Woodworth’s New Motion is Not About Abortion, and I’m the Queen of England

November 22, 2013

Cross-posted with permission from Gender Focus

MP Stephen Woodworth must think we’re stupid. After introducing and failing to pass M-312 last year and insisting it wasn’t about abortion, he’s got a new motion now calling for the legal recognition of “the equal worth and dignity of every human being.” And he’s saying this one isn’t about abortion, either, even though his media release about the new motion was called “M-312 – Next Steps”.

“Only in a bizarro-world Canada would my motion be considered controversial,” said Woodworth in his press conference.

This is kind of like the Finance Minister introducing a budget and then saying it has nothing to do with money. The fact is there would be no reason to propose this law if you weren’t trying to get at reproductive rights. And in the time since M-312 failed, Woodworth has remained focused on anti-abortion activism. The only thing he’s distanced himself from is the actual word “abortion”.

He started by vowing to undertake a cross-Canada tour to, as LifeSite News put it: “promote respect for the unborn”. On January 1st, the Campaign Life Coalition’s “Canada’s Family and Life Newspaper” The Interim named Woodworth their Person of the Year, saying:

“[Campaign Life Coalition representative Jim] Hughes told The Interim that Woodworth deserves to be named this paper’s Man of the Year because he challenged an unjust law, inspired the pro-life movement to action, and refused to back down when the going got tough. “We need more MPs who are willing to lead on important issues.”

For background, part of the Interim‘s mission statement is “to report and comment on the many offences against human dignity our society has experienced: abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, contraception, sexual promiscuity, the decline of the traditional family, and the rise of radical environmentalism and animal rights agendas that put non-human matters at the centre of public concern.”

This March he used his International Women’s Day statement to take a passive-aggressive dig at the lack of legal protections for fetuses. In June he spoke to the Catholic Civil Rights League (which basically argues for some Catholics’ civil rights to refuse to recognize others’) to argue the pro-life movement needs to distance itself from the word “abortion” in order to “win hearts and minds” so it can, eventually, outlaw the thing . Hence his new motion.

I also listened to an October interview Woodworth did with Bridgehead Radio (out of the always classy Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform) in which he weaves all over the place, insisting neither motion is about abortion but then repeatedly bringing up and condemning the section of the Criminal Code that defines a human life as starting at the moment of complete birth. Take a gander at this doublespeak from Woodworth:

“If we want Members of Parliament to respect the notion of universal human equality and if we want Members of Parliament to reject the tyranny of state power to falsely condemn someone as non-human when they are in fact human, then Canadians have to insist that every Member of Parliament must demand that all Canadian laws legally recognize the equal worth and dignity of everyone who is, in fact, a human being.”

“Until we can break through the black magic of the word ‘abortion’ and use the white magic of words like ‘human rights’, ‘justice’ and ‘honest laws’, we will continue to have these problems,” Woodworth continued. At the end, he and the host agreed he’s “just going upstream” from M-312. That’s what this new move by Woodworth and the anti-choice movement is all about: changing rhetorical strategy to try to gain the foothold that was rightly denied last time.

Fern Hill at Dammit Janet points out Woodworth isn’t likely to get a chance to introduce another Private Member’s Bill so soon, but there is a chance another Conservative MP with a slot before him could take up his motion.

Even if another MP turns down joining Woodworth in the bizarro world he himself seems to permanently inhabit, the Conservatives can’t hide their anti-choice stripes. As John Ivison says in the National Post this week:

“[Woodworth’s new motion] keeps the issue before Parliament. The pro-life campaign is happy to proceed at a languid pace — it is a long game aimed at persuading Canadians that the abortion debate is not settled and demands a legislative response…It is undeniable the party has a sizable and vocal pro-life contingent, in caucus and among supporters. The goal is to make the movement even bigger and broader within the party. At the last March for Life rally on Parliament Hill, MP Rob Anders urged party members to help install fellow travellers as candidates when nomination battles come around.”

Last winter the Canadian Press took a look at petitions that Conservative MPs were filing in Parliament. There were many about M-312 – on the day of the vote 15 Conservative MPs and 2 Liberal MPs tabled votes in support of M-312 and 8 NDP MPs tabled motions against. But the CP also found several petitions that went far beyond M-312 in their demands.

On Sept. 27, the day after Woodworth’s motion was voted down, Alberta MP Leon Benoit presented a petition that asked Parliament to “enact abortion legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible.” Benoit said Monday he’s proud to speak up for those in the pro-life community.“It makes a real difference to them knowing that somebody is standing up for them in the House of Commons, letting their position be known,” he said.

Well Canadian women and all those who support our reproductive rights have people standing up for them in the House too. I’m proud that Churchill MP and Official Opposition Critic for Status of Women Niki Ashton is there in Ottawa calling things like they truly are. In response to Woodworth’s most recent motion, she says Canadian women will see “you have people like Woodworth pushing an agenda that wants to set us back decades.”

And outside the House, in communities across Canada, we are more than ready to fight another fight in the anti-choice movement’s long game.

About the author

Jarrah Hodge

Jarrah blogs from Vancouver, BC. Jarrah graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in Women’s Studies and Sociology. In addition to running Gender Focus, Jarrah blogs for the Huffington Post. In 2011 she wrote a series of posts on feminism and nerd culture for Bitch Magazine Blogs and she has also written for the Vancouver Observer and About-Face. She’s a fan of politics, crafts, boardgames, musical theatre, and brunch.

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