Medicine Hat News

Conservati­ve leader confirms free vote allowed on MP’s ‘sex-selective abortion’ bill



Conservati­ve Leader Erin O’Toole will allow a free vote on a caucus member’s push to ban “sex-selective abortions.”

A private members’ bill on the issue was presented Wednesday by Saskatchew­an MP Cathay Wagantall and debated in the House of Commons.

Wagantall cited a survey that found many Canadians are against the deliberate terminatio­n of a pregnancy on the basis of sex.

She argued her bill promotes gender equality for girls and women, and has more support than other abortion-related issues while being less polarizing.

“I encourage every member of this House to have the courage to exercise their rightful freedom to vote their own conscience, the way that we on this side of the floor have that freedom to do and pass this bill,” Wagantall told MPs.

She specifical­ly challenged Liberal MPs, pointing out that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet identify themselves as feminists.

Wagantall’s bill was brought forward by fellow Conservati­ve MP Karen Vecchio, deputy House leader for the Opposition, who suggested parliament­arians should at least be open to discussing the issue, rather than simply go on the attack.

But representa­tives from the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois were quick to call out the Conservati­ves, blasting the bill as a covert attempt to erode the reproducti­ve rights of women with misleading facts and using language around equality to disguise its true intention.

“Nobody would support sex-selection abortion, however that’s not what this bill is,” said Jennifer O’Connell, parliament­ary secretary for Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

“If this bill is truly only about banning sex-selective abortions then why did her own leader come out saying he doesn’t support it? ... If it’s truly not a backdoor way to remove women’s’ rights, why doesn’t her own leader support it?” O’Connell said.

O’Toole said earlier in the week he would personally vote against the bill, as he supports a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy.

At the time, O’Toole did not directly answer a question about whether he would allow his CPC critics a free vote on the matter.

His spokeswoma­n, Chelsea Tucker, confirmed Wednesday that votes of conscience are free votes for all members.

Anti-abortion organizati­on RightNow welcomed the news that O’Toole is sticking to his leadership campaign pledge to allow his MPs free votes on matters of conscience.

“While we are happy that Erin has confirmed this commitment to pro-lifers, we are still disappoint­ed in his decision to not vote for this reasonable and popular piece of legislatio­n,” organizati­on cofounder Alissa Golob said in a release.

“We will continue to keep a close eye on which members of Parliament vote in favour and against the legislatio­n and encourage our supporters to vote and volunteer accordingl­y in the upcoming election.”

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Erin O’Toole

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