Friday, October 04, 2013

What Was That About "Not Re-Opening the Abortion Debate"?

Since 2006, Harper has repeatedly "refused" to open the abortion debate in Canada ... or at least so he claims.

But then again, there's the old saw about "actions speak louder than words".  Once again, the Harper Government has taken actions which very clearly articulate where they stand.  On Huffington Post, the headline reads "Tories Won't Fund Overseas Projects Allowing Abortion For War Rape, Child Brides"
International Development Minister Christian Paradis says the government will not fund overseas projects that allow war rape victims and child brides to obtain an abortion. 
But Paradis says the government's policy would follow the same logic as that behind Canada's $3-billion G8 funding commitment for maternal and child health — no money should go towards abortion services. 
That's a change from the department's previous statement that it does not monitor where each dollar goes when funding is provided to large multilateral aid organizations outside the G8 commitment envelope. 
If this doesn't get you wound up, it should.  Once again, we have the Harper Government talking out of both sides of its mouth.  On one side, they are working very hard not to talk about abortion publicly, but by way of policy fiat, they are moving quite clearly against women's rights - including self-determination, health care and so on.  Worse, they are doing it one the world stage, and to those who are inherently the most vulnerable.

There can be no mistaking Harper's policy here - this government is clearly hostile to women and women's rights.  He knows that were he to move in Canada to restrict abortion access further, the political storm he would face would be enough to sink his already plummeting political fortunes.

But, because this doesn't affect Canadians directly, the political calculation is that it won't be noticed.  Like several "private member's" bills and motions on controversial subjects, Harper has allowed them to move forward because it keeps the far-right base that formed the core of the Reform Party happily believing that he's on their side.

We've had a steady stream of anti-abortion private member's bills and motions before the House.  All of  them have been allowed to gain a certain amount of publicity and attention, and then are quietly defeated by a "free vote".  (In the case of the CPC, I would put money that those "free votes" are stage managed within an inch of their lives)

Further, Harper has been one of the most radical micro-managers we've ever seen occupy the PMO.  There is no chance that a back-bench MP gets to put forward a private member's bill without the approval of the PMO.

Private members' bills differ from government legislation in that they are supposed to be an expression of something the individual MP wants to champion. While it's not unusual for these bills to be amended – and often improved – at committee, it is unusual for MPs from the bill sponsor's own governing party to use their majority on the committee reviewing the legislation to make changes the MP who proposed the bill didn't originally intend, or support. 
Normally, if a government doesn't support a private member's bill, it encourages its MPs to vote it down before it reaches committee. However, it doesn't usually whip — or force — its caucus to vote a certain way on these kinds of bills. 
"The more popular feeling certainly at PMO and the whip's office is that caucus members should essentially be cheerleaders for the government and spread the government's message as opposed to being some sort of legislative check on executive power," Rathgeber said Thursday. "I don't accept their premise."

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