CCN FILE PHOTO
This year's National March for Life in Ottawa May 9 will focus on ending female gendercide.
April 22, 2013
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
Many social conservatives, especially the new leaders of the pro-life movement, are openly considering punishing the Conservatives for quashing gendercide Motion 408.
Pressure from the Harper government to deem Conservative MP Mark Warawa's motion non-votable has provoked dismay and anger in many socially conservative quarters.
"What Harper is showing is that he doesn't care about social conservatives," said Stephanie Gray, co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform (CCBR).
"It would be naïve of us to continue to vote for him. He is not helping us. He is actually harming us."
CCBR represents one arm of the more militant and youthful side of the pro-life movement that uses graphic images and comparisons to genocide as part of its mission to "make abortion unthinkable."
Her colleague Jonathon Van Maren has been warning in recent CCBR blog posts that "Harper has tragically underestimated the size, youth, tenacity and dedication of the newly emerging pro-life movement."
This is "not your grandmother's pro-life movement," he said.
Mike Schouten is founder of weneedalaw.ca, a pro-life website that aims at persuading Canadians in the middle on the abortion issue to work towards passing a law that saves the lives of at least some unborn babies.
Schouten said he recognizes there are "a lot of pro-lifers and social conservatives who feel this is the end of their time with the Conservative Party."
Social conservatives make up about a quarter of the 39 per cent of the popular vote that brought Harper into a majority government, he said. "If they don't come out to vote, Harper's going to be in trouble."
"He has been able to take pro-lifers for granted. I don't know how much longer he's going to be able to do that," he said.
Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) president Jim Hughes said the problems the pro-life movement have with the Tories are nothing new.
All parties over time have tried to find ways to prevent pro-life candidates from running, or to impose "gag" orders that they not fill out CLC's survey identifying pro-life candidates, he said.
The attempts to edge pro-life voters and candidates out of the debate are coming to "the point where the democratic rights of all of us are being eroded."
But Hughes said he has known Harper was not pro-life since his days as a Reform Party MP. Campaign Life has never believed the Tories have a pro-life "hidden agenda," even though it has a sizeable pro-life caucus.
But other parties, except for those on the fringe, might no longer be an option. Hughes said not long ago there was a rump of about 40 staunch pro-life Liberals MPs. The party traditionally allowed free votes on conscience issues.
But the new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has signaled he will not allow MPs to vote against a woman's "right" to an abortion.
"It's disappointing when the federal Liberal Party attracts Catholics across the country but has few MPs who you could say are pro-life," Hughes said. As for the NDP, its practice of strict caucus discipline has seen members who vote against the party line kicked out of caucus.
"I'm not sure pro-life supporters have much to hope for under the current scenarios," said former Liberal MP Dan McTeague, a Catholic who voted consistently pro-life in his 17 years in the House.
"Pro-lifers are going to have to think hard about who to vote for now that Conservatives and their candidates cannot be considered or willing to represent their core beliefs," he said.
Social scientists have said the Liberals lost their majority when they lost Catholic and ethnic voters who migrated to the Tories over issues such as abortion and the redefinition of marriage.
"How much worse would it be under the Liberals?" asked Gray. "It can't really get worse than it is under Harper."
But CCBR's main strategy is aimed not at party politics but public opinion. "We work to educate Canadians so that there is a majority of Canadians to want to push for political change," Gray said.
"We do feel hopeful, particularly with young people, high school and university students," said.
The theme of this year's National March for Life, May 9, on Parliament Hill is End Female Gendercide.
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