Three Conservative MPs are calling on the Mounties to launch an investigation into hundreds of post-abortion "killings," arguing that the children died outside their mother's birth canal and that the procedures constituted potential homicides.
The complaint from MPs Maurice Vellacott, Leon Benoit and Wladyslaw Lizon is the latest move by the anti-abortion wing of the Conservative Party, including recent parliamentary motions aiming to make it harder for women to terminate pregnancies.
The NDP said the Conservative MPs are wrongly equating abortion with murder, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper rebuked his backbenchers and repeated that his government will not reopen the divisive debate.
"I think all members of the House, whether they agree with it or not, understand that abortion is legal in Canada," Mr. Harper said during Question Period.
Still, the opposition accused the Conservative Party of continually resorting to backbenchers to reopen the abortion debate.
"These Conservatives want the RCMP to investigate abortions as if they were murders," NDP MP Françoise Boivin said during Question Period. "Does the government understand that the abortion file was settled 25 years ago?"
On Thursday, Mr. Vellacott's office released the letter calling for a police investigation into what "appear to be homicides." The complaint was filed with RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson last week, referring to 491 abortion-related deaths that were counted by Statistics Canada between 2000 and 2009.
"These killings appear to have started out as attempted abortions, but the babies were born alive," the letter said.
The RCMP confirmed that it received the letter but did not make further comment.
In an interview, Mr. Vellacott said he is trying to make sure the law is upheld in cases "where there was an assault on a child prior to birth," and that the child was "neglected or further assaulted" after birth. He said that the Mounties should use all investigative techniques at their disposal as part of their probe.
"Aside from whatever people's views are on the bigger abortion question, any law-abiding citizen … must follow through in terms of any breaches of the Criminal Code of this magnitude," Mr. Vellacott said.
Statistics Canada said the 491 cases that it counted during the 10-year period referred to matters where "the cause of death or stillbirth is an abortion."
"These are included in national cause-of-death statistics because when the aborted fetus is born alive and subsequently dies, each event must be registered," the federal agency said in a statement.
Statistics Canada added it also included stillbirths when "the aborted fetus is born dead but meets the provincial requirements [birth weight and/or gestational age]."
A number of Conservative MPs want to place restrictions on abortions. Conservative MP Mark Warawa has introduced a motion in Parliament that calls on the House of Commons to "condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination." It is not known at this point when it will come to a vote, but he has received much support within his caucus.
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth has shepherded a motion calling on Parliament to re-examine the point at which fetuses are considered to be human beings, hoping to provide them with legal protection. Mr. Woodworth's motion was defeated in a 203-91 vote last September, but it still garnered the support of eight Conservative cabinet ministers, including Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose.
Asked about abortions this week in the House, Ms. Ambrose said that they should be "safe, legal and rare."