Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 3, 2006
MP tables abortion bill
Bill would outlaw abortion after 20 weeks gestation
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Liberal MP Paul Steckle's private member's bill that would outlaw abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy is drawing praise from pro-life groups.
"This bill, which aims to prohibit the deliberate provocation of a miscarriage after 20 weeks of gestation, is a step in the right direction," said a June 27 statement from the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF).
"We hope that the members of the Canadian Parliament will take advantage of this occasion to reconsider the best interests of Canada as regards the protection of the human fetus."
COLF is an organization co-sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus.
Campaign Life Coalition's (CLC) national president Jim Hughes applauded Steckle's initiative.
"Every poll on the abortion issue taken in the last 10 years has indicated that a majority of Canadians favour some restrictions," said Mary Ellen Douglas, CLC national organizer.
"Too often, political parties have ignored the wishes of the people to discuss crucial issues and have feared even to address the abortion topic."
Patty Nixon, executive director of Alberta Pro-Life, said that in 2002, there were 39 post-20-week abortions in Alberta. That would suggest there are close to 400 late-term abortions in Canada every year, she said.
"It is encouraging to see that there are MPs who will speak for the majority of Canadians who believe there should be some legal protection for babies before birth," Nixon said of Steckle's bill.
Bill C-338, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (procuring a miscarriage after 20 weeks) is Steckle's response to the 1988 Supreme Court Morgentaler decision that struck down the existing abortion laws.
Steckle (Huron-Bruce, Ont.) pointed out the court "clearly said Parliament was well within its right to place reasonable limits on what the medical community can do by way of ending a pregnancy in favour of measures directed at protecting the unborn."
The bill would make procuring a miscarriage and using or permitting any means to cause one punishable by up to five years in prison for an indictable offence, or a summary conviction of up to two years and a fine not exceeding $100,000 or both.
While the bill allows for exceptions to save the life of the mother, or to prevent her "severe, pathological, physical morbidity," it offers no exceptions for rape, incest or for deformity or fetal anomalies.
A fall 2005 Environics poll found that 60 per cent of Canadians would like to see human life legally protected before birth at some stage in the pregnancy.
Campaign Life urges other MPs to follow Steckle's example and consider legislation "such as: women's right to know; parental notification; conscience legislation for health care workers; and defunding of abortions," said the news release.
While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has promised he would not reopen the abortion debate, Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, who co-chairs the House of Commons pro-life caucus with Steckle, said he assumes any vote on this bill will be a free vote.