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Conservative Minority Poses a Danger to Abortion Rights

by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (

(last updated June 23, 2006)

What You Can Do About This!

See our January 20 press release: 
Harper's Reassurances About Abortion "Don't Mean a Thing"

A Conservative government poses a real danger to women’s reproductive rights and access to abortion.

A Listing of Anti-Choice MPs

The following data reflect the post-election situation.

Anti-choice MPs are deemed to be publicly anti-choice if they have an anti-choice voting record, or have publicly spoken at or attended events organized by anti-choice groups, or have publicly stated they are "pro-life," or would support abortion only in limited circumstances.


Before Election

After Election

Total Anti-Choice MPs

93 of 306 MPs (30%)

100 of 308 MPs (32%)

Conservative Party

72 of 98 MPs (73%)

79 of 124 MPs (64%)

Liberal Party

20 of 133 MPs (15%)

21 of 103 MPs (20%)


1 Independent

Pro-Choice*   140 of 308 MPs (45%)**
Refused to say***   49 of 308 MPs (16%)
Unknown stance   19 of 308 MPs (6%)

* This estimate includes Conservative and Liberal MPs with a public pro-choice position, as well as all Bloc Quebecois and NDP MP's on the assumption they are pro-choice. There are only about 8 pro-choice Conservatives, and about 64 pro-choice Liberals. 

**This means that anti-choice MPs will have great difficulty passing an obvious anti-abortion bill in Parliament. But many other actions can be taken to restrict abortion rights and access, as discussed below.

*** See story below, Conservative Party Muzzles Its Candidates

Of Stephen Harper's new cabinet, 12 are anti-choice, 10 are pro-choice, and 5 have an unknown stance, according to ACPD.

Many of the anti-choice MPs are members of a "Pro-life Caucus" at Parliament - the existence of which was confirmed on May 11 by a couple of its leading members, MPs Maurice Vellacott and Paul Steckle.

Conservative Party of Canada — Anti-choice MPs

Jim Abbott

Peter Goldring

Gordon O'Connor

Diane Ablonczy

Gary Goodyear

Brian Pallister  

Harold Albrecht Nina Grewal James Rajotte
Mike Allen Art Hanger   Pierre Poilievre  

Dean Allison

Richard Harris

Scott Reid  

Rob Anders

Loyola Hearn

Lee Richardson  

David L. Anderson

Russ Hiebert

Gerry Ritz  

Leon Benoit

Jay Hill

Andrew Scheer  

Garry Breitkreuz

Brian Jean

Bev Shipley 

Gordon Brown

Randy Kamp

Carol Skelton  

Rod Bruinooge Jason Kenney Joy Smith  

Wajid Khan

Colin Carrie

Ed Komarnicki

Monte Solberg  

Bill Casey

Daryl Kramp 

Kevin Sorenson  

Rick Casson

Guy Lauzon 

Chuck Strahl  

John Cummins Pierre Lemieux  David Sweet

Patricia Davidson 

Tom Lukiwski  

Greg Thompson  

Stockwell Day James Lunney   Myron Thompson  

Dean Del Mastro

Gary Lunn

Vic Toews  

Norman Doyle

Ted Menzies  

Bradley Trost  

Rick Dykstra  Rob Merrifield David Van Kesteren

Ken Epp 

Bob Mills  

Maurice Vellacott 

Brian Fitzpatrick   James Moore   Mark Warawa

Jim Flaherty  

Rob Moore 

Jeff Watson  

Royal Galipeau 

Rob Nicholson  

John Williams  

Cheryl Gallant Deepak Obhrai   Lynne Yelich  

Liberal Party — Anti-choice MPs

Raymond Bonin

Jim Karygiannis 

Paul Steckle  

Joe Comuzzi   Gurbax Malhi Paul Szabo  

Wayne Easter

Lawrence MacAuley  

Alan Tonks  

Mark Eyking   John Maloney Joe Volpe  

John Godfrey

Joe McGuire  

Tom Wappel  

Albina Guarnieri   Dan McTeague   Borys Wrzesnewskyi  

Charles Hubbard

Shawn Murphy

Paul Zed  



Conservative Party Muzzles Its Candidates

LifeSiteNews, the daily online newsletter of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) Canada’s national anti-abortion group, reported on January 9 that many Conservative Party candidates are refusing to answer anti-choice group questionnaires. About 200 MPs and candidates from all parties have turned in completed questionnaires to CLC or responded in some other form to the questionnaire, but of that total, only 72 were from Conservative candidates. The survey has 9 questions related to abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and research on human embryos.

