Tory MP revives abortion debate

A House of Commons debate Thursday triggered by a backbench Conservative MP has led pro-choice forces to accuse the Harper government of trying to resurrect a divisive national discussion about abortion.

OTTAWA, Ont. — A House of Commons debate Thursday triggered by a backbench Conservative MP has led pro-choice forces to accuse the Harper government of trying to resurrect a divisive national discussion about abortion.

Kitchener, Ont. MP Stephen Woodworth will ask for a special parliamentary committee to discuss the definition of a human being when he rises in the House.

The Conservative MP takes issue with Section 223 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which states that human life begins when a child emerges from its mother’s body.

“The question is whether that’s an accurate statement, an honest statement or a misrepresentation,” Woodworth said.

Canada’s been without an abortion law since 1988 when then-prime minister Brian Mulroney’s attempt to codify the procedure was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said his Conservative government will not re-open the abortion debate.

Some pro-life Conservative MPs have attempted to re-ignite the issue. Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost publicly criticized his own government last year for backing an overseas aid group that provided abortions.

Opposition MPs say Thursday’s debate wouldn’t be happening if Harper wasn’t considering re-opening the abortion issue.

“I’ve never seen anyone control (his caucus) so absolutely as he does,” said Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair. “If he didn’t want that to be discussed, it wouldn’t be there.”

“This is their backdoor way of signalling to their base that this is what they’d actually like to do and they just can’t do it.”

Mulcair said he won’t have to whip his 100 MPs to vote against Woodworth’s motion.

“I want to be very clear. We’re not going to have to impose anything because our caucus is unanimous on this. We are unanimously opposed to that motion and that approach.”

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said he’s personally opposed to re-opening the abortion debate but Rae said he won’t compel Liberal MPs to toe that line because the issue is a matter of individual conscience.