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An opinion column: What you need to know about abortion, and the 2021 vote

Fourteen of B.C.’s 17 Conservative MPs recently supported legislation that would have restricted access to abortion

According to Angus Reid, the issues most important to Canadians in the coming election include climate change, health care, taxation, managing the deficit, COVID response and government transparency.

By all means then, let’s talk about abortion.

Many women tire of having to defend their Charter protections, especially during an election, while those left of centre use them as poster children, and leadership to the right dances on pin heads and masters the art of doublespeak.

Canada is one of the few countries that has no abortion law. It is legal because it is not illegal, and is a publicly funded procedure under the Canada Health Act.

It was prohibited for a century.

A woman convicted of having an abortion faced two years in jail, and a provider could be sentenced to life in prison, until 1969 when Pierre Trudeau amended the Criminal Code to permit abortion if a woman’s life was endangered. The choice to end a pregnancy could be made only by a panel of doctors.

So it remained until 1988, when the Supreme Court issued its landmark Morgentaler ruling, confirming that limiting access to abortion is contrary to a woman’s right to “life, liberty and security of the person.”

For the past 33 years, various lobby groups and governments have worked to either overturn the Morgentaler decision, or sought back alley ways to push through an anti-abortion agenda.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole states he is pro-choice. His party’s published platform addresses abortion with one sentence: “A Conservative government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion.”

Yet just three months ago, a Conservative private member’s to bill to ban abortion based on sex selection was approved by more than two-thirds of the party’s caucus, while being defeated 248-82. Fourteen of B.C.’s 17 Conservative MPs supported the legislation and all those members are seeking re-election. Dan Albas (Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola), Cathy McLeod (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo) and Rob Morrison (Kootenay-Columbia) voted ‘Nay.’ McLeod is the only one not running in 2021. Should a similar bill be proposed again, under a Conservative majority, such an idea could conceivably pass into law.

In 2016, O’Toole voted in favour of another private members’ bill, C-225, Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Pre-born Children Act. This bill would have effectively associated legal rights to a fetus. In both cases, pro-choice groups regarded these bills as efforts to crack the door on a broader abortion debate. Leslyn Lewis was a front-runner in the 2020 Conservative leadership race, raising $2 million for her campaign and running primarily on an anti-abortion message.

On the other side of the aisle, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh attempt to out-feminist each other with their election promises.

The NDP commits to enforcing the Canada Health Act, improve access to abortion in rural, remote and northern communities, and cover contraception and the abortion pill as part of Pharmacare.

The Liberals say they will strengthen the language of the health act surrounding reproductive freedoms, making it easier to ensure delivery of services across the country. The party states it will also pull charitable status from anti-abortion organizations.

Related: Trudeau says Ottawa withholding health-care transfers to N.B. over abortion access

The Green Party requires a pro-choice commitment from its members. In the last election, it went so far as to remove a candidate running in Ontario, for her anti-abortion comments on social media.

Vote on Sept. 20.

Vote with your conscience. Or vote for the person you trust to best serve your riding. Maybe vote for the party whose platform more closely aligns with your own opinions on climate change, health care, taxation, managing the deficit, COVID-19 response and government transparency.

It’s also perfectly acceptable to vote with your values regarding women’s rights.

Related: Texas 6-weeks abortion ban takes effect, with high court mum

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Canada Election 2021

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