Canada’s Conservative Party Abandons Pursuit of Abortion Legislation

The Conservative party held a historic vote on Saturday, stating that they will not pursue new regulations on abortion. The decision has left anti-abortion proponents with no mainstream political vehicle.

Earlier in the convention, Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper announced that he would not open up debate on abortion if he is elected prime minister. The majority of delegates supported Harper’s stance.

Out of 2,900 delegates, 55 percent voted in favor of maintaining the status quo on abortion, while 45 percent voted against it, seeking further laws on abortion.

Pro-choice delegates applauded the decision, saying that it will strengthen the Conservative Party’s support among voters, particularly female constituents. Nargis Kheran of St. John, N.B., commented that women “do not need you to tell us what to do…Legislatures have no place in women’s bodies.”

Delegates hope that the decision will help them gain support from urban and eastern Canadians, who largely abandoned the Conservatives in the last election campaign due to fears that the party was pushing a hidden agenda on abortion and other moral issues.

Pro-life delegates vow to keep on fighting. Former MP Elsie Wayne responded, “Society has gone to hell in a handbag. And that isn’t the way the Conservatives want us to be.”

“I do not believe that the majority of our people at this convention are in favor of killing babies,” said Wayne in a speech to the convention. “You know that abortion kills babies.”

Harper himself stated that this is not the end of the abortion debate. However, he remained firm in his stance to not introduce any new legislation, stating, “Do I think [abortion] is an issue we’re going to see debated in Parliament in the next few years? No.”

Abortion was declared illegal in the 1960s when they were first performed by an obstetrician named Henry Morgentaler. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favor of Morgentaler and declared anti-abortion laws unconstitutional.

Efforts by Conservative Brian Mulroney in 1989 to pass abortion regulations were defeated in Parliament. Since then, the Conservative party has supported the need for more abortion regulation, but has been largely inactive in terms of drafting new abortion legislation.

Pro-life delegates assert that the debate is not over. They say that the issue of how to regulate abortion will need to be addressed eventually.

Alan McDonnell of Burnaby, B.C., said, “At some point I think we’re going to have to answer the difficult legal question of, ‘When does life begin,’ for the purposes of criminal law…. I don’t think we’ll go the next 10 years before having to bring back the debate.”