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Robert Silver

Tories table non-abortion abortion legislation Add to ...

Let me make sure I have this right; Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge is chair of the House pro-life caucus. Despite this fact, he really, really doesn't want to reopen the abortion debate in Canada. Please believe him - he doesn't want to discuss abortion in any way. Not sure what they discuss at their pro-life caucus meetings but no matter.

While abortion is something Bruinooge has no interest in discussing, he does think there is a big problem in Canada of women being coerced into having abortions against their will.

This of course has nothing to do with abortion per se but rather women being threatened to have abortions against their will something we can all agree is wrong. It is equally wrong for women to have their tonsils out against their will but that private members bill will have to wait for another day.

To fight this massive problem, Mr. Bruinooge has introduced a private members bill. Now the PMO obviously doesn't support this bill - never. He's a rogue agent here.

Back to Bruinooge's bill. What form does he think this "coercion" takes?

Well he's clear what it doesn't include: "He is not talking about counseling services for abortion or cases in which parents, for instance, may withhold financial support from daughters who have abortions."

So what would it include? Well presumably physical threats would be covered, right? If someone threatens physical harm to a women if she doesn't have an abortion, that would be covered under this bill?

That makes the bill worthwhile, I would think? Except under the Criminal Code, it is already an offense to knowingly utter or convey a threat to cause death or bodily harm to any person so if a woman is being physically threatened today, the person making the threat is already breaking the law.

But what if the coercion isn't physical and instead takes the form of financial coercion? Well, that would likely be something called extortion or blackmail - also already criminal offenses in Canada.

So to summarize, the chair of the pro-life caucus doesn't want to talk about abortion but does think there's a menace of women being coerced into having abortions against their will. This is both a questionable assertion (that there are many women being coerced into having abortions - I'm not saying it isn't an issue, it just strikes me as one of those solutions seeking a problem) and one that is almost certainly already covered under the criminal code.

In other words, this is all about politics.

Update The text of the bill that has nothing to do with abortion is up. Coercion is defined as:

"coercion", in respect of an abortion, means conduct that, directly or indirectly, causes a female person to consent to an abortion that she would otherwise have refused. A person coerces an abortion if he or she knows of or suspects the pregnancy of a female person and engages, or conspires with another to engage in, conduct that is intentionally and purposely aimed at directing the female person who has not chosen to have an abortion to have an abortion, including but not limited to the following conduct:

(a) committing, attempting to commit, or threatening to commit physical harm to the female person, the child or another person;

(b) committing, attempting to commit or threatening to commit any act prohibited by any provincial or federal law;

(c) denying or removing, or making a threat to deny or remove, financial support or housing from a person who is financially dependent on the person engaging in the conduct; and

(d) attempting to compel by pressure or intimidation including argumentative and rancorous badgering or importunity;

but does not include speech that is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A quick summary of the four categories:

(a) physical threats - already illegal.

(b) breaking laws - already illegal (yes, a circular argument is an argument that is circular).

(c) financial threats - in most cases, illegal.

(d) "pressure or intimidation including argumentative and rancorous badgering or importunity" - I have no idea what this means. Applying "pressure" through "argumentative" words strikes me as something that a couple discussing an unplanned pregnancy might engage in just about every day of the year and it would have to cross a pretty serious line before it should be illegal, I would have thought.

Another update A dastardly suggestion from the comments section:

"Actually someone should put forward an amendment to this legislation to include "have an abortion" not just the opposite. I wonder if they would vote for it then?"

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