Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Start-of-life motion splits Manitoba MPs

Private member's bid fails in Commons

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OTTAWA -- Manitoba MPs were almost evenly split Wednesday in a vote on a private member's motion calling for a debate on when human life begins.

Six of Manitoba's 14 MPs voted in favour of the motion. Seven voted against it. Manitoba senior cabinet minister Vic Toews was not present for the vote. He is in the United Kingdom on government business.

The motion failed by a vote of 203 to 91. In total, 87 Conservative MPs voted for the motion, along with four Liberals.

Seven Manitoba MPs voted against the motion and six voted in favour.

Critics have decried the motion by Ontario MP Stephen Woodworth as a back-door attempt to reopen the abortion debate.

The motion, however, doesn't mention the word abortion. Instead, it calls for a special committee of the House of Commons to be appointed to review the section of the Criminal Code "which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth."

It goes on to ask for the medical evidence proving human life begins only at birth.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper voted against the motion, as did most of the cabinet. However, eight cabinet ministers and two ministers of state voted in favour, including Rona Ambrose, the minister for the status of women.

Private members' business is considered open for a free vote, so while Harper has insisted the abortion debate will not be reopened on his watch, he did not insist his caucus vote against the motion.

But it could become a public relations problem for Harper. He has spent the better part of his time as the Conservative leader fighting accusations he will criminalize abortion.

With more than half his current caucus supporting the Woodworth motion, opposition parties are sure to use this vote as a wedge issue against the Conservatives in the next election.

Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North) was one of just four Liberal MPs who voted in favour of the motion. He said Wednesday he supports a woman's right to choose. However, he said that's not what this motion was about.

"I would never deny anyone the right to have an abortion, but I am entitled to a personal opinion, and if you read what was actually voted on, we were not voting on (a woman's right to choose)," he said.

Lamoureux initially said he did not believe his office had any communication from constituents about the motion, but he later said there were some calls and emails and that the people were evenly split on the issue.

 

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

How Manitoba MPs voted

 

Against

Conservatives Robert Sopuck, Joyce Bateman, Joy Smith, Shelly Glover and Steven Fletcher, and NDP MPs Niki Ashton and Pat Martin

In favour

Conservatives Lawrence Toet, Merv Tweed, Rod Bruinooge, James Bezan, Candice Bergen (formerly Candice Hoeppner) and Liberal Kevin Lamoureux

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2012 A8

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