paul II and members of an Order that professes unqualified devotion to life, we, dear Brothers, have arguably ill-used our democratic voter rights by electing time and time again politicians who dare tell us to our face that they believe killing babies is an acceptable choice and, what`s more, that they will fight to keep this choice sacred.

Just read, if you will, the following exchanges. There is a captivating eloquence in some of the verbal exchanges which I will not attempt to paraphrase. It should fascinate Canadians and Americans alike to see the deep divide that still persists on the issue of abortion between pro-life and pro-choice legislators, and the rough road we face ahead in restoring legal protection for the unborn.

In introducing his motion, the Canadian Alliance sponsor declared: "This is the most important issue facing Canada today... For 10 years now successive governments have buried their heads in the sand on this life and death issue. I will correct myself. It is not a life and death issue, it is only a death issue... Does the government really think it can (continue to) ignore the fact that 100,000 babies are being killed every year? ... The Liberals members in this House normally pride themselves in not discriminating against anyone... but every year they are discriminating against more than 100,000 unborn babies ... Anti-life activists approve of killing the most weak and defenceless human beings. I am trying to save them. Who is standing on the high moral ground?"

Speaking against the motion, the Catholic parliamentary secretary to Catholic Minister of Health, Allan Rock, bragged about the government policy governing the "research using gametes, zygotes, embryos and fetuses". Equally vehemently opposed to the motion was a Bloc Québecois feminist who called the bill "treacherous, deceitful and misleading." She added that defining a human being as a fetus and making consequential amendments will initiate a debate that will take us back to the middle ages "where assemblies of bishops - men - condemned it (abortion) in a number of decrees." As a Catholic, she even claimed the Bible supported her position: "What may be understood from the Bible is that each woman is free to choose independently and according to her own conscience."

Her thoughtless appeal to Scripture was quickly countered by a steadfast pro-life Liberal member who pointed out that the Bible recognized the unborn as persons: "When Mary, who was going to become the mother of Jesus, visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was carrying John the Baptist, the baby leapt in her womb, says the Bible, in anticipation of the great joy of Jesus being born. The Bible uses those words, the baby leapt in her womb. Not the fetus, not the zygote, not the embryo, but the baby leapt in her womb for joy." He also pointed out to the Health Minister`s parliamentary secretary the hypocrisy of a government boasting about its ethical guidelines for research with human embryos, which in effect say to Canadians that using fetuses for research is against government policy, but killing them is okay: "How can it be logical to permit a third trimester abortion at eight months without blinking our eyes and wring our hands about about the ethics of experimentation on zygotes?"

Garry Breitkreuz, the bill`s disappointed sponsor, made a telling appearance in a press conference set up immediately following the debate of his motion. "The motion never had a chance in Parliament. Just like the more than 100,000 unborn babies that will never have a chance in the abortion clinics and hospitals across Canada this year." He raised the important point that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada signed, states: "The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth." His relevant comment: "In Canadian law there simply is no protection for a child before birth. The Government of Canada cannot discharge its legal obligations under this international agreement, an agreement the federal government and 10 provinces have ratified, unless and until it changes the definition of a human being. The government’s representative bragged about their policy governing the ‘research using gametes, zygotes, embryos and foetuses’. Can’t they see how two-faced this policy is? They support a policy preventing researchers from using the very human beings they allow women to abort for any reason, (or no reason) right up to the very moment the baby is born."

The only other Liberal member to bravely speak in support of the Canadian Alliance motion

provided a brilliant condemnation of his governments action: "All one needs to do is go to a baby shower and ask what everyone is celebrating."

MP Breitkreuz concluded the debate with this well-spoken declaration: "An unborn child differs from a newborn child in only four ways: It is smaller; it is not as well developed; it is located inside its mother; and it is more dependent. Those are the only differences. The evidence is clear that the unborn are human beings. They deserve protection. After 10 years of not debating the issue and not talking about it in the House, they deserve a fair hearing."

Thaddée Renault

Fredericton, New Brunswick


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