Harper gets a message

Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and other bishops joined the 15,000 people who took part in the national March for Life May 12.

CCN PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG

Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and other bishops joined the 15,000 people who took part in the national March for Life May 12.

May 23, 2011
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA — There won't be any ducking the abortion debate. People came in droves to Ottawa May 12, to make sure parliamentarians get the message.

More than 15,000 people — the biggest National March for Life in the event's history — filled the lawn on Parliament Hill May 12, eclipsing last year`s record 12,500, according to Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes.

They put the majority Conservative government on notice.

"I've got a newsflash for you, Mr. Prime Minister!" said former Liberal MP Pat O'Brien. "The debate is on!"

O'Brien noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had promised not to re-open the abortion debate even if he won a majority.

So O'Brien told the crowd their support for members of the parliamentary pro-life caucus is critical for ensuring the issue gets to the floor of the House of Commons.

"The Supreme Court said the debate belongs in Parliament," in the 1988 Morgentaler decision, said Don Hutchinson of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. The court struck down the law as it existed as inconsistent with the Charter; it did not say Parliament could not restrict abortion.

"Neither Parliament nor the Supreme Court has ever declared a right to abortion," Hutchinson said.

Each one of the 304 MPs has the right to bring the debate forward, he said.

O'Brien described Canada as a "laughing stock" because it is the only country in the civilized world with no law protecting the unborn child.

Conservative MP Scott Reid said when he was first elected in 2000, he was told the issue of abortion had been "settled."

"This is not a settled question," he said, noting this was the biggest crowd he has seen on the Hill in his career as a politician.

He predicted support for the pro-life position would grow because of the "inherent rightness of the cause" and "the determination all of you have shown."

It was announced that Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson had proclaimed May 12 as Respect for Life Day, drawing a roar of applause.