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Gender + Sexuality

Shh! Don’t Ask Canadian Conservatives about Abortion

Right-wing politicians aren’t great at hiding their views against reproductive rights.

David Climenhaga 5 May 2022Alberta Politics

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at Follow him on Twitter at @djclimenhaga.

Canada’s conservative political parties are desperately trying to declare discussion of the leaked United States Supreme Court draft ruling on abortion a political no-fly zone.

The powerful and extensive influence of radical social conservative opponents of women’s reproductive rights on the Conservative Party of Canada and the United Conservative Party of Alberta is the dirty little open secret of this country’s conservative movement.

With the leak of the shocking/not shocking plan by the Republican-packed majority on the now thoroughly politicized U.S. Supreme Court to allow American states to ban abortions outright and speed the republic toward theocracy, Canadian conservatives who drink from the same ideological well would very much like to shut down any inconvenient discussion of that topic here.

Albertans and Canadians who support women’s right to bodily autonomy are already being offered anodyne assurances that Canada’s Conservatives have no plans to change anything and the law in Canada is a settled matter. Let’s just talk about something else, we’re told, presumably something more to their own political advantage.

Of course, this assurance will only hold true until it doesn’t hold true — just like the nearly identical promises by all those American Supreme Court justices at their Senate confirmation hearings — at which point it will be too late to stop them.

It would be naive to imagine the so-called right-to-lifers who pack the ranks of Canadian conservative parties are any less determined to achieve their political and cultural goals than their ideological fellow travellers south of the world’s longest undefended border.

Count on conservatives to get nastier about this in the next hours and days if other Canadians refuse to knuckle under to their demands to talk about something else.

At the same time, legislative caucuses of elected conservatives have been instructed to keep their lips zipped — especially those of them who want to destroy reproductive rights.

When the orders to zip it went out from acting federal Conservative leader Candice Bergen, they were justified on the ludicrous grounds the question was before the court — never mind that the court in question is thoroughly politicized and located in another country.

Still, the challenge was too much for some.

“I am proud to be one of the MPs who believes in the immutable dignity of the human person, regardless of gender, age, level of development, sexual orientation, disability, or any other characteristic,” dog-whistled Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan MP Garnett Genuis Tuesday evening.

Like Bergen, Genuis is on the list of the 39 MPs who have received a “green light” stamp of approval from the anti-abortion organization Campaign Life.

In addition to Genuis, the other 12 Alberta MPs on the list of the most committed parliamentary opponents of Canadians’ reproductive rights: Blaine Calkins, Red Deer-Lacombe; Michael Cooper, St. Albert; Tom Kmiec, Calgary Shepherd; Damien Kurek, Battle River-Crowfoot; Mike Lake, Edmonton-Wetaskiwin; Dane Lloyd, Sturgeon River-Parkland; Glen Motz, Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner; Jeremy Patzer, Cypress Hills-Grasslands; Shannon Stubbs, Lakeland; Rachael Thomas, Lethbridge; Arnold Viersen, Peace River-Westlock and Chris Warkentin, Grande Prairie-Mackenzie.

That’s 43 per cent of the Conservative Party’s Alberta caucus in the House of Commons!

As for the UCP, it’s no secret that anti-abortion MLAs are found in considerable numbers in its caucus, although the party and its backers play the actual number of such MLAs close to their vests. Certainly Premier Jason Kenny is among them, notwithstanding his past promises not to reopen the debate on the topic. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Peace River MLA Dan Williams share their views.

But even before the UCP was elected in 2019, Cameron Wilson, political director of the misleadingly named anti-abortion group, the Wilberforce Project, proclaimed: “If the UCP wins the upcoming election we will have the most pro-life legislature in decades, maybe ever.”

He would know. His group was busy in the lead-up to the 2019 election recruiting anti-abortion candidates, covert and overt, to seek UCP nominations.

Meanwhile, the former Alberta Social Credit party, seemingly taken over by anti-abortion activists, changed its name to the Pro-life Alberta Political Association, rather patriarchally abbreviated to PAPA.

In recent Elections Alberta political contributions reports, the party has come third after the NDP and UCP.

Challenged in the legislature by Opposition leader Rachel Notley to condemn the attack on reproductive rights in the U.S. courts, Kenney adopted a rope-a-dope defence, saying the questions are for the American legal system, nothing to do with us, under federal jurisdiction in Canada, yadda yadda.

He refused to be pinned down.

But the unavoidable conclusion — desperate Conservative diversion tactics notwithstanding — is that who gets elected matters, and it’s important to pay attention to what the candidates in your electoral district believe.

Canadian voters have a right — no, a duty — to ask every candidate for elected office, including those contesting party leadership races, to clearly state their position on this fundamental issue. Fudging and evasion should be taken as confirmation of opposition to Canadians’ reproductive rights.  [Tyee]

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