Mark Warawa's proposed motion on sex-selective abortions was never about protecting women

Langley Conservative MP Mark Warawa would really like you to believe he cares about women.

Last year, Warawa proposed M-408: "That the House condemn discrimination against females occuring through sex-selective pregnancy termination." He claimed this was necessary to protect all the poor little girls who were being brutally aborted across the country.

On March 21, a subcommittee deemed it non-votable—since health care is a provincial domain, not a federal one.

Here's what Conservative MP Scott Armstrong made this statement at the time:

"[M-408] involves ultrasounds and health care delivery, and this is clearly the jurisdiction of the provinces. This bill would impinge upon provincial jurisdiction, and, in our opinion, this bill is very similar in nature to a former motion which was debated in the house, motion M-312. This was also voted on. We agree with the positions of both the colleagues at the table."

Warawa disagreed with the non-votable decision, claiming it "broke rules", and appealed it—still willfully ignoring the fact that health care—and, ergo, abortion—is a provincial matter.

Today (March 28), the original non-votable decision was upheld.

Stepping back from the issue of free speech for a moment—which is a completely separate issue from this one—I'd like to dispel the notion that M-408 has anything to do with protecting women and everything to do with reopening the abortion debate, like his fellow Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth tried to do last year.

You know how I know this proposal of Warawa's wasn't actually about protecting women?

Primarily because he brought it forward at a federal level, well aware this falls under the jurisdiction of the provinces—and fully cognizant of the fact that sex-selective abortions are already illegal in Canada that sex selection of embryos during IVF (except for medical reasons) is illegal (thank you for the clarification, Joyce Arthur!).

But there are other reasons his motion just doesn't pass the smell test.

According to data from Statistics Canada, the gender ratio of live births in 2011 was 1.05 males to one female, which is below the world average of 1.07. If you look specifically at Vancouver, the gender ratio is still 1.05 to one.

To compare, China, which has a one-child policy, has a gender ratio at birth between 1.13 and 1.19; India's is 1.08 to 1.12.

An oft-cited April 2012 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by Dr. Joel Ray, Dr. David Henry and Marcelo Urquia found that, among Indian-born women in Ontario, a couple's third child was much more likely to be male (136 to 100).

The study also found a marked gender disparity in the second children of South Korean women (786 boys to 653 girls), but acknowledged that the sample size was too small to draw any definitive conclusions.

You know what they didn't study? The actual rate of abortion by gender. The researchers saw a trend and posited—without actual proof—that this might mean female fetuses were being aborted by Indian women.

Even though Dr. Ray also stated that "it would be unfair to speculate" on the cause of the disparity, anti-choice zealots jumped on this study as "proof" that certain ethnic communities were committing "gendercide" in Canada.

But as anyone familiar with the scientific method can tell you, correlation ain't causation.

In October 2012, the CMAJ published another study that found this gender disparity among third children might be due to evolutionary factors and that it would be unwise to claim women were aborting female fetuses at a greater rate.

Evolution!

Oh, but that doesn't exist so it's understandable that Warawa ignored that study.

The other "proof" Warawa jumped all over? A June 2012 investigation by the CBC into whether unregulated "entertainment" ultrasound clinics—"spa-like" clinics performing vanity ultrasounds that do not examine the medical health of a fetus and instead are aggressively marketed as a way for mothers to "bond" with their child pre-birth—were violating Canadian laws and providing gender determinations before 20 weeks of a pregnancy.  

The investigation found 15 private clinics in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Calgary that would provide a gender determination before 20 weeks of a pregnancy.

I can't argue that these clinics aren't clearly breaking the law; however, you would assume that if Warawa really cared about sex-selective abortion, he would have put forward a motion to regulate (or outright ban"entertainment" ultrasound providers, to close private clinics that are breaking Canadian laws, and/or to impose heavy criminal penalties on those individuals who are flaunting already existing legislation.

Or perhaps he'd run for office in Blaine, Washington, where the CBC found a clinic willing to provide a gender determination ultrasound at 12 weeks for $1,500.

In a statement today (March 28), Warawa said, “I have three options. I can accept the decision of PROC [Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs], appeal to the House, or introduce another motion or bill…I want to make sure that I take time to consider what is best for the issue of discrimination against women and girls.” 

Mr. Warawa, if you truly wanted what is best for the issue of discrimination against women and girls, may I suggest you start fighting against patriarchal bullshit attitudes.

I suggest you throw your support behind access to birth control and abortions, sex education in classrooms, wage parity between men and women, eliminating child poverty, universal daycare, and increasing health care funding. Or put forward any of the motions I've outlined four paragraphs above.

Or maybe he'd try to work on improving the gender ratio in Parliament, which is currently an abysmal 3.05 to one.

Comments (3) Add New Comment
Skulander
This is an awesome article!!

I particularly liked this part: "Mr. Warawa, if you truly wanted what is best for the issue of discrimination against women and girls, may I suggest you start fighting against patriarchal bullshit attitudes."

There are of course many things wrong with M-408, starting with its hypocrisy. But this paragraph is the crux of the matter: we don't fight sexism with more sexism. Warawa's misogyny, as well as that of pretty much the whole Conservative party, is exactly the sort of attitude that fuels discrimination against women.

And if they care so much about women, why have they cut funding to centers that actually help women?

When the CPC will truly be committed to fighting discrimination, I'll jump on board with them. Meanwhile I'll see M-408 for what it is: a discriminatory motion, aimed at rolling back abortion access and reopening the debate in this country. I'm glad this motion isn't going anywhere (for now).
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Joyce Arthur
Thanks for this - one important correction though - sex selection abortions are not illegal in Canada, we have no abortion restrictions and women don't have to to state a reason for abortion. The only thing that's illegal in Canada is sex selection of embryos during IVF (except for medical reasons.)
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Riley
"... He claimed this was necessary to protect all the poor little girls who were being brutally aborted across the country." [No he didn't. A 'Motion' is not a 'Bill' and if passed would "protect" no one.]

"... I'd like to dispel the notion that M-408 has anything to do with protecting women..." [True, in a backhanded sort of way. His Motion obviously concerns the deadly harm done to an unborn child but it also decries a practice that is harmful to all of society.]

"...he brought it forward at a federal level, well aware this falls under the jurisdiction of the provinces ..." [I think you'll find that this lame 'reason' won't stand up to serious scrutiny.]

"... sex-selective abortions are already illegal in Canada..." [Really!? Care to give references.]

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