Motion 312 comes to a vote

by Aaron Wherry

Postmedia says Conservative MPs Nina Grewal, Colin Mayes and Mark Strahl will vote in favour of Motion 312, while Dan Albas will vote against.

Cathy McLeod, MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo since 2008, said this week she’ll stick to her election campaign vow to oppose reopening the abortion debate. That position was echoed Tuesday by rookie MP Dan Albas (Okanagan-Coquihalla), who said he shared Harper’s position when abortion was raised at all-candidates debates in the 2011 campaign.

“I have my own personal convictions but I think when an elected official makes a commitment as part of an overall series of commitments during an election I think the public expects people to keep their word, and that’s what I intend to do,” Albas said in explaining why he’ll vote against Woodworth’s motion.

Liberal MP Ted Hsu says he’ll vote against. Conservative MP Patricia Davidson is “probably” going to vote yes. If so, Ms. Davidson would join, at the very least, Conservative MPs Dean Del Mastro, Leon Benoit, Maurice Vellacott, Brent Rathgeber, Harold Albrecht, Jason Kenney, David Anderson, Stella Ambler, Mark Warawa and LaVar Payne in supporting Stephen Woodworth’s motion. Liberal MP John McKay is the only known opposition vote at this point. (For reference, see here, here, here, here and here.)

Here, again, is Mr. Woodworth’s announcement upon introducing his motion. Here is my interview with Brad Trost. Here is Gordon O’Connor’s speech outlining his opposition to the motion. Here is the first hour of debate on the motion and here is the second hour.




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Motion 312 comes to a vote

  1. The problem here is that the issue at hand is NOT abortion. The issue at hand is when human life begins. If this motion is passed, and human life is found to begin at conception (which medical science quite clearly shows), only THEN will abortion need to be looked at, because it will be a violation of human rights.

    Just because people vote against changing the law on something, doesn’t mean it changes the truth of the situation. I find it quite disgusting, abortion aside, that our country’s leadership is willing to push aside looking into a massive potential flaw with how we determine who deserves to have their human rights protected, simply because of their own political agendas. What kind of free country is that?

      • So are protozoa. Neither can develop into a multi-celled organism. Your point? Other than trying to be a smartass, that is…

        • A sperm is a potential human being, same as that teensy tiny foetus.

          Save one, save em all…..have fun.

          • Not until it unites with an ovum. Doesn’t have the full complement of DNA and is incapable of cell division. Basic biology – as I’m sure you know. You just like spouting nonsense.

            Try sticking to the real issue for once, rather than trying to lead the conversation astray.

            As I’ve gone down this idiotic path more than once with you, I’ll leave it to others to debate you if you really want to continue spouting this nonsense. I’ll go play with the grownups.

          • Yup, it’s alive. Dead sperm doesn’t wiggle.

            ‘Play’ is all you do on here.

          • Your first comment was that it was a potential human. Now you are saying it is alive. Two very different arguments. Try keeping your stories straight.

          • Sperm, egg, foetus….all alive.

            All potential human beings.

            If you’re going to play on here, keep it straight.

          • OK, to take it to a level you can understand, let’s visit Sesame Street… “One of these things is not like the other”.

            A sperm or an egg is not, by itself, capable of becoming a multicellular organism (note I said “by itself”; laboratory manipulation does not count). It is alive; it is a product of a human; it is not yet, itself, a human being.

            A fetus IS a multicellular organism. If it has human DNA, it is an early stage in the development of a human. It IS a human being; nothing “potential” about it. (Or at any rate, no less a potential human than you are. We are always in a state of becoming, from conception to death.)

            You do yourself – or the pro-choice side generally – no favours when you play your silly, semantic, pseudo-scientific games. The question is not one of science but one of ethics and morality, and how to address conflicting sets of moral values and human rights.

            If that’s not the discussion you want to have, at least stop wasting everyone’s time with your tripe.

          • Keith, give it a rest.

            I’m not arguing this old nonsense with you or anyone else of your ilk.

            You don’t like it…..don’t do it.

