FOULDS: The abortion debate that never seems to end

It seems the radical abortion laws being passed in the Deep South have emboldened the more aggressive pro-life groups in Canada, with my email inbox receiving an influx of messages calling for support in pressuring Ottawa to change the nation’s abortion law.

The news in the U.S. coincides with the 50th anniversary (May 14, 1969) of abortion being declared legal in Canada. Another court ruling in 1988 increased access by doing away with therapeutic abortion committees that determined which women could get abortions, based on the patient’s health.

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The abortion issue seems to have entered the local federal election campaign, with soon-to-be acclaimed NDP candidate Gina Myhill-Jones sharing a post on Facebook that takes a 13-year-old quote from Green Leader Elizabeth May and twists it out of context.

The quote: “Nobody in their right mind is for abortions. I’ve talked women out of having abortions. I would never have an abortion myself — not in a million years. I can’t imagine the circumstances that would induce me to do it.”

As May told the Georgia Straight in 2011, and will likely need to remind voters during this campaign, the quote — which came from her discussions with a group of nuns — was followed by this: “If one group of people say a woman has a right to choose, I get queasy because I’m against abortion. I don’t think a woman has a frivolous right to choose. What I don’t want is a desperate woman to die in an illegal abortion.”

May has said the confusion surrounding her comments are tied with the Green party’s pro-life/pro-choice policy on abortion. In essence, May said, women should have the right to decide to have an abortion, but women who are eager to keep their baby should be supported in those decisions.

The policy, and May’s comments, makes perfect sense.

I tend to identify on the pro-life side of the ledger, but I would never presume to tell any woman what she can and cannot do with her body. Come to think of it, perhaps I am simply a pro-choicer who would prefer a world in which abortions are not necessary.

But they do occur and for various reasons: rape, incest, the health of the mother, the age of the mother, the socio-economic situation of the mother, etc.

The number of abortions being performed in Canada has declined in recent years. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, there were 94,000 abortions performed in Canada in 2017 (64,000 reported by clinics and 30,000 reported by hospitals), with 13,000 of those performed in B.C. In 2016, there were 98,000 abortions performed in Canada. In 2015, that number was 100,000.

Locally, Conservative MP Cathy McLeod has been consistent since first being elected in 2008 that there is no need to re-open the abortion debate in Canada.

In 2013, when a trio of Conservative MPs — Maurice Vellacott, Leon Benoit and Wladyslaw Lizon, none of whom remain in office — called for an investigation into “homicides” stemming from later-term abortions, McLeod told KTW she was not interested in joining their cause.

“Our government’s been really clear — we’re not going to open this debate and we stand by that commitment,” she said at the time. “I think the issue has been settled in terms of the Canadian public and it is a decision, a very private decision and a very difficult decision, between the mother, her partner and the doctor.”

McLeod has not said nor done anything since to suggest a change in that viewpoint.

As for Andrew Scheer, the leader of her party?

He has come under fire for stating his pro-life sentiment is a core belief, but that if his party forms government, the abortion issue will not be re-opened. Former prime minister Stephen Harper said the same thing en route to being elected and kept his word.

As Scheer told CBC News on the long weekend: “The only person who is bringing up this issue time and time again is Justin Trudeau. I’ve made it very, very clear. Canadians can have absolute confidence that a Conservative government after the election in October will not re-open this issue.”

Should Scheer not be taken at his word?

Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

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