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Conservative MP Mark Warawa speaks about Motion 408, the anti-discrimination motion against sex-selection, on Parliament Hill Wednesday December 5, 2012 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

A Conservative MP is urging Canadians to support his motion to denounce sex-selective abortions, a measure that critics say is a cloaked effort to restrict the ability of women to have the procedure for any reason.

Mark Warawa, who represents the B.C. riding of Langley, and 11 of his caucus colleagues held a news conference on Wednesday to promote his motion, M-408, which calls on the House of Commons to "condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination."

That puts members of the opposition in a difficult spot. Although they are suspicious that the motion is another attempt from the Conservative backbench to clamp down on abortion – and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said his MPs will vote against it – no politician wants to be seen as endorsing the practice of ending pregnancies simply because the fetus is female.

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The point is not lost on Mr. Warawa, who said he expects every member of Parliament to lend him their support. "They should," he said, "because who could not condemn discrimination against women and girls?"

But Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition said it is clear that the motion is an anti-abortion vehicle. It is aimed at getting abortion back in the public discourse and turning more Canadians against the procedure by painting it in a negative light, she said. "That opens the door to banning any reason for abortion."

Mr. Warawa's motion was introduced in September, shortly after the defeat of a motion from Stephen Woodworth, a Conservative MP from Kitchener, that called upon Parliament to re-examine the legal point at which a fetus is considered to be a human being. Mr. Woodworth made no secret of the fact that his effort was aimed at bringing in laws to restrict abortion in Canada.

Mr. Warawa is far less definitive. When asked repeatedly to address the claims of opposition members who say his motion is another back-door attempt to limit the ability of women to terminate their pregnancies, he repeatedly dodged the question.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said during last year's election campaign that a Conservative government would not bring forward legislation to restrict access to abortion and that any such legislation would be defeated. He did not support Mr. Woodworth's motion – even though 10 Conservative cabinet ministers and nearly half of the party's caucus voted in its favour.

Mr. Warawa's motion is not as direct an attack on abortion as that of Mr. Woodworth but a spokesman for Mr. Harper said Parliament has already voted on the issue and the Prime Minister does not believe it should be opened again.

But Mr. Mulcair said he and his caucus not going to be fooled by the pretense of Mr. Warawa's motion and blamed Mr. Harper for the fact that it is before the House. "Mr. Harper, out of one side of his mouth, swears that he doesn't want to re-open the abortion debate, and yet he constantly uses his backbenchers to send in new attempts to try to re-open the abortion debate."

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Bob Rae, interim leader of the Liberal Party, said: "This is a continuing effort by members of the Conservative Party to continue to make abortion an issue upon which they want the House to pronounce differently from the way the House has always pronounced."

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