It’s understandable that the extensive coverage around the sudden flurry of anti-abortion laws in the United States would lead to some apprehension here in Canada. After all, the pro-life movement in Canada views the issue in the same sort of black-and-white manner as its American counterparts, so why wouldn’t the former seek to emulate the latter’s successes?
The federal Liberals have certainly taken notice. The prime minister has made a point of denouncing what he calls the “backsliding” of women’s reproductive rights, and his party has begun to position itself as a bulwark of sorts against this sort of thing happening here — even launching a fundraising appeal off of this issue.
It’s all rather pointless.
The reality is that the existence of these new laws in the U.S. actually makes it even more unlikely than it already was (which was somewhere around a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell territory to begin with) that such laws would ever be proposed here. The pro-life movement in the U.S. might boast of some legislative accomplishments, but it does its Canadian counterparts a tremendous disservice.
Abortion was already a third rail in Canadian politics, and the more that anti-abortion forces push the issue in the U.S., the more that Canadian politicians will run the hell away from the issue.
Case in point is Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who probably does, at the very least, harbour some reservations about abortion. And this week, the group Press Progress Scheer made to an anti-abortion group during the 2017 Conservative leadership race. On top of that, there were a dozen or so Conservative MPs who attended the recent March for Life rally on Parliament Hill — something else the Liberals have been quick to point out.
WATCH: Abortion returns to the forefront of North American affairs on Global News
Both the Liberals and the pro-life movement have a vested interest in playing up the latter’s size and influence. The reality, though, is that Canada’s pro-life movement has been an utter failure in the 30 years since the Supreme Court’s Morgentaler decision. Conservatives have been happy to take the donations and votes of the pro-life movement, but they have yet to reward that support with anything more than the odd bit of pandering rhetoric.
Even in these supposedly revealing 2017 comments, nowhere does Scheer suggest pursuing any sort of legislative agenda on abortion. He simply states that MPs with pro-life views wouldn’t be excluded from his caucus and that MPs could propose private members bills. But even in this interview, he reiterates his party’s “clear” policy on the matter, which is to not re-open the debate.
Scheer reiterated that point again last year and has been doing so again as of late. Scheer may be a lot of things, but he’s not stupid. And it would be colossally stupid for his party to even entertain the notion of doing anything remotely close to what they’re doing in certain U.S. states. Would-be prime ministers tend to avoid political suicide.
It could be that Scheer has a “hidden agenda” to spring an Alabama-style law on the country after winning an election. Of course, we heard all about this same “hidden agenda” throughout the Harper years and I guess he must have forgotten to implement it. Or it was a non-starter from the get-go.
Look, if the Canadian pro-life movement was anywhere near as influential as its U.S. counterpart, it might be a different story. Obviously, the state politicians in Alabama and elsewhere who are voting for these laws don’t think it will hurt their electoral prospects.
The Conservatives’ policy might not represent a deep and fundamental commitment to protecting women’s reproductive rights, but it is certainly a clear understanding of the dire political consequences of importing the agenda of the U.S. religious right.
Sure, it’s easy enough for me, a man, to say there’s nothing to worry about — if I’m wrong, I’m not really directly affected. But any objective assessment of the Canadian political landscape — and the evidence and experience of the past three decades — would lead one to the same conclusion.
Canada’s pro-life movement is a paper tiger. Mainstream conservatives are in no way beholden to it. The Liberals and their allies would have you believe otherwise only because it boosts their political fortunes. Don’t fall for it.