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Motion 312 defeated in House of Commons

MPs opposed to re-defining human life

By: By Megan Sarrazin

  |  Posted: Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 06:00 am

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Federal politicians voted against re-examining the country’s Criminal Code definition of when human life begins in the House of Commons Wednesday.

Motion 312, which sought to form a special committee to study the definition of a human being, was defeated with 203 votes opposed and 91 in favour.

Edmonton-St. Albert Conservative Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber was amongst the politicians who voted in favour of the motion.

“Canadians are perhaps unique among western democracies in that we have neither sanctions nor regulations approving abortion or the rights of fetuses,” he said on his blog Tuesday. He refuses to speak with the St. Albert Gazette directly.

Ontario’s Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth filed Motion 312 on Feb. 6 with the goal of granting a fetus human status under section 223(1) of the Criminal Code.

The law states that a child becomes a human being upon exiting its mother.

“I’ve concluded that modern medical science will inform us that children are in reality human beings at some point before the moment of complete birth,” Woodworth said.

He called the law the most “unjust” and “vile” law in Canada and said the defeat leaves a hole in the justice system.

“The next best thing to fighting for justice and winning is fighting for justice and losing,” he said. “The worst thing is not to fight for justice at all.”

Several local politicos took to social media sites to share their views on the motion.

“I certainly was happy that the motion didn’t pass. I think it would have set us down a path of reopening the abortion debate,” said Tim Osborne.

He said he was disappointed Rathgeber voted in favour of the motion, adding he was concerned to what extent he consulted with constituents.

Brian LaBelle, former federal NDP candidate for Edmonton-St. Albert, expressed upset that Rathgeber voted in favour.

Liza Sunley agreed, adding she felt few people in the constituency agreed with the decision.

Abortion debate

The motion stirred a great deal of controversy prior to the vote, as opposition labeled it as a backdoor attempt to reopen the abortion debate.

Woodworth, however, vowed the motion was not an effort to reopen that discussion.

Rathgeber questioned the motive of the motion in his Tuesday blog post published on his constituency website.

“(Woodworth) states his motion is not an attempt to re-open the abortion debate. But his argument is specious in that regard,” he said. “If he gets the answer he wants (that human life begins sometime before complete birth), what is he going to do with that information except to use it to re-open the abortion debate?”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed in the last federal election not to reopen the abortion debate. He was opposed to the motion.

Rona Ambrose, Minister for Status of Women, voted in favour of the motion.

Of the 163 Conservative MPs in caucus, 87 supported the motion. Four Liberal MPs supported the motion, while all NDP MPs who voted were opposed.

Woodworth said many of the MPs who spoke against the motion during debate were too “preoccupied” with abortion to protect the equality and dignity of all human life.

“That issue was never closed. It is not closed now. It never will be closed if we, in Parliament, continue to stick our collective heads in the sand,” he said.


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