          • My ilk?

            Question: are you lumping me in with the pro-lifers? Because I’m not in their camp. I’m just opposed to dogmatic idiocy like yours.

          • I’m lumping you in with HealthInsider…..two of a kind. Ciao.

    • The only reason for motion 312 is to enable the government to create laws on abortion.
      What a person considers ‘human life’ is subjective and dependent on the criteria you decide to use to define it. The collective will ever agree on when a fetus (or baby, for that matter) becomes a human. And yes, arguments can be made for a 6-month old not being human yet, as it’s not fully developed. That isn’t something you’d like to hear, is it?
      I think a person becomes a human being when they no longer rely solely on one other specific human in order to survive. But I’m using different criteria, and it’s non-scientific. The real problem here is that no matter what you decide about a fetus, it is still inside a woman who IS a human being. So, there should be no point in revisiting the issue, because no matter what the result is, any laws prohibiting abortion are an infringement on women’s rights. Obviously, motion 312 was created to find ways to supersede a woman’s rights.

      • “What a person considers ‘human life’ is subjective and dependent on the criteria you decide to use to define it.”

        Well, if you use biology as your starting point for the definition, then it would be conception.

        The real question is: At what point in its development does a human life warrant legal rights and protections? And when (if ever) should such rights, if awarded, trump that of its host mother?

        We can’t have a reasoned discussion until we can at least recognize the question to be answered.

        I have stated on here many times my Primacy of Rights approach which protects a woman’s right to choose while ending the current legal absurdity which defines whether one is human on the basis of geography. So there is a sound reason for revisiting the issue – and there is a better option than what we now have (albeit one the pro-life crowd won’t like). Feel free to check it out.

  2. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

    wiki ~ A zygote is always synthesized from the union of two gametes, and constitutes the first stage in a unique organism’s development. Zygotes are usually produced by a fertilization event between two haploid cells—an ovum(female gamete) and a sperm cell (male gamete)—which combine to form the single diploid cell. Such zygotes contain DNA derived from both the parents, and this provides all the genetic information necessary to form a new individual.

    • Your first paragraph, an unattributed quote, is utterly irrelevant and inappropriate in the Canadian context. Share it with Congress in Washington.

      • “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person…”

        – Section 7, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

        • “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

          –United States of America declaration of Independence

          What’s your point? TonyAdams’ contribution is still an unattributed passage from another county’s charter and (like many of his cut-and-paste quotes) marginally relevant, in this case to a pseudo-scientific debate about the definition of “human” in our own nation’s Parliament.

  3. In complete support if motion 312.

    • Well, Laura, be prepared to lose your reproductive rights. Have you ever read the “Handmaids Tale” or is reading not your thing.

      • It is comments like Tanya’s here that show why this discussion is completely and utterly pointless. The “pro choice” side always seems to resort to insults and personal attacks as part of the debate. I have been called “no better than a rapist and murderer” because of my position.

        Such hyperbole has no place in this discussion. Nor does characterizing the opponent as illiterate as Tanya does here.

        Opening up the debate on the definition of human life will NOT lead to all “women” losing reproductive rights, nor will it immediately lead to criminalization of abortion.

        Perhaps, if people actually decided to take responsibility for their sexual choices, realized ALL methods of birth control have failure rates, and therefore sex always involves – however slight – a risk of pregnancy, they would understand that the choice is made before jumping into bed.

        • So, if opening the debate won’t lead to ‘criminalization of abortion’, what WILL it lead to? What is the point of the discussion?
          By the way, people make mistakes all of the time, and we don’t always have to live with the consequences. I mean, we are allowed to get divorced, paint over an ugly color choice, change our careers… Who are you to decide what consequences somebody must live with when they have options?

          • Opening the debate on the definition of human life and when human life begins will simply open the discussion. It *may* lead to some form of legislation around abortion, or, it *may* not. It all depends on the outcome of the debate.

            A pregnancy (unless it derives from force) isn’t “a mistake”. It is a result of a deliberate, planned, intentional action. We aren’t talking about painting over an “ugly paint colour” here, we’re talking about the KILLING of a human being.

