Does a new poll suggest the abortion debate is about to be rekindled?

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

There are signs the bitter debate over abortion may be heating up again in Canada and certainly in the United States.

The U.S.-based web site LifeNews.com is reporting a poll commissioned by LifeCanada suggests almost three quarters of Canadians want more legal protection for the unborn.

The telephone poll, conducted in September by Environics Research, asked 2,000 Canadians for their opinions on abortion. Some 72 per cent supported more legal protection for unborn babies and 62 per cent want it from conception or from two to three months into pregnancy.

Only 20 per cent of respondents supported the current Canadian policy of offering no protection until birth, according to the report. The poll's reported margin of error was 2.2 per cent 19 times out of 20.

That opinion is highest in Atlantic Canada and the Prairies, at 35 per cent, and lowest in Quebec, 25 per cent, with Montreal at 20 per cent.

An overwhelming majority of those polled  - 92 per cent  - also opposed abortion for sex-selection purposes.

"There is clearly a considerable gulf between government policies on abortion and Canadians' opinions," LifeCanada president Monica Roddis.

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative caucus contains a number of anti-abortion MPs, during last spring's election campaign he ruled out revisiting the issue because "it's not a priority of the Canadian people."

Abortion is set to become much hotter politically south of the border, where residents of Mississippi are set to vote next week on a referendum to amend the state's constitution that would define a person as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof."

The New York Times noted in an op-ed piece that abortion rights and anti-abortion forces are already squaring off over the legal implications of the amendment. Two legal scholars warned its ambiguous wording could affect some forms of birth control and in-vitro fertilization.

"Mississippi voters, whatever their views on abortion, deserve an amendment that is clear on its face," the academics said.