Health / Politics

Status of Women Minister Comes out as Pro-Life, Raises Question of Harper Government Stance on Abortion

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch: Woman. Doctor. Pro-Lifer. Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch: Woman. Doctor. Pro-Lifer. Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch has publicly come out as pro-life. Only a day after standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to announce a new fund and hotline to fight so-called “barbaric cultural practices,” Leitch shared her views at an all-candidates meeting in Simcoe-Grey.

As The Huffington Post reports,

“I am pro-life,” Leitch said at a Collingwood Royal Canadian Legion. She credited her experience as a pediatric surgeon as a factor in upholding her anti-abortion position.

“A big part of that is because I spent a significant part of my professional career taking care of disabled kids — children that have reached amazing potentials because they were born.”

A woman. A doctor. A decision-maker on behalf of women. And pro-life.  Big deal, you might think. But admissions such as Leitch’s never happen in a void.

Leitch’s remarks start at 1:39:27:

And perhaps purposely, Leitch’s admission comes on the heels of Conservative Party of Canada leader Stephen Harper’s skillful side-step of Justin Trudeau’s direct inquiry of his views on abortion in last Friday’s French TVA debate.  As usual, Harper defaulted to his My-Position-For-10-Years-Has-Been-That-I-Don’t-Intend-To-Re-Open-This-Debate talking point.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper would say, “let me be perfectly clear,” it matter greatly that Leitch is pro-life. It matters that her predecessor Rona Ambrose is pro-life.  It matters, because this about women’s fundamental right to bodily integrity and security of the person, a right guaranteed under Section Seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It matters, because under the Harper Government, there has been a marked disinterest in purposeful involvement in provincial funding for abortion services across the country. Consider New Brunswick, where the province’s only private abortion clinic was closed after a 20-year battle with the provincial government to have its services funded by Medicare.  From the Harper Government, only chirping crickets.

It matters, because under the Harper Government, Health Canada has dragged its feet on the approval of the abortion pill Mifepristone, a move Globe and Mail public health reporter Andre Picard described as either “gross incompetence” or “political interference,” writing, “It is no secret there is a core of anti-abortion MPs in the caucus of the ruling Conservative party and that the government is, shall we say, not enthusiastically pro-choice.”  And even though abortion pill RU-486 (brand name Mifegymiso) was recently — and finally — approved, it’s unknown how readily available the drug will be across the country, notably in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Yukon, Northwest Territory and Nunavut. You know, small/remote/rural communities where there isn’t always a whole lot of access to medical services to begin with.

It matters, because Leitch and other key ministers in the Harper Cabinet, have defended blocking access to safe abortion services for women who are victims of war rape or who are married off as girls, their bodies too small to survive childbirth.  Thirteen percent of all maternal deaths worldwide are due to botched, back-alley abortions.  In hard numbers, that’s a genocide numbering anywhere from 40, 000 to 70, 000 women killed every year. As I argued last week for Elle Beaver, Harper’s failed international maternal health agenda that doesn’t make provisions for access to safe abortions will ultimately fail women.

It matters, because as part of its “barbaric cultural practices” agenda, sex-selective abortions will likely be included.  While a serious problem in countries like India and Chinaand to some extent in some communities in Canada – it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that the Harper Government are, as Elle Beaver’s own Shelagh Hartford argued, using women’s rights and abortion to further their pro-life agenda.

Pandering to the base, thy name is Harper. And Leitch. And Ambrose.  And yes, fine – health-care services are a provincial responsibility, bla bla bla bla.  But that hardly stops politicians from indulging in health care as a talking point and it definitely doesn’t stop them from intervening in policy-making.

Still think the Harper Government isn’t trying to introduce its pro-life agenda by stealth?

You may also be interested in….

Tories toss up late campaign hail mary with #BarbaricCulturalPractices

Abortion, Maternal Health, Syria and How the Harper Government’s Foreign Policy Has Failed Women Around the World

Sex-Selective Abortions: How the Conservatives are using “women’s rights” to get what they want

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