Thursday, April 26, 2012

If the Liberals want to stand up for reproductive rights, they should stop pretending and whip the dammed vote

Today Parliament will debate a “private members” motion from Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth that would effectively re-open the abortion debate in Canada, and put the reproductive rights of women at risk.

In the last 24 hours I’ve received two e-mails from the Liberal Party of Canada on this topic, both eager to trumpet our party’s support for a woman’s right to choose and our opposition to the Woodworth motion. And moreover, we make it clear that, by refusing to force Woodworth to cease and desist, the Harper government is tacitly supporting Woodworth (its protests to the contrary not withstanding).

Yesterday, under the byline of Liberal Senator Lucie Pépin, it was a petition drive to “tell thePrime Minister: Hands off our reproductive rights.”

Stephen Harper said he would not re-open the debate on a woman's right to choose.
But 24 hours from now, he'll allow Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth to put forward a motion in the House of Commons which clearly opens the possibility of re-criminalizing abortion.
It's up to you to make sure Canadian women and men know about it.

And then today, the party issued a press release on the topic, titled “Harper Conservatives Add to their List of Anti-Woman Policies.”

The Harper Conservatives are adding to their list of anti-woman policies by attempting to re-open the abortion debate, said Liberals today.
“Despite his promise not to re-open the debate on abortion Stephen Harper is allowing Conservative MPs to begin debating what Canadian women can and cannot do with their bodies,” said Liberal Leader Bob Rae. “As they attempted with other contentious issues, this Conservative government is once again using a backbench MP to further their agenda.”

That’s all very good; it’s a strong position from the party and I firmly agree with it. But there’s just one wrinkle that wasn’t mentioned in the petition e-mail to members, or in the press release to the media (and lowly bloggers like me). And that’s this wrinkle, buried in a CBC story:
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said he's going to allow Liberal MPs to vote however they want, known as "voting their conscience."
Yes, so despite all the bluster from the party about how Harper is out to strip women of their rights and how we think that’s fundamentally wrong, we’re going to allow Liberal MPs to vote to do just that. So how can we take any of this activity from the party seriously?

If this issue is as fundamentally important as our messaging makes it out to be (and I believe it is), why are we not whipping this vote? If Harper not killing a private members bill is evidence he supports it, what does it say when the Liberal leadership lets its members vote for it? How are we any different? 

And worse, we’re launching petition drives and releasing pious press releases while pretending to be different. It’s ridiculous, and we’re setting ourselves up to look like hypocritical idiots. 

I'm all for the idea of the Liberal Party being a big tent party welcoming of people from the left and the right with different views on different policy issues, but on some issues of fundamental importance I believe we should draw the line and say THIS is what we believe in, and if you're a Liberal so do you. Abortion is one of those issues for me.

 I believe there are certain fundamental policy issues that flow from these principles that are so core to what it means to be a Liberal that if you want to sit in the Liberal caucus, you need to vote with the party and defend them. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but while I respect your opinion and your right to it, the Liberal Party probably isn't the party for you.
Bob, you need to whip this vote. And if we’re not going to, then we need to get off our pulpit and let those parties that are willing to stand up for reproductive rights step up.

Because this sucking and blowing just looks ridiculous.

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Jason Cherniak said...

I agree. Unless Rae already knows that the entire caucus will vote against the motion.

Jeff said...

The way to do it then Jason would have been to say "we don't need to whip it, the Liberal caucus stands firmly opposed to...."

James said...

Thanks for writing about this, Jeff!!! I got the same email from Lucie Pépin and it made me ashamed to be a liberal voter. I won't be donating to them again.

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernadette Miles said...

Yes Harper does look like a hyprocrite but I'm in favor of him opening up a debate on the topic of abortion. It is unhealthy in a democratic society to try and surpress this from happening. We as a society would only be turning a blind eye to the numerous petitions out there if we did.

Diana said...

Of course Harper looks like a hypocrite, he IS!
As for the LPC......
"I can't hear you any more
I'm a-thinking and a-wond'rin' walking down the road"*
On a fundamental issue of women's RIGHTS the hypocritical LPC has no conscience, and my good conscience will support the party of conscience, ALWAYS defend abortion RIGHTS for women to an MP.
They lost my monthly donation under Dion when he did not whip Harper's motion to reopen the same-sex marriage vote, and this last hypocritical act ends my support.
"Don't think twice, it's all right"*....... NDP.

*Bob Dylan

James said...

I find it curious that two of your commenters think you called The Prime Minister a hypocrite. To everyone who thinks that I suggest you re-read Jeff's article.

sunsin said...

Any debate can be re-opened. However, the abortion debate can be quickly re-closed again after restating some facts that seem to have been missed by a few fools. Leave morality aside. You're dealing with people who have different standards. Just ask them if they want more abortions. Leaving the matter in the hands of women and their doctors has resulted in a historically low abortion rate in Canada, as good a proof as anyone could wish that women don't get abortions for trivial reasons. Places with restrictions, or even bans, all have higher abortion rates, some MUCH higher, not to speak of the dead women. Why are the supposed "pro-life" forces arguing for a policy that would produce MORE abortions? (Not to speak of the dead women and providers in jail, but I rather think they would enjoy these latter features.)