Harper's surprising abortion vote

Why did the PM vote against one of his own MPs?

There’s a TV monitor in the foyer outside the House of Commons so reporters waiting to scrum exiting MPs can watch the proceedings while we wait. The other day (Dec. 15, I see now) I noticed my colleague Elizabeth Thompson from paying close attention to a roll-call vote and thought no more of it until today.

Turns out the vote was about abortion, sort of, and what was worth noting was that Stephen Harper was voting against one of his own MPs. I’m just catching up to this story, which others have covered more carefully. Perhaps you are too, so here it is.

The Bill, C-510, an Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Coercion), was introduced by Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South). It sought to specify that coercing a woman to have an abortion would be a Criminal Code offense. The bill was defeated in a recorded division on second reading, and that’s the end of that for now.

Cabinet itself was divided on the motion, with Stephen Harper, James Moore and Lawrence Cannon, among others, voting against it, while Stockwell Day, Jason Kenney and Gail Shea, among others, voting in favour. Sun Media’s Brian Lilley quotes PMO press guy Andrew MacDougall: “The prime minister has always said he wouldn’t support a bill that reopens the abortion debate.”

Some pro-life groups are really angry at the Prime Minister. Other commentators are more muted. Deborah Gyapong, who was with the Harpers when they met the Pope in 2009, mentions his vote at the bottom of her Catholic Register article but not, at this writing, on her blog.