Alberta Politics

How Alberta’s federal politicians voted on Motion 312.

This week, Members of Parliament in Ottawa voted on Motion 312, which if passed could have re-opened a divisive debate about a woman’s right to make decisions concerning her own body. Thankfully, Motion 312 was defeated 203-91 votes, but it remains disappointing that in this modern age one-third of federal MPs stood in favour of this Motion.

Eight of Alberta’s twenty-seven MPs voted against and nineteen voted in favour of the Motion (the riding of Calgary-Centre is not currently represented in the House of Commons following the resignation of MP Lee Richardson).

Alberta MP Vote Bill motion 312
How Alberta’s Members of Parliament voted on Motion 312: Yay (Blue), Nay (Red)

The Alberta MPs who voted against the motion were Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan, Macleod MP Ted MenziesCalgary-East MP Deepak ObhraiCalgary-Centre North MP Michelle RempelWild Rose MP Blake Richards, Calgary-Northeast MP Devinder Shory, and Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal.

11 replies on “How Alberta’s federal politicians voted on Motion 312.”

What a shame that we can’t have an open debate about this issue and that we rely on the unelected courts to decide. Few have a spine.

Brian: are you serious? This news article is about a VOTE that was held in the house of commons. In effect, they decided that this issue isn’t worth exploring, which means that the state of the law is satisfactory. If Parliament wanted to change the laws they could, but they decided not to.

I understand how emotional this issue is to people, but I am also surprised at how people are reacting to this issue. The motion says Canada should look at the issue, have a debate, and decide if legislation is needed – either legalizing or criminalizing abortion. How can you be against that?

How many times do we need to return to the well on this “debate”? Be it resolved that the government stop legislating the reproductive rights of women. Carried. Point final.

Actually, support for Canada’s unrestricted abortion on demand status quo is disappointingly illiberal in this modern age, when concern for the value of fetal life, like increased concern for the rights of minorities, would represent an admirable evolution of society’s standards.

Even at 8 – 12 weeks’ gestation, an unborn child is a living human entity worthy of some legal protection. The Law Reform Commission notes that “at eight weeks the child’s features are so clear that one can see the creases on the child’s open hand. The fingerprints are visible on a microscope.” At this early stage of gestation the unborn child already has an active brain and a beating heart. Studies reveal that a first trimester fetus may in fact suffer pain when he or she is “terminated” in an abortion. Dr. William Liley, knighted for his work as a founder of fetal medicine, has described in court a photo of an eight week old aborted fetus as follows: “There are all of the components of a baby still but in a macabre jigsaw puzzle, and in the debris in the suction bottle one can recognize one pigmented eye, a fragment of brain to the left. Once can find all four limbs dismantled, a rib cage, an eviscerated torso, the abdominal viscera have all become detached and are just a slurry, and a short segment of cord.”

The Supreme Court’s 1988 Morgentaler case did not decree an inalienable right to abortion, but rather left Parliament ample leeway to strike a balance between society’s compelling interest in protecting unborn children and pregnant women’s autonomy rights. The day after the ruling, Justice Minister Ray Hnatyshyn said “I think that in view of the circumstance we find ourselves in today, in light of the Supreme Court of Canada decision, that there is a responsibility on all of us to look at this matter in a serious and urgent way.” Ray was right, as were the majority of Conservative MPs who defied their Prime Minister this week and voted to dare discuss this matter of life and death. I suspect that most of those MPs (including the 4 Liberals) who supported Motion 312 are like most Canadians, favoring neither an outright abortion ban nor unrestricted abortion on demand.

This is where the “libertarian” branch of the Conservatives will butt heads with the “social conservatives”. You CANNOT simultaneously support individual rights over collective rights AND then support limiting women’s productive rights. Of course, you also CANNOT support an unregulated free market AND “family values”; they’re contradictory.

So really, the only reason to support FURTHER (and unnecessary, imho) discussion and debate is to set the cat amongst the pigeons of the Conservative Party.