            Numerous pro-choice people claim, “it’s the woman’s right to decide how to govern her body.” I agree with that principle — except in the case of abortion, it isn’t the “woman’s body” we’re talking about. It’s the body of that little person growing inside her — a little person that was — in the vast majority of cases — put there deliberately and intentionally, and, last time I checked, being called into existence isn’t a capital offense!

            This is precisely WHY we need to define when human life begins; and what we, as Canadians want to happen when the rights of one human conflict with the rights of another, such as in a situation where there is medical danger to the mother through the pregnancy.

            Right now, Canada has absolutely NO definition on when human life begins; and NO law governing abortion at all. I think most Canadians agree that abortion shouldn’t be available as a method of birth control. I also think most Canadians find abortion, in some way, abhorrent; so I think it is perfectly reasonable to have a civil, rational debate on the subject.

            Oh, and as for who I am to decide what consequences someone must live with? I am not any more or any less qualified to hold an opinion on the subject than anyone else; and there are definitely options – adoption being one of them. If it was an ugly colour of paint, then painting over it would be fine; however dismembering and sucking a child into a sink is not painting over an ugly colour, is it?

      • Speaking of speculative fiction…

        I doubt this motion will pass, but even if it does, predicting a future like Atwood’s dystopian future solely on the basis of this one motion is quite a stretch.

        Hysteria doesn’t win you points.

  4. If you take out a fetus out of a woman’s womb after 2 months it will die. It cannot live on its own. It’s medically impossible for it to be an independent living organism. It’s a fact that it will die INSTANTLY. Therefore, it cannot be considered a human life. This would be a HUGE step back for the country. It would be a huge step back in terms in woman’s rights. Conservative Party is turning out to be our own Republican Party which a disaster in the making for Canada. People should be worried.

    • Are persons who are temporarily dependent on life support equipment not human?

      • Hmmm…but you see the human fetus is not temporarily dependent on support equipment. The fetus CANNOT survive even with support equipment if outside the uterus at under 23 weeks of life. At 23 weeks of life, a fetus can survive on support equipment, however, there is a very very high likelihood the child will be very disabled. The longer the fetus remains in the uterus, the better the outcome.
        The question of course is, can you force a human being to use their body as a host against their wishes? You Michael will never be forced to play host against your wishes. That is why I really find it interesting that so many men are so adamant that women should be forced to do so.

        • It’s interesting that you bring up fetal viability as a criteria for personhood, given that this point is not dependent on the fetus but on the current state of medical technology. If, say, we were able to develop an artifical womb that could shelter a fetus from the point of fertilization, would you oppose all forms of abortion?

          As for forcing a person to use their body as a host, I would argue that killing another human being is always wrong unless it is in self-defense. Bodily sovereignty is not a valid justification. Furthermore, parents have a special moral obligation to take care of their children, which includes carrying them to term.

          The fact that I am male is irrelevant to this discussion, unless you believe that only women are capable of logical analysis of arguments and evidence.

    • That’s like saying a caterpillar isn’t alive because it is not yet a butterfly.

      Or like saying a fish isn’t alive because it dies when we take it out of the water.

      Or – to really drive home the point – an infant isn’t human because it cannot yet look after itself. Leave it on its own and it will die of starvation &/or dehydration.

      Biologically, human life begins at conception. It could end seconds later, or a hundred years or more later. The fact that the earliest stages take place inside another organism (a.k.a. the mother) does not render it any less alive. Or any less human, biologically speaking.

      There are sound arguments to be made for the pro-choice side. This isn’t one of them.

  5. There are women in parliament who support rolling back women’s rights? Wow. Not a lot of deep thinkers in that caucus, I take it.

    • Wow, that was rude. Just so you know, I am a woman, and I have thought deeply about this issue. Have you thought deeply about what constitutes a human being? Or have you just accepted the party line that a fetus is not human?

      • Actually, I have changed my position on this issue from the days when I was young and stupid and thought I should be able to control other people’s bodies. So yes, I have thought deeply about it.

