Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why we need a public debate on ‘Roxanne’s law’

(Published in the National Posts's blog, Holy Post yesterday.)

There has been very little coverage in the media of Rod Bruinooge’s private member’s Bill C-510 — also known as “Roxanne’s Law” — that is scheduled for a second reading Parliament vote on Dec. 15.

The bill is named after Roxanne Fernando, a young woman from Winnipeg whose boyfriend murdered her in 2007 after his repeated attempts to coerce her to have an abortion failed.

The bill would allow pregnant women to press charges when they find themselves facing coercion to abort. Such empowerment could prevent coercion from escalating to violence like it did with Roxanne. Ideally, it would act as a deterrent to coercive behaviour in the first place from boy friends, husbands and families.

Considering that this is the first bill dealing with the subject matter of abortion to be voted on in 20 years, the lack of media coverage seems odd — notwithstanding the fact that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated he will never reopen the abortion debate and nor will he support this bill.

One would hope that in a country where there are no restrictions on abortion there could at least be a public debate — especially about a bill whose sole purpose is to protect women from unwanted abortions. Remember that there is no consensus on abortion; polls consistently tell us show that many Canadians want some limits on abortion.

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s abortion law. But the court did say that Parliament has the right to legislate protection of the unborn.

Even though Mr. Harper would not support such a bill, he doesn’t have to. Bill C-510 is a private member’s bill, not a government bill. The purpose such bills is to give backbench MPs from all parties the opportunity to bring forward legislation they believe in, independent of what’s on the government’s agenda.

Mr. Harper would get one vote — just like any MP — and he could vote as his conscience dictates.

The National Post has been covering the recent events at Carleton University where the students union, CUSA, has decertified the anti-abortion group LifeLine.

There is a striking parallel between what is going on at Carleton University and what is going on in Parliament.

As the Post recently stated: “The fact that these young men and women are anti-abortion should have nothing to do with whether they are worthy of coverage. This is about certain students, CUSA, acting like petty tyrants because they do not like the views of some of their fellow students. This goes against every principle of free speech. Why is there not more outrage about this?”

And why is there not more outrage about abortion debate being shut down in our Parliament? This also goes against every principle of free speech.

Think about it: why should CUSA allow pro-life students to speak out about abortion, when our political leaders won’t allow pro-life MPs to speak out about abortion? CUSA has learned that it’s okay to shut down free speech on unpopular topics.

And where that kind of thinking ends God only knows.

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