Ambrose abortion vote draws controversy

Minister for the Status of Women's support for bill draws calls for resignation, but also calls to reopen abortion debate.

Edmonton-Spruce Grove MP Rona Ambrose’s vote to support a controversial abortion bill in Parliament Wednesday has drawn both praise and condemnation.

Ambrose, who serves as Canada’s Minister for the Status of Women, was among 91 MPS who voted for the private member’s bill, which would have established a committee to examine when life begins.

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper voted against the measure, ten of his cabinet ministers supported it. Ambrose’s vote, however, has brought special attention because of her portfolio.

Shannon Phillips, chair of Lethbridge’s Womanspace Resource Centre and former provincial NDP candidate, says similar "personhood" motions have been made in US states with the goal of restricting abortion.

"It has inevitably led to at least a reduction if not a criminalization of women’s choice and reproductive services," she said.

"That's the road that this motion would have taken us down. It's therefore quite shocking that a status-of-women minister would have supported such a motion."

The vote has led to at least one online petition calling for Ambrose to resign from cabinet.

Others say its important for MPs to be able to vote with their conscience.

Stephanie Fennelly, executive director of Alberta ProLife, disagrees with critics who say the vote conflicted with her portfolio.

"I don't think it should threaten her job to support the rights of women both born, and unborn," Fennelly said.

Fennelly says technology and the understanding of fetal development has progressed since Canada’ abortion debate 30 years ago.

"I think we have an obligation to bring the laws up to date. "

In response to questions about her vote, Ambrose reiterated her commitment to women’s rights.

"So far in just a couple of years, we've funded over 550 projects from coast-to coast-to-coast to tackle violence against women and empower women and girls and we'll continue to do just that," she told reporters Thursday.