Our federal government cannot spare a single minute to talk about abortion.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper won’t let it happen because it would be a political distraction and might cost him votes somewhere down the road.
Canada has no abortion law. Most Canadians prefer that stance and embrace Harper’s pledge never to introduce one.
Most Canadians believe women who lack the capacity and supports to raise a baby should not be obliged to carry one to term.
Unwanted children, we agree, are unreasonable burdens to impose on incapable mothers, on their families, on Canadian society.
We prefer not to look too hard at how other societies with far fewer resources deal with unwanted pregnancies.
China, the world’s largest nation with a population of 1.3 billion people, has a one-child policy.
In rural China, where the birth rate is highest, some girls are killed at birth, because families need sons to continue their family line and to sustain their peasant lives.
Across China, 15 abortions are performed every minute.
It’s obvious to any demographer that this growing cohort of young men, with little chance of courting and marrying a woman, is destined to create social chaos in China down the road.
In India, the world’s largest democracy, family practice rather than government policy is having a similar, albeit smaller effect.
The ratio of sons to daughters born in Indian households is much higher and enduring than statistical variance would dictate.
That pattern has been growing in India for two generations.
It’s abundantly clear that female Indian fetuses are aborted in large numbers because parents prefer sons.
That, too, seems shameful to us, thousands of kilometres and a culture away.
But it brings us uncomfortably back to Canada, where the government forbids discussion of gender selection in the House of Commons.
It does not matter where you sit on the abortion debate to know Harper’s stance on this issue is shameful.
Under parliamentary rules, MPs are allocated time to raise issues of their own choosing.
Their short speeches are a longstanding parliamentary and democratic feature.
They are scheduled at slack times that do not intrude on priority government business, and are limited in length.
Last week, Mark Warawa, a Conservative MP from suburban Vancouver, sought and was denied permission by a Commons committee including one Tory and two opposition MPs to speak on sex-selected abortions in Canada.
This happened despite a clear ruling by a parliamentary expert that there was no procedural impediment to allowing a vote.
This week, Warawa was denied the right to speak for 60 seconds about how he was denied that privilege.
Its impact turned a parliamentary minute that would have passed with scant public notice into a national issue.
In the hierarchy of the Harper government, however, speaking publicly about abortion in any fashion is not permissible.
The “threat” — perceived but purely nonsensical — is that opponents of the government would use a TV clip of a Tory speaking about abortion in the House of Commons to further brand the Harper Tories as hapless, helplessly retrograde and clearly not worthy of re-election.
There are plenty of reasons to want a government better than the one we have now, but it’s far from clear that any federal opposition parties are positioned to provide it today, or after Justin Trudeau is crowned Liberal leader next Sunday.
Liberal MPs who voted with Tories to deny Warawa the right to speak did themselves and their incoming leader no favour this week.
It’s unclear whether the decision to deny MP Warawa his speech made it up to the Harper himself.
That seems highly unlikely, given the vast range and number of issues he must deal with on a daily basis. But it was made by senior Tories who know him well and have fully embraced his control-freak mentality.
To their credit, some Conservative MPs publicly have supported Warawa’s right to speak.
Alberta MPs Leon Benoit and Brent Rathgeber were courageous and cogent in defence of their Tory mate.
You don’t have to agree with a colleague — or even a parliamentary opposition MP — to support their ability to present views and represent their constituents, making them instantly and irrevocably ineligible from ever being a Harper cabinet minister.
When Pierre Trudeau was prime minister he infamously slagged all MPs, not just opposition members, pronouncing that “when they are 50 yards from Parliament Hill, they are no longer honourable members, they are just nobodies.”
Harper seems determined to go Trudeau one worse.
He’s making Conservative colleagues who have minds of their own and constituents to represent nobodies inside the Commons.
Joe McLaughlin is a retired former managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.