    • yes a child just prior to birth is a person, however, 9 months, 7 months, 6 months, before birth, does not make a FETUS a person

        • ok the point is that early on in the pregnancy the thing inside a woman is not a child, but as a man I would not expect you to know, understand, or care.

          • Ok, I’m a woman (not that it should matter, but clearly you think gender is relevant to the argument). The “thing” inside a woman is a living, human being. What else would you call it, other than a child? People earlier have pointed out that sperm are alive. Yes, they are, but sperm are not human beings. However, they create human beings when they unite with the ovum. You say that “early on” in the pregnancy, the fetus is not a child. By your logic, when does the fetus become a child? Or put another way, what age do human beings have to be, in order to deserve life?

          • The third trimester would be an appropriate time to say that a child is infact a child. But in the first few weeks/couple months of pregancy it would not be a child, therefore not a human. You may not like this analogy but I don’t care, if you are making a cake, you mix the ingredients in a bowl and you have cake batter (not yet a cake) this would represent conception and a couple weeks after, you put batter in a pan and put into the oven, take it out 15 minutes before it is done, and it is still not a cake and in fact very much liquid, this is the same for pregnancy, it is not complete therefore not a child, and it is possible for a child to be born 3 months premature and still survive without machine support, thus anything after 6 months of pregnancy should be a child, and i would support a bill that said that other than saying conception is the time the child becomes a child. The right to have the choice whether you can or should have a child is a right every mother should have

          • But, why would you go to the trouble of starting to make the cake, only to scrape it out of the pan and throw it in the garbage before is completed?

            But analogy quibbling aside, human beings are always in a process of development. Unlike your cake which does have a definite “done” point, humans never stop developing and changing until death. Conception marks the point where there begins a new human life which did not exist before. Then he or she becomes a newborn, then she (I’m picking a gender to not be cumbersome in my pronouns) becomes a toddler, then a teenager, then an adult, then a senior… Do you see my point? Can we say that a toddler is “less human” than a teenager because the toddler is not as developed as a teenager? Why should we judge whether a human being should live or die based on her stage of development?

          • how many people have unwanted pregnancies? how many people get raped and become pregnant? Who is anybody to tell somebody that they don’t have the choice? the fact of the matter is that until the third trimester a “fetus” or “zygote” or whatever you would like to call it, cannot breathe or have it’s heart beat on it’s own, therefore, it is not an independent living organism. And if you are unprepared to have a child, then you should have the choice not to have one

          • one of my best friends got preganant at 15, not by choice, she was raped. she had an abortion, and now at the age of 23, has 1 child and 1 on the way. are you saying when she was 15 and raped she should have kept this child that is a symbol of this disgusting act that happened to her? especially considering she wasn’t fit to raise her, and her mother was barely fit to raise my friend so she couldn’t raise this baby either, the fact that people want to take this choice away is disgusting. if my friend would have had that baby, the baby would have never had a chance.

            fact of the matter is, until the “child” can breathe on their own, and have a heart beat that can beat on it’s own, without help, then it is not yet a child. it really isn’t that hard to understand

          • I greatly sympathise with your friend, and with you, for having helped her through that situation. Rape is something that should not happen, and I understand your vehemence about the situation. According to the Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood in the States) about 1% of abortions happen because of rape. I understand that it hits close to home for you, and that that is why you argue the way you do. However, it is not good debating skill to place the majority of your argument on what happens in 1% of cases.

            I agree, that if you are unprepared to become a mother then you should not have to become one. However, I argue that you should remain childless by choosing not to engage in an act that makes babies (sex) until you are ready for the consequences that may occur (a baby). Obviously, rape is a different case, and I recognize that, but as I said before, I am directing my point to the vast majority of abortions that do not take place because of rape. Abortion is just treating the symptom of the unwanted pregnancy, it doesn’t treat the root cause.

            Anyways, you did not answer my questions, but instead went off on a personal and subjective tangent. I would appreciate if you would answer my questions because I am sincere in trying to find the holes in my thinking.