A few days later, CLC reported that Conservative candidates have told them they are actually forbidden to answer the group's questionnaire.

Party officials denied the charge that they were muzzling candidates, but new information shows the directives did indeed came from Party headquarters. LifeSiteNews said they acquired a copy of a signed email from Conservative Party headquarters specifically telling a Conservative candidate not to answer the questionnaire. The email is signed by Jerra Byrne, the Conservative Party's Political Operations Officer for Western and Northern Canada.



Conservative Party's "Official" Abortion Position Does Not Mean Abortion Rights Are Safe 

In March 2005, the Conservative Party adopted a resolution at their convention (by a vote of 55% to 45) that "a Conservative government will not initiate or support any legislation to regulate abortion." 

On January 11, Harper insisted he would not reopen the abortion debate. "A Conservative government will not be bringing forward, will not be supporting, and will not be debating the abortion laws in this country. I've been clear on that and, frankly, I think that's put the matter to rest." Harper dismissed Paul Martin's January 11 speech accusing the Tories of having a secret agenda to trample minority rights including a right to an abortion. 

On Jan 17, in response to Dr. Henry Morgentaler saying publicly he didn't trust Harper's promise to not re-introduce the abortion issue, Harper maintained that: "The Conservative government won't be initiating or supporting abortion legislation, and I'll use whatever influence I have in Parliament to be sure that such a matter doesn't come to a vote." ... "I will use whatever influence I have to keep that off of the agenda, and I don't see any likelihood of that in the next Parliament." 

Harper was challenged again by Global's Kevin Newman on Jan 18, who asked him: "On the issue of abortion, will you pledge that there will be no legislation covering abortion? There will never be a free vote in Parliament on that issue?"  Harper replied: "Never is a long time. What I'm saying is I have no desire to see that issue debated in the near future. We're saying very clear in our platform we're not going to support or initiate abortion legislation, and frankly, I don't want this parliament to have an abortion debate." When asked about his personal views on abortion, Harper said: "I've always said my own views on the abortion issues are complex. I don't fall in any of the neat polar extremes on this issue. But... No, I don't need to [explain them] because I'm not proceeding with an abortion agenda."

Harper's stated positions simply do not mean that abortion rights will be safe under his government. Harper has only said his government wouldn't support legislation to restrict abortion, but that claim is dubious on its face. More importantly, there are countless other ways in which a Conservative government could restrict abortion, and Harper hasn't disavowed any of these alternatives. Here's some indicators that add up to a real threat that the Conservatives would act to restrict abortion rights, despite Harper’s reassurances:



What the Conservatives Could Do in Power to Restrict Abortion

Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD) has compiled a list of Actions an Anti-Choice Government Can Take to Limit Your Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services. It’s worth reproducing their list in full:

A new coalition called “Think Twice” has compiled a list of the dangerous implications for Canadian social programs and equality rights in the face of a Conservative victory in the upcoming federal election. One of the items on the list is “new risks to Canadian women's right to reproductive choice and access to abortion.” Think Twice is comprised of numerous citizens' organizations, including child care, aboriginal, women's rights, health care, human rights, arts, trade union, environmental, housing, disability, and minority advocacy groups.



MPs and Candidates Speak Out Against Abortion

In spite of the Conservative Party's "muzzle" policy (see above story), 18 Conservative MP's and 24 Conservative candidates replied "Yes" to this question on Campaign Life Coalition's questionnaire: "If elected, will you support measures to introduce and pass a law to protect every unborn child from the time of conception (fertilization) onward?" Also replying "Yes" were 10 Liberal MPs and 2 Liberal candidates. The Globe & Mail noted that this amounts to a "written pledge to support a law banning abortion if elected, indicating that the highly divisive issue could be revived in the next Parliament." 

Conservative MP Stockwell Day, Liberal MP Dan McTeague, and former Bloc Quebecois MP Ghislain Lebel, were the speakers on a panel at the National Pro-Life conference, “Life and Family: Source of Hope” held Nov 17-19, 2005 in Montreal. The panel topic was entitled: "Commitment and responsibility of politicians in the service of life and the family." Former Liberal MP Liberal Pat O’Brien (now Independent) was also a special guest at the conference, which was sponsored by Campaign Life Coalition and LifeCanada.

