Parliament defeats motion to study when life begin
The federal government will not be reopening the abortion debate.
A motion to study the Criminal Code's definition of when human life begins was defeated in the House of Commons Wednesday, Septebmer 26.
Members of Parliament voted 203 to 91 against Motion 312, which was put forward by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth.
Motion 312 was seeking to establish a special parliamentary committee to review medical evidence to determine if a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth.
The committee would also review whether or not this is consistent with the declaration in subsection 223 of the Criminal Code that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth.
Currently, the provision, in the homicide section of the code, says a child becomes a human being when it has fully left its mother's body.
Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper had opposed the motion from the beginning and voted against it, some members of his cabinet voted in favour.
Those included Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Public Works and Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose, government House leader Peter Van Loan, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino, Trade Minister Ed Fast, Intergovernmental Affairs Peter Penashue, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, and National Revenue Minister Gail Shea.
Critics said the motion was an excuse to reopen the debate on abortion in Canada and set limits on the procedure. Woodworth had said he hoped having a debate would convince Canadians to oppose abortion, although he admitted to media he didn't expect the controversial motion to pass.
Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP Pierre Lemieux backed Woodworth and the motion and even went so far as to circulate an anti-abortion petition the parishes of Sacré-Coeur in Bourget and Saint-Pascal-Baylon.
The petition called for the government to modify article 233 of the Criminal Code and declare the fetus a human being, thus opening the door to the criminalization of abortion.
Father Édouard Ntiyankundiye, who officiates over the two parishes, told the parish received a letter from Lemieux asking people to sign the petition.
The priest said he "encouraged" his parishioners to sign the document and noted that, as a Catholic, he is "pro-life."
In April, Lemieux was elected to serve as the chair of the first-ever Canada-Holy See Parliamentary Friendship Group, which was established in November 2011.
The goal of the group is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas among politicians and promote the expansion of relations between Canada and the Vatican.
Lemieux's petition conincided with outcry from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) last week, which issued a 12-page letter pastoral letter on religious freedom, arguing that freedom of worship includes the right for believers to publicly state their views on key questions of the day.
The CCCB went so far as to encourage civil disobedience in cases where public policy contradicts private morality on questions such as abortion, contraception and gay marriage.
In a press release sent to The Review, Lemieux outlined his position on Motion 312. The release notes that Canada's definition of a human being is based on a law that is 400 years old.
Lemieux explained that Canadian law states that a child becomes a human being "only after the moment of complete birth" and that this legal definition is based on "ancient British Common Law from the 17th century.
"It is surprising that such a fundamental and important legal definition completely disregards any findings of modern-day medical science," Lemieux stated. "For example, the development and health of an unborn child is much better understood thanks to medical advancements such as ultrasound. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for doctors to perform in utero surgery to improve difficult situations that can present themselves when the child is still in the womb."
The press release noted that a recent Angus Reid poll determined that 79 per cent of Canadians are not aware that Canadian law does not recognize or protect the interested of human beings until the moment of birth.
The release went on to note that an Environics poll determined that, when provided information about the development of a child before birth (for example, heart beats can be detected at 13 weeks and the child can suck its thumb at 14 weeks), 72 per cent of Canadians agreed with reforming the current law.