          • honestly, stats are useless when they come from studies that support a cause. look at all the marijuana stats from both sides of the arguement, they contradict eachother so much it is stupid. so with the 1% i don’t for a second believe that, not to mention, we are talking Canada here not the States. As for the stat, here is another, 90% of rape victims do not report the rape, and 75% of rape victims who get pregnant do not tell people that is how they got pregnant due to embarassment, therefore making this 1% stat non-valid. as for your questions, no a toddler is not “less human” because of their stage of development, however, they have a brain, and until later on in the pregnancy, the “child” does not have a brain, so no they would not be a person. As for the judging whether a human should live or not, who are we to judge if somebody should have the right to chose whether they should givve birth or not? It is ultimately the mother’s decision if she wants or can handle a baby

          • We appear to have reached an impasse because we believe different things constitute what makes a human, human. I don’t believe this can be solved through an internet chat, but do you at least understand why I will fight for pre-born children to be recognized as people? You may not agree, but do you at least understand?

            Logically, I can follow your argument. If one doesn’t believe that a fetus is a human then it follows that it doesn’t matter what happens to said fetus. However, I do not agree with your assumption that human life occurs “sometime by the third trimester”. That is way too subjective for me, and so I will continue to believe that abortion is the end of a human life.

          • We appear to have reached an impasse. We’re coming from radically different starting points.

            However, do you at least understand my viewpoint? I know you don’t agree, but do you understand it?

            Logically, I can follow your argument. If one starts with the assumption that a child in the womb is not a human until “sometime by the third trimester” then it does follow that it doesn’t matter what happens to the child in the womb. If I didn’t believe that fetus’s were human, I would be pro-choice too.

            Conception is the single defining point we have about when life begins. No conception, no human. Essentially, right now in Canada, we allow a single person (the mother) to decide whether a child is human or not. That is way too subjective for me. So I will continue to try and help others to see that children in the womb are indeed human. Are you absolutely sure that you’re right? If so, then you should support this Motion that looks to look for evidence of whether a fetus is human or not…

  6. I completely disagree with this motion, and with the government trying to tell women what they can do with their own bodies. Essentially, people who think abortion should be illegal should think of this fact, if a women is raped and becomes pregnant because of this rape, why on earth would they want to have that baby. I know I wouldn’t and if I was forced to continue a pregnancy that would hinder me overcoming this rape, and hinder any progress I had of emotional healing, the state of depression I would probably be in, would be a danger to not only me but this unborn rape child. Nobody has the authority to tell somebody what they should do with their bodies, regardless of the fact that sperm is alive and blah blah blah, it is still the mother’s choice whether she CAN infact have a child and give that child the life it deserves. Sure their is adoption, but what about the people whose bodies simply are not capable of having a child, do you just wish she wait until she has a miscarriage, which in turn would put her in a state of emotional turmoil?
    Nobody tells me how to cut my hair, if I can get peircings or tattoos, and there is no way in hell that I will let somebody tell me if I can stop the birth of a child that I would not or could not want. I am a human and as a human I have the right to make a choice, an unborn child is not yet a human therefore, the choice is still mine to make.

  7. There are currently no laws in Canada regarding abortion. A baby can legally be aborted up until the moment that it is born. Motion 312 seeks to open the conversation about when life begins, it is not a motion to make all abortions illegal, but rather to discuss when life begins. Our current definition is decided by minutes and location. An unborn full term child can be killed in the mother’s womb, but if it is born ten minutes later it now has legal rights. Seems like it is worth a conversation at least.

    • And there never should be any law.
      Late stage abortions are very rare and almost always medically warranted. Talking about an “unborn full term child” being aborted is rather disingenuous, don’t you think?
      The reason it’s not worth a conversation is that any change to existing law will be an infringement on women’s rights. I am FOR reducing abortion rates and would love for them to be near zero. That is something we actually can do, without making any unconstitutional laws. Shouldn’t we focus on making changes we can all agree on?

