Abortion likely topic in House with MPs set to debate free votes on matters of conscience

laurabeaulne
Canada Politics
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The controversial issue of abortion looks ripe to make its way back to the House of Commons this week with a motion tabled by a backbench Conservative MP.

Saskatchewan MP Ed Komarnicki’s motion M-590, tabled in the House earlier this year, will be debated for the first time Thursday evening.

The motion — “That, in the opinion of the House, all Members of Parliament should be allowed to vote freely on all matters of conscience” — is a kind of read between the lines scenario.

Nowhere within the text is there any reference to a woman’s right to choose, but Komarnicki is a regular attendee of the annual anti-abortion March for Life rally on Parliament Hill and has spoken out in favour of the government’s decision not to include funding for abortions in its international maternal and newborn health initiatives.

A representative from Komarnicki’s office in Ottawa said the MP would not be speaking to media about the motion until after Thursday’s debate, slotted for 5:30 p.m.

Komarnicki did speak, via email, to a Catholic news site based in British Columbia back in April and said the time is right “for a motion such as this.”

The MP, who has represented the riding of Souris-Moose Mountain since 2004, announced over a year ago that he would not be seeking re-election in 2015.

“I am hopeful and expect all Members of Parliament to support Motion 590,” Komarnicki said. “The motion is straight forward and unambiguous. Matters of conscience should for obvious reasons be subject to free votes.”

Matters of “conscience” don’t just fall into the pro-choice vs. pro-life category. The socially conservative of Canada’s MPs itching to talk and vote more freely about things like assisted suicide or marriage equality may be welcoming Komarnicki’s initiative with open arms.

Last year Liberal leader Justin Trudeau put his foot down on the abortion issue, announced that all Liberal candidates must be pro-choice, or vote pro-choice if the issue were ever to arise in the House. This move reversed a Liberal policy that allowed MPs to vote freely on matters of conscience.

Komarnicki’s motion isn’t the first time MPs have attempted to bring controversial subjects to the floor of the House of Commons.

Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth’s motion M-312, back in 2012, sought to strike a parliamentary committee to study when life begins, a motion that many considered a backdoor attempt of reigniting the abortion debate. The motion, although receiving support from some of the Conservative caucus, did not pass when it came to a vote in the House.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, repeatedly, that the government does not want to re-open the abortion debate. Harper admitted to the CBC last year that abortion is a “controversial” issue, one reason why the government will not provide funds for the procedure in its international development initiatives.