With reproductive rights under assault south of the border, members of the Canadian House of Commons rose in a standing ovation to affirm support for a woman’s right to choose — that is, except the Conservatives.
One day after Global News reported that dozens of Canadian woman across the country are being sent to the U.S. for abortions they cannot access here and on the heel of a pledge by the Quebec government to make late-term abortion accessible to women in the province, Bloc Quebecois MP Monique Pauzé asked for unanimous consent on a motion related to abortion.
Her motion asked “that the House of Commons reiterate that a woman’s body belongs to her and her alone, and recognize her right to choose an abortion regardless of the reason.”
In response, Liberal, NDP, Green Party, Bloc Quebecois and Independent members rose to applaud her statement.
But the Conservatives stayed in their seats and did not applaud.
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Rachael Harder, the Conservative Status of Women critic who recently attended an anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill along with 11 other Tory MPs, did not appear to look up from her desk during the applause.
Her seatmate Karen Vecchio, who is chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, also did not applaud or rise from her seat.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has faced questions in recent weeks over his own stance on abortion.
While he has said that he will not re-open the debate if elected, he also promised to allow free votes among his caucus if they bring the issue forward when he was running for the Conservative Party leadership, a campaign in which he was accused of courting anti-abortion social conservatives.
“I have always voted in favour of pro-life legislation,” he said in a statement at the time.
Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pointed to the recent wave of legislation south of the border that aims to criminalize and restrict abortion as “backsliding,” and singled out Scheer for not doing enough to support reproductive rights in Canada.
The Liberals have also launched a fundraising campaign off the fact that Harder and 10 other Conservatives MPs attended an anti-abortion rally earlier in May, telling supporters the other party cannot be trusted to protect women’s hard-won rights.
As Global News reported on Tuesday, more than 100 Canadian women have been sent to the U.S. for abortions since 2014.
That breaks down to dozens of women each year who are sent abroad for abortions that are legal but unavailable at home due to a variety of factors.
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Those include long waiting times, lack of regional access or coverage, lack of physician training on late-term abortions and in some cases, physician objections.
Late-term abortions are considered by doctors to include anything after 20 weeks gestation, or after roughly five months.
But with American states bringing in sweeping restrictions on abortion and punishment for those who provide it, that means those Canadian women who get sent to the U.S. are facing a restriction in care as well, without viable domestic alternatives.
Those restrictions in the U.S. prompted the Quebec government to announce on Tuesday that it is working with hospitals in the province to ensure women can get late-term abortions in the province for any reason without needing to go south.
Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the federal health minister, says all provinces should look to that example and commit to ensuring their own citizens have access to the full range of reproductive care in their own jurisdictions.