No middle ground over sex selection abortion bill in House

Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall has introduced a private member’s bill that targets health workers who knowingly abort a fetus because it is a girl. (Canadian Catholic News)

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Debate surrounding the protection of female babies from being aborted in Canada for the sole reason that they are female degenerated in the House of Commons into an attack on the motives of pro-life MPs when the Sex Selective Abortion Act came before MPs on April 14.

“Sex-selection abortion is wrong, it is a discriminatory practice on the basis of sex and it takes place in our country because we have no law against it,” Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall said during second reading of her proposed Bill C-233 in the House of Commons.

Wagantall says she is speaking on behalf of “pro-choice and pro-life” and “religious and non-religious” Canadians who she said polls show support some limits on abortion in Canada, limits which at this time do not exist in Canadian law.

“The absence of any law to protect preborn girls shouts to the world that valuing one sex over the other is permissible in Canada,” Wagantall said. “We are the only democratic country that has no law against it, the only one.

“The only other country that also fails in any way to protect preborn children from sex selection is North Korea, not good company for Canada. Our health care profession has shown concern about sex-selective abortion and discourages the practice,” she said, adding that the federal Liberal government, which often touts its adherence to women’s equality on a number of issues, should support the thrust of her proposed bill.

The bill has been supported by many pro-life groups in Canada such as the We Need A Law organization and the Campaign Life Coalition.

But MPs from the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois parties dismissed Wagantall’s proposed bill as being a “back-door” way to limit existing abortion rights in Canada, with NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen calling it “nothing short of a direct attack on women.”

“Despite all the rhetoric claiming to be in defence of women’s equality and despite the Conservative leader’s assurances that his party will not reopen the abortion debate in Canada, we are debating a bill that does just that,” she said of Wagantall’s bill which Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has said he will personally vote against.

“The argument that is being used within the bill is couched in language around gender equality,” but she said “Bill C-233 does nothing to address gender equality. It is a step toward regulating and eroding access to abortion.”

Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs echoed that argument the during second reading of the bill in the House of Commons. Debate on the proposed bill started on April 14 and will continue for another hour in the House in May on a date that is still to be determined.

Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell, who is parliamentary secretary to the federal health minister, said no one supports abortions undertaken because of the sex of a baby, but dismissed that concern as being a non-issue in Canada and questioned Wagantall’s motives for putting forward the bill.

“Ninety per cent of abortions that take place in the country are within the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy when we cannot even determine sex. This is just another example of Conservatives who just recently got together to strategize on how to create backdoor anti-abortion legislation,” O’Connell said.

But Wagantall said on this specific issue, she is more on-side with the views of Canadians than her critics are.

“It is really important that we recognize that the Canadian Medical Association did major studies in 2012 and 2016 with ethnic researchers involved and with the ethnic community involved, and they indicated that this is a growing problem in Canada that needs to be addressed,” said Wagantall

“The truth of the matter is that this is a scenario where the majority of Canadians are saying they are not polarized the way certain groups would like them to think they are. This is an issue where Canadians come together and want a law that restricts sex selection as an option for abortion,” she said.

Bloc MP Andreanne Larouche also claimed the proposed bill is just an effort to eat away at existing abortion rights in Canada, regardless of what supporters of the bill claim.

“The fight against sex-selective abortion is a pretext used by the Conservatives to initiate a debate on abortion rights. Although the Conservatives claim that they do not want to reopen the debate on this issue, they keep coming back to it. Bill C-233 is yet another example,” Larouche said.

“The Conservatives are looking for new legal grounds to criminalize abortion. Although sex-selective abortion is based on misogynistic and sexist ideas, we cannot fight it by imposing more social control on women. We cannot fight sexism with sexism,” she said.

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio said she is disheartened by the tone of the debate surrounding Bill C-233 as it shows that on issues that involve abortion in the House of Commons, there is a lack of willingness on all sides of the debate to listen to the other side.

Vecchio said it is a “debate characterized by a great deal of animosity from all sides with no resolutions.”

“This is a topic that people are very vocal on, with people being labelled as either absolutely right or completely wrong. Everyone has a label forced on them, but is that really what we want when it comes to such a complex issue?” she said, adding that she supports women having a choice.

“This should not be about how we feel on the right to choose to have an abortion. This is whether sex-selection abortion is happening in Canada and what is ethical in this situation,” Vecchio said.

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