Motion 312 – a motion put forward by a backbencher from Kitchener Waterloo asks our Canadian government to strike a parliamentary committee to,
“review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth and to answer the questions hereinafter set forth…”.
The questions MP Woodworth would like this committee to “answer” primarily concern medical opinion and legal precedent on when life begins and the options available to Parliament to potentially change that.
In the motion itself, there is a key phrase Mr. Woodworth includes “ …the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with … a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth”. This is particularly interesting because the committee Mr. Woodworth is suggesting is not made of medical professionals. Medical professionals made it quite clear where they stand when the CMA passed a resolution in August of 2012 to maintain Subsection 223(1).
The Prime Minister himself has said he will not open the abortion debate. This goes as far as the PMO working to strongly encourage members of parliament to vote against Mr. Woodworth’s bill – though that doesn’t look to be stopping some members. If Prime Minister Harper is not interested in opening the abortion debate, and if this was only a private member’s motion to create a committee – the least threatening and most common of all government workings then what makes M312 important?
PM Harper is not interested in opening the abortion debate because he knows he, and the Conservative Party of Canada, will lose. It is not an issue in Canada that anyone is interested in fighting a political war over. The ground breaking R vs. Morgentaler, the 1989 case Tremblay v. Daigle and others have set strong legal precedent.
In both these cases, the Supreme Court did not decide whether or not abortion should be available in every clinic or whether or not a fetus is a life. What these cases substantiated was the right to choose and that the choice is the woman’s own. As stated in the R. vs. Morgentaler decision, “the right to “liberty” contained in s. 7 guarantees to every individual a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting his or herprivate life. Liberty in a free and democratic society does not require the state to approve such decisions but it does require the state to respect them.”
M312 matters because it is an attempt to limit liberty for one particular group of citizens. It is an attempt to limit the freedoms Canada’s citizens have. It is an attempt to limit a women’s right to choose. Canada’s freedoms and citizen’s rights should not be based on religious values and individual moral beliefs. They are based on the freedom to make a choice, on the principle that everyone should have that freedom in it’s most basic form.
Women in Canada has the freedom to choose. It is a beautiful thing, and a right too many women do not have. Due to legal restrictions in many countries, 1 in 10 pregnancies end in an unsafe abortion. These unsafe abortions often end in medical complications, great pain and in some cases death of the woman undergoing the procedure. This is due to a number of factors regarding gender rights – complicated issues that many books have been written about, but when people are put in impossible situations they act in rash and desperate ways.
The freedom women have in Canada comes with a price. It comes with the price of consciousness. It comes with the constant struggle to uphold those freedoms and a necessary vigilance.
It also comes with a moral stigma. Should a woman get pregnant through means that are damaging and unhealthy, or for any other reason, it is her choice to carry that fetus to term. It is her choice and her responsibility to make that incredibly difficult decision. Who has the right to make that choice for every woman in the country? Further, who has the right to deny a medical procedure regardless of circumstance or medical opinion?
Our legislative, legal and medical bodies have acknowledged women can make that choice for themselves. Our society has come together in a significant way to show a great deal of respect for women, to very firmly acknowledge not only the capacity but the ability to make that choice in a responsible manner.
This is why M312 matters. It aims to take that away. It aims to slowly claw back the freedom and the control a person has over their body. Women are persons. They are persons under the law and they have the same rights any person does. That right includes deciding what medical procedures are necessary for their well being. The beauty about democracy is it above all upholds those personal freedoms. Just as MP Woodworth, and all other members’ constituents, had the choice to vote for whom they thought would best represent them; a woman has a choice to access medical support for what she thinks will best allow her to live in a healthy and responsible manner.
The freedom, while there legally, is still restricted. It is a provinces wherewithal to deal with access to medical services and Canada has seen a steady decline in access since 1982. In 2006, Canadians for Choice showed that 15.9 per cent of hospitals in Canada offered abortion procedures. Prince Edward Island doesn’t have one clinic a woman can go to, and they haven’t since 1982.
Everyone has choice. Often those choices are difficult. Often they come with consequences. However, everyone should the right to make those choices for themselves. Parliamentarians should have no business legislating the bodies of their constituents.
Originally published in the Huffington Post.