A motion to study the Criminal Code's definition of when human life begins was defeated in the House of Commons Wednesday night.
Members of Parliament voted 203 to 91 against Motion 312, sponsored by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth.
The private member's motion would have set up a committee to study how the Criminal Code defines when life begins. The provision, in the homicide section of the code, says a child becomes a human being when it has fully left its mother's body.
Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper had opposed the motion, some members of his cabinet voted in favour. Those included Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan and International Co-Operation Minister Julian Fantino.
Liberal MPs John McKay, Lawrence MacAulay, Kevin Lamoureux and Jim Karygiannis also supported the motion.
Critics said the motion was an excuse to re-open the debate on abortion in Canada and set limits on the procedure. Woodworth had said he hoped having a debate would convince Canadians to oppose abortion.
Woodworth said last week that he didn't expect the motion to pass. The Conservatives, NDP and Liberals treating it as a free vote, meaning MPs were not told how to vote on the motion.
The NDP accused the government of using a private member's motion to push an agenda they're afraid to tackle more officially.