Since Harper’s first day as Prime Minister he has discriminated against women—from canceling the national childcare program, denying pay equity, ignoring missing and murdered aboriginal women, and attacking abortion rights. The Tories have a long-list of anti-choice policies, from a global “maternal health plan” that excludes abortion, to endless motions and bills. But their latest, Motion 408, was just defeated.
Harper is in a contradiction. He has a majority inside Parliament, and a bigoted base that wants to recriminalize abortion. But outside Parliament is a pro-choice majority, the legacy of a mass movement.
Not confident to directly attack abortion, Harper has been forced to repeat his refrain “we won’t reopen the abortion debate”, while his MPs try to organize more support for their anti-choice policies, and the anti-choice movement tries to mobilize on the ground.
Last year there was an anti-choice caravan across the country, and then Motion 312—supported by 10 cabinet ministers, including Jason Kenney and Minister of Status of Women Rona Ambrose. While the motion was defeated, it was used to launch another. Ambrose said she voted for Motion 312 to “raise concerns about discrimination by sex-selection abortion.” This helped MP Mark Warawa launch Motion 408, calling on Parliament to “condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.”
Not based on any evidence that this is problem in Canada, Motion 408 provided a cover for all the Tories’ policies that discriminate against women, while whipping up racism against the South Asian community and advancing an anti-abortion argument.
The defeat of Motion 408
But the anti-choice caravan was a flop, and was challenged by pro-choice and labour activists at every stop. Then there was outrage at Ambrose supporting Motion 312, and pushback against Motion 408.
Ambrose retreated, saying she would not support Motoin 408: “The concern about Mr. Warawa’s motion is that the opposition has positioned it as an issue about abortion so it becomes a very divisive issue.” Instead of Motion 408 rallying a majority of Tories, Harper squashed it in committee—provoking a brief rift in the party before Warawa withdrew the motion.
The attacks on abortion have not gone away. In Ontario the anti-choice movement wants to defund abortion, reflecting and reinforcing the anti-austerity agenda. Federally the Tories will keep pushing anti-choice policies, and the anti-choice movement will continue their false argument about sex-selection abortion.
But from hundreds meeting to commemorate the Morgentaler decision, thousands marching for International Women’s Day--connecting abortion rights with indigenous sovereignty and the fight against violence against women--the campaign for abortion in PEI, the defeat of Motion 408 and a recent pro-choice picket—the reproductive justice movement is on the rise.
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