By Joyce Arthur
Stephen Harper and his Conservative government pose a severe danger to women’s rights and to abortion rights—especially if they achieve their much-coveted majority. Don’t forget to vote in the May 2 election, and if it would help in your riding, please consider voting strategically to ensure that the Conservative candidate does not win.
(See the Catch22 campaign Please note that voting strategicially does not mean automatically voting for the Liberal candidate— often the NDP candidate has a better shot at winning. Check before you vote!)
Harper has vowed not to introduce or support any legislation that might negatively impact abortion rights, but private members' bills can easily pass if the Conservatives have a majority, or even a minority just shy of a majority.
Even though Harper and his cabinet may vote against any anti-choice bill, these votes would be cancelled out by the sizable contingent of anti-choice Liberal MPs.
Here are several questions to ask your candidates during the election campaign on issues that the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada believes are the most critical at this time:
1. The Conservative government has been dismantling the frameworks for women’s equality and cutting programs that vulnerable women need. They closed most regional Status of Women offices and barred funding for groups advocating women’s equality. They cancelled universal childcare, pay equity, and the Court Challenges program. They defunded women’s groups and other groups who don’t share the government’s right-wing ideology. If elected, will your government restore the various programs and funding that have been lost or cancelled under Harper?
2. The Conservative government is no longer enforcing the Canada Health Act against provinces that violate it. In particular, the New Brunswick government's refusal to fund the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton violates the Canada Health Act and the Supreme Court of Canada Morgentaler decision from 1988. This is a serious violation of women's rights that has been ongoing for over 20 years. During the last Liberal government, then-Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh was coordinating an arbitration process to resolve the issue, but the Conservatives simply dropped this and now refuse to take any action at all. If elected, will your government promise to enforce the Canada Health Act, including holding the New Brunswick government to account for not funding the Morgentaler Clinic?
3. Unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality in developing countries, yet the Conservative government refused to include safe abortion in their G8 maternal and child health initiative last year. But in a campaign to reduce maternal mortality, it is wrong and hypocritical for our government to take an official position that denies the right to life for countless desperate women who risk their lives by resorting to abortion—especially when Canadian women can access safe and legal abortion. If elected, will your government fund safe abortion in developing countries?
Joyce Arthur is the coordinator of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.