Most people do not particularly like talking about abortion, because the subject touches on people’s deepest values and experiences. Pro-lifers view pre-born persons as human beings, and therefore see abortion as a violation of the child’s right to life. Pro-choicers prioritize the will of the mother, holding that bodily autonomy takes precedence regardless of the status of the life or potential life of the child. Both sides have something to say, because this is an issue that involves a conflict of rights claims. It is a question that can be discussed soberly and thoughtfully by those who like that sort of thing.
My party has been fairly consistent on this question, in that we believe that the consciences of pro-life and pro-choice parliamentarians should be respected and that the party leadership itself should not seek to impose a particular point of view.
Clearly pro-lifers and pro-choicers are both welcome in the Conservative Party. And, they have more in common than you might think. It is a mistake to believe, as some seem to, that the only political objective of the pro-life movement is to change the criminal code. Initiatives that ensure timely payment of child support, provide necessary financial support directly to low-income parents, and strengthen awareness about and access to adoption are all pro-life in the sense that they support access to alternatives that some women might prefer. The choices people make are influenced by just how many genuine options a person has–so making it easier and more financially viable to choose to keep a baby obviously increases the rate at which that choice will be made.
The Liberal approach to abortion is, on the other hand, highly political.
Every year some MPs choose to attend and speak at the March for Life that happens on Parliament Hill. (It’s the largest rally that occurs on an annual basis). This year, the Minister for the Status of Women wrote a letter on Ministerial letterhead demanding an explanation as to why MPs chose to speak at the event. She subsequently tweeted that it had been “11 days” since she wrote to MPs and she had not received any response. As if MPs owe her an explanation for their activities. I have written many letters to ministers in my time as an MP–I can assure you that, even though those letters referred to matters on which I actually had a right to expect a response, I have never heard back within 11 days.
More recently Justin Trudeau let it be known that he would be using a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence on NAFTA to talk about state-level abortion laws in the United States. It was always unlikely that Justin Trudeau would be able to convince Mike Pence to change his mind on abortion. Even if he did, it would have no impact on state-level laws in the United States.
If Trudeau wants to focus on the dynamic in the United States, he would do well to resign his position and spend his time campaigning for Democrat state representatives candidates in places like Alabama and Georgia. I’m sure they would appreciate the help. If that’s where his heart is, I’d say go for it–follow your heart. But his current job is supposed to involve standing up for the interests of Canada and Canadian workers. It is hard to imagine how raising abortion with our largest trading partner accomplishes that.
We have a government which is, strikingly, entirely incapable of standing up to China on human rights–and yet insists on highlighting domestic American abortion policy in what are supposed to be conversations about trade with an official who has no power to alter state-level laws in any event.
Some Canadians oppose abortion. Others, in the words of Hillary Clinton, believe in should be “safe, legal, and rare.” But the Canadian Liberal Party has lost all reasonableness and moderation in their desperation to make abortion (instead of their own corruption) the defining issue of the next election campaign. More than anything else, abortion is the issue for which they want Canada to stand on the world stage.
This is, I believe, a very bad political strategy. Regardless of their views on the issue itself, most Canadians will see that the Liberal’s genuine obsession with abortion is putting at risk other thing that they value–things like a constructive relationship with the United States and the freedom and independence of individual MPs.
In the Conservative caucus, MPs love and respect each other regardless of our convictions on this issue, and we work together on issues that unite us – on issues like jobs and the integrity of our immigration system, but also on issues like ensuring that women always have the resources they need when they do choose to carry a child to term. In this sense, our caucus is a microcosm of Canada, where people might agree to disagree on abortion itself, while recognizing that differences of opinion are honest, sincere, and well-intentioned.
The Liberal caucus is different. There is no recognition of diversity or complexity in terms of peoples’ responses to this issue. Increasingly their number one rhetorical priority in politics seems to be the promotion of abortion at every possible occasion at every possible stage and for every possible reason.
One thing is clear–after the next election, either Andrew Scheer or Justin Trudeau will be the Prime Minister. And I hope that Canada’s choice will be a Prime Minister who has a broader view and a greater respect for the diversity and the complexity of the conversations that are happening in our country.