Canadian Members of Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject a motion that would have reopened the debate over abortion. But 10 Conservative cabinet ministers are under scrutiny for supporting the motion, including the minister for the Status of Women.
CTV News says the private members bill, introduced by Conservative backbencher Stephen Woodworth, was defeated by a vote of 203 to 91. Prior to the vote Woodworth argued that it wasn't an effort to re-criminalize abortion in Canada, but to determine when a fetus or newborn can legally be considered a human being. Right now Canada's Criminal Code says a child is a human being when it emerges, alive, from the mother's womb.
Just before the vote was held on Wednesday evening, the Globe and Mail reports a spokesman for the Prime Minister's office repeated Stephen Harper's assertion that the government has no plans to reopen a debate over the issue, Julie Vaux saying, "After the vote, we will move on.”
Despite that, some high ranking members of Harper's cabinet supported the motion, including Rona Ambrose, the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women and Government House Leader Peter Van Loan.
Several Conservative MPs who voted against the motion said, before the vote, that while they consider themselves “pro-life” they didn't want to re-open a debate on abortion.
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, who voted against the motion, says, “It’s time to move on.” “We voted in a free vote, but the reality is that my constituents knew and understood that this was something that government was not going to be opening up."
New Democrat MP Niki Ashton says, “Stephen Harper told us he wasn’t willing to reopen the debate (on abortion), and you have the minister in charge of the status of women voting (for the motion).” “At what point do the Conservatives consider women’s equality a priority?”And she added, “I think it’s shameful that the minister... in charge of moving forward on women’s equality today stood up in the House to essentially attack a woman’s right to choose.”
Four Liberal MP's supported the bill but interim Liberal leader Bob Rae says the result shows that there is a consensus to leave the question of abortion up to women, "It's not something where the state has a huge role of interference and it’s something where we have to respect women’s right to choose.”