Yesterday, one-third of Canada’s Members of Parliament, from two of Canada’s national parties, unhesitatingly stood with pregnant Canadian women who choose to give birth to their unborn children. Still, Roxanne’s Law was defeated by a margin of 178-97.

MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South) who introduced Bill C-510 is reported to have noted both his disappointment with the bill’s defeat at second reading and his pleasure that his estimate of 75 votes in favour was exceeded by 20, ten of them from the Liberal benches.

Bruinooge, along with MP Kelly Block (Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar) who seconded the introduction of the bill, and 95 other MPs are congratulated for their stand.

In that congratulation, there is no need to vilify the other 178. While I disagree with their position – confusing a bill about protection of pregnant women with an effort to introduce legislation on abortion – there are several MPs with whom myself or colleagues spoke who took the time to study the bill, ask questions and develop a position based on their understanding (or misunderstanding) of the bill’s intent.

Those who made the effort, and took a principled position are to be commended for acting as Parliamentarians. Less sympathy might be extended to those who simply voted in “follow the leader” fashion or based on a knee-jerk reaction to the bill having been introduced by the chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. (For some baffling reason, many still assume that a pro-life initiative must have some direct or hidden anti-abortion agenda. It’s time the media and others started respecting that pro-life and anti-abortion are not analogous terms.)

It is hugely unfortunate that those taking a principled look at the bill would not have voted to send it for consideration by the Justice Committee in order to pursue fuller response to any of their concerns.

Some have already called for a campaign to replace all four party leaders (three of whom voted against the bill and the fourth, Mr. Ignatieff, was absent from the House).  Yet, it is apparent that neither Prime Minister Harper nor Mr. Ignatieff controlled the votes of their caucuses. And, time always plays a role in regard to the replacement of leaders in any event.

What is apparent from events surrounding the vote?

  • A substantial number of Canadians – both women and men – expressed that there is a need for such a law
  • laws limiting abortion in our nation are increasingly being recognized as needed and desirable because the realities of being the only western nation with no restriction on abortion is taking its toll on our experience of compassionate humanity
  • a position on pro-life issues, including limits on abortion, is being asked for by Canadians of their Members of Parliament and candidates who desire that responsible and honoured role

Rod Bruinooge has honoured Roxanne Fernando. Now, it’s time for all those who argued that the Criminal Code already has provisions to deal with coerced abortion to present their reasoning to the broader Canadian public, educating us in a way that the amendment proposed in Bill C-510 was intended to do, and see if law enforcement officials will begin to use those Criminal Code sections to prevent this type of coercion. If no charges begin to appear in Canada’s justice system for coercive actions we know are taking place, then I encourage Mr. Bruinooge – or the Minister of Justice – to do the right thing and reintroduce Roxanne’s Law.

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