People keep trying to reopen the abortion issue because they interpret the Morgentaler decision as a decision about process. The SCC ruled that the process for “legal” abortions as set out in the Criminal Code was so onerous that abortions would be virtually unavailable. The process required a woman’s doctor to agree to take her case or refer her to another doctor who would. The woman and her doctor would then appear before a committee of 3 doctors and if all these doctors agreed she should have an abortion she could have one.
What these (re-opener) people ignore is the fact that the SCC also said this: “The right to liberty…guarantees a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting his or her private life…The decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision and in a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount to that of the state.”
That’s how the SCC viewed the issue in 1988. I don’t think they would view it any differently today.

My good friend, Tory MP Brent Rathgeber QC, blogged a few days ago: “Contrary to popular myth, R. v. Morgentaler does not stand for a woman’s unfettered right to choose.  Anybody who says otherwise has either not read the decision, doesn’t understand it, or most likely is being deliberately disingenuous. The Supreme Court of Canada expressly invited Parliament to take on this complex and polarizing issue and thereafter craft a law that was constitutional.”

Nearly 25 years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R. v. Morgentaler that Canada’s criminal abortion law violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, a majority of the court held that certain procedural requirements of the old law violated the Charter, including aspects of the therapeutic abortion committees and the requirement that all abortions be procured in hospitals, not clinics. A majority of the court also considered the substance of the former abortion legislation, and arrived at these conclusions:

a. Protection of unborn human children from abortion is a valid legislative objective;

b. Parliament is within its constitutional jurisdiction to enact a Criminal Code abortion law;

c. The Charter of Rights does not prohibit Parliament from passing a procedurally fair abortion law that restricts abortion to cases where the pregnancy seriously threatens maternal life or health, with “health” defined as relating solely to therapeutic grounds, that is, grounds related to physical and psychiatric health but not including matters of a socio-economic nature; and

d. Federal abortion legislation may validly require independent medical confirmation of the genuine threat to maternal life or health before permitting an abortion, given society’s compelling interest in the protection of the fetus.

…which if passed could have re-opened a divisive debate about a woman’s right to make decisions concerning her own body. Thankfully, Motion 312 was defeated 203-91 votes, but it remains disappointing that in this modern age one-third of federal MPs stood in favour of this Motion.

Spoken like a true ideologue, Dave.

Mark McCourt has laid out the correct scenario which is not re-opening the abortion debate. What is at issue is that the SCC said that the administrative procedures for obtaining an abortion or unconstitutional but that protection of the fetus was a valid limitation. Sometime in the sixth month of life a fetus can survive outside the womb. Canada is unique amongst the G8 and G20 nations in two respects. We have unlimited abortion right up until 8 months and 29 days. We also have state monopoly on the delivery of essential health care. While I agree that women should retain the right to decide before the 6th month, we are unlike other countries that have taken the position that after the 6th month some protection should be offered to the fetus increasing that protection in the 7th month and beyond. It is a fact that a significant percentage of fetuses after the 30th week of pregnancy are able to survive apart from the mother and therefore our society should protect them and ask that they be delivered rather than aborted. It seems that this discussion is viewed as an attempt to limit a woman’s rights however the SCC decision says some protection for the unborn survivable baby is acceptable. What was not acceptable was making women jump through so many hoops especially prior to the 13th week. At that point in the pregnancy no government wants deny choice for women however third trimester abortions are different. In reality we probably do not have very many third trimester abortions but it would be preferable to enshrine that rule (with the appropriate provision for right to opt out when there is medical reason). However this situation is not well understood by the average woman on the street so ANY attempt to regulate late stage abortion is viewed with suspicion. In fact most posters incorrectly portray the decision for the committee as a step backward i.e. “in this modern age”. Going back to pre-1969 is not an option but we should catch up with the rest of the G20.

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