Max Bernier Says PPC Would Welcome Abortion Debate In Parliament

May 15, 2022

At first glance it seems like a typical move from the leader of the People’s Party of Canada; ‘let’s not block any private member’s bill and have an open debate in Parliament about abortion rights.’

Seems cut and dry, doesn’t it?

That Maxime Bernier would support a Parliamentary debate is unsurprising, but in 2022 sacred cows make for strange bed fellows, and Bernier might be the only leader of a federal party willing to publicly endorse what most politicians have deemed an impossible ballot box victory.

Granted, Bernier literally has nothing to lose. The PPC currently have zero seats in Ottawa, and the media have been ignoring him for months. But Bernier’s position isn’t all that right wing anymore, and the long-held belief that the decriminalization of abortion is precisely what protected abortion rights is being challenged by conservatives and progressives alike.

It’s been a couple weeks since the leaked Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and many Canadians are wondering if the monumental decision will trickle north of the border, where 67% of Canadians support a women’s right to choose. The conventional wisdom of protecting women by never attempting to pass abortion legislation is no longer viable strategy.

Bernier also mentioned that he would support two restrictions on abortion; he would legislate an end to sex-selective abortion, and eliminate late term abortion altogether.

The last time a government attempted to pass abortion laws was when Brian Mulroney tried to pass bill C-43 which would have made it illegal for doctors to perform abortions if the mother’s health was not in danger. This bill died in the Senate, but remains as the nucleus of why pro-choice advocates are so afraid to allow this debate to happen.

Only, it’s a different world today than it was in 1989. After the it would have been a huge risk to allow this debate to potentially backfire against pro-choice activists, but in 2022, when roughly two-thirds of the country are solidly pro-choice (this number is actually down from 2002 when 78% of Canadians supported a full slate of abortion rights in Canada), this debate has become the final ingredient needed to enshrine actual rights for pregnant women who want to terminate their pregnancies, rather than relying on vague interpretations of existing charter sections.

The blowback from allowing this important debate to lie dormant through decriminalization can be felt in provinces like Prince Edward Island, where provincial governments have used the lack of legislation to make it more difficult for women to access abortion clinics. Some provinces have blocked transfer payments that help fund abortion procedures, while others have opted to minimize access to abortion clinics.

Some activists, such as Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, still maintains that abortion rights are technically protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Arthur told CBC News the following, “We don’t need laws regulating health care procedures. We have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects people’s bodily autonomy and their life and their liberty and conscience rights, all which come into play for the right to abortion as the Morgentaler decision found.”

This argument seems past its expiry date. While the Morgentaler decision did reference several aspects of the Charter, the lack of specification for actual abortion means that, far all intents and purposes, abortion rights will not be fully realized until the political will of activists and politicians moves beyond the fear of the debate and into the arena of formulating better arguments when the debate is finally had.

Instead of reflexively dismissing the notion that debating abortion rights is anti-women, or an example of religious extremism, the left should embrace the chance to codify the right to choose once and for all and join Bernier in his quest, albeit for entirely different reasons, of not shying away from tough political wedge issues.

Contributing Writers

Related stories