      • Firstly I agree 100% that we should focus more on things that we can change and I myself spend time educating teens on how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STIs (I keep my views on when life begins to myself at all times). Thank you for reminding us all to do what we can on the things we can agree on.
        You are also right, late term abortions are rare and many doctors will refuse to do them anyways for non medical reasons.
        You are also right that a change in our laws could impact women’s rights, but I think it is also important to remember that we are discussing whether or not the unborn infant has human rights or not. The consequences of that discussion is a separate topic and although it does bring up many other issues and questions does that mean we shouldn’t decide anyways? Our personal bias or assumptions, mine included, affect how we view this issue. If we believe that life begins before birth, whatever that point may be, we are now concerned with the rights of two distinct human beings. It is always difficult to decide in cases when the human rights of one person infringe on the rights of another, however in this case we are discussing life itself and even if it is rare, it is is human life that is being discussed. It is an issue with many strong viewpoints, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it.

  8. I don’t see how anyone can argue that this proposition won’t impact women’s rights. If for some reason Canada decided that life and a human being does begin at conception, that would mean all abortion laws would have to be repealed and made illegal under the Criminal Code because it would be murder. However, this would mean that abortion would be illegal even in the case of rape or incest. How can we say that a woman or young girl who was raped chose to have this happen? And how can we force 9 months of pregnancy upon them after such a traumatic event? The psychological trauma of going through the pregnancy and subsequent delivery would be extreme. And before anyone can say that this would not have a physical impact on her – it would. Pregnancy in and of itself has a physical impact. For 9 months. In addition, the ongoing psychological trauma, stress, and emotional upheaval would have significant long-term physical health impacts (see articles on stress and links to cancer, weight gain, diabetes, etc.).

    Also validity as a human being begins when a fetus is able to live by itself outside of the womb. This is currently at 23 weeks. Ability to live independently with support from a community or medicine would be a determinant of life. We can keep people alive artificially on life support. We cannot keep fetuses alive before 23 weeks even with medical technology or people other than the genetic parents caring for them. Life at conception is not accurate. Potential for life exists at conception. Even when a zygote is formed, if there are certain incomplete divisions or certain trisomies/monosomies occur, the zygote is terminated and a “miscarriage” occurs. Hence potential. Before a certain number of weeks, you cannot be certain whether the zygote will even develop into a “fetus” and then a “child”.

    Should we ever reach a point where medical technologies could exist to keep a fetus alive before 23 weeks, then we could re-examine the legal definition of “human being”.

      • No, we don’t need to re-examine the definition because it’s irrelevant. A woman’s rights cannot be superseded. Abortion must remain legal.
        If we want to make productive changes in Canada, we should find ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

  9. it can only be a human that grows inside a human womb, nothing else.

  10. I support the motion for this discussion all the way. It’s really hard for me to understand how anyone would not want to give babies the benefit of the doubt (even though there is no doubt in my mind that a baby is a baby at conception). Anything that is alive and has the potential to become a human being should not be interfered with (even though I think it is a human being at conception). The reason people won’t consider it to be a human being are two simple reasons: they would have to be accountable for this baby and oh my, their lifestyle would change!! They wouldn’t be able to use abortion as a method of birth control and oh let’s not forget their sex life will be dampened for awhile. Stop being selfish inconsiderate people. It is beyond me that someone would think a person’s rights are more important than an innocent babies rights who cannot defend itself. If you have a womb that is a carrier for a child, than that part of the body does not belong to you but to the baby. It just so happens to be in a woman’s body but that space belongs to the baby. Please don’t bring up the old argument about incest and rape. There is always adoption and even if they would allow abortion for these two cases (which I still don’t agree with) then we would still have a lot less abortion. Really, do you think most abortion cases are because of rape and incest? NOT!! It is because people value sex more than what they should value. Disgusting to say the least.

  11. Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a fetus has no legal status in Canada as a person, either in Canadian common law or in Quebec civil law.

    It would go against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

    Even if Harper would go ahead and make abortion illegal, he would most likely not be able to impose it in Quebec.

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