Charles Hubbard, Liberal MP for Miramichi NB, said in December that the public health system should only cover abortions when a pregnancy threatens a mother’s life or presents other major medical complications. He said tax dollars should not pay for "abortions on demand" and that "In real terms [Dr. Henry Morgentaler's] clinics are contrary to acceptable medical practices under Medicare. It is abortion on demand and it is outside of the parameters permitted. The Morgentaler clinics represent another aspect of abortion. There is no counseling, nothing goes with it. Simply a person walks in and has an abortion." Hubbard has also criticized Ottawa for putting pressure on the New Brunswick government to pay for abortions performed at the Fredericton Morgentaler clinic.

The Liberal party website describes how Conservative Justice Critic Vic Toews (now the new Conservative Justice Minister) told the National Pro-Life Conference on Sept. 8, 2004, in a speech entitled “Abuse of the Charter by the Supreme Court,” that the right to abortion is a result of “activist judges” abusing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to develop and implement their own social policy. He directly attacked the Charter, criticizing it as anti-democratic, and said the Conservative Party wants to open up the process for judicial appointment. Toews told the audience that the ability to pass legislation must be coupled with the ability to appoint judges more favourable to the social conservative viewpoint. "Do not look at the issue of abortion as an issue that stands alone. ...this issue has a much broader significance in areas related to the policy of government concerning marriage, the family, and the response of government to social problems generally." Also, in an appearance on right-wing Christian radio in June 2003, Toews said he would seek to use the Notwithstanding Clause to overturn Supreme Court decisions that promoted the Court’s “radical agenda.”



Private Member’s Bill Threatens to Recognize Fetal Personhood

Conservative Party president Don Plett has said that a backbencher MP would likely introduce anti-abortion legislation if the Conservatives win the next government. "When we form a government, we can rest assured that there will be a private member's bill on this," he wrote in a November e-mail to a Quebec party member. Past comments since the last election confirm this is the intent of some Conservative MPs:  Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) told CBC TV on May 13, 2004: "I will continue to, as would other colleagues here, bring forth bills of a pro-life nature." On June 18 2004, Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Ont.) told Canada Newswire that she would definitely push a private members bill on abortion. MP Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton-Melville, Sask.) has perfected the art of private member bills against abortion—between 1997 and Oct 2004, he introduced eight different bills trying to restrict abortion in various ways.

The private member's bill that Plett confidently mentions is coming would presumably challenge abortion rights head-on, so it's probably different than the one currently in the works from MP Maurice Vellacott since Nov 2005. Vellacott's private member's bill would allow double murder charges to proceed when a pregnant woman is slain. His bill was inspired by the slaying of pregnant Edmonton woman Liana White last summer. In November, another pregnant Edmonton woman, Olivia Talbot, was shot to death, and her family has launched a petition for the creation of a law to protect "unborn victims of violence." If re-elected, Vellacott said he will pursue his bill.

Vellacott's bill is modeled after U.S. laws in several states that grant personhood rights to fetuses when they are killed by a third party, except through legal abortion. In practice, these laws have been used in the U.S. to justify the arrest and punishment of pregnant women who have alcohol or drug problems. The laws recognize fetuses as separate persons, creating an adversarial legal relationship between a pregnant woman and her fetus, and elevating the "rights" of her fetus to a level equal to or even greater than her rights. Such laws imply that women do not deserve to be protected or valued in their own right — it is only through their fetuses that they are entitled to any protection. 



What You Can Do About This!

Find out who your MP is, and whether they're on our anti-choice list. If not, email or call them and ask them to stand up and defend abortion rights whenever necessary. If they ARE on our anti-choice list, email or call them to let them know you strongly disagree with them using their elected status to impose their personal religious views on the public and their constituents. Demand that they represent the views of their pro-choice constituents’ in their political work.

Inform others by passing along the link to our list of anti-choice MPs to your friends, relatives, and co-workers. Ask them to check out their MP's stance on abortion and take action.

Join, volunteer with, or donate to a local pro-choice group, abortion clinic, or family planning clinic.  

Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper supporting reproductive rights, especially in response to articles or other letters with an anti-abortion bias.

Participate in liberal and pro-choice blogs by posting comments informing people about abortion news and supporting reproductive rights.

Join ARCC-CDAC and one of our listservs to stay informed on reproductive rights